Haiku

haiku

Haiku is the most famous form of poetry to come from Japan and is probably the shortest type of poetry in the world. Haiku is recognizable by its unique structure of 5-7-5 Japanese syllables (In Japanese the word haiku( 俳句、はいく ) is 3 syllables; ha-i-ku). One of the most famous haiku poet is Matsuo Basho and was actively writing poetry during the Edo period in Japan.

Haiku traditionally deals with peaceful concepts such as the beauty of nature or the calmness of the soul and because this concepts are conveyed in such a short sentence, the words in a haiku poem are considered to be deep and full of imagery. Example of a famous haiku by Matsuo Basho:

古池や蛙飛込む水の音

ふるいけやかわずとびこむみずのおと

furuike ya kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto

Old pond

a frog jumps

the sound of water

As you can see, a haiku is broken up to 3 lines when written in English. This is because the breaks or pause to establish the 5-7-5 structure is not evident in English. In Japanese, this done via the kireji (lit. cutting word) such as the ya in furuike ya. Haiku also traditionally have a kigo (lit. season word) with sets the season in which the haiku is set and references the natural world. In the case of this haiku its the word kawazu (frog) and references spring.

Interesting? Well if you’re interested in more, my friends Takke-san is a poet and writes haiku in english on his website, Haiku by Haikaishi “Shinjuku Rollingstone”. Check it out. ^^

Haiku by Haikaishi \