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Presentation of Japanese Haiku for World Literature

Allison Bailey

on 20 September 2013

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Transcript of Haiku

The Way out
What we think Haiku is
I have a pet dog
He has brown fur and dark spots
He has smelly breath
Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don't make sense
Lisa: "Look, Mom, the safety instructions are written in haiku:
'Fasten seatbelts tight
Your seat cushions float gently
Headsets five dollars.'"
-"Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo"
The Simpsons
What it actually is
Typically has a 5-7-5 syllable structure, but there are exceptions to this format
Kigo - References to seasons which helps establish mood
Traditional haiku has a kireji - or cutting word - that adds rhythmic divisions
Poem is open to interpretation by reader
Waka: The roots of Haiku
Waka (also called tanka) became prominent in the 6th century, borrowing from Chinese-style poetry.
It followed strict themes, such as romance, the seasons, etc.
Often asymmetrical, it would engage the reader to make personal connections.
Kaze ni nabiku
Fuji no keburi no
sora ni kiete
yukune mo shiranu
waga omoi kana
-Saigyo Hoshi
Fluttering on the wind
the smoke from Mount Fuji
fades into the sky -
I also don't know where
my passions have gone
Renga - Poetic games
Tan-renga: a poetic game where 5-7-5 was linked with 7-7 stanza, forming at least 100 links
Became most popular genre of Japanese literature in 15th century
Poets would gather together, taking turns in reciting lines
Rules had to be followed, such as the changing of themes throughout the poem
Haikai: The art of comedy
Renga split into two different forms: mushin (mindless) form and ushin (mindful) form.
Mushin evolved into haikai no renga in 16th century.
Haikai was often humerous, vulgar, and full of clever riddles or puns.
The most respected poet would compose a 5-7-5 introductory verse that could stand alone, called hokku, which would slowly evolve into haiku.
nagamu tote
hana ni mo itashi
kube no hone
-Nishiyama Soin
viewing cherry-blossoms
is also
a pain in the neck
Haiku: The legacy of Basho
The term haiku appeared in the 19th century, yet is retrospectively assigned to the literature of Matsuo Basho
Basho (1644 - 1694) was born during the time the Tokugawa government had established itself.
"...schools of haikai was weakening, and Japanese society was ready for a verse form that could not only be enjoyed but also composed by almost anyone among the general public."
Was given a banana tree (basho) by a pupil in 1681, and took it as his haiku name.
He traveled through many regions of Japan, often composing poems on the locations and people he met.
Covered a wide variety of topics
His poetry can be described as "simple and undramatic", giving it an everlasting quality.
Wrote his most famous poem, "The Old Pond", in 1686
Passed away in 1694.
basho nowaki shite
tarai ni ame wo
kiku yo kana
-Basho 1681
basho leaves in the storm
at night I can hear the rain
dripping in the tub
tabi ni yande
yume wa kareno wo
Basho 1694
ill from journeying
but my dreams circle
over withered fields
Haiku after Basho
Many different schools of haiku emerged, many started by Basho's own students.
yubi sashite
nobi suru chigo no
tsukimi kana
-Kawai Chigetsu
stretching out
and pointing their fingers -
children moon-viewing
Basho's influence can still be seen in modern haiku.
hamagoya wo
mina tozasarete
mushi no koe
-Hayashi Bunto (1882-1966)
shops by the beach
all closed and boarded up-
insect voices
5-7-5 syllable rule limits an author's choice in words; however, haiku is meant to deliver a simple "suggestion and invoke readers to delve into the poem with their own imagination.
Haiku still challenges writers with its traditional short sentences and details
Scent of plum blossoms -
pickled vegetables and
a blue lacquer bowl

Scent of plum blossoms -
arranged in a row
a blue lacquer bowl
Scent of plum blossoms
from somewhere or other
a blue lacquer bowl
Scent of plum blossoms -
beneath the guest's nose
a blue lacquer bowl
-Morikawa Kyoriku
Final version of poem by Kyoriku
Change in syntax, and therefore meaning, from varying just a single line
Syntax can make haiku appear choppy and unclear, but keeps it open-ended and broad
Cutting words that help with rhythmic division
Often makes the poem appear to have 'two parts', with either the first two lines or last two lines as a unit.
No kireji gives the poem a continuous feel between lines.
The poem can set up an implied question or riddle if the two first lines are coupled
break of day -
swirling through the fog
the voice of the bell
from which flowering tree
I don't know -
but the fragrance!
(following poems by Basho)
the poor temple's kettle
calls out in the frost
with a chilly voice
still scarlet
the day after the storm -
Plays a big role in haiku as it acts as a representative for something deeper
Often linked with kigo, the references to seasons
Can add mood and meaning to poem
Symbolism: The firefly
moe yasuku
mata kie yasuki
hotaru kana
easily blazing
and easily extinguished -
the firefly
te no ue ni
kanashiku kiyuru
hotaru kana
-Mukai Kyorai
in the palm of my hand
so sadly extinguished -
the firefly
Haiku emphasizes how life is filled with excitement yet goes by fast
Haiku addresses the lost of his sister, Chine (who is the previous poet)
Depending on the form of poem (waka, haikai, haiku), the tone differs
Generally, haiku is built around nature and carries a peaceful and though-provoking tone, but can vary depending on the mood and season
Enomoto Kikaku: A Change of Tone
yudachi ya
ie wo megurite
naku ahiru
sudden evening shower -
running in circles around the house
quacking ducks
A humorous or silly tone evoked with the duck imagery and their behavior. Brings to mind the season of spring, a time of fresh-beginnings and new love
yudachi ya
hitori soto miru
onna kana
sudden evening shower -
alone and looking outside
a woman
The two new lines at the end drastically alters the tone, hinting at longing desires, possibly even changing the season
Seasons and Mood
Spring: lighthearted, new love, fresh beginnings
Summer: connection with family and friends
Autumn: Change, melancholy, upcoming disaster
Winter: Death, change, strife, suffering
Ex: frogs, hazy moon, cherry blossoms
Ex: short nights, lilies, hail, herons
Ex: harvest moon, deer, dragonflies
Ex: snow, owls, bare trees
Theme: Zen Buddhism in Haiku
Zen Buddhism heavy influence on Japanese arts
Theme of Zen ideals in Haiku:
Seeing the world as it is now
Beauty/meaning in the ordinary
Individual interpretation
"not all haiku are Zen, but rather haiku came of age in a Zen-influenced context, and the two cannot be completely separated."
The influence of poetry
"Poetry in Japan begins with the human heart as its seed and myriad words as it leaves. It arises when people are inspired by what they see and hear to give voice to the feelings that come forth from the multitude of events in their lives. The singing of warblers in the blossoms, the voices of frogs in the ponds, these all teach us that every creature on earth sings. It is this song that effortlessly moves heaven and earth, evokes emotions from invisible gods and spirits, harmonizes the relations of men and women, and makes serene the hearts of brave warriors." - Ki no Tsurayaki
Popular Culture
kare-eda ni
karasu no tomarikeri
aki no kure

crow perched
on a withered branch -
autumn evening

How does the syntax affect your interpretation of the poem?
This poem follows a 5-9-5 structure instead of the standard 5-7-5. Why do you believe Basho disregarded this rule?
What tone does the poem convey?
The poem could also be read as "crows perched/on withered branches". Does this alternative Japanese translation affect your interpretation of the tone?
What could the symbolism be representing?
Does the symbolism in the poem match with the haigai (haiku painting) provided?
Why do you think haiku is as popular or well-known as it is today?
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