The Anti-Novel.

Last week, I attended the book launch for DailyHaiku.org, where I learned quite a bit about what modern haiku actually is. I suppose the first thing to say is that the 5-7-5 structure is no longer applicable -- unsurprisingly, seventeen Japanese syllables are different from seventeen English ones. So, not only did English haikuists get hung up over whether "conceal" was two syllables or three, but on average, Japanese poems were quite a bit shorter as well.

grasses in water
conceal the green shoreline
by surrounding it

Note the clunky adjectives taking up space, the forced pronunciation of "conceal", and the pronoun at the end, rushing to complete the thought. This haiku could be hammered out to be more lyrical, but the point of haiku wasn't to be a word game. Instead, the new rules of haiku have been simplified to follow the spirit of haiku, rather than the letter. Now, it's simply "a descriptive poem no longer than a single breath." More like this:

grasses in water
hide the shore
from itself

That's much more concise than the first one. It says what it needs to say, and the audience is able to picture a moment similar to the author's description. No more than a moment, either -- no more than what someone could experience during a single breath. Contrast it with this:

The gopher rises
The hawk descends
Three of its chicks are missing

Sure, you could say that in one breath, technically, but it's clearly two ideas, which would require quite a bit more observation on the audience's part. Instead, the author breathes out a single moment, the audience breathes it in. It's like CPR for memories.

I also learned about haibun -- that's a form of longer poetry, which consists of a line of prose, often partly based on the author's personal experience, followed by a haiku. Each one conveys an individual thought, but they tell a story together. I liked the idea, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. Hope you enjoy it!

Leaving the hospital, my brother drives. The dashboard lights up his face. We joke about brain injury, and a shard of glass which the doctor missed gets carried upward with my cheek as I smile.

Summer twilight
will not reveal
the end of the road

1 comment:

neb said...

You mean like..

screams the moose
while the carp-like snow falls from the sky

About The Author

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.