Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Haiku Example - formal, classical

Haiku - classical, formal English-- 5 - 7- 5 syllables, caesura, seasonal reference. This haiku is divided into two phrases, with the pause (caesura) coming at the end of the first line. The sound-image of pine trees soughing in the wind makes this nature poetry; the human reference is secondary to the natural phenomenon. This piece is classically formed, Japanese poems did not have titles, but they were often accompanied by 'headnotes' that gave information about the occassion of the composition of the poem, or some other information to help understand the poem in context. In addition, the poem makes reference to 'pine surf' which is an ancient Japanese phrase describing the sound of pine trees in the wind. It shows up in numerous poems and is much older than the haiku tradition. Haiku itself is a relatively recent (17th century) offshoot of older Japanese genres. (More on them later.)

Upon hearing the approach of Hurricane Isabel.

'Pine surf' they called it,
those old poets who loved storms
as much as I do.

~M. Kei

Previously published in Haiku Harvest, Summer, 2006.

kumo haruru
arashi no oto wa
matsu ni are ya
tsuki mo midori no
iro ni haetsutsu

~Saigyo (b 1118, d 1190)

the clouds blowing and
the storm roaring like surf
in the pine trees;
the moon also
a deep green

trans. M. Kei

The above poem is a 'waka,' not a haiku, but more on waka later. To me this poem evokes the greenness not just of the pine trees, but the storm as well. I too have seen the green tornado sky in one quarter of the heavens with a ragged full moon revealed by a break in the clouds. Awesome! However, that is not the conventional interpretation of the poem.

The sound of storm winds
clearing all the clouds away
is up in the pines--
where even the moonlight now
seems of a deep green hue.

trans. Steven D. Carter, from Traditional Japanese Poetry

No comments:

Post a Comment