Bica Blog

An Introduction to Haiku - What is a Senryu?

Posted on January 29, 2020 at 3:50 AM Comments comments (1)


What is a Senryū?

 

When haiku are above all about human nature, they are called Senryū. Senryū generally don’t use season words. They are often cynical or darkly humorous.


  

table for one—

the waiter offers me

a gossip magazine


 

—Corine Timmer

 

First published in FemkuMag, issue 15, August 2019

 

There is no season word in the above poem and it is cynical and darkly humorous. That makes it a Senryū.


 

 

town undertaker—

seeing more and more

of his old friends


 

—Barry George, Philadelphia, PA

 

Honorable Mention in the 2019 Gerald Brady Memorial Senryu Award


 

wedding day

the time he takes

to knot the tie


 

—Marylyn Appl Walker

 

Second prize in the 2013 Gerald Brady Memorial Senryu Award


  

behind

a stick of candyfloss

a child’s face!


 

—John Gonzalez

 

In the Lantern Light, haiku and Senryū by John Gonzalez, published by Alba Publishing, 2016

 

If you have enjoyed this introductory series and want to compose haiku yourself, please don’t be put off by the rules. Intuition and spontaneity play a large role in haiku. Tap into your inner child and use your senses. Perfecting your haiku is a process. It requires practice and time. But we start with the inspiration. The inspiration is the core.

 

If you are a beginner, you can (don´t have to) start with:

 

  1. A 5-7-5 syllable format.
  2. Choose a season or seasonal word (there are lists online) or just step outside.
  3. Focus on a moment in time (the here-and-now). Haiku are written in the present tense. Remember that camera? Where are you? What’s happening? What´s catching your attention? What can you see, hear, taste, smell, touch?
  4. Think of yin and yang (opposites).
  5. Introduce a surprise (cut the poem into two parts, two visuals).
  6. Does your poem resonate (1+1=3)?

 

In February it’s time for NaHaiWriMo (National Haiku Writing Month) again. One haiku a day during the shortest month of the year. This happens on the NaHaiWriMo Facebook page. Michael Dylan Welch posts a daily prompt and anyone can participate and post their haiku on the visitors page. This will be my fourth year as a participant. It’s a good place to start. Michael Dylan Welch is the founder. He is also an haiku expert. His website http://www.graceguts.com is a treasure trove for haiku fans.

 

Another good place to find out more about haiku is The Haiku Foundation, founded and directed by Jim Kacian https://www.thehaikufoundation.org

 

Many countries have a haiku society. I am a member of the British and American haiku societies:

 

http://britishhaikusociety.org.uk

 

http://www.hsa-haiku.org


 

The Haiku International Association in Japan

 

http://www.haiku-hia.com/index_en.html


  

Bye for now. Have fun!

 

Corine

 

An Introduction to Haiku - What is a Kireij?

Posted on January 26, 2020 at 4:50 AM Comments comments (8)

What is a Kereij?


In Japan, kireij are cutting letters (or words) which if used in the right place, force a breath pause. The aim of the pause is to cut the poem into two parts (two thoughts) half dependent on each other thereby creating an unexpected synergy. There is no exact equivalent of kireji in English. In English-language haiku kireji may be represented by punctuation (typically by a dash or an ellipsis). The ellipsis (. . .) provides the longest pause.

 

Examples:


cats in love—

the blinds split apart

in the neighbour’s window


—Michael Dylan Welch


In the above haiku the poet chose a dash to create a pause between two distinct images. Yet the images are related through cause and effect. “Cats in love” is a season word for spring. Mating cats make an awful noise. One can imagine everyone in the street looking out of their windows to see what’s going on. Perhaps the commotion woke the neighbor up? How does it make us feel?


first kiss—

the tingling

in my toes


—Corine Timmer

Nominated, NHK Haiku Masters, Original Photo Haiku, April 2018.


in een kommetje

achter de dijk, waait het niet—

samen in het gras

 

—Corine Timmer

 

lua do amanhecer

através das gotas do beiral—

os gansos levantam voo


—Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)( Portuguese translation by Joaquim M. Palma)

Kobayashi Issa, Os Animais, publicado por Assírio & Alvim, 2019


In some haiku the pause gives us two clear images in others the pause is more subtle. Though we have the image of the moon and the snail I suspect that in the poem below, by Kobayashi Issa, the second image may be in the poet’s own head. Could he be establishing a metaphorical connection between the snail and his own sexuality? Snails are active at night. As they slide along their path, half of their body is exposed (naked). Perhaps the poet too feels more daring at night, under the light (and influence) of the moon? The word “stripped” is an interesting choice. Instead of punctuation the translator of this poem has chosen to use spacing as a breath or pause. It seems to imitate the shape (or trail) of the snail. What do you think?


under the evening moon

the snail

is stripped to the waist


—Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)

Source: The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson and Issa (The Ecco Press, 1994)


Not all haiku are deep or complex though. Some haiku poems are simply a “slice of life”, a snapshot. They highlight the spectacular in every day things. We need to notice them though.


