Poetry Reads: On Haiku: Poetry with Scissors

The first time my haiku was published and I happened to share my work with my
friends, many among them were baffled and asked me, “Where is the rest of it?
Is that all?”  That is where the sheer simplicity of haiku lies. It’s gaudy attire is conciseness, words make up the decor.

You have got only three lines to say it.You have lesser characters than you are allowed on twitter
to complete it. To be precise, you shouldn’t be exceeding more than
17 syllables. The number of syllables for each of the three lines are
traditionally in this order – five, seven and five. Writing haiku dates back to 17th century Japan.The form was called hokku then. 
A haiku usually freezes on a single image, much like a photograph does. It is supported by a kigo word, which usually
implies a season, for instance – ‘autumn night’ or ‘spring’. Let
us now look into a haiku by the famous 17th century poet
called Matsuo Basho. This particular haiku has been translated several times. Of the many versions, one goes: 
old pond . . . 
a frog leaps into 
water’s sound. 
Here the kigo word is frog, an indication of the Japanese spring season.
The English language haiku poets don’t follow the strict 17-syllable format; many
contemporary haiku poets have redefined the Japanese perimeters, a haiku could thus wind up in 10 syllables, or extend beyond 20. 
Haiku poets will tell you time and again – The main element in a good haiku is the ‘show, not tell’ factor. Let us paraphrase what Basho has said – Revealing 70 to 80 percent of the subject is good, but
if you can show only 50 to 60 percent, then one is never tired of
reading that haiku. 
Several poets also talk about the ‘ah’ effect. If the haiku provides an elevation, that
little tinge of pleasure on reading it, one can happily conclude then that the poet’s expression has got through. Many haiku exponents also see the art form as a philosophy of
lingering in the moment, imbibing the present in totality and then
presenting the same in a cusp of words.  
Haiku is now been written in
several Indian languages too. Only time will tell what influence this branching out will have.

(Article by Snehith Kumbla) 

Leave a Comment