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January, 2008


Haiku: Highest Art
Sweet 17
By  Stan Grimes

19th century Japan provided the poetry basis, Hokku, what is now known as Haiku.

"The Japanese haiku . . . teaches us much about the art and craft of poem-making. Haiku is understated and concise. It is lyrical and dramatic, poignant and precise, personal and universal."
– from Haiku: Travelers Of Eternity, by Charles Ghigna

Haiku finds its genesis in late nineteenth century Japan. The haiku style is derived from hokku. Hokku translated means "starting verse." It would take me more than one short article to explain the various terms related to this style of poetry. Suffice it to say Haiku has a set pattern for sounds, which we have modernized by a set or pattern of 17 syllables. That pattern is generally 5-7-5. In other words, the first line contains five syllables, second line seven syllables, and third line five syllables again.

This lyric form usually reflects a poet's impression of something observed or experienced in nature, often under the influence of a specific season or month. Although an authentic English haiku is bound by this pattern of form, the Japanese version of haiku involves a similar pattern with a variance due to the different linguistic patterns inherent in the Japanese language.

An absolute must in haiku is the insertion within the three lines of a seasonal word referred to by the Japanese poets as "kigo." Traditionally, there is also a "caesura" or a break, often indicated by a punctuation mark, to contrast and compare two events, images, or situations implicitly.

The first soft snow!
Enough to bend the leaves
Of the jonquil low.

Japanese poet Matsuo Basho (1644 - 1694) wrote this particular piece. Notice the use of punctuation after the first line and the use of a seasonal word "snow." You may also notice that in translation this original piece does not have the modified English 5-7-5 pattern. Remember, however, it is a translation.

By comparison, here is an English language haiku from an unknown author:

Bursting in bright hues
Splashing colours all about
Autumn leaves must fall.

Note the 5-7-5 syllable pattern follows the modified English haiku style; however, it does not have the characteristic punctuation on line one or two. It does, however, have the seasonal "kigo."

I have read a number of modern Haiku poems, which stray far from the 5-7-5 rule. However, as in any writing, almost anything works if done tastefully. If you are interested in writing in this form, read loads of haiku poetry and develop your own style. Study the writings of Basho, Busson, and Issa to get you started.

5-7-5 may sound simple, but it's quite a challenge to capture the essential beauty of nature with words, especially in a confined form. Writing good haiku is an art in which seventeen syllables can be a masterpiece.

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Stan Grimes is a graduate from Indiana University and works in the real world as a social worker. He has written a number of articles for the American Chronicle and, has numerous poems and short stories published in various anthologies and on his website at AuthorsDen and has three science fiction/suspense thriller novels out. His latest, Deacon, can be found at Double Dragon Publishing Inc.

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© Freelance Writing Organization - International 1999-2049

IN This Issue
The Long Life Of Poetry
Marketplaces For Your Poetry
Haiku: Highest Art
What Am I Doing Wrong?
Lyrically Speaking
Writing Poems
The Mind Of A Poet
A Poem Is A Little Path
Seeing Like A Poet
Speaking In Tongues (Excerpt)

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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

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