ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What is a Haiku?

Updated on February 9, 2013

A haiku is poetry. It is short poetry - succinct in style, but yet conveys great meaning or emotion.

How short? It should be around 17 syllables broken into three lines (typically 5-7-5 rhythm). Think of it as poetry on Twitter. Twitter limits your tweet message to 140 characters. Similarly a haiku limits you on the number of syllables that you can use.

Actually, I say "around" 17 syllables and broken into three lines. But in English haiku, a strict count is not strictly followed. And "syllables" is not precisely the right term either. I explain why later. But for the purpose of learning a new concept, this is close enough.

Haiku Meaning that is Important

In any case, it is the meaning of the haiku that is important. The best way to explain is by way of examples.

Some good haiku examples can be found in the book "Haiku Mind: 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart". In fact, you can find 108 haiku in the book, each one conveying an meaning, insight, or emotion. (The plural of haiku is still haiku; there is no such thing as haikus.)

The number 108 is not random. It was chosen by the author Patricia Donegan because 108 is an auspicious number in Buddhist tradition. It has been said that there are 108 difficulties (or 108 delusions of the mind) to overcome in order to "become awakened". In Japan, the bell is rung 108 times at the end of the year.

Here is an example of an haiku by Penny Harter that was in the book ...

"

the homeless man
takes off his shoes before
his cardboard house 

" (used with permission by author Penny Harter)

In a few concise words, it describes a complete scene that expresses dignity. That is the spirit of a haiku. Haiku does not need a title and is derived from the first line of the poem if needed.

Haiku is Japanese Poetry

Okay, to understand why "17 syllables in 3 lines" is not precisely correct, we have to understand how haiku is originated.

Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry. In this form, the poetry (in Japanese language) follows strict rules in order to be considered haiku -- and the rules are fairly clear.

However, in English haiku there is no consensus as to what those rules are and a strict count is sometimes not followed.

Japanese haiku is constructed with 17 moras.

In linguistic, a mora (also spelled "morae") is a a unit in phonology that determines syllable weight. In Japanese, they would call it an "on". An "on" is the Japanese word for "sound".

A mora does not necessarily correspond to a syllable. A short syllable is one mora. But a long syllable is two moras. Think of a mora as a syllable weight.

Although rare, there can syllables that have the weight of three moras. These syllables are called trimoraic. Similarly, a bimoraic syllable is a syllable that has two moras. And when a syllable corresponds to one mora, that syllable is called monomoraic -- not to be confused with moronic.

In Japanese haiku poetry, these 17 moras are broken into three phrases with the first line containing 5 moras. The second line containing 7 moras. And the third and last line containing 5 moras. This gives you 17 moras total.

Note that we say "three phrases" instead of "three lines". Unlike English where you read left to right, in traditional Japanese writing, a phrase is read from top to bottom. The words of the phrases are printed in a vertical column. Furthermore, the columns are order from right to left (not left to right as in English). So after reaching the bottom of each column, the reader continues at the top of the column to the left of the current one.

What I have described is the traditional Japanese writing system known as tategaki, which follows the Chinese writing system. However, Japanese has another more modern writing system called yokogaki which is horizontal and read left to right -- just like English.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)