February 17, 2013

National Haiku Writing Month

This month is the third annual National Haiku Writing Month.  National Haiku Writing Month takes place every February—the shortest month for the shortest genre of poetry.

The logo on the event website is a “No 5-7-5” sign to emphasize that haiku in English does not need to be syllabic lines of 5, 7 and 5.

I came across a post by John J. Dunphy. He owns a used book store called Second Reading Alton, Illinois. He was looking into a copy of The Best American Poetry 1991.

There were some haiku in the collection. Well, poems called "haiku."  A group of haiku by David Trinidad really bothered him. They were haiku based on 1960s TCV comedies like The Beverly Hillbillies and Gilligan's Island. That sounds pretty lame but that's not what bothered him.

Each haiku is just declarative sentence that has been broken into that three-line, 5-7-5 false form. As Dunphy says, "Cramming a sentence into a 5-7-5 straitjacket does not a haiku make."

I'm with Dunphy. Here's a Trinidad sample:
“Island Girls”
Mary Ann dons one
of Ginger’s dresses, but it
falls flat on her chest.

Japanese haiku poets do use a 5-7-5 format, but it applies to sounds, not syllables. Unfortunately, our syllables do not match our sounds. (Dunphy says that many translators believe that about 12 English syllables approximate the duration of 17 sounds in Japanese language.)

Haiku also don't have titles.

And they do focus on certain themes - especially nature - and imagistic language.

Dunphy provides some haiku of his own as examples, and they are good ones.
on a tree stump
scurrying across decades

the Inuit village
closer to the sea

You should give haiku a try this month. The NaHaiWriMo site has writing prompts. They are also on Facebook, so like them. And if you write haiku, post it on Twitter with the hashtag #nahaiwrimo.

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