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Passions in Poetry

Senryu, Haiku, and gesundheit

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Member Rara Avis
since 05-19-99
Posts 9708
Michigan, US

0 posted 06-05-99 02:27 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

The well known haiku, as well as the lesser known senryu, classically follow a very rigid format: three lines, composed of 5-7-5 syllables. Since Alicat has written the ideal example, I will humbly bow to his expertise:

Three lines haikus have
Counting off each syllable
Five, seven, and five

Pretty simple, hm? But (as always, it seems), that's only part of the story. The original Japanese definitions are a bit more stringent. Technically, a haiku must refer to a season (though it can be very indirect); otherwise it is a senryu. Here's an Americanized version of a haiku by Buson (eighteenth century):

Cherry blossoms drop
onto placid blue waters:
stars on the ripples.

See the reference, albeit indirect, to a specific season? Ah, but there is more - much, much more...

Philosophically, the haiku and senryu gain their real strength from Zen Buddihism. They are meant to juxtapose seemingly unrelated observations, in order to glimpse the hidden connection between things. Relying on mood and suggestiveness, the perfect haiku should bring a bright moment of illumination to the reader, a sigh of, "of course!" as the reader discovers hidden but simple truths. Read the haiku by Buson again. Look for the juxtapositions and the connections between unrelated things. See what I mean? (The translation above is my bastardization of a true classic, and I take full responsibility. The original is much better.)

Okay, enough lecture. Here's my question to you:

I think the philosophy of the haiku, as a specific Zen-like way of thinking, is its true strength. I think that "moment of illumination" is at once the hardest thing to accomplish and the most important. In fact, I'll carry that even farther, and say that I think it is the only thing that's important. I think the stringent 5-7-5, three-lines-only-please format is antiquated and no more than a poetic preference. I think that we have Westernized the haiku into near oblivion, losing sight of its true beauty; we have made them easy by following the format, at the cost of losing the Truth.

Now - what do you think...


[This message has been edited by rcarnell (edited 06-05-99).]

[Note: This message has been edited by Nan]
Junior Member
since 05-23-99
Posts 41

1 posted 06-05-99 05:13 PM       View Profile for TheGreenPolarBear   Email TheGreenPolarBear   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit TheGreenPolarBear's Home Page   View IP for TheGreenPolarBear

Ok, I definitely agree with you. I'd never really thought much of haikus before about six months ago. My only real experience with them had been when English teachers made us write them, and those never really looked for "deeper truths." Then, someone brought a Jack Kerouac book to school and I looked at it. In the back, there were about five pages of "Western Haikus." As Kerouac says, "A 'Wester Haiku' need not concern itself with the seventeen syllables since Western languages cannot adapt themselves to the fluid syllabillic Japanese. I propose that the 'Western Haiku' simply say a lot in three short lines in any Western language." I think this basically fits what you're thinking Ron. After reading about this, I went ahead to write about three pages of my own "Western Haikus" with a good friend. Though they didn't always say something deep (we often like making little sense whatsoever), some of them sort of hit what you're saying.

trees in fall
who doesn’t
want to be naked

My friend wrote this one, and even though I don't think he intended it, this one has lots to do with nature and happens to connect two unrelated things.

cold frozen slumber
it stays empty
never closing

This one is one I wrote that actually refers to my refrigerator (it is truly evil), but I think can be interpreted in a way that fits with your definition. Well, I guess what this whole long rambling thing has been saying is that I agree with what you believe about haikus. Oh, and if anyone's curious, the Kerouac book I got the info about "Western Haikus" from is called Scattered Poems.

The Green Polar Bear
doreen peri
Member Rara Avis
since 05-25-99
Posts 8028

2 posted 06-28-99 01:38 PM       View Profile for doreen peri   Email doreen peri   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for doreen peri

I think you know a lot more about it than I do, that's for sure.

Educating us
About Haikus and meaning
Your words are spring in winter

Thanks for the education!
Junior Member
since 07-13-99
Posts 30
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

3 posted 07-18-99 01:39 AM       View Profile for Daniel2   Email Daniel2   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Daniel2

Cherry blossoms drop
onto placid blue waters:
stars on the ripples.

This is truly great by Master Buson. A moment, I was going to say captured (like a photo) but maybe that's not right. Maybe it's just a moment. Those ripples are moving in the silence.
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