Haiku for Adulthood: What’s a haiku? 4


I know this is a little bitter, but I’m tired of getting comments about how I’m one syllable off or whatever.

Here’s my soap box, for what I hope is the last time: Japanese haiku isn’t based on syllables. It’s based on onji, which are units of sound that don’t correlate with Western languages.

The Haiku Society of America (which is a thing that exists!) gives a pretty loose definition here:

The definition of haiku has been made more difficult by the fact that many uninformed persons have considered it to be a “form” like a sonnet or triolet (17 syllables divided 5, 7, and 5). That it is not simply a “form” is amply demonstrated by the fact that the Japanese differentiate haiku from senryu──a type of verse (or poem) that has exactly the same “form” as haiku but differs in content from it. Actually, there is no rigid “form” for Japanese haiku. Seventeen Japanese onji (sound-symbols) is the norm, but some 5% of “classical” haiku depart from it, and so do a still greater percentage of “modern” Japanese haiku. To the Japanese and to American haiku poets, it is the content and not the form alone that makes a haiku.

Okay? Now can we all just fucking enjoy these silly haiku already?!

Thank you, MGMT


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4 thoughts on “Haiku for Adulthood: What’s a haiku?

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    Theresa Geary

    Good commentary. If poetry ever gets so truly rigid, it will die as an art form.

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