Haiku Poems

Haiku is a traditional Japanese form of poetry. Haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. Most of the time it focuses on images from nature, haiku emphasizes simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression.

Haiku started in 13th century. Japan as the starting phrase of renga, an oral poem, usually with 100 stanzas long, which was also composed syllabically. Another shorter style of haiku broke away from renga in the 16th century, and being mastered after a century by famous Matsuo Basho, who wrote this famous and classic haiku:

An old pond!
A frog jumps in–
the sound of water.
Famous haiku poets include Basho, Yosa Buson, Kobayashi Issa, and Masaoka Shiki. Modern poets interested in the form include Robert Hass, Paul Muldoon, and Anselm Hollo, where poems are “5 & 7 & 5” includes the following stanza:

round lumps of cells grow
up to love porridge later
become The Supremes

Haiku poems was traditionally written in the present tense and focused on associations between images. There was a pause at the end of the first or second line, and a “season word,” or kigo, specified the time of year.

As the form has evolved, many of these rules–including the 5/7/5 practice–have been routinely broken. However, the philosophy of haiku has been preserved: the focus on a brief moment in time; a use of provocative, colorful images; an ability to be read in one breath; and a sense of sudden enlightenment and illumination.

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