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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry Japanese Verse Renga, Renku, or Haikai-no-renga is the linked poem discipline developed by Basho. It is a cooperative poem of many stanzas. Poets, (2 or more) gather to create a spontaneous poem of alternating 17 syllable (5-7-5), 14 syllable (7-7) stanzas. A popular form of Renga is written in 36 stanzas known as kasen renku. The custom dates back to 13th century Japan. The poets in rotation take turns writing the stanzas. The poem begins with the hokku (5-7-5) recording when and where the gathering occurs, see below. The next stanza (7-7) is usually written by the host, in response to the subtle compliment suggested in the hokku. From there the stanzas are written in turn by the various members of the assembly in an alternating (5-7-5), (7-7) pattern. The poem is ended in a tanka (short poem) which combines 2 renga stanzas into 1. (5-7-5-7-7) The renga or renku is not meant as a narrative, it doesn't tell a sequential story. It is meant to move around, the stanzas should "link and shift" Bruce Ross, How to Haiku. The stanzas link in some subtle way to the previous stanza only, not the whole poem. The link can be through a word, a mood an idea set in the previous stanza. It "develops texture by shifting among several traditional topics without narrative progress" William Higgins, The Haiku Handbook. The elements of the Renga or Renku are: syllabic. Alternating stanzas, usually of 5-7-5 and 7-7 syllables. (onji or sound symbol for which there is no exact translation in English, the closest we can come is syllable) a cooperative poem, written by 2 or more poets. spontaneous. composed with stanzas or verses that "link and shift", it does not tell a sequential story. Can have over a 100 verses (hyakuin renku), but the most popular form is to end at 36 known as kasen renku. (nijuin =20 verses, hankasen = 18 verses, shishi = 16 verses, jusanbutsu = 13 verses & junicho or shisan = 12 verses structured with a beginning, middle and end. Hokku (starting verse), followed by linked verses, and ends with a Tanka (small poem). connected to the seasons. Although the hokku indicates the season in which the gathering occurs, somewhere within the renga, there should be verses referring to each of the seasons to create a complete circle. The following isn't a full renga but the stanzas are written by different poets and it gives you an idea of the pattern of stanzas and "link and shift". shade of giant tree lacy shadows cool poets summer parasol --- jkt (hokku by guest poet) walk of friendship warms the feet the head cooled by task at hand ---jvg (host's response, wakiku or side verse) those who walked before never turned to look for us but left their footprints ---fj (daisan, the third) walk with a poet awhile cool sand between tanned toes ---jkt a walk in the woods putrescent trees on the ground life for small creatures --- mm the smallest life is my life I sit in stillness and write. --- jvg perhaps a poet, summer, spring, winter, or fall, will abide with me. --- cl time ever moves without pause a circle, new life to old ---jkt winter snow is back beginning new cover up to spring's confusion ---jm crystal covers burrowed home I snuggle under down quilt ---jvg Small gray rabbit melts prone into soft snow furrow I'm really not here --- bh the pocket of a soldier carries my letter from home --- jkt in God's Name we war hate can grow in any season we feel no sorrow --- rab sorrow holds regret for loss of what went before loss of what did not spring to winter, back to spring circle of life, love and hate --- jvg (tanka) Hokku, 発句 (opening or starting verse) is the introduction or beginning verse of the Renga or Renku, a linked communal poem. As far back as the 13th century Japan, poets would gather to write a Renga in a kind of poem writing party each poet contributing verse in a linked fashion. Originally, as a compliment to the host, one of the guest poets would write the hokku. The purpose of the hokku is to record the logistics of the gathering, when (season, month and/or time of day) and where (natural setting). By the time of Basho 16th century the hokku could be found as a stand alone poem. It is the precursor of the haiku that came into popularity a bit later. It is this hokku rule of time and place that was carried over into the later haiku which established naming a season with images of the environment as elements of the traditional haiku. The elements of the hokku are: syllabic, 17 syllables or less. (onji or sound symbol for which there is no exact translation in English, the closest we can come is syllable) commonly written in 3 lines often broken at 5-7-5 syllables. names the season, month, and/or time of day as well as the location where the Renga gathering occurs. All of the above can be named through symbols of the season etc. usually written by a guest poet. ふうりうの初やおくの田植うた fūryū no hajime ya oku no taueuta beginnings of poetry— the rice planting songs of the Interior ~~Basho translated by Shirane If I were the guest poet writing a hokku in this time and place, (summer in Northern California) I could write a hokku something like, shade of giant tree lacy shadows cool poets summer parasol ---jvg Nijuin is a 20 stanza renga introduced by 20th century renga master Meiga Higashi. The form not only has the limited # of stanzas, it is the shortest of the rengas, but it also divides the poem into 3 sections. The first 4 stanzas begin in Spring, the next 12 travel through the seasons including love and moon verses and the last 4 stanzas end back in Spring.
Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry Japanese Verse birth and death of a moment haiku ~~jvg captured moment chosen words placed with care small poem, bright light ~~~jvg Haiku, is a small, imagist poem written in the moment. The image drives the emotion and provides the inspiration for insight or enlightenment. It is said to be a poem in an utterance of a breath. I love this form and find myself responding to moments in the day with haiku-thoughts. The haiku is a descendant of the hokku, which is the first stanza of the much longer communal poem, renga. The purpose of the hokku, usually written by the most prestigious poet in the renga gathering, was to record the time (season) and place (natural surroundings) of the gathering. When in the 13th and 14th centuries the hokku began to take shape as a stand alone poem, it naturally retained its original features. It wasn't until the 20th century that the Japanese modernist poet Masaoka Shiki called the verse form haiku. His student Kyoshi is said to be the founder of the "traditional haiku" in which images from nature (usually tied to the seasons) are expressed. A second student Hekigodo felt the haiku should be broader and anything could be the subject without limiting the images to nature. This is often referred to as "modern haiku". So from the beginning there have been differences of opinion on the subject matter. A "traditional haiku" is like an extension of Zen. The first unit describes a setting in nature, including the direct mention of a season (kigo) or its symbol, (kidai, ...cherry blossoms, geese and many others. In Japanese there are actually journals of kidai that are used by traditional poets.), the second unit expands the image often switching to a surprise or conflicting image and the third relates the human condition, relevant to the setting. Japanese uses no punctuation therefore each unit or image must rely on a strong word or phrase to naturally pause and switch the readers focus. This is known as the kireji (cutting word,) This is usually found in the second unit and is the pivot or cut where the first unit and the third unit could switch places in perfect balance. The "modern haiku" draws images from life experiences and as with the traditional describes the images in 2 different observations, sometimes conflicting or surprising, then offers an insight from the images. Haiku is measured by the syllable in English. I have addressed the differences in the Japanese language and English earlier in my introduction to Japanese poetry. In Japanese the measure of the line is the onji or sound symbol which is actually shorter than most English syllables. There is no exact duplication in English for the Japanese onji so we default to the less complicated, syllable. English translations of Japanese haiku cannot replicate the onji as syllable count and you will find that both Japanese translations and modern American haiku often do not adhere to the common assumption of 5-7-5 syllable or line count. stillness: sinking into the rocks a cricket's voice ----Basho (15th century) Haiku takes place in the moment whether traditional or otherwise. A "haiku moment:: A moment when the mind stops and the heart moves." Margaret D McGee, Haiku - the sacred art. This is one of the most important defining features, in contrast to most poems that dwell in the mind of the poet, "haiku embodies a feeling experienced in a moment of time." Haiku is more than just the present, it is "a moment of awareness, insight, surprise or delight" How to Haiku by Bruce Ross , an ah ha! moment. This adds depth. The elements of Haiku are: syllabic (17 syllables or less) an imagist poem (draws the emotion from the image). Concrete images are described. It is important in haiku to deemphasize the ego. The subject, not the poet is what focuses the haiku. "One of the most common characteristics of haiku,. . . . is silence." Bruce Ross. The words silence or stillness can be used in haiku, but it is the concrete image as described that makes the reader respond to the feeling of silence. written in the moment. The past can be referred to as long as it doesn't overpower the present. one of two forms "traditional" or "modern" "traditional" requires a season be named and images and emotions be drawn from of nature. "modern" can be images of relationship, personality, experience, etc often a tristich, commonly written in 3 lines. BUT, it can be written in 1 or 2 lines. (if not broken into 3 lines, the haiku should still follow the pattern of 3 units, 2 images that either conflict or expand resulting in insight.) The common break down of syllables: L1 5 syllables describes image (traditional name season) L2 7 syllables, adds conflicting image or expands first image L3 5 syllables provide insight (the ah ha! moment) through a juxtaposed image. A description of a natural experience in language that " comes from simplicity, elegance and concentration of mind." Bruce Ross It is not merely a description but the expression of the feeling of the poet from the experience of the moment. Figurative speech, metaphor or simile is generally not used in the haiku, though it can and does appear. Not a drama nor a setting, there should be no manipulation on the part of the poet. Written with an epiphany or ending (satori), that should penetrate into the heart of the theme. It is sincere, uncontrived. When writing, the poet should attempt not to add -"ing" to the end of verbs to avoid artificial emphasis. Written in perfect balance. Repetition should be avoided since it throws off the balance the haiku. "There should be a perfect balance of images, ideas, phrasing, word choice and sound." Bruce Ross An untitled poem which is often numbered. evolutionary, the haiku has been changed by time and embraced by many cultures. The Brazilians even added rhyme A few of my own Ah-ha moments. ~~ Judi Van Gorder hard ground of winter... where late frost threatens to bite daffodils in bloom small stone smooth with time in laughing mountain creek bed I bathe with minnows flour and nuts sprinkled across kitchen floor sweet smell of cookies damp morning breeze floats off of the Pacific salt on my tongue wet dog splashes suds, tremors move from head to tail cat on sofa purrs rain slicked asphalt littered with fallen leaves frost crunches under foot Abbreviated Haiku is written in either 2 lines with syllable count 7/2 or 3 lines with syllable count 3/5/3 or 2/3/2. This is sometimes called Miku. creeper weeds cover garden path blistered hands --jvg Brazilian Haiku is rhymed, either aaa or aba or abb Las Vegas contrite glows with perpetual light all day and all night ---jvg