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Jan's Poetry Class: Haiku

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Jan's Poetry Class: Haiku

Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 05, 2009 6:37 am

Welcome to the second term of Jan’s Master Class! We’ll be covering Forms of Poetry for the next several weeks.

I hope that this new class will appeal to poets at all skill levels; I’ll try to give examples and assignments appropriate for both beginners and advanced poets, and everyone in between. And for those of you who are not poets, or who are intimidated by poetry—I encourage you to take advantage of these lessons to stretch yourself as a writer.

So…I’ll start with haiku. I’m going to give you the Literature 101 definition of haiku, since that’s the most common definition. Just know that there are exceptions, and that there are more advanced, literary haiku. Feel free to go beyond this class and research those on your own.

Haiku is a form of poetry of Japanese origin. In its most common American form, haiku has the following characteristics:

1. Three lines with a syllable count of 5, 7, 5
2. No rhyming
3. A reference to nature or the seasons
4. Untitled
5. Capitalization, punctuation, and centering (or not) are up to the whim of the poet


Here are a few haiku (yes, that’s the plural) by several poets:

Small bird, forgive me.
I’ll hear the end of your song
in some other world
~unknown poet

In the falling snow
A laughing boy holds out his palms
Until they are white
~Richard Wright

Good Friday. At three,
a swarm of bees sets its heart
on an apple tree.
~Paul Muldoon

Lots of modern poets have taken the haiku form, disregarded rule #3 above, and made it comic or satirical: some of my favorites are the cat haiku, the dog haiku, and the computer ones.

Obviously, a haiku is far too short for the writing challenge; the average word count for a haiku is around 15. However, it’s possible to write a series of haiku on a theme, as I did for the “Fragrance” topic, with a piece called Tantalizing Tidbits. (I’d like to change that title, if I could.) Notice that I broke a few rules: I gave each one a title (to increase the word count and to make a connection with a Bible story), and I didn’t use nature references in them.

Someone else did a series of haiku recently, but I don’t remember who, or for what challenge. If you know who it was, please post a link for us!

You could also incorporate a haiku into a prose piece—have a character write one, or read one, perhaps. Or use a haiku as an introduction or a conclusion to your entry; that would work well for an essay or a devotional.

Some further points about haiku before I give you some homework:

1. They’re great for practice in the discipline of strict syllable count. If you’re weak with syllables, practice haiku. Aim for a non-forced feel—you don’t want to pick an awkward word or construction just to fit the 5, 7, 5 pattern. A haiku should flow naturally and organically, like its subject matter.

2. Use haiku as an exercise in imagery. In fact, haiku don’t have to have any deep meaning—a haiku may simply be a word picture.

3. Contemporary haiku often end with a bit of a punch. This is difficult to do with just 17 syllables! Give it a try.

4. You can deviate from the 5, 7, 5 pattern, but don’t do it too much. Haiku purists will be all over you…and it’s always best to master a form before you fiddle with it.

Homework: Write a traditional haiku that follows all of the 5 rules above.

IF you do the first part of the homework assignment, you MAY also do the second: Write a more contemporary haiku that either a) tweaks the rules a bit, or b) comments on something in a comical or satirical way.

As always, I really hope to get additional insights from you. What have I missed? What comments do you have about haiku? What questions do you have? Let’s talk.


In the following weeks, I plan to cover the following poetry forms, and I’ll go approximately from simplest to most complex: limerick, sonnet, sestina, acrostic, ballad, blank verse, cinquain, ode, quatrain, clerihew, tercet, villanelle, pantoum, concrete poem, free verse, tanka, diamante. Maybe a few more…

If you’re interested in last year’s Master Class (Literary Terms), most of those are still available in this forum, and I’ll gladly continue to respond to your input on any of those lessons. Look through the titles, and if you see something that interests you, feel free to read through the lesson and respond. Unfortunately, many of last year’s class threads were lost to the FaithWriters boards melt-down last year. If you are unable to access a class, I probably have the lesson saved (sadly, not the whole thread), and I can send the document to you. Let me know.
Last edited by glorybee on Mon Nov 16, 2009 7:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby crankycow » Mon Oct 05, 2009 8:58 am

Okay, this is my first try at this kind of poetry, but you can be hard on me because I'm a writer. I have developed a backbone.

Leaves fall one by one.
He stands by waiting to rake
A pile for playing.

ETA: I hope to write another this week with a punch at the end, but it may take me a while. That was fun.
Stephanie

When did we begin to devour our own rather than fight for their lives? --TheDefenestrator

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Postby violin4jesus » Mon Oct 05, 2009 11:33 am

Cold, crisp morning dawns.
I clutch my tea by the stove,
an autumn day to warm.

I love the computer ones. I will try something satirical along my lines of work....

Breathe in, breathe out - STOP!
Oxygen, fluids, turn QUICK!
Whew! Babe okay now.

