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The Los Angeles River: a haiku sequence

Updated on November 11, 2016
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher. He is a former journalist who has worked on various community and college publications.

La River in the Heart of La

Kayakers on the non-navagational river
Kayakers on the non-navagational river | Source
Source

The River Still Flows

I.

From wooded forest

Through the gritty, urban streets.

The river still flows.

II.

It’s relegated

Through wide, sparse concrete channels

With straight and gray banks.

III.

Glad bags, black and white,

swim freely in the slow flow

where salmon once spawned.

IV.

The fresh graffiti

on the smooth, gray embankment

sprout where plants once did.

V.

Still, this river flows

under art-deco bridges

near the clogged freeways.

VI.

From creeks, storm channels,

to the wide harbor entrance.

Nothing stops its flow.

VII

The L.A. River

altered by city planning

-- its nature, untamed.

Los Angeles River in Glendale, Ca.
Los Angeles River in Glendale, Ca. | Source

Haiku and its 360 Degree Evolution

Haiku Sequence

Haiku’s evolution is interesting, to say the least. It started as being part of a longer format known as a renga, and was placed at the beginning of what was known as the Hokku (the introduction). Later, it became a stand-alone poem during the era of Basho.

And now, it has returned in a longer format known in the western world as a haiku sequence. The sequence started in Japan and was widely adopted in the rest of world. Major poets such as Langston Hughes, Robert Hayden, Spanish poet Antonio Machado, and Jack Kerouac have experimented with haiku sequences.

Also, haiku sequences fall under two categories in Japan. The first is called gunsaku. It is often made up of independent haiku with the same subjects or themes. Often, they will examine these themes from many different angles.

The other is called rensaku. The haikus become dependent stanzas and reflect common themes with each haiku building on one another. Of the two, rensaku is the newest (it flourished in the 1930s and 40s) and most adapted form in western world. In many respects, the rensaku is akin to a narrative poem since it will, at times, be used to tell a story.

Westernized versions of haiku sequences tend to combine other formats and genre and follow a rigid 5-7-5 format for each haiku/stanza. As mentioned, many are turned into narrative poems. Others step away from nature and explore human qualities, love, politics, and other issues (in a sense, they become senryu sequences).

Haiku sequences have become popular in the English language. Interestingly, three forms of sequences have been used. The gunsaku, rensaku, and some variation of the older, original version, renga have been used. The evolution of haiku has seemingly come full circle.

© 2012 Dean Traylor

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    • Brandon Bledsoe profile image

      Brandon 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Nice keep it up

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      good work on these. thank you.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 5 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Excellent Hub and poetry too. The information on sequence was usful too.

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Liked the sequence and the way the haikus all flowed together. Thanks for the explanation after the poetry. I did a sequence haiku for the Monarch butterfly but did not know that is what it was called. I just did it because it felt right.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      This river through LA - is it tidal, or subject to big change in depth? Such an interesting contrast; loads of concrete and urbanisation and then the clear flow of water. Strangely appealing.

      Thank you for the haiku, a form that's enchanting, inspiring and enlightening!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 5 years ago from Shelton

      very impressive Dean Taylor voted up and impressive :) Frank