Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Haiku Writing Prompt #1

Slawomir Kuter |

do not trample to pieces
the pearls of bright dew 
- Issa (1763-1827)

Haiku by Issa

In spring rain
A pretty girl

A giant firefly:
that way, this way, that way, this -
and it passes by.

Despite the morning frost -
a child
selling flowers

Buddha Law,
in leaf dew

Today it is the birthday of the Japanese Writer Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827).   In honor of his birthday, we will enjoy a few of his haiku and write one of our own. 

I have more examples of haiku on my pocket poems page, too. 

About Writing Haiku

Haiku comes from Japan.  The rules for haiku are centered around the Japanese language.  If you try to compare Japanese to English, it is like comparing grapes to kiwis.  So that rule about 5 syllables for the first line, 7 for the second line and 5 for the last line isn't totally required in English.  Less will work just fine, often better. 

There has been no consensus as to what the rules are for writing haiku in English, but there are general guidelines which are followed. 

One general guideline we apply to English language haiku is that we use three lines.  Syllables per line do not have to be 5-7-5, we often use less.  However, some people like to practice the discipline of sticking to a syllable count, and I'm not opposed to that.  However, if you are using more, it is not such a good idea in my opinion. 

There should be a season word (called a kigo) in a haiku.  For example, if we read a haiku that has the word "snow," that will indicate it is winter.  "Firefly" will indicate summer, and "tulip" will indicate spring. 

The middle line goes with both the first line and last line independently.  For example, in one poem up above, you can have a pretty girl in the rain, and a pretty girl can yawn. 

The first line of the haiku introduces your subject and is pretty ordinary. 

The last line of a haiku should make you feel a little "Wow."  Sometimes a big "WOW!"  The purpose of the haiku is to transport an ordinary moment into a fresh light.  The wording need not be extraordinary; it is how that last image falls in relation to the other lines that gives the "wow" affect.  For example, in the morning frost haiku above, we are drawn in to the image of a child.  We are set up to see something a little sad because frost isn't such a festive image.  But, WOW, the last line shows the child selling flowers, so our hearts are heightened to joy for that image, and we are surprised. 

The haiku is short and should focus on one moment---one little slice of life. 

The Haiku Society of America can give you a lot of information about haiku.  The above is just some general guidelines that should be enough to get you started. 

Haiku Writing Prompts:

1.  Write a haiku with any kind of insect in it.
2.  Write a haiku with a flower in it, and make sure to name exactly what flower it is. 
3.  Write a haiku that mentions rain. 

You can also free-write from the picture for 5 minutes. 

You may also enjoy visiting the Issa Gallery that features Iassa's haiku blended with beautiful photography.

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