NaPoWriMo 2016: day eighteen


Day eighteen -

Today: many words
about a form you might think
you know - haiku!

Yes, the time has come for us all to try our hands at one of my most beloved forms, haiku.

I'm pretty sure that most of you know the usual format for haiku in English: 3 lines of 5-7-5 syllables with a nature word.

But that's a translation of a form. English (or any romance language) doesn't even have the same type of words as Japanese.

So, modern English (or any romance language) haiku is generally less stringent about that 5-7-5 format and more stringent in the requirement of impact. (Modern Haiku magazine has really good definitions at the bottom of their submission page, which I'd urge you all to read.)

Capturing a single moment with a juxtaposition between two images. That's the real impact of haiku - one thing being compared to another. To refer to the season or not, that's the poet's choice.

In Japanese, the poet uses a "kireji" (which translates in English as a "cutting word" but really doesn't translate into English because we have no category of word that is applicable) to juxtapose the two images.

Since we can't imitate the category of the word, most poets use a comma or hyphen in place. (Like my opening faux-haiku in this prompt). Or sometimes the two things are juxtaposed without any need for a "kireji" (because they are just so dissimilar in English that the juxtaposition is explicit).

Like this translation of a haiku of Issa (considered one of the four great haiku masters of Japan), by Robert Hass, who breaks the typical line pattern to make Issa's juxtaposition more tangible):

All the time I pray to Buddha
I keep on
killing mosquitoes.

Finding the 'haiku moment' is the key in writing haiku, as this essay makes clear.

One of my favorite English haiku is by Etheridge Knight:

Eastern guard tower
glints in sunset; convicts rest
like lizards on rocks.

Your haiku moment will be different than mine or than Etheridge's. You are uniquely you. (No originality, but uniqueness, is my personal motto.)

Don't over-think your haiku. Let it come to you, as an image in the moment. And if the format is part of your practice, let it be part of your practice! (The majority of my haiku do cling to the 5-7-5, just because. I'm not a great haikuist, though. Actually, like the poet Kwame Davis writes in this essay, I basically write haiku to write haiku, to capture the moment.)

And I'm not giving an alternative prompt today, because essentially, if you don't need to utilize the 5-7-5 form, a haiku is just a simple image, juxtaposed with another, in a moment. Which is a poem everyone can write. It goes back to our pre-April warm-up prompt, the image poem.

(Or write your own poem, not-haiku, not-imagist! Write what needs to be written! The prompt doesn't matter as much as your writing your poem today does. Go!)

Happy poeming!