The first poem I ever wrote was a Haiku.
It was an assignment for my grade 5 English class, and before that, I had never even embraced the thought of poetry. I will admit, the thing that got me hooked on writing it, was both my fear of failing – my dad would kill me, and the challenge of the syllables.
I wouldn’t say I hated English back then, just that it had no excitement for me. Elementary school English, to that point, had been spelling words, and I thoroughly sucked at spelling – still do to this day. I used to have anxiety attacks whenever we had a spelling test and hate to admit, and I ended up cheating up to grade 8. Yeah – remember that thing about fear of failing? Let’s not talk about getting the syllables right when you can’t spell that is a trauma for another story 🙂
Haikus were like a puzzle. They spoke of nature but referred to the human condition. Their sole purpose was to lead you astray. You had to express so much with so few words. You hope that people could divine the story of the ocean from the sip of water you give them.
Haikus are a form of Japanese poetry that consists of 3 lines and 17 syllables. Haikus generally follow the format of:
- Line 1 – 5 syllables;
- Line 2 – 7 syllables;
- Line 3 – 5 syllables;
Each line in a phase that tells you a story, but (for me) the real surprise is in the third line. The third line of the Haiku is a juxtaposition of the ideas communicated in the first 2 phases. The third line makes you wonder at the ideas presented at the start of the Haiku.
- Line 1 – 5 syllables; (idea 1 – usually serene)
- Line 2 – 7 syllables; (idea 1 – reinforced)
- Line 3 – 5 syllables; (idea 2 – contrast to 1)
The juxtaposition in that third line is what makes the reader understand both the unchanging aspect of nature and, at the same time, how quickly everything changes in a blink.
The duality of Haikus is what keeps me going back to trying to master them because where else is there a better expression of humanity, the universe, and nature – than in the duality of life.
A note – there are more complex rules around Haiku that I have not touched on here.
© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy