Haiku is a form with three or more lines following the short-long-short, 3-5-3, 2-3-2, (5-7-5 traditional) of approximately twelve syllables. Haiku are written about nature, the seasons, a beautiful moment in nature, an emotional experience while in nature, or change. No title. (Kigo required). No rhyming. Season word list: https://yukiteikei.wordpress.com/season-word-list/ & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_kigo.
My version of How to write haiku HERE.
Let’s talk about haiku… What should haiku contain?
- Choose a single moment. What is the significance of that moment?
- When we write haiku, we share two interdependent images. Do these images have a cause-and-effect relationship? Did you only write half a haiku by sharing only one image?
- Suggest a season. A haiku is not a haiku without a season word. When we write haiku without a season word, our poem becomes less a haiku and more pseudo-haiku.
- Don’t say too much. Provide what is essential, but leave the rest up to your reader.
- Follow the order of perception. Check how you’ve presented the images. You might need to rearrange them.
- Engage the senses. Show don’t tell. Haiku should never explain or draw conclusions.
- Use internal comparison. How do your images interact?
- Use the power of suggestion.
- Haiku is the poetry of nouns… but check to see if you have added verbs. Verbs give your haiku movement. Cut unnecessary words.
This list comes from Lee Gurga. He states:
“Haiku is… about discovery, not invention. It is about what is essential, not what is entertaining. Haiku is about sharing, not persuading. Haiku is about showing, not showing off.Haiku—A Poet’s Guide, pg. 116
Some of what I’m seeing lately is called zappai, or pseudo-haiku, which is not truly haiku. Just because a poem has three lines and twelve to seventeen syllables, doesn’t make it a haiku. If your poem does not feature a season word, it’s not a haiku. It’s haiku-like or pseudo-haiku.
Zappai means miscellaneous haikai verse in Japanese. Some of these poems are written as a joke—think spam haiku, gothic haiku, sci-fi-ku, etc. Zappai is closely related to senryu, featuring a touch of humor. Zappai are not senryu! Senryu features irony in its structure.
If a poem sounds like an aphorism, epigram, proverb, or fortune cookie wisdom, it’s usually a zappai.
Don’t be fooled. Zappai are not haiku. We should not aspire to write zappai.
Gurga states, “while zappai were recognized as a form of poetic entertainment, they were not recognized as being as high an art as either haiku or senryu.”
Zappai are controversial. The Haiku Society of America refers to zappai as “miscellaneous amusements in doggerel verse,” although a more accurate definition to me is syllabic poetry that “includes all types of seventeen syllable poems that do not have the proper formal or technical characteristics of haiku.”
READ: What is Zappai?
More Haiku Definitions
In the world of haiku, there appears to be little agreement about the zappai form. The only genuine statement is that you aren’t writing true haiku unless you use a season word. For all other haiku-like forms, they seem to break down into:
Branded haiku — is a kind of haiku that tries to follow the Japanese rules as much as possible.
Generic haiku — means that by popular usage, the word haiku evolved to cover all three-lined poems written in seventeen syllables or less.
For our challenges, we write haiku or senryu because we desire to write the way the ancients taught. And, as poets and haijin (haiku poets), we take our craft seriously. ❤
Many thanks to David of The Skeptic’s Kaddish for asking the hard questions. He gets a ⭐️ for his question. I’ll continue to research pseudo-haiku and let you know what I discover.