10 August 2007


Haiku, of course, is a Japanese poetry form. Last September I posted directions for how to write it. Rather than make you go looking for that post, I'll just repeat it here:

Some five syllables.
Another seven go here.
Finish with five more.

Traditional haiku is about nature. The first line often contains a word or phrase which tells what season the setting is.

An old pond;
A frog jumps in--
The sound of water.
Matsuo Basho (1644 - 1694)

From a bathing tub
I throw water into the lake -
slight muddiness appears.
Hekigodo Kawahigashi. (1873-1937)

(The syllable counts aren't right in these two because they're translated from the Japanese; the originals did have the right format.)

Here's a traditional-style haiku about a rainbow:

Curving up, then down.
Meeting blue sky and green earth
Melding sun and rain.
Donna Brock

And some more traditional-style haiku:

watching the snow
a cup of coffee balanced
on my briefcase

A squirrel's light touch
On the Queen's great oak sends down
A drift of rain drops.

hot air so heavy
even the crickets can’t breathe
time slows to a stop

Americans, not as tradition-bound as the Japanese, have adapted (or perverted - your choice) this form of poetry to all sorts of other things. For instance, there are cat haiku:

You never feed me.
Perhaps I'll sleep on your face.
That will sure show you.

Grace personified,
I leap into the window.
I meant to do that.

Humans are so strange.
Mine lies still in bed, then screams!
My claws aren't that sharp...

And of course there are also dog haiku:

I lie belly-up
In the sunshine, happier than
You ever will be.

How do I love thee?
The ways are numberless as
My hairs on the rug.

I sound the alarm!
Mailman - come to kill us all -
Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!

I even found some horse haiku:

We Run in Circles
Faster, Faster, it's so fun!
Who is "Whoa Dammit"?

Forty hooves pounding
Tails stream, dirt flies, sharp whips crack
Bright silks shimmering

Getting away from the animal world, there are airplane haiku:

the plane has landed
the people are excited
here come the cell phones

Computers, of course, are a wonderful subject for haiku.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

No keyboard present
Hit F1 to continue
Zen engineering?

Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.

Here's a silly one I wrote a while back, just because:

Monsters in the streets!
But the people need not fear -
Scooby-Doo is here.

Here's a more serious (and more traditionally styled) one I wrote as part of a group of submarine-themed haiku:

On the snowy pier
A shivering topside watch
Waits for his coffee.

And finally, my favourite haiku of all:

How can I express
A complete thought in only
Seventeen sylla

Click on the "Poetry Friday" button at left for this week's round-up, which is hosted by Kelly at Big A little a.


MotherReader said...

Let me add my favorite haiku from a Threadless.com shirt:

Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don't make sense

cloudscome said...

Good explanation and background on haiku! I would add that Japanese traditional haiku always gives a clear image of one moment in time. It is not sentimental. Ideally it should contain a "break" or twist to contrast two images in order to offer readers an "aha" moment of deeper realization. The ones that are hard to understand don't give the reader a clear enough context to share the moment. Japanese haiku can be obscure to Americans for that reason.

I really like this one:

On the snowy pier
A shivering topside watch
Waits for his coffee.

RM1(SS) (ret) said...

I really like this one:

On the snowy pier
A shivering topside watch
Waits for his coffee.

Thanks - there's a lot of memory wrapped up in that poem. I've been both the topside watch and the belowdecks watch (the one who would be bringing the coffee) far too many times to count.