Haiku Poetry By Buson and Many Other Masters

Haiku: The Japanese Art of Haiku

The traditional Japanese art of Haiku presents poetry lovers with flourishing images that startle the senses, despite the fact that, most traditional Japanese haiku is only 17 syllables long. In addition to being 17 syllables in length, Haiku also contains only three syntactical units; the first line is five syllables, followed by a line that is seven syllables, then a line that is five syllables long. Haiku, which means “beginning-verse,” was originally a game where players extend the verse. As well, Haiku writers use punctuation to create a sentence-like structure. Each poem contains a “kigo,” a word or group of words that personifies a season, for instance, the Japanese master, Buson, chooses winter as the theme of his haiku poem, “The piercing chill I feel.” The distinction of season is not always as apparent as in Isso’s poem. With these ideas in mind, a haiku poem is a seventeen syllable, unrhymed, poem that personifies a season as it produces an image in the mind of the reader.



However, not all haiku artists attach themselves to traditional form; in fact, the so called ‘traditional’ masters of Japanese Haiku defy customary form in some way in almost every haiku poem cited in Pearson-Longman’s “Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama.” In order to achieve strong imagery Buson chooses to break tradition and utilize rhyme.

The piercing chill I feel:

My dead wife’s comb, in our bedroom

Under my heel.

In addition, the practice of writing haiku is not strictly Japanese, in the nineteenth century westerners discovered the art of haiku, which influenced poets like W.C. Williams and Ezra Pound. They, somewhat like the Japanese, used haiku to form the foundation image for their longer poems. Although, western poets digress from traditional form more than the Japanese masters, western poets did learn from the Japanese that a poem’s “verse cannot be ‘free’ in the sense of having no limitations or guiding principles.” (Williams 627)

The poet, Ezra Pound feels poets should: “[Use] no adjective which does not reveal something.” True masters of Haiku must accept this or poems become too lengthy. The American poet, Lee Gurga, accepts adjective limitations in his poem “Visitor’s Room.”

Visitor’s Room—

Everything bolted down

Except my brother.

This poem makes excellent use of shorter adjectives to create imagery. The use of Visitor’s in the first line allows readers to envision the room and the irony which follows is quite creative. While there is not an apparent ‘kigo’ in this example, there are few perfect examples of Haiku which embody every Haiku ‘tradition’.


Another western poet writes: “Making jazz swing in/ Seventeen syllables AINT/ No square poet’s job. This poem is unlike any traditional haiku or decent western variation. This poem blatantly ignores the guiding principle of Haiku by ignoring syllable structures and lengths, as well as by blurring the imagery. The writer jumps from a sound imagery, to defaming haiku as an art form. Although, It does not sound too bad if you remove “in/ Seventeen syllables.” This reduces the poems length and ends its defamation of the art form, while making the ‘jazzy’ imagery more pronounced. Try this version:

Making jazz swing

Ain’t no square-

Poet’s job


Works Sited


Basho, Matsuo. “In the old stone pool,” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Kennedy, X.J. and Gioi, Dana. New York: Pearson Longman, 2005. 520.


Buson, Taniguchi. “The piercing chill I feel,” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Kennedy, X.J. and Gioi, Dana. New York: Pearson Longman, 2005. 513.


Gurga, Lee. “Visitor’s room,” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Kennedy, X.J. and Gioi, Dana. New York: Pearson Longman, 2005. 522.


Pound, Ezra. “The Image,” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Kennedy, X.J. and Gioi, Dana. New York: Pearson Longman, 2005. 525-26.


Williams, William Carlos. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Kennedy, X.J. and Gioi, Dana. New York: Pearson Longman, 2005. 627


Other Links


http://www.toyomasu.com/haiku/


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Comments 2 comments

Stourley Kracklite 6 years ago

Etheridge Knight does not defame haiku. Your edited version does sharpen his point about poets, though.


jason 5 years ago

wow! That's creative

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