Haiku, or: It Takes Me More Than Seventeen Syllables Just to Get Out of Bed in the Morning
The formal requirements of the haiku may be as stringent as an IRS form, but a good one is pithy, sometimes revelatory and, occasionally, just flat out funny.
Haiku is a Japanese lyric verse form having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, traditionally invoking an aspect of nature or the seasons, though in it’s contemporary (American) incarnation, subject matter has widened considerably.
It seems to me, haiku has done something that hasn't happened since Ginsberg was put on trial for “Howl:” poetry--thanks to the haiku--has managed to worm its way into popular culture. Google the word sometime and you’ll find more websites dedicated to the Haiku than you can shake a chopstick at. Some are serious, some are less so. Many of them worth a look.
I’m not sure why the haiku has lodged in the public consciousness when most other forms have gone the way of the quill pen. All I know is that a lot of people who couldn’t tell a sonnet from sunbonnet, can rattle off the requirements of a haiku like it’s their phone number. Perhaps it has something to do with that rigid structure -- that unvarying form. Let’s face it, the average joe or jolene sees the world of poetry as esoteric, elitist, and chockfull of formless, self-engrossed bleating. I think the idea of a simple, short poem whose form is unchanging and unchangeable is an idea folks can relate to.
Below are just a few of the titles from Harris County Public Library’s collection.
Baseball Haiku : American and Japanese haiku and Senryu on baseball
The Beauty of Haiku Poetry [videorecording] /
Classic Haiku : an Anthology of Poems by Basho and his Followers
Haiku! Gesundeit : An Illustrated Collection of Ridiculous Haiku Poetry
The Haiku Handbook : How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku
Haiku U. : From Aristotle to Zola, 100 Great Books in 17 syllables
Haiku Mind : 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart /
If you are inspired by any of the titles above, I invite you to take a stab at your own haiku. Drop me a line and I’ll post a few in a future post.