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Thread: Haiku forms

  1. #1
    Straw that broke the camel's back Wordcaster's Avatar
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    Haiku forms

    I haven't been on this board much, but I noticed that the Haiku chain features mostly 5-7-5 poems. Of course (especially in this age) I am not dogmatic about how they should be written. But I was under the impression that 5-7-5 is not typically how haiku is written in English -- particularly when it comes to professional contests. Reason being is that Japanese haiku is not divided by syllables, but by more stringent "sounds." (eg To-kyo is 2 syllables, but 4 sounds).

    Anyway, I know it is just for fun, but I was curious if anyone has thoughts or has adhered to different styles (2-3-2 for "stressed" syllables or iambs or 3-5-3 for syllables or just short long short with ~10-12 syllables). I think the shorter -- more Japanese style -- Haiku makes for a more difficult challenge.

  2. #2
    Has a few recurring issues kborsden's Avatar
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    Hi Wordcaster.

    You're actually quite right. The 5-7-5 structure is not technically what makes Haiku. See this post. The traditional form has much more to it than just counting on your fingers. Indeed, as you say, even the syllable structures that are present in Japanese Haiku are more tied to how they cut or form around the core subject.

    The Haiku games in this forum are simply 5-7-5 for ease of access, I think, and if you wanted to go into the chains by way of an alternative, more traditional Haiku, no one would frown on it.

    In fact, I urge you to go for it--maybe even start a new thread/game... it would be a welcome change.
    Kieran Borsden
    "to be born Welsh, is to be born--not with a silver spoon in your mouth, but with song in your heart, and poetry in your soul"



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    Got to write an Englyn or 2

  3. #3
    Not the one and only cellajam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kborsden View Post
    Hi Wordcaster.

    You're actually quite right. The 5-7-5 structure is not technically what makes Haiku. See this post. The traditional form has much more to it than just counting on your fingers. Indeed, as you say, even the syllable structures that are present in Japanese Haiku are more tied to how they cut or form around the core subject.

    The Haiku games in this forum are simply 5-7-5 for ease of access, I think, and if you wanted to go into the chains by way of an alternative, more traditional Haiku, no one would frown on it.

    In fact, I urge you to go for it--maybe even start a new thread/game... it would be a welcome change.
    I wouldn't suggest going into the 5-7-5 thread with anything else. Not being in the 5-7-5 habit I unthinkingly did that when I first got here and got a friendly note letting me know that mine did not fit the thread rules. I would suggest anyone interested in a thread more in line with the way many are currently writing them start a new thread, if there isn't one already.

  4. #4
    Revolutionize the World kuwisdelu's Avatar
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    You're quite right. Traditional Japanese haiku (or hokku) is 17 morae, and is often written in a single line rather than 5-7-5.

    A mora (or "on" in Japanese) is essentially a sound unit, and in Japanese it basically corresponds to a hiragana character, so if you write out Tokyo as とうきょう then it's straightforward to see the 4 morae (or onji). Conversely, Kyouto, or きょうと, is only 3 morae.

    Compounding the non-equivalence between a Japanese mora and what we consider a syllable in English, there is the fact that English is more information dense than Japanese, so each single syllable in English carries more semantic content than a single syllable in Japanese.

    As such, English haiku written to 5-7-5 syllables tend to be extremely wordy and long compared to Japanese haiku. If you have to breathe, it's too long.

    Personally, I don't stick to a particular "rule" besides short-long-short, and just reading and re-reading to feel how long each line takes to read, and seeing if it "feels" like a comparable length to Japanese haiku.

    Other aspects of haiku that are often ignored are kigo and kireji.

    Kigo ("nature word" or "season word") makes a haiku a haiku, and comes from its origin as the hokku of a renga. Kigo also distinguishes haiku from senryu. Much of what gets called haiku in English is actually senryu, due to lack of kigo.

    Kireji are "cutting words" which serve to break up the haiku and help establish a relationship between the phrases and images in the poem. Kireji have little semantic content and serve a more syntactic purpose. They help control the sound and rhythm of the haiku. If you're familiar with caesura, then kireji produce a similar effect. They have no direct equivalent in English, however, and punctuation is often used to achieve a similar effect. I often use em-dashes or ellipses as kireji in English, and count them as part of the length of the line.

    There are other important aspects to haiku that are often ignored such as ma and zoka, too, but kigo and kireji are probably the most important, apart of the issue of length.

    I love haiku, but the strict adherence to 5-7-5 syllables in English is why I don't participate in that thread, too.
    Last edited by kuwisdelu; 03-19-2017 at 02:23 AM.

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