The word Haiku (occasionally spelled "haikai") is Japanese, meaning "starting verse." The Haiku emerged in Japan in the 16th Century as a lyric, syllabic verse composed of 17 syllables in three lines, incorporating images from nature, and alluding to both a particular season and religious beliefs (or a historical event). Well-crafted haikus must also enlighten the reader with a sudden epiphany called satori. The first line usually contains five syllables, with seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the final line. The haiku can also be used as the opening verse in a linked sequence, known as a renga. Variations of the haiku exist, especially among non-Asian poets who recognize inherent differences between the measurement of syllables in their own language and that of the Japanese language, which was the basis of the haiku form. Recent poets greatly influenced by the haiku include Imagist poets Amy Lowell and Ezra Pound. The haiku's influence on Pound can be seen especially in his poem "In the Station of the Metro," as well as his books Mauberley and the Cantos. In fact, Pound introduced a new technique when he used Sino-Japanese characters in the Cantos. The haiku also influenced W.B. Yeats, Wallace Stevens, and Robert Frost, with the latter poet's work showing striking similar themes of nature.
Poets of Interest:
Basho (Matsuo Basho)
Books of Interest:
Click to Order The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa (ed. Robert Hass - soft $)
This book includes more than 300 haikus from three masters: Matsuo Basho (the seeker), Yosa Buson (the artist), and Kobayashi Issa (the humanist). Although the poets' lives span from 1644 to 1827, this work shows a continuity in attention paid to philisophy, spirituality, and nature - all qualities inherent to well crafted haikus.
Click to Order The Classic Tradition of Haiku: An Anthology (soft $).
This Dover Thrift Edition is cheap (under $2) and well worth it.
Click to Order Seeds from a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey (hard $)
This book by Clark Strand, an English teacher who lived at one time as a Zen Buddhist monk, brings together his growth as a haiku poet and its association with his Zen beliefs. Thoughtful and insightful, this book highlights the timelessness of the haiku and its place in the world as both a form of literature and a personal, spiritual exercise.
Links of Interest:
Moonlit Pond: The Japanese Haiku Masters (can be slow)
Outch Tree - A Haiku Journal
Articles on Buson and Sekkasha Collection
Alan Dystrup's Haiku Page
The Lair of the Mythos Haiku
University of Virginia - Japanese Text
The Toast Point Haiku Contest
The Threejack Haiku Page
Kimberley Martin's Haiku Dance
Chaba - haiku journal
The Haiku Cupboard
Elisabeth St. Jaques Haiku Light (can be slow)
Weatherhills Random Haiku
Reflections - A Haiku Diary
International Haiku (French and more)
Lee Gurga: The Pleasures of Making Haiku
Haiku Society of America
The Shiki Internet Haiku Salon