Friday, December 30, 2011

What is Haiku?

My favorite haiku.
In short, haiku is a form of poetry that started in Japan many centuries ago and has spread across the globe. In English, a haiku is generally written in 3 lines with the first and last lines comprised of 5 syllables and the middle line of 7 syllables. (This is not quite so in Japanese because our languages just work differently.)

Traditionally, haiku reflect the season in which they are written and include certain seasonal key words. Many modern haiku writers rebel against this “requirement,” and write haiku about anything and everything. I find the seasonal key words to be quite fun and inspirational! Since seasons vary around the world, the traditional Japanese lists of seasonal key words are not always valid, and it is especially enjoyable to read haiku from around the world that use their own local seasonally specific topics.

Another “requirement” often quoted about haiku is that you are not supposed to use pronouns (I, you, etc) and must render the haiku impersonal. I think this also arises from a language misunderstanding as Japanese does not require a pronoun to be understood, instead relying on verb form in most cases. Since we can't easily do this in English, I see no reason to exclude words like me, my, and our. Indeed, many Japanese haiku are translated into English using these words!

Basically, the point of a haiku is to capture a moment. The “rigid” format helps the poet express himself or herself simply and quickly without vomiting flowery poetry gook all over the place. It also is meant to help the poet woo his or her sweetheart with clever words and beautiful imagery. As they say, to each his own! It really is not a difficult style to work with, and at the very least is an excellent exercise for aspiring poets to manipulate language and flex their mental muscles.

You needn't be brilliant to write a haiku, so have fun with it! After all, there is a category for funny haiku (or haikai, the older word for this poetry style) called senryuu. There is also a miscellaneous category called zappai. Remember rules are not written in stone, and even if they were, stone erodes. Think of the above as guidelines to help you express yourself. Now go forth and create.

For a more in-depth explanation of haiku, click here.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Kinkakuji, Kyoto
The first three quarters of 2011 was spent doing a lot of the fiction writing along with developing my two other blogs. The last part of the year ended up mostly tied up in technical writing gigs, which, though it was awesome being paid to do something that comes easily to me (I seriously felt like a bandit), were not exactly fulfilling on the creative front. So I've decided that for 2012, I am challenging myself to write something creative every day. And not just anything: I'm going to write poetry. 

Though I have written too many poems and even had a few of them published, I do not generally consider myself a fan of poetry. Let's face it, there are mountains of crap poems out there. Maybe even gas giant planets full. So I decided to pick something that I do enjoy, the moment. I like to think that modern poetry is like a photograph; one moment in time frozen forever. (This is probably why I enjoy the Twitter and Facebook status formats so much.) So I chose a medium that tries to capture moments, the haiku. 

For the next year, I am going to attempt to write and post one haiku a day. I can't promise every haiku is going to be precisely "cutting," or include a seasonal reference every time, but I do promise to try my hardest to keep to these basic characteristics, as well as utilize the 5-7-5 syllable format, the closest we can get in English to the Japanese on. (Check back later for my further explanation of what haiku means.)

This blog will quite possibly often mirror events in my Life From Ann Arbor blog, or even Adventures in Food & Word since those two occasionally cross each other already, though I do hope to make it its own entity. 

In case you were wondering, the background image is a photograph I took of Osaka Castle in 2003 during my brief stay in Japan. Osaka is one of my favorite cities in the entire world, and I may end up rotating background images to showcase her. 

Anyway! So that is my goal. Read daily if you wish, or come back and read at random. I will try to tag the haiku and we'll see if we end up with some different themes. I don't promise greatness here, I only promise that I will do my best to meet my own demands. That being said....

Please enjoy! \(^.^)/