Carpe Diem Haiku Kai Academy #2 What is haiku?



Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

At Carpe Diem Haiku Kai I published several lectures on haiku and renga, here is one of those lectures.

What is haiku?

Prelude:
Haiku is, what we call, the shortest poem on the world. It's an original Japanese poem. Haiku as we know it now has its roots in the Renga. A Renga was a game of poetry and it was a 'hit' at the Emperor's Court. Renga, also called Renku, Bound Verse or Linked Poem, was a 'game' in which (mainly) poets wrote long chains of poems.
Renga started with a 'hokku' (starting verse) and had also strict rules, but that's maybe something for another 'lecture'. The hokku was a three lined verse with 5-7-5 syllables (or characters) and it mostly was a verse that had a double meaning. So with the starting verse the Renga could go in two ways.
The game of Renga was to write hai ('question') and kai ('answer') in turns. Sometimes a Renga was played with big groups of poets and could end up with one hundred or more 'links'.
The intention was to associate on the verse given by the one before you and write a new 'link' to the verse.
Haiku's roots:
As you have read above the Renga started with a 'hokku'. That 'hokku' became in the 17th century haiku. However haiku got his name in the end of the 19th century. It was Shiki (1867-1902) (one of the five greatest haiku poets and - masters) who gave haiku its name.
Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), the most famous haiku poet ever
Basho (1644-1694) took the 'hokku' out of Renga and made it an independent poem. He kept the syllable count (5-7-5) and started to write 'haikai' e.g.
old pond
a frog jumps in
sound of water
This 'haikai' is the most famous haiku by Basho and he wrote it when he lived in Edo (now Tokyo). It's a masterpiece. I have once written a set of new haiku for Wonder Haiku Worlds  an International website.

Haiku rules:
Haiku has several rules, to many to speak about here, but I will give you, dear reader, the most important rules for haiku:
1.The syllable count: 5-7-5
This is the most important rule and this is what makes haiku a haiku.
2.The inspiration source: A haiku is inspired by a short moment. This short moment is as short as the sound of a pebble thrown in water. Say 'one heart beat' short. (You can say haiku is a 'aha-erlebnis').
3.The seasonword (kigo)
To place the haiku in a specific season the classical Japanese poets used 'kigo' or seasonwords. These are words that refer to a season e.g. tulips (Spring); sunbathing (Summer), colored leaves (Autumn) and snow (Winter).
4.Interchanging
This I have to explain I think. Interchanging means that the first and third sentence of the haiku are interchangeable without losing the imagery of the haiku e.g.
a lonely flower
my companion for one night -
the indigo sky
When I 'interchange' the first and third sentence:

the indigo sky -
my companion for one night
a lonely flower
Through interchanging the both sentences the image of the haiku didn't change.


5.Cutting word (kireji): The so called 'cutting word' or 'kireji' was mostly a '-' as I have used in the above given haiku and it means 'here ends the line' or 'a break in the line'. The '-' may be counted as a syllable.
6.Deeper Meaning: Every haiku (the most haiku) have a deeper meaning. This deeper meaning is mostly a Zen-Buddhistic meaning, because haiku has originated from Zen-Buddhism, but it could also be a deeper meaning based on the philosophy of the haiku poet. The deeper meaning is mostly a spiritual one.


Writing haiku is fun you can asked that at millions of haiku poets all over the world. You have to try it ... and I think that if you start to write haiku you will become an addict of it.
Well ... this was a short Carpe Diem Lecture, but I hope I was clear enough to let you see what haiku is.

For closure a haiku:
the fence looks bright
in the early hazy sunlight -
crystal cobweb



© Chèvrefeuille
Well ... I think you have learned a little bit more about haiku and maybe it inspired you to try it yourself.

Namastè,

Chévrefeuille

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