Gulls sit on pilings
While starlings sweep, race, land, peck,
Eating all the moss.
SJ ROZAN: Every Saturday morning for the last ten years or so I've written three haiku. If I'm in New York I go to the Hudson, two blocks from my apartment. If I'm elsewhere, I try to find a body of water, or a park, a yard, someplace quiet, though I've written my Saturday haiku in planes, on trains, and in hotel rooms.
Haiku, as I'm sure you know, is a three-line, 17-syllable poetry form, in the pattern 5-7-5. Each line is expected to be a phrase; not necessarily a full sentence, but a concept that's understandable without the next line. If the last line can deliver a small twist, all the better, though that's not required.
Those are the English rules; the Japanese scanning rules are a little different, dealing not in syllables but in on, which are analogous but not the same. Since I don't speak Japanese, though, and certainly don't write in it, this post will stick to English.
Haiku derives from an older form, called hokku, also of 17 on, which was written as the opening stanza of a specific type of longer work called a renga. By the 17th C. hokku were being written to stand alone. The independent hokku were renamed haiku and voila! -- a form was born.
As the haiku became standardized it was generally accepted that as far as content, each poem should freeze a moment of time in the natural world.
Busily grooms her feathers
While floating backwards.
Because our surroundings are not necessarily the natural world, though, city haiku are also written.
Engulfed by rising tide of
17-syllable, 5-7-5 poems that freeze a moment in human nature, not the world around us, are perfectly permissible, and called senryu.
Standing in the rain
Drinking tea, watching ducks float.
What an idiot.
Abstraction is not welcome in either the haiku or the senryu, nor is generalizing from the particular, at least, not by the poet. That's left to the readers.
Why do I write them? The requirement to be specific and of the moment is of endless value to writers. It's the meaning of "show, don't tell." Doing haiku every week keeps me on that narrow path of specificity that's so easy to stray from.
The above haiku and senryu were all mine. Some of them, and many more, appear in my e-book, 211 Haiku. If you like them, here's the link.
That's pretty much all there is to it. If you want to try it, that's all you need to know. Enjoy!SJ Rozan, a native New Yorker, is the author of fourteen novels, under her own name and, with a co-writer, under a new secret identity as Sam Cabot. She's won the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, and many other awards. Her latest book is Sam Cabot's BLOOD OF THE LAMB.
And there are two prizes today for folks brave enough to try their hand at a haiku. These will be chosen strictly by random drawing--no judging of merit! Simply post your poem in the comments...