Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Martha Thinks Haiku Is Perfect

Ah, for once, I find myself on the side of positivity! Week after week, the others Pens have found lovely things to say about Grace (ugh), Love and Romance (blech) and First Lines (whatever) as I have been a fountain of naysay.

Not this week, my friends, cuz Martha loves herself some haiku.



1. Haiku never lasts long enough to bore you. It's short, sweet, and structured. I'd slit my wrists before finishing overwrought whining from Frost or Shakesperare about a cold, winter's night. But Soseki?

Over the wintry
forest, winds howl in rage
with no leaves to blow

Bam! Done! Satisfied!

2. Haiku is always misunderstood and who doesn't love a misunderstood hero? Despite popular belief, the structure is not based on syllables but sound-count. Let's take the word "haiku." How many "syllables" are in this word? The answer is three: ha-i-ku. Let's try one about Tokyo, capital of the land of haiku. How many "syllables" in that?....
Did you guess four? Go get a cookie.

3. Haiku's symbolism is obvious. How am I supposed to know that Frost uses roses in his poems to represent his dead wife? You'd have to tell me, that's how. But there is a haiku dictionary which details a list of keywords and their seasonal symbolic references. Woohoo!

So keeping this in mind, please enjoy one of my favorite haikus by Issa

a world of dew,
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle

Within these words there is pain, uncertainty, fragility, life, death, doubt - I dare you to better on 17 sound-counts.


Juliet Blackwell said...

I LOVE being proved wrong! Well, not *wrong* exactly, but...misguided, maybe. I still don't love haiku (which I am now pronouncing, very self-consciously, with three syllables)but at least I'm understanding a bit more. *Sound* count??? Haiku dictionaries??? Who knew?
Thanks much for the schooling, Ms. Martha ;-)

Lisa Hughey said...

Lovely ha-i-ku. :)

But English syllables and Japanese sound counts are similar, right? (same concept, different culture?) May have to pick up a haiku dictionary....

Martha Flynn said...

Nah, syllables transcend language.

Easiest example - let's pretend the word "token" is Japanese.

#syllables = 2. To. Ken.
#sound counts = 3. To. Ke. N.

(And thus with any Japanese word that ends in "n".)

"sound count" is proably not the best word - I'm sure there's an official language-y one...maybe someone much smarter than I will tell us!

Sophie Littlefield said...

love how you bitch-slapped symbolism. :)

will keep that in mind as i proceed...

Hard Boiled Mysti said...

It helps to remember that Japanese "letters" are often comprised of a consonant and a vowel, or just a vowel, and one or two consonants are their own unit too. These units are called "on" in Japanese, if I'm remembering it right. So Tokyo is really To-o-ki-o (i before o makes a glide). Well, if the details are wrong, theory is still right, I think. It's way too complicated to explain in grade school, so they just skip it and say "syllables" because that's a close-enough unit.

Oh, and by letters, I don't mean the ideograms (borrowed from Chinese), but the hiragana or katakana that more closely resemble what's really going on in Japanese.

Rachael Herron said...

Martha and haiku
Two great powers, joined at last
We bow to the force.

Martha Flynn said...

Yes, Mysti!!! Exactly - I think it's to-u-kyo-u. Did you go to grade school in Japan? I did!! What if we went to the same school?

(and thanks Rach - I've never had a haiku after me before!)