Haiku Re-visited

Japanese Garden, San Antonio

Japanese Garden, San Antonio Botanical Garden

I always understood that Haiku have seventeen syllables, five in the first and last line and seven in the second line.  I have written many, many haiku in this form.  However, I read recently that this notion is not true.

One of the most important elements of haiku is not the number of syllables but the implied insight into nature using concrete observation, words about about the senses – taste, smell, hearing, sight and touch – that give rise to the feeling.

Another element is the contrast of two parts of the poem that give rise to a flash of understanding.  An example might be:

Absence of sound.

Silence grows

as sunlight shrinks.

Haiku should indicate the season as well.  Not directly, of course, but as a suggestion, as snow suggests winter.  In my example above, the shrinking sunlight suggests autumn.

After keeping a haiku journal for over five years, the idea of no longer counting syllables is quite liberating.  It was possibly a good discipline to learn and follow a strict form but letting go of the syllables allows me to write more succinct haiku.

Full Strawberry Moon

pulls tides –

fruit swells.

The Farmers Almanac lists the names Native Americans used for full moons.  Strawberry moon is the June full moon, the month when strawberries are harvested.


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