Monday, June 17, 2013

Writing Haiku

 In middle school I wrote my first haiku, a Japanese poem with a tight structure. In a traditional haiku, 17 syllables are divided into three lines - line one: 5, line two: 7, line three: 5. That's it. So I was surprised to learn years later that I have not been writing true haiku poems.

Saturday morning
striking out at the ballpark
wishing for a hit

Sure I have three lines and 5 – 7 – 5 syllable structure. Beyond counting syllables, the content of this poem was not a factored in. 
Big mistake. 

Haiku poems are inspired by elements of nature and include a kigo, which means "season word" to show the time of year. The Japanese word kiru, which means "cutting," expresses the notion that haiku should always contain two juxtaposed ideas. Two images that seem unconnected in line one and two, then the third line connect with a surprise ending.

Birds glide under rays -
boys cheer on the lined grass field
as balls fly skyward

Show, Don’t Tell
Show the reader something true about a moment in time. Don't tell the reader how you feel as the writer about an observation. The images in the poem should invoke emotions in the reader through subtle imagery, not cliches.

• What did you notice about the subject? What colors, textures, and contrasts did you observe?
• How did the subject sound? What was the tenor and volume of the event that took place?
Did it have a smell, or a taste? How can you accurately describe the way it felt?

Here is an example by Basho Matsuo, the first great poet of haiku in the 1600s:

An old silent pond...

A frog jumps into the pond,

splash! Silence again.

Your turn. Write a haiku using this picture. Have fun!

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