2012-03-16

Passion For Poetry

A Haiku Rant

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to poetry forms. I’ve explored over a hundred different poetry forms and in doing so I’ve tried to stay as close to their traditional formats as possible. This doesn’t always mean just adhering to their rhyme schemes and syllable counts, many of them have specific themes or subject matter as well. Which brings me to today’s post.

Most people know the haiku as a three line Japanese poetry form with a syllable count of 5, 7, 5, and look no further than that. The truth is, there’s more to this phenomenally popular form than its structure.

To be a true haiku, the verse must express a thought, feeling or mood. The verse cannot be composed of more than 17 syllables; it cannot have more than 3 lines; and it cannot rhyme. There is always a caesura (pause), and a kigo (seasonal reference).

A haiku records the essence of a moment and should not be about the past. Nature is combined with human nature. It does not use metaphor, personification, simile, or other such poetic devices. The majority of haiku do not use capitalization and use minimal (if any) punctuation. Periods close in the haiku and should be avoided.

So if your haiku doesn’t meet the above criteria, what exactly is it? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s a senryu. A senryu is a Japanese poem similar in structure to the haiku, but more concerned with human nature, and is often humorous or satiric.

The difference is that while a haiku is about nature and natural metaphor, the senryu is about the doings of humans. Where haiku are serious, senryu are considered to be comic, satirical, or parody.

Now for some examples:

dancing white crystals
melting in a gasp exhaled;
breath dissipating


cat crouching in wait;
unaware prey approaches
dog yelps, human laughs


weak wintery sun
filtering through leafless trees;
ice fills empty space

Now comes the fun part. In the above examples, have I written haiku or senryu? If you want to know, you’ll have to leave a comment. ;-)

2 comments:

Bish Denham said...

I'll take a stab at it. I think the first and last are haiku and the middle one is senryu.

Right or wrong, I liked all three!

C R Ward said...

LOL Thank you Bish! And you're absolutely right.