Monday, 14 January 2013

Poetry Reads: On Haiku: Poetry with Scissors


The first time my haiku was published and I happened to share my work with my friends, many among them were baffled and asked me, "Where is the rest of it? Is that all?"  That is where the sheer simplicity of haiku lies. It's gaudy attire is conciseness, words make up the decor.

You have got only three lines to say it.You have lesser characters than you are allowed on twitter to complete it. To be precise, you shouldn’t be exceeding more than 17 syllables. The number of syllables for each of the three lines are traditionally in this order - five, seven and five. Writing haiku dates back to 17th century Japan.The form was called hokku then. 

A haiku usually freezes on a single image, much like a photograph does. It is supported by a kigo word, which usually implies a season, for instance - 'autumn night' or 'spring'. Let us now look into a haiku by the famous 17th century poet called Matsuo Basho. This particular haiku has been translated several times. Of the many versions, one goes: 

old pond . . . 
a frog leaps into 
the water’s sound. 

Here the kigo word is frog, an indication of the Japanese spring season.

The English haiku doesn’t follow the strict 17-syllable format; many contemporary haiku poets have redefined the Japanese perimeters, a haiku could thus wind up in 10 syllables, or extend beyond 20. 

Haiku poets will tell you time and again - The main element in a good haiku is the ‘show, not tell’ factor. Let us paraphrase what Basho has said - Revealing 70 to 80 percent of the subject is good, but if you can show only 50 to 60 percent, then one is never tired of reading that haiku. 

Several poets also talk about the ‘ah’ effect. If the haiku provides an elevation, that little tinge of pleasure on reading it, one can happily conclude then that the poet's expression has got through. Many haiku exponents also see the art form as a philosophy of lingering in the moment, imbibing the present in totality and then presenting the same in a cusp of words.  Haiku is now been written in several Indian languages too. Only time will tell what influence this branching out will have.


(Article by Snehith Kumbla) 

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