How Do You Write Haiku?


Haiku by Rangyu (1798-1876) and picture by Chikuso (1763-1830)

I’m taking a non-SCA class. One assignment was to write a  haiku. I thought “great – Haiku are probably period”. Well I had a few things to learn.

You may already know they’re a three-line poem with lines having five, seven, and five syllables each, in that order.

Now haiku didn’t begin that way. They started as a something called renga which go back to first millennium China. They weren’t found in Japan until the 8th century.

Renga are more complex than today’s English haiku because they had verses. They were also  written by a poets’ group led by a master. Each poet contributed a verse beginning with three lines in the 5-7-5 format. But those were followed by two seven-syllable lines.

What we call a haiku today is only the first three lines of one poet’s contribution. And that didn’t become a stand-alone poem until the 17th century. – So not really SCA period. – Anyway, that’s when Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) adapted the renga’s first three lines into its accepted form.

So here is my first haiku. I call it The Gold Star Wife.

My soldier is dead.

He lived a dynamic life.

My undying force.

After writing that I learned a few things about proper haiku. Mainly it isn’t what I wrote.

I followed the simple format but I made the most common mistake. I made it about an expression of an experience, not the happening itself. You see my poem should have been about the soldier’s death, not its meaning to me.

Also, haiku are supposed to be about nature, with a hint about the season. It should bring you into the moment like you were really there, focusing on one meaningful mite. If you want to read better examples than mine, you might enjoy the Japanese poetry created by the Honorable Lady Ki no Kotori on her SCA blog Foxeholly.

I have composed a few more haiku since this one and will give it even more tries. I enjoyed the meditative writing. Plus I could work them into C & I projects. So it’s back to the drawing board for me and more practice.

Related Prior Post:

6 Reasons to Learn Calligraphy

Categories: How-to

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