fleas, lice,

the horse pissing

near my pillow


—Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694)



sowing snap peas—

on my hand

a ladybug


—Corine Timmer


 

thorny quince in bloom—

a birdcall pierces

the morning


—Jude Shrode

First published in Jumble Box, Press Here, September 2017



sultry sun

a last dragon cloud

wisps away


—Hansha Teki



calls of curlews

each further hill

a paler blue


—John Barlow

Commended in the British Haiku Society Awards in 2018 (Judges – Claire Everett and Scott Mason)

  

“A good haiku can contain and convey a telling moment in just a kernel. A great haiku can implant that kernel in the reader’s or listener’s consciousness, making its moment live on.” —Scott Mason

 

To make haiku interesting poets often use literary devices such as alliteration (a series of words beginning with the same consonant sound), rhythm, imagery, symbolism, onomatopoeia etc..


Furu ike ya

kawazu tobikomu

mizu no oto

 

The old pond,

A frog jumps in:

Plop!

 

—Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694) (Translated by Alan Watts)


 

mowing the meadow—

a medley of wings

takes to the sky


—Corine Timmer

First published online in Troutswirl, A Sense of Place: Meadow/Field-hearing, The Haiku Foundation, September 26, 2018



snowy Sunday . . .

lingering in the house

music and muffins


—Corine Timmer

 First published in Blithe Spirit, Volume 28, Number 2, May 2018.


Do you remember me mentioning yin-yang? In the natural world opposites are usually interdependent. Yin and yang elements come in pairs, such as the moon and the sun, female and male, dark and light, cold and hot, passive and active, and so on. Here is are a few examples of the use of opposites in haiku.


in a shallow pond

blue heron

in deep focus


—Corine Timmer

First published in Jumble Box, Press Here, September 2017

 

(shallow-deep)


 

spring warmth

my brother and I split

a popsicle


—Michelle L. Harvey

First published in Jumble Box, Press Here, September 2017

 

(warm-cold)



a snowy path . . .

candles lead to

Buddha


—Corine Timmer

First published in Jumble Box, Press Here, September 2017

 

(cold-warm)


The candle symbolizes light in the darkness of life, especially individual life. Moreover, the candle is warm whereas the snow is cold. This haiku is about enlightenment. The term Buddha literally means enlightened one.

 

Further reading: An introduction to the five haiku masters

https://theculturetrip.com/asia/japan/articles/an-introduction-to-haiku-in-5-poems/

  

When haiku are primarily about human nature, they are called Senryū. Senryū generally don’t use season words. They are often cynical or darkly humorous. Next time, which will be the last post in this series, we will learn more about Senryū.


Corine

 

An Introduction to Haiku - What is a Kigo?

Posted on January 20, 2020 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (58)

What is a kigo?


A kigo (season word)(plural kigo) is a word or phrase associated with a particular season, used in Japanese poetry. Haiku poems, especially traditional or “pure” ones, also use season words or phrases. These words capture the setting and mood. Season words can be obvious or subtle, universal or culture-specific. In Japan, poets often use a book called a saijiki, which lists kigo  with example poems.


In English-language haiku, we can simply state the season (winter, spring, summer, autumn) or use words that allude to the season (snow means winter, blossoms means spring, etc). For those who seek to write “pure haiku”, season words should be further analyzed, as they can house a deeper meaning than simply referencing a season.


Examples of haiku using obvious season words:


spring breeze—

the pull of her hand

as we near the pet store

 

—Michael Dylan Welch

First published in Woodnotes  19, Winter 1993

 

summer holiday—

walking the dogs

where they want to go


—Corine Timmer

Honorable Mention, the Haiku Society of America Harold G. Henderson Haiku Contest, 2017

 

Judge’s comments: Summer is the season of relaxation. A holiday in summer is dialed back even further. Here the poet lets the dogs take the lead on an adventure. It’s the essence of a vacation from the self. Lighthearted humor works perfectly in this haiku.

 

autumn night—

I received it from the dog

and gave it to the cat

 

—Taneda Santōka (1882-1940)(translation by John Stevens)


Examples of haiku using subtle season words:


little ladybug

hides under her lovely shell

a pair of long wings

 

—J.W. Hackett

 First published in Bug Haiku by Japan Publications, Inc., Tokyo, December 1968


frogspawn

between the reeds

a little girl again


kikkerdril

tussen het riet

weer even dat kleine meisje


—Corine Timmer

First published in Blithe Spirit, Volume 27, Number 4, November 2017 (Dutch trans. by Corine Timmer)


 

cancer diagnosis

the weight

of each snowflake


—Corine Timmer

Winning entry in the international section of the 22th Mainichi Haiku Contest, 2019


Judge’s comments: This haiku by Ms. Timmer of Portugal could well be described as an answer to these words from Jacottet. She was presumably diagnosed with cancer. Perhaps on her way home as the snow began to fall, she became aware of the weight in each and every fragile snowflake. There is a natural, graceful brilliance here first perceived in the midst of illness and a premonition of death. It is a truly poignant haiku. (Judged by Toru Haga)


I was never diagnosed with cancer but some of my family members have been. This is an example of how haiku interpretation can vary, especially when something has been left to the imagination (silent space). The poet didn’t specify she was diagnosed with cancer. This could be anyone’s cancer, not necessarily hers. It touches us all.


