Read this once again.
One more time.
And then go over each word slowly.
Let it sink in.
Do the words create an image in your head? Did you smell the scent of jasmine in the air, even if just for a millisecond?
That’s the magic and beauty of this interesting form of short poetry—the haiku.
It’s actually an old trend in contemporary English poetry now, but since my attention was drawn to it only a few months ago (that too in the Percy Jackson books with our poet-god Apollo’s awful haikus!), I figured I might as well explore the genre deeper and enlighten my readers too, along the way. So, let’s begin with its origin.
In 9th-12th century Japan, tanka was a form of progressive poem where one person would write the first three lines or verses in five, seven and five moras, a sound unit somewhat like the English syllable (the effort required to produce one single utterance in a word, like in haiku—“hai”+”ku”—so two syllables), respectively, and then the next person would add another section with a seven-seven syllable structure, and the chain would continue with other people adding even further lines.
But that first verse was special because it set the tone and mood for the rest of the poem. It was called hokku, from where the term haiku was later derived. Obviously, the hokku authors were respected and considered quite skilful, and in the 19th century, the haiku, as it now came to be known, travelled to various other parts of the world and became an individual, unique form of poetry.
Originally haikus were written with focus on nature and the seasons, to establish a strong connect with one’s physical surroundings, but at the same time, suggesting something deeper and more subtle. All in all, a good haiku leaves one quite impressed and wonderstruck, as you might feel from the following examples:
I am over you.
Then my eyes meet yours once more,
and I fall in love...
-Alisha L Mead
An old silent pond...
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.
Verses in haikus don’t have to rhyme necessarily, but here we have an example of a rhyming one too:
Sun-kissed berry drinks,
And forever twilight skies,
Summer drowns in pinks.
You might notice that the haiku deals with the juxtaposition of images—in other words, the overlapping of two distinct scenes or phenomena. This was, precisely, the underlying motive of the Imagist movement in English poetry around the time of the World Wars. The visual style of poetry was celebrated by Imagist poets like T.E. Hulme, Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle, who did not explicitly write conventional haikus, but adapted the form into their own styles, like Pound’s eighteen-syllable poem In a Station of the Metro:
The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.
Another characteristic of the haiku is that it is mostly in present tense, and depicts the essence of a certain moment in time*.
The lamp once out
Cool stars enter
The window frame.
I think that’s enough haikus for one day. Keep pondering over them until you feel inspired to write one yourself!
P.S. The first haiku was by yours truly. Care to comment on how awful/awesome it was? :P
Image Credit: tofugo.com
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