It’s been a while since I’ve talked about different writing styles and techniques on here, which is probably becuase nobody seemed that interested in it. So for the past few months I’ve focused on my book reviews and on the progress of Into the Flames. Which is good, becuase I need to be focused on Into the Flames. But this week I’m going to be branching out becuase I’ve been thinking about something recently and I wanted to share it with you.
That “thing” is Japanese poetry. I’m not generally a fan of poetry. I’m not one for waxing on about a maiden’s fair hair or the changing of the seasons and how we’ll all one day die. So Japanese poetry really floats my boat becuase the key to it is brevity. When I was in World Lit in college, one of my favorite days was analyzing the Kokinshu, a collection of poetry that is a forerunner of the popular haiku. Here’s one of my favorites:
I cannot agree
that cherry blossoms scatter
for a human heart may change
even before a wind blows.
Most of us have heard of haiku; some of us have even dabbled in its quaint 5-7-5 structure.
What a lot of Westerners tend to forget is that haiku aren’t just about how many syllables you use in a line. It’s about saying as much as possible in as few words (or syllables) as possible. It’s about conveying huge, longing emotion in one brief moment. To not take the subject matter of a haiku seriously is like trying to write a sonnet that’s not about love.
I find this popular haiku very irksome:
Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don’t make sense
One, because the plural of haiku is really haiku. Two, because haiku should make sense, though usually not at first glance. Sometimes you really have to slow down and think about what the author is trying to say. And three, because they shouldn’t be easy. It’s not easy to say everything you need to say in seventeen syllables. Poetry is art, and haiku are no exception.