Let's Do Haiku!

By Colderley, Chris | Teach, September/October 2014 | Go to article overview

Let's Do Haiku!


Colderley, Chris, Teach


Haiku is a traditional form of Japanese poetry that developed in the mid-1600s. Under the influence of Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), haiku grew into a serious form of poetry. One of Basho's most famous haiku is:

The old pond;

A frog jumps in -

The sound of the water.

Translation by Robert Aitken (2010, p.1)

Haiku use simple words and keen observations to describe scenes in nature. Each haiku consists of 17 syllables divided into three lines. In the English adaptation, the first line contains five syllables; the second line, seven syllables; and the third line, five syllables. Haiku also contain a kigo-a reference to a season of the year.

Through careful observation and crisp language, haiku draw attention to phenomena that might otherwise go unnoticed. For the writer and the reader, haiku presents things in a way that are innovative and unique leading to a new way of looking at the world.

The form calls attention to ideas behind the observations, leading to a moment of sudden insight-the haiku moment. In traditional haiku, there is often a division between two parts of the poem. A colon or a dash inserted in the poem indicates two contrasting parts and helps draw attention to the thoughts behind the words.

Japanese translations do not always conform to the syllable pattern of 5-7-5. Many translators emphasize the minimalist nature of the form by using as few words as possible. In contemporary haiku, as well, more emphasis is given to capturing a moment with precise images than adhering to the syllable count of 5-7-5. Poet Bruce Lansky (2014) argues, "The essence of haiku is the way it describes natural phenomena in the fewest number of words... That artistic effect, to me, is much more important than the number of syllables used."

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

The Japanese poet Matsuo Basho, was born in 1664 near the city of Kyoto. In his early years, he studied literature at Ueno Castle while serving the local lord's son. Later, he moved to Edo to study Chinese Poetry and Taoism under the guidance of local poet, Kitamura Kigin.

He began composing, haikai-norenga, a form of linked verse created in collaboration from which the haiku eventually derived. The first verse of the renga-hokku-is three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. In Basho's time, poets were adapting the practice of composing standalone poems based on this structure. After adapting the form, Basho quickly became a master in the literary community.

Even after Basho's death, appreciation for his poetry continued to grow. In the 20th century, many of Basho's works were translated into other languages. Readers admire his ability to observe the natural world and capture scenes with short, concise verse. Many modern poets have been greatly influenced by his direct language and crisp observations. Under Basho's continuing influence, haiku has become one of the most popular forms of poetry in the world.

WHY HAIKU?

Haiku can be an exercise in syllable counting. If this were the only benefit, why teach it? There are many positive returns from composing haiku for writers of any age. Haiku reinforces elements of the writing process, as well as supports personal growth.

First, haiku provides many opportunities to discover writing topics and explore fresh ideas. One of the initial challenges of any writing assignment is getting children to zero in a topic. Young writers need to be taught that poems, essays, and stories are all around, even in the most common things. Because haiku begins with close observation-sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch-it teaches students to closely examine the world around them for writing ideas when facing the blank page.

Second, haiku imparts the most important lesson that writers must learn, "show don't tell." Haiku's grounding in a single moment teaches writers to narrow their compositions to those sensory elements that are essential to the scene without superfluous commentary. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Let's Do Haiku!
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.