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History of Haiku


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry, consisting of 17 moras. Haiku are often stated to have 17 syllables, this is inaccurate as syllables and moras are not the same. Haiku typically contain a seasonal reference and a cutting word. In Japanese, haiku are normally written in a single vertical line and tend to take the aspects of world as their subject, while haiku in English often appear in three lines to equivalent to the three phrases of Japanese haiku and may deal with any subject. The word "Haiku" was previously called as hokku and its current name was given by the Japanese writer Masaoka Shiki at the end of the 19th century.

Hokku is the opening stanza of an orthodox collaborative linked poem, or renga, and of its later derivative, renku. By the time of Matsuo Basho (1644–1694), the hokku had begun to appear as an independent poem. In the late 19th century, Masaoka Shiki (1867–1902) renamed the standalone hokku to haiku.

Today, haiku are written in many languages, but most poets outside of Japan are concentrated in the English-speaking countries and in the Balkans. It is impossible to single out any current style or format or subject matter as definitive. Some of the more common practices in English are:

  • Use of three (or fewer) lines of 17 or fewer syllables;
  • Use of a season word;
  • Use of a cut (sometimes indicated by a punctuation mark) to contrast and compare, implicitly, two events, images, or situations.

The following famous haiku has been written by one of the great masters.

A sign of blessing
The snow on the quilt
From the Pure Land

This haiku demonstrates how simple true belief can be.

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