The Haiku is a style of poetry that evolved in Japan as part of the Zen school of Buddhism but which now has an international appeal. It has been embraced by a number of Irish poets, notably Gabriel Rosenstock – who writes in Irish but whose work is represented in some fine bilingual translations – and the late Michael Hartnett who published a collection called Inchicore Haiku in 1985.
It is probably the sparse, nature-inspired prose that appeals to poets and readers. The specification that a Haiku should contain
17-syllables over three lines (5/7/5) is not strictly applied to English language, nor Irish, Haiku, with some arguing that neither language lends itself phonetically to that format in the same way that Japanese does.
However there are a number of rules that are still insisted on. In terms of subject a
Haiku is “a three-line nature-orientated poem expressing poet’s direct experience of something, description of background/surroundings, and an original and deep thought based on it”. (Although even the three lines is no longer strictly adhered to).
It also must contain two distinct parts and avoid direct metaphors. In terms of grammar it should not use adverbs, pronouns or the verb 'to be', capital letters nor punctuation.
Good examples comes from the 17th century Japanese Zen monk Matsuo Basho, pictured above, whose complete Haiku I am reading at the minute:
the colour of wind
in the autumn garden
in blowing wind
a fish jumps up
The Irish Haiku society publishes the online Shamrock Haiku Journal. The latest edition has just been published and includes one that I wrote – which you will have to scroll well down to find. Click here.