Blog Challenge, Writing Journey

Seventeen syllables

Welcome to Day 23 of #30PostsHathSept. [PLEASE READ all my other challenge posts HERE.] It’s been a busy day, so let’s have more fun with poetry!

Haiku is a Japanese poetry form that began over a millennium ago. To clear up one misconception: Haiku in plural is still haiku. Please never refer to them as haikus. Written in the present tense, haiku reflect the seasons and nature, with the haiku offering a twist – or juxtaposition – of word images to provide a surprise element. The present tense brings the reader in closer contact, providing an immediate emotional response.

Some haiku are profound, others more light-hearted. Traditionally, many Japanese practitioners of poetry would begin a lengthy poem, called a renga, with an opening haiku. These were recited as a type of song for ceremonial occasions. Haiku eventually separated from the renga, and became a stand-alone poem. Later, humor (sometimes ribald) entered the practice with a type of haiku called senryu. However, with time, some people feel there is less of a distinction between the humorous and the traditional 17-syllable narratives. Also, the 17-syllable constraint is vanishing. What does continue is the juxtaposition of imagery, influencing many poets since its beginnings. I’ll talk more about some of my more favorite contemporary interpreters of haiku in a later post.

Basho and Issa were two of the well-known practitioners from the 17th and 19th centuries, respectively. Basho’s work greatly influenced my enjoyment of haiku. One of Matsuo Basho’s classic haiku, translated by Robert Hass, reads:

“Autumn moonlight–
a worm digs silently
into the chestnut.”

Like other forms of poetry, the haiku has a distinct rhythm. The last line snaps, and if done well, amuses and/or gratifies. Since one of the nature elements that inspires me is water, here are two water haiku, each in response to one of my photographs shown here.


Rain freckles the earth
a torrent of umbrellas
one jubilant frog

And to the featured image at the top of this post…

Downpour, then silence
A solitary raindrop

[You can enjoy all the daily posts from the #30PostsHathSept bloggers HERE]

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Thirty-One Syllables | Marianne Kuzujanakis

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