Haiku Poems, History and Examples
February is Haiku Writing Month.
Haiku Writing Month is a great time to explore the world of Haiku poems and Haiku history.
What Is Haiku Writing Month?
Haiku Writing Month or #NaHaiWriMo was created in 2010 by Michael Dylan Welch, and it occurs every February. It is a writing holiday dedicated to writing Haiku poetry.
The sponsors of the event suggest that to participate, you write one Haiku poem each day in February. Why February? Because February is the shortest month and typically, haiku is the shortest poem.
History Of Haiku
The history of Haiku poems dates back to the late 1600s in Japan, where Matsuo Bashō, recognized as the greatest master of haiku, began writing his haiku poetry. His poetry is internationally renowned. His poetry is displayed publicly to this day.
Haiku poems were strictly written in Japanese until the turn of the 20th century. In 1913 Ezra Pound's influential haiku poem, "In a Station of the Metro" was published in English and is regarded by many as a turning point in Haiku history.
What Is A Haiku Poem
Traditionally haiku poems follow what is called the 5-7-5 structure. Where the first line has 5 syllables, the second line has 7 syllables, and the third and last line has 5 syllables. However, modern Japanese haiku as well as English haiku are increasingly varying from the 5-7-5 structure.
The subject matter of Haiku poems has a tradition of being nature related. They also use the juxtaposition of ideas in the poem. These, too, are no longer a requirement as modern haiku is no longer holding to the traditional ways.
One final characteristic of haiku poetry is the use of everyday objects as the subject matter. This idea of referencing everyday objects is still in use to this day.
Some Classic Haiku Examples
Here are some examples of older traditional haiku.
On a withered branch
A crow has alighted:
Nightfall in autumn.
Every day is a journey
and the journey itself
how precious on
a mountain path.
Clouds're running past
running after clouds
the Storm Day.
The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet,
- Ezra Pound
It's interesting to note that most of the examples above do not follow the 5-7-5 rule.
In the case of the Bashō and Shiki poems, the original Japanese poem did follow the rule. However, the original 5-7-5 structure was lost in the translation. In the case of the Ezra Pound poem, he was breaking from the traditional style.
Now It's Your Turn
In the spirit of Haiku Writing Month (#NaHaiWriMo), grab your journal (see our journals at our store The Amazing Office) and write a Haiku a day for the month of February. This is a fun exercise and your appreciation for haiku poetry will grow as you write.
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