:mrgreen:

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Postby joyfaire » Mon Oct 05, 2009 11:36 am

This is my first attempt at poetry of any kind, but a poem with a few words...maybe my style. :lol:

Mound of pleasure at my feet
Wiggling toes in his fur
Sleep for both, purr!

Please be tough, want to learn.

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Postby pheeweed » Mon Oct 05, 2009 12:38 pm

Sunlight on water
Sparkles across a tiny puddle.
Serendipity
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Postby pheeweed » Mon Oct 05, 2009 1:09 pm

I have a technical question I should know, but can't remember.

Do words like finished, sparkles and roses have two syllables? What is the rule?

thanks, Phee
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"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Philippians 4:8 NLT

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Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:13 pm

crankycow wrote:Leaves fall one by one.
He stands by waiting to rake
A pile for playing.


I'm glad you found it fun! This is lovely; in just 17 crisp syllables you captured both the fall season and a mood of anticipation, and you painted a word picture! Bravo!

Now see if you can, some time this year, work a haiku into one of your entries.
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Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:16 pm

violin4jesus wrote:Cold, crisp morning dawns.
I clutch my tea by the stove,
an autumn day to warm.

I love the computer ones. I will try something satirical along my lines of work....

Breathe in, breathe out - STOP!
Oxygen, fluids, turn QUICK!
Whew! Babe okay now.

:mrgreen:


Leah, these are both so nice! The first one--very evocative of fall and the contrasting temepratures of the tea and the outside air. The second one--rising action, climax, and resolution, all in one tiny poem. Yea!

Did you realize that your 3rd line in the autumn haiku has 6 syllables?
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Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:20 pm

joyfaire wrote:Mound of pleasure at my feet
Wiggling toes in his fur
Sleep for both, purr!


Joy, you really tapped into the heart of this cat lover! What a wonderful word picture! I love the phrase "mound of pleasure".

I think I should have been clearer on the syllable count, and perhaps even devoted a paragraph to how to count syllables, as I see that phee (below your entry) had a question about syllables, and your haiku isn't quite on the mark in that department. Yours is 7, 6, 4--you've got the right TOTAL number of syllables, but not in the right distribution (5,7,5). Skip down a few entries, and read for further explanation of syllable count.
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Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:22 pm

pheeweed wrote:Sunlight on water
Sparkles across a tiny puddle.
Serendipity


You've used one of my favorite words (serendipity), and painted an absolutely lovely word picture. So pretty!

I see that you asked about syllables: Your haiku is close, but not quite right in syllable count. Yours is 5,9,5 instead of 5,7,5 for a true haiku. Read the next entry for more clarification on syllables.
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Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:31 pm

ABOUT THOSE PESKY SYLLABLES:

A syllable is a unit or division of a word, typically containing one vowel sound. Not one VOWEL, but one vowel SOUND.

1 syllable words: boat, strength, up, goose

2 syllable words: can-dle, gar-age, tough-ness, re-lease

3 syllable words: en-joy-ment, whis-per-ing, spa-ghet-ti, jam-bor-ee

4 syllable words: dic-tion-ar-y, sal-a-man-der, hal-le-lu-ia, al-ter-ca-tion

A good way to figure out the syllables of a word is to say it out loud and either tap your foot or clap each time your lips or tongue change direction.

A few words have different syllable counts, depending on the dialect or region of the speaker. For example, the word "fire" could be a 2-syllable word (pronounced fi-er), or a 1-syllable word (prounounced fahr). But most words have a definite syllable count.

Any questions? Was that clear? So phee, your examples of "finished, sparkles, and roses" all have 2 syllables.
Last edited by glorybee on Mon Oct 05, 2009 3:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby yvonne » Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:51 pm

So Happy... for a class on poetry! :D

I'm just stopping in for a minute, but I'll work on one in my mind and post it soon.

Vonnie

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Postby CatLin » Mon Oct 05, 2009 5:33 pm

Yay! I'm very excited about Jan's Masters Class Part 2!! I can't wait to learn and practice poetry.

I remember writing Haiku in school long ago. I forgot how fun it was. Here's a quickie:

sunset on water
rainbow colors fill my eyes
a kaleidoscope
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Postby pheeweed » Mon Oct 05, 2009 5:44 pm

Thank you for the clarification on syllables. Here's my revised version.

Sunlight on water
Sparkles across a puddle.
Serendipity

I'm excited that your class is back, too. Poetry is not my thing, so I'm going to be really challenged.

Phee
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"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Philippians 4:8 NLT

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Postby lthomas » Mon Oct 05, 2009 5:59 pm

Jan, it's nice being in your class again. Here's my assignment:

Leg over saddle
Soul freed from earthly tethers
Eden’s air I breath

I like the structure of 5-7-5, but what I found to be the most challenging was trying to get the visual down to so few words, yet still have it convey what you are wanting to say.

Loren
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