The first two lines of this haiku popped to mind instantaneously. In the third line I wanted something lightweight (add contrast, yin-yang) that can become heavy at the same time depict the cold and lifelessness of winter (death). Snowflakes fit that description. Though lightweight they can become a burden when they accumulate. Heavy snowfall changes the world as we know it—as does cancer. “Snowflakes” is a subtle yet profound and versatile season word. Snowflakes can also melt and become the water in a river.

 

perfuming the man

who broke its branch —

plum blossoms

 

— Fukuda Chiyo-Ni (1701 – 1775) (translation by Jim kacian)

 

 A little something extra: https://akitahaiku.com/2020/01/13/world-haiku-series-2019-26-haiku-by-corine-timmer/

 Examples of season words: https://www.adianta.com/YTKigoList.html


In addition to the Kigo  or season word, “pure” haiku also contain a Kireji  or cutting word. Next time we will learn more about the pause/cut that divides traditional haiku into two parts (juxtaposition of two images or ideas).

 

Enjoy!

 

Corine

 

 


An Introduction to Haiku - What is haiku?

Posted on January 14, 2020 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (47)


What is haiku?


Haiku is a form of poetry that originated in Japan. It focuses on a brief moment in time, and a sense of enlightenment. A traditional* haiku is composed of seventeen syllables in three short lines. The first line contains five syllables, the second line seven syllables, and the third line five syllables. A haiku is usually written in the present tense, with a pause at the end of the first or second line. This pause divides the poem into two parts. Haiku don’t rhyme. Contemporary or free format haiku, especially in English, are not bound to the 5-7-5 syllable structure but it is a good place to start writing haiku. Many of us started there.


Haiku is closely related to nature and the change of seasons and how that relates to human nature and awareness (think Zen). Haiku poetry captures a moment in time objectively, sharing the joy or sadness that can lead to a profound emotional experience. Seasonal words are often used in haiku and they are taken very seriously in Japan.


One of the ways to approach haiku is to think of a camera and what you see through the lens. Open your senses. You can zoom in or out and capture a moment. Haiku doesn’t tell, it shows. Don’t tell us how you feel, describe what causes the feeling.


The following haiku popped to mind while writing this post. It is in the 5-7-5 format:


beneath a dead branch
the entrance to a fox den—
the owl sees it too


—Corine Timmer


debaixo de um galho seco
a entrada da cova da raposa—
a coruja também a vê


Portuguese Translation: Esperança Dickman


In May, fox pups (kits) are playful and vocal and will leave their dens for longer periods of time. Big owls can catch and eat fox pups. The combination of the dead branch with the fox den, the latter which we can imagine to house pups, deepens the haiku and adds balance. It highlights the circle of life, which includes death. The owl’s presence further enhances this and adds tension. In this poem the poet hasn’t used a traditional season word but we know it’s probably May because of the owl’s interest in the den. Has the owl seen a pup? Will it catch one? How does that make us feel? Did you notice the two parts? There is a pause after the second line. The third line gives us a new image and a new thought.


Here is another example, but in free format. This haiku was commended in the Little Iris Haiku Contest, Croatia 2018 (judged by Jim Kacian).


leaf-strewn street—
my reflection
in a passing hearse


—Corine Timmer


We know it is autumn because of the leaves scattered in the street (leaf-strewn is a season word for autumn). Autumn means the end of a life cycle. It invites us to let go. It can be associated with illness, death or old age. But the narrator (poet) doesn’t tell us she is old or ill or dying. All she says is that she sees her reflection in (the tinted windows of) a passing hearse. The use of the word “reflection” in this haiku leads to multiple layers of interpretation. Perhaps she has suddenly become aware of her own mortality? Perhaps she is happy to be alive? The reader is invited to finish the poem in his or her own mind. This poem has space beyond the words leading to further thought.


A good haiku has silent space (think of a lot of white space on a canvas). A space where each individual can dwell and finish the haiku (art) in his or her own mind. In other words, don’t show all. Leave something to the imagination.


Remember, there can’t be a valley without a mountain (yin-yang). A good way to familiarize yourself with haiku is to read it. Another way is to go on a nature walk and write down what you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell.


Examples and further reading:
https://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-haiku-poems.html


Next time we will learn more about seasonal words, known as kigo in Japan.


Have fun!


*Traditional haiku in Japanese is written in 17 sounds (not the same as syllables) in a single vertical line. Three lines with 17 syllables is a Western interpretation. There is much debate about the correct structure of haiku in English and other languages other than Japanese. Some adhere to the 5-7-5 structure whereas others practice a free format (less than 17 syllables in English). The most important factor is the essence of the poem.


Corine