NaPoWriMo 2013, Poetry, Structured Poetic Form

The Ents – a Haiku

The Ents sleeping in peace
Waiting to Spring in to life
Green leaves brush our sight

© C. Rhys

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Definition of Haiku

1) An unrhymed Japanese poem recording the essence of a moment. Nature is combined with human nature. It usually consists of three lines of 5/7/5 (5 kana in the first line, 7 kana in the second line, and 5 kana in the third line) totaling seventeen kana.

2) A foreign adaptation of 1, usually written in three lines totaling 17 syllables or LESS.

As you will notice, there are two definitions. Definition #1 is where many get confused. People tend to confuse kana or a single unit in the Japanese language with the English syllable. 

This is like comparing apples to oranges. Kana cannot be compared to syllables.

Unless you are Japanese, have been writing Japanese, or speak fluent Japanese, you will be writing definition #2.

The difference between the two is that in definition #2, you will be writing three lines of poetry, 17 syllables or LESS. 

This means you do not have to write three lines of 5/7/5 (5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line, and 5 syllables in the third line). You may do so, if you can do it well without fluff words (many can’t). If you write 5/7/5, that does not make your poem more of a haiku than someone who does not write 5/7/5.

Ideal Haiku

An ideal haiku should be short/long/short – but that depends on the haiku itself. There is nothing wrong with 5/7/5, if that is what you want to write. However, the majority of modern haiku in most of the journals are not 5/7/5. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its place.

However, it is all “haiku,” not “haiku” and “other.” It’s just haiku. If you like, you can refer to 5/7/5 as “traditional” — but even that is not entirely accurate, as it is quickly becoming more traditional to veer away from 5/7/5.

The plural of haiku is also haiku, NOT “haikus”.

Break rules out of experience, not inexperience.

After you have been writing and studying haiku for a while, you may be ready to break a rule. This is fine, if it is needed to improve the quality of an individual haiku. 

However, before breaking any haiku rule, you must learn and practice the rules. 

Then after you are more experienced, you can determine which rule, if any, you want to break on occasion.

(reprint from Shadow Poetry)


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