Asia (Japan)

Haiku, Renga, Senryu

Unfortunately some of the most misused poetry forms are the Japanese ones, especially Haiku. It has a wonderful simplistic form however, in ignorance most modern occidental poets not knowing the true form, or ignoring the truth, superimpose their own ideas and beliefs on it. It is the intention of this discourse not to be controversial, but merely to open the poets eyes to the nature and true beauty of these forms.

Although Haiku existed much earlier it was mainly a form of Zen Poetry. From the 16th century onwards another form of poetry was created wherein poets would gather together and write a Renga. The Renga was a group of five line poems similar to a Tanka, created by linking a three line poem (similar to a Haiku) with two lines of seven sound units.
The first poet would create a Haiku of five, seven, five onji and the next poet would add two lines of seven onji. That poet would then add another three lines and so on for as long as they desired.
One of these poets was the famous Basho.

Imagine you're a reporter at a famous painters art gallery. The people around looking at the paintings. You walk up to a couple with your tape recorder and ask them what they see. They reply to you and you take your message away.
What they said into your microphone was: sunlit day, blue sky, harsh red desert sand dunes, khaki green cactus.
Automatically your minds eye visualises and you see a picture before you. The less that is said, the more the mind is allowed to conceptualise and the greater will be the quality of the picture in your mind. Unknowingly a Haiku has been created.

sunlit day blue sky,
harsh red desert sand dunes,
khaki green cactus.
Most people consider Haiku to be a very strict form of 5 7 5 syllables and some organisations insist on in following this rule. In my humble opinion, it can actually destroy the true essence of the form. Whilst it is nice to have rules, rules are only made for guidance and not blind obedience.
True Haiku presents an observation, a web of closely associated ideas (renso).
A suggestion of time and place linked with this observation and an active mind on the part of the reader and we have "Haiku".
Working together a mood of perception is given. The poet does not need to comment on this mood merely to leave the reader with the image that has been evoked.
True Haiku have two specific images and do not have a specific number of syllables, remembering that Japanese writing runs down the page and not left to right as occidental writing does.
Whenever possible only concrete specific language should be used. Adjectives and adverbs often interpret what is seen and should be avoided. Weak verbs should be replaced with strong verbs. ie; instead of "go", use"run or walk etc".
Words using sensory connotations are preferable so that the imagination is left to respond to the stimulus. As was stated earlier this poetry form emerged and was developed by the poet Basho(1644-1694) into a refinement of Taoist symbolism and Zen Buddhism and although starting in the eighth century many Japanese poets state that "Haiku" began and ended with Basho.

The important difference between Japanese poetry and occidental poetry is the reliance by occidental poetry on the metaphor to set the image. Japanese poetry relies on the literal accuracy.
Soft gentle breezes
stirring white cumulus clouds
tinting light blue skies

Yellow desert weed
brown green runners spreading trails
moonlit blue night sky.
The basic form is 5. 7. 5. Syllables.
Use words that arouse the imagination and make the senses respond.
The use of verbs should be strong with definite meaning like "Running" rather than weak like "Going".
Most of all adjectives and adverbs should be avoided as very often they help interpret what is happening rather than allowing the mind to sense what is happening.

A true Haiku is a spiritual experience, an extension of Zen and should contain reference to a season or nature and is a spiritual experience of the universe. The epiphany or ending (satori), should penetrate into the heart of the theme.
There is another form that follows exactly the same format as the Haiku called the Senryu. The senryu deals more with human nature and it is considered the best form when the satori is ironic or funny.
dog breakfasts
before tradesman comes
quickie on bed

Any Comments or Suggestions, please email me

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