"You won't have to worry about feeling desolate when autumn comes"
January 19, 2019 3:42 PM   Subscribe

Hiroaki Sato (LitHub, 11/5/2018), "Haiku: The Evolution of a Strict Poetic Game": "In simplest terms, haikai meant rejection of poetic diction and adoption of language in daily use. Orthodox court poetry did not tolerate references to quotidian, down-to-earth things like shiru, 'soup,' and namasu, 'fish salad,' so incorporating daily elements was haikai. As Bashō himself explained, harusame no yanagi, 'willow in spring rain,' represented the world of court poetry, but tanishi toru karasu, 'a crow picking pond snails,' was haikai, according to Bashō's disciple Hattori Tohō."

The following sources each expand on some topic mentioned in LitHub's extract from Sato's book, On Haiku: Bonus link: Michael Dylan Welch has collected several dozen poems about haiku.
posted by Wobbuffet (28 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
yo dawg i heard you
like metaphors and crude text
dogshit! good poem! woof!
posted by lalochezia at 4:07 PM on January 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

how is it possi
to write a coherent po
in seventeen syl
posted by Sing Or Swim at 4:11 PM on January 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

my naem is crow
and wen the moon
is overhead
and all the men
are gone to bed
I go to pond
Toho watches
I pick the snails
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 4:15 PM on January 19, 2019 [11 favorites]

Haiku is nature
Distilled in verse, succinct
Not a shit poem, man.
posted by Splunge at 4:18 PM on January 19, 2019 [8 favorites]

I wrote this poem one snowy day while I was sitting by my window.

yuki no mai
ki wo chirasarete
uwaki no me

Dance of snow
Scattered are my thoughts—
Cheating eyes

I did actually get distracted from what I was doing by a gust of snow outside, and I thought of writing a haiku about it because the stereotypical haiku is always about how the super-sensitive poet was emotionally moved by something happening in nature. But I got really lucky, because "chira" appears in several words pertaining to just what I wanted to talk about, so I made it the center of the poem and had it play multiple roles (Japanese poetry stereotype #2). Aside from its primary meaning in "ki wo chirasarete", it evokes the scattering ("chirasu", "chirachira") of snow blowing in the wind, at which "cheating eyes" steal a furtive glance ("chiratto miru"). I tried to capture this multiple meaning as much as possible in the translation by putting "scattered" ("chirasarete") right after "snow", and by translating "uwaki" ("romantic unfaithfulness") as "cheating", which also connotes quick, secretive movements, and even evokes "chira" in its sound. Finally, I used "yuki no mai" because that's typically how you talk about snow blowing in the wind, but "mai" literally means "dance", which ties in with the sexual tone of "cheating eyes" (Japanese poetry stereotype #3, which is to make it look like you could either be talking about nature or about love).
posted by J.K. Seazer at 4:19 PM on January 19, 2019 [13 favorites]

I tried to think of
a crow picking pond snails
as poetic, but
posted by Chitownfats at 4:24 PM on January 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

One of my favourite haiku was written by the poet Issa:

in this world
we walk on the roof of hell
gazing at flowers
posted by kmkrebs at 4:33 PM on January 19, 2019 [21 favorites]

Can't you hear the crows
Empty shells tap the gravel
At the water's edge?
posted by Oyéah at 4:38 PM on January 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Haiku aren't too hard
Here's one I just wrote today
posted by tim_in_oz at 4:41 PM on January 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

Double-dactyl rules, haiku drools.

*cough* (awkward blinking) *clears throat*
posted by aramaic at 5:25 PM on January 19, 2019

My same happy stroll
Teeter on the strip of grass
Traffic everywhere
posted by rue72 at 6:01 PM on January 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ooh, Mefi and bad imitation haiku! (But nice post.)
posted by blue shadows at 6:40 PM on January 19, 2019

Five on the first line
Seven on the second one
And five on the third (sometimes)
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:00 PM on January 19, 2019

Billionaire playboy
His butler's his only friend
Oh, that poor Batman
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:02 PM on January 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Volkswagen Beetles
You never see their larvae
Though they must be huge
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:04 PM on January 19, 2019 [12 favorites]

Threads on the Blue like
Fractal drama hurricanes
Take it to MeTa
posted by glonous keming at 11:01 PM on January 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Try to harmonize
With songs the lonesome sparrow
Sings, there are no kings...

Bob Dylan
posted by Oyéah at 7:23 AM on January 20, 2019

Not to break up the party, but thanks for this article, Wobbuffet! There is so much about how Americans talk about haiku that looks suspiciously like woo-woo Orientalism, and it's nice to get a little actual context.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:31 AM on January 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Mockingbird's sudden
Urgent message to the sky
Awaits an answer.
posted by Oyéah at 7:32 AM on January 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

I woke up today thinking about this thread and other poets whose muse is the natural world. It is refreshing to read of how the various cultures reacted to the elegance of Japanese poetry and art. The new liberates, expands, loosens the grip of stultifying conventions.
posted by Oyéah at 7:41 AM on January 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Haiku by a Robot, by Nathan Beifuss, age 9:

Seven hundred ten
Seven hundred eleven
Seven hundred twelve
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:44 AM on January 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

There is a wonderful (melancholy, not morbid) book called Japanese Death Poems, a collection of poems written by Zen monks and Haiku poets. In Japan "... the approach of death has given rise to a centuries-old tradition of writing jisei, or the "death poem." Such a poem is often written in the very last moments of the poet's life."

Here is one of my favorites by Oto from the book:

At night my sleep
embraces the summer shadows
of my life.

Original Japanese:

Natsu kage o
inochi to daite
neru yo kana
posted by gudrun at 9:20 AM on January 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Trigger warning:

Cold wind blows outside
Tiled room, warm water, blood
Razor blade on floor.
posted by Splunge at 3:54 PM on January 20, 2019

I am a snowflake
Fresh and new, alive today
Now I melt, sorry.
posted by Splunge at 5:31 PM on January 21, 2019

Winter is fingers
Branches moving in the wind
The birds love them.
posted by Splunge at 5:34 PM on January 21, 2019

I saw it right here.
on this very internet
haiku pedantry
posted by DigDoug at 12:51 PM on January 22, 2019

> Oyéah:
"Mockingbird's sudden
Urgent message to the sky
Awaits an answer."

I keep coming back to this. It's beautiful. Thank you, Oyéah.
posted by talking leaf at 8:26 PM on January 22, 2019

I am known at work for my haikus. I started writing them as stress relief about certain clients and situations. Other people on my team picked up the habit so there was a flurry of emails and post-it notes passed around for a while. The other haiku writers moved on to other roles, but I recently started up again and taught the newer members of my team the old tradition.

On a related note, I am also known as “the quirky one.”
posted by Ruki at 11:10 AM on January 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

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