Modern Haiku: Haiku and Senryu; the Differences:
Everything you need to know about haiku can be found here

Here are a few excerpts;

What is Haiku?

Haiku is one of the most important form of traditional Japanese poetry. Haiku is, today, a 17-syllable verse form consisting of three metrical units of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. Since early days, there has been confusion between the three related terms Haiku, Hokku and Haikai. The term hokku literally means "starting verse", and was the first starting link of a much longer chain of verses known as haika. Because the hokku set the tone for the rest of the poetic chain, it enjoyed a privileged position in haikai poetry, and it was not uncommon for a poet to compose a hokku by itself without following up with the rest of the chain.

Largely through the efforts of Masaoka Shiki, this independence was formally established in the 1890s through the creation of the term haiku. This new form of poetry was to be written, read and understood as an independent poem, complete in itself, rather than part of a longer chain.

Strictly speaking, then, the history of haiku begins only in the last years of the 19th century. The famous verses of such Edo-period (1600-1868) masters as Basho, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa are properly referred to as hokku and must be placed in the perspective of the history of haikai even though they are now generally read as independent haiku. In HAIKU for PEOPLE, both terms will be treated equally! The distinction between hokku and haiku can be handled by using the terms Classical Haiku and Modern Haiku.

Origin of Modern Haiku.

The history of the modern haiku dates from Masaoka Shiki's reform, begun in 1892, which established haiku as a new independent poetic form. Shiki's reform did not change two traditional elements of haiku: the division of 17 syllables into three groups of 5, 7, and 5 syllables and the inclusion of a seasonal theme.

Kawahigashi Hekigoto carried Shiki's reform further with two proposals:

1. Haiku would be truer to reality if there were no center of interest in it.
2. The importance of the poet's first impression, just as it was, of subjects taken from daily life, and of local colour to create freshness

What to write about?

Haiku-poems can describe almost anything, but you seldom find themes which are too complicated for normal people's recognition and understanding. Some of the most thrilling Haiku-poems describe daily situations in a way that gives the reader a brand new experience of a well-known situation.

The metrical pattern of Haiku

Haiku-poems consist of respectively 5, 7 and 5 syllables in three units. In Japanese, this convention is a must, but in English, which has variation in the length of syllables, this can vary slightly

The technique of cutting.

The cutting divides the Haiku into two parts, with a certain imaginative distance between the two sections, but the two sections must remain, to a degree, independent of each other. Both sections must enrich the understanding of the other.

To make this cutting in English, either the first or the second line ends normally with a colon, long dash or ellipsis.

The seasonal theme.

Each Haiku must contain a kigo, a season word, which indicate in which season the Haiku is set. For example, cherry blossoms indicate spring, snow indicate winter, and mosquitoes indicate summer, but the season word isn't always that obvious.

Please notice that Haiku-poems are written under different rules and in many languages. For translated Haiku-poems, the translator must decide whether he should obey the rules strictly, or if he should present the exact essence of the Haiku. For Haiku-poems originally written in English, the poet should be more careful. These are the difficulties, and the pleasure of Haiku.

Modern Haiku:
Although traditional Japanese haiku adheres to strict form and meter principles and is bare of poetic adornments, modern haiku has extended the poetry form to fit the life and time of today.

Modern haiku is sometimes looked down upon for its lax syllable count, use of metaphors, similes and rhyme, and unnatural images as its central focus. Modern haiku is also often described as the poet's direct experience of the world. However, it is hard to say whether the original masters of haiku would have focused so deeply on maintaining the tradition of the form or the simplicity with which it conveys what it expresses.

Instead, it is surely possible that they may have considered the essence of the finished product more important. In this way, haiku has not changed much from the days of medieval Japan. The essence of one moment of wisdom captured within a few, short lines is still what inspires writers and draws audiences from around the world. Modern haiku does not adhere to the basic 5-7-5 syllable, or morae, principle because different languages have different phonetics.

Syllables are not always the same length in every language and therefore, can be adjusted. (don't go overboard) These adjustments aim towards the traditional haiku model but in their own ways. Syllables are sometimes even shortened to one syllable per line, with only two lines.

Modern haiku usually involve an image and a response to that image. Modern haiku does not always include a nature word to give itself a setting. Instead, any word or phrase that corresponds to a location is often employed.

There is also much humour to be found in the traditional Japanese work of the old masters along with modern haiku. Sarcasm and irony are tools that modern writers enjoy implementing within their haiku. Although haiku enthusiasts irritably disagree on a common definition for modern haiku, the main idea to remember is that the spirit of the haiku is what ultimately survives within the mind, and heart, of the reader.

Haiku or Senryu: How to tell the difference?
Look here for some answers.

Like all poetry forms, it's best to learn the traditional style (in this instance, as seen through western eyes) as best you can before experimenting


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