Basho (1644-1694) is considered Japan’s greatest poetry writer for composing short yet exceedingly difficult haiku. National Geographic has a beautiful photo gallery currently featuring photographs illustrating a story about a journey on foot Basho took not long before his death. He actually walked through my prefecture, Ishikawa, on his journey.
“A mound of summer grass
Are warriors’ heroic deeds
Only dreams that pass?”
Haiku are both extremely easy to write but difficult to master. In English most people are taught to follow the 5-7-5 rule (1 line of 5 syllables, one of 7, and another of 5). Along with this long-short-long format you also need to include 2 things: a kigo (seasonal word) and a kireji (a cut marker). The soul of haiku lies in nature, so people use insects, plants, flowers and other words to show when their poem is set. The World Kigo Database has an excellent collection of seasonal words for poem writing. They also have an easy to understand explanation of the finer points of haiku writing:
“Write about a personal experience, not a philosophical thought or idea.
Try to pay attention to the small things in life with all their details,
the seasonal changes of your daily human life.
Every moment of your life counts!
Be Here and Now!“
For more on the (very Zen) philosophy of haiku writing, head over here. Or if you want to give it a try, head over to the Magnetic Poetry Virtual Refrigerator for a magnet poetry challenge! You could even join a weekly haiku challenge (Google has shown me the “Recession Haiku Challenge,” “Weight Loss Haiku Challenge” and the “Skateboard Haiku Challenge” among 19430954095 other results ^^). But here’s my challenge to you: write a haiku about where you are right now and post it in the comment! Doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, just give it a try!
“The hum of the air-con
Can’t drown out the cicadas
Summer office days”
~MS the Younger