Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Haiku A to Z: K is for Kigo, Kidai, and Key

full moon over backyard 2012
"Haiku's imagery and affective content are unique. Traditional haiku incorporates a kigo (season word) or a kidai (seasonal topic) including recurring human events usually connected to natural cycles...Almost always traditional haiku include a concrete image drawn from non-human nature. Therefore one could define haiku as human feeling connected with nature." --Bruce Ross

Haiku incorporates a kigo (season word) or kidai (seasonal topic). Or not.

Haiku has three lines of 5, 7, 5 syllables. Or not.

Haiku contains seventeen syllables. Or not.

For the longest time I was somewhat baffled over things I was reading about haiku; guidelines seemed contradictory. And then one day, something clicked. I found the key to my confusion.

Simply put, there's a difference between traditional Japanese haiku and later-developing English-language or Western haiku. The change began in the 1950s when poets of the more modern form embarked on paths that varied from the traditional.

The online literary publication Daily Haiku says this: "There is some debate as to the definition of haiku and its 'proper' form. The best and most concise definition seems to be: Haiku is a minimalist form of unrhymed poetry consisting of seventeen syllables or less. Traditional Japanese haiku carry an unrhymed, three line, 5-7-5 syllabic (beat) structure with a seasonal reference. Over the years, English Language haiku authors have transplanted the traditional Japanese structure into their own language with varying degrees of success...Contemporary English-language haiku artists have largely abandoned the 5-7-5 structure and tend to gravitate toward shorter syllabic counts more representative of the verbal length of Japanese counterparts."

Whew, once I came to ken (Scottish dialect for 'understand') the difference, I could relax--and enjoy the variations that come with the form. Both can be greatly appreciated!

A few sources that explain this concept in more depth include:
Becoming a Haiku Poet
Beyond the Haiku Moment
Forms in English Haiku
Japanese Poetry Patterns
How to Write a Haiku Poem
Understanding Modern English-Language Haiku

(And, adding to the conversation, I've come across these terms: desk haiku and pseudo-haiku. Loosely defined: haiku that uses any inspiration as a starting point (as opposed to writing haiku only from an 'ah-ha' moment). Thus explains the three-lined ditties that are fun and spontaneous, often entertaining and light-hearted. Jack Preluksky's If Not for the Cat comes to mind, a book of haiku that "asks you to think about seventeen favorite residents of the animal kingdom in a new way." So don't be intimidated by haiku--there's a form out there for just about everyone. And certainly don't kill the moment over fear of doing it right or wrong. The key is to enjoy writing!) 

Kicking around ideas again with Day Eleven Haiku:

katydids strum wing
strings, choir song crescendos...
lullaby brings sleep
--Kenda Turner

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