Defining (?) Haiku – a Study in Progress

Defining (?) Haiku – Thoughts from a Study in Progress

….. John Bird, May 2009

Dear Members,

In August 2007 the President of AHS asked me to advise the Society on definition(s) of English-language haiku (ELH). I’m still bumbling along on that task. The recent, ‘What is haiku?’ exercise was an offshoot of my study and prompted discussion on points I’ve been thinking about. At President Beverley’s invitation I here share some of my thoughts and tentative conclusions. I’d really like to get your reactions. Please send them to me at definitivelyku@fastmail.fm

[ Now, this is my bus and nobody else is allowed to drive it!]

Continue reading “Defining (?) Haiku – a Study in Progress”

What is Haiku? – personal reflections on the exercise ~ John Bird

Between October, 2008 and March, 2009 HaikuOz published 74 responses by 71 poets (57 Australian) to the question, What is haiku?. These numbers reflect our enduring fascination with the nature of this haiku thing. Rich pickings are there to be had. Perhaps our scholars will be encouraged to persevere with discovering the aesthetic(s) of English-language haiku?

Responses ranged from formal, descriptive definitions to abstract expressions. I found the latter at least equally interesting and instructive. I won’t try to paraphrase them – it’s best they be (re)read in the authors’ own words.

But looking to the definitive answers, some analysis is possible. The near-universal view was that a haiku is a poem whose most distinguishing feature is brevity.

It seems we insist that our haiku is poetry despite daily-published ‘haiku’ that might persuade others to a contrary view. Is it that we don’t wish to be known as writers of anything less than poetry? I wonder if this mind-set encourages a striving for ‘depth’ or ‘intellectual significance’ or ‘semantic complexity’ that might make an older Bashõ uncomfortable. What happens to haiku when stressed to measure up to its bigger cousins?

Brevity. We are agreed the haiku is: small, short, concise, a snapshot, brief as a synaptic flash, a molecule of poetry, an atom! Nobody suggested that it should, like its Japanese parent, have a minimum length.

Continue reading “What is Haiku? – personal reflections on the exercise ~ John Bird”

WHAT IS HAIKU? – Week 16 (final)

Andrew Lansdown ( Perth, WA)

(1) “Haiku are poems modelled on the seventeen-syllable three-line poems of the ancient Japanese. Being poems, haiku are a form of literature and may employ literary techniques and may be judged by literary standards. Generally speaking, haiku stir emotion and stimulate reflection in the reader through simple precise objective depictions of things in nature.”

(2)
“Haiku are pebbles
poets lob into the pond
of our emotions.”

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Jack Prewitt (Serelemar, NSW)

‘Haiku are the little poems I write and call haiku.’

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Lynette Arden (Adelaide, SA)

‘haiku are small and humble poems that depict the everyday world around us, aiming to give a flash of insight into that world.’

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Earl Keener (Bethany, West Virginia)

“Haiku represents
the smallest atom of literature in which we might study
the heart beat of the muse. Haiku is verbal resonance
resulting from psychological projection. It is the literary equivalent of the Shinto experience of the kami.”

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Susan Murphy (Sydney, NSW)

‘Nothing is ordinary and to notice it without intruding, saying only what’s needed, quite naturally touches eternity.’

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Beverley George (Pearl Beach, NSW) endorses John Bird’s description:

‘A haiku is a brief poem, built on sensory images from the environment. It evokes an insight into our world and its peoples.’

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This is the final publication of responses to What is haiku? Next week I’ll briefly review what we have shared over the past five months. John Bird, for the AHS Definitions Project.

WHAT IS HAIKU? – Week 15

Timothy Russell (mile 61 on the Ohio River, Toronto, Ohio, USA)

“Haiku is a single molecule of poetry.”————————————-John Swabey (Teneriffe, Qld)
’This moment / sliced / by these words’

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Vasile Moldovan (Romania)
“A Haiku Poem is heavy water and perfume essence in the same time; a
pearl appearing from pain and hope; the moment that passes in no time
and that you meet a few while in life; hurry up, don’t lose it!”

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Ynes Sanz (Brisbane, Qld)
“haiku is ‘aha’ / even from / afar “

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Sharon Dean (Alstonville, NSW) likes Roland Barthes’ assertion that a haiku is:
“not a rich thought reduced to a brief form, but a brief event which immediately finds its proper form”.

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The response to this exercise has been wonderful but it is time to wind it up – no more submissions, please. I will later attempt a collage to summarise what we have shared. John Bird, for the AHS Definitions Project.

WHAT IS HAIKU? – Week 14

Laryalee Fraser (British Columbia, Canada)

‘A good haiku instills a moment with new awareness which surprises and satisfies the reader.’
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Gina (Invermay, Tas)
(1) the moment – begging to be a haiku – excites my senses
(2) a stack of pages looking for a fragment – coffee-stained phrases
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Barbara A Taylor (Mountain Top, NSW)
half a blink away
an instance of awareness
in the moment
keen and
understanding
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Claire Holloway (Sydney, NSW)
Harmony bookmarked… Earth, Heaven and Humankind – In divine synch.
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Angelee Deodhar (India)
“ A haiku is a three lined (short, long, short) poem of Japanese origin which expresses simply the essence of an emotion keenly felt at a particular moment in time. It may or may not have a seasonal reference.”
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The response to this exercise has been wonderful but it is time to wind it up – no more submissions, please. I will later attempt a collage to summarise what we have shared. John Bird, for the AHS Definitions Project.

WHAT IS HAIKU? – Week 13

Claire Gardien (France)

Haiku, poem of a brief instant of nature life and the emotion
felt at the precise moment it happened. A three lines’prose of
5/7/5 syllables. The third line is either opposed to the text or
re-inforces it.
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David Terelinck (Guildford, NSW)

Haiku is a journey along a road lined with small windows. Each
time we pause to peer into one of these, we are astounded by the
beauty and depth of the vista behind them.
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Julie Simpson (Millford, NSW)

Sometimes a simple, stunning mental snapshot, sometimes as
boring as a slideshow at the neighbours.
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Luong Son Truong (Khanh Hoa, Vietnam)

When sounds are used to echo immortal silence a haiku is
tuned.
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Matt Hetherington (Melbourne, Vic)

a poem of a poetic moment
written as briefly as possible
in the present tense

if regarding nature, it’s haiku
if human nature, it’s senryu
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The response to this exercise has been wonderful but it is time
to wind it up no more submissions, please. I will later attempt a
collage to summarise what we have shared.

John Bird, for the AHS Definitions Project.