Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Haiku A to Z: D is for Differing Opinions, Debate, Discovery

morning moment 2015
"There are understandably differing opinions about the 'proper' way to write these wonderful poetic forms. Those traditionalists who think that retaining the classic Japanese style is most important are totally committed to their stance. Contemporary liberals who believe that adaptations are appropriate are equally as dogmatic in their opinions. Who's right? I feel the answer lies completely and subjectively within the mind of the writer...or perhaps the reader... doesn't it?" --Nancy Ness

I appreciate the debate about haiku...

Nancy Ness (All About Haiku, here) expands on the thought:
          "The appeal of these seemingly simple verses undoubtedly stems from their unique messages that deliver succinct words of wisdom to their readers. A well-written Haiku will incorporate two criteria. It will impart a universal sentiment that relates to all of humanity--in 17 'onji' (Japanese equivalent of syllables) or less--and it will allude thematically in some way to nature...Modern day Western versions of Haiku differ somewhat from the original classic format. The ultimate "English Haiku" challenge is to write effective verse in fewer syllables than the standard 17. 
          "The Western writer must make a choice. If she/he opts to conform to the rigid structure of form, then a 17-syllable Haiku will adhere to the Japanese onji format. If one prefers to adapt to the doctrine of brevity, an abbreviated version of genre is choice..."

Lee Wardlaw (Eight Things I Learned From My Cats About Haiku, here) says:
          "Japanese haiku feature a total of seventeen beats or sound units: five in the first line, seven in the second, five again in the third. This 5-7-5 form doesn't apply to American haiku, however, because of the differences in English phonics, vocabulary, grammar and syntax. Forcing an unnecessary adjective or adverb into a haiku simply to meet the 17-beats rule can ruin the flow, brevity and meaning of your poem. So feel free to experiment with any pattern you prefer (i.e. 2-3-2, 5-6-4, 4-7-3)--provided the structure remains two short lines separated by a longer one. Remember: what's most important here is not syllables but the essence of a chosen moment."

Recognizing there are differing opinions on haiku patterns, I still lean toward the traditional form, but who knows? After all, discovery (not dogmatism) is what writing's all about, isn't it?

On the discovery journey with Day Four Haiku:
dawn switches on stage 
lights--windblown trees bow to the
opening curtain
--Kenda Turner


  1. I'm with you - I like the traditional form. And I like this poem, too! Nice imagery!

  2. "provided the structure remains two short lines separated by a longer one. Remember: what's most important here is not syllables but the essence of a chosen moment." Nice succinct capture of what is essential to a haiku -- although, like you, I prefer the traditional 17 syllables. And, like Peggy, I like the imagery above in your own!

  3. Peggy and Elizabeth, looks like I'm in good company. Glad to know you prefer the traditional form of haiku, too :-) And thanks for your encouragement--much appreciated!

  4. Oh, I do like that 'opening curtain'! I don't normally write poetry, but I like structure so vote for the traditional style.

    Pioneer Women in Aviation A-Z

  5. Another vote for traditional! Thanks, Sharon :-)