Haiku is a short verse poem. Haiku is thought to have originated in Korea and China and developed in fifteenth century, Japan, by Basho. When thinking of haiku, try to stay “in the moment”.
Ask, what is the season? What season word, might I use, describes this moment?
Remember kigo (season words) can include known words; (winter) cold wind, blistery night, December moon, frost, ice crystals, or some unknown or unique season words; think locality, environment, astrology, area landscape.
Use names of plants, foods, or particular events relative to this season (particular to the month, time of year, or time of day, night and even in the hour.
A season word does not have to be obvious.
What is the moment you want to describe? Is it peaceful? What kigo might relate to that thought? Is there a color that describes this thought, which is also relative to the season? A plant? An action? Think of the difference between the moment and the season word. Think of similarities.
The haiku should describe something and show kireji (cutting words) which bring an unusual element by comparison, or something not comparable, which makes one see the moment described in a new way, or as something relative to the reader’s thought or experience.
Sometimes haiku is obvious and at times humorous; sometimes it is a subtle notion or nuance. Think of different feelings, unusual things you have observed in nature.
You may notice the following Haiku are not three lines with 5-7-5 syllables. Since the 60’s haiku writing in English has seen many revolutions and “birthed” many styles of writing.
Haiku, in English, has new traditions and can be expressed in one or two lines and can take a minimalist form. Modern Haiku use many combinations of English syllables, in three- line Haiku, including; 2-3-2, 3-4-3, 3-5-2 and so on…less is more, when writing haiku in English.
Capitalization and punctuation in Haiku should not be based on standard practices for writing in English, but should writers omit capitals and punctuation because it appears some serious English-language haiku writers are? No, because punctuation is as individual as the haiku.
Choices in punctuation, are a means to an end, which in Haiku, is keeping the poem simple, unembellished. The versatility seen in the works of many Haijins is interesting; starting with a capital in just the first line and not using closing punctuation, indicating the haiku is open-ended, like a resonate thought.
Other Haijins, choose to start with a capital and end with a period, some, vary the indentations of the lines, write all words in lowercase, and some may start each line with a capital letter. Starting each line with a capital is somewhat Victorian (in relation to haiku of that era) and stifles the poem as much as adding excessive punctuation.
These practices make Haiku, decidedly un-simple. Some use capitals for proper nouns, this is suggested and is acceptable, otherwise, use lowercase throughout the poem, this keeps the haiku simple and directs the reader to the thought conveyed.
Some Haijins prefer to use punctuation to indicate kiregi (or cutting words) which indicate, pause/turn/juxtaposition – this is done by using a dash, hyphens, an ellipsis, and sometimes, a colon. The use of ellipsis and hyphens, in Haiku, should be limited because, used as Haiku punctuation, they draw more (and sometimes excessive) attention to the form and not to the poem.
The point of Haiku, is simplicity and immediacy and is for a limited number of words to capture a moment in time (open-ended, suggesting this moment is part of a time that happened before and will happen after, the endless "now").
When considering punctuation in your Haiku, write the poem several ways, try to make the poem "wordless” (not gaudy, embellished with unnecessary capitalization and punctuation, remember, keep it simple. Do not try to draw attention to the poem, through your use of “correct English”. This is something that hinders Haiku and makes it complicated.
Try not to “romanticize” and give your haiku a Victorian image. In keeping your haiku simple, try removing articles; “a”, “and”, and “the” can often be removed, allowing the haiku a smooth transition into the moment. Haiku are not sentences, but abstractions in a conceptual form, so the use of articles should be different than “the norm”, for regular sentences. There should only be enough punctuation to clarify the poem, yet enough to maintain open-endedness and allow the mind to accept various layers of meaning and depth.
Winter Breaths ...
Tonight’s taka (hawk)
takes flight -
the warmth of your eyes
Ko no ha (tree leaves)
the shamelessly bare apple trees
We laugh at visible laughter,
Karegiku (withered mums)
the shadow of leaves, darkens the path
also beyond expiration
Yellow blossom, why must you
brighten this dreary day?
That solemn Aspen, now laughing with light -
New time zone
the differences between us
Cold crow -
again, a sharp pain, cuts my heart.
Mandarin moon -
Why must you know
all my secrets?
My hair tangled with winter’s breath - First snow
Popping moon - alone,
this feeling grows to fill nothing
No word from home, yet
the bud's promise of spring
Two moons -
bundled in scarves
D. Russell, © 05