A few days ago the blog of The Haiku Foundation, troutswirl*, posted a fascinating essay by Richard Gilbert called “The Morning After: Haiku Faces a New Century.” It examines the difference between haiku in Japanese and in English and reconsiders the perennial question of whether it’s appropriate to use the term “haiku” for English poetry at all. The comments the blog readers have left on the essay are at least as interesting as the essay itself — lots of great ideas swirling around out there, about what haiku in English is or should be or should become.
You may or may not care about any of these ideas. But I wanted to quote for you just this one paragraph from the essay, because it is so wonderful to read and to think about. (Maybe it’s just me. I like lists of things.)
When the best English haiku are examined in terms of language issues, it is possible to observe what it is usually not: not directly philosophizing, ornamental, rhyming, discursive, narrative, verbose, dialogic, ruminative, bald, simple, talkative, casual, loose, long, rambling, or challenging as to vocabulary. Haiku in English is often minimally brief, semantically enfolded, clever, surprising, resistant, collocationally unusual or unique, mysterious, suggestive, humorous, clashing, disjunctive, irruptive, rhythmic, imagistic, sensual, and has a readily understandable vocabulary.
— Richard Gilbert, “The Morning After: Haiku Faces a New Century“
*If you haven’t taken a look at troutswirl yet, and if you have any interest in lively discussions of practical and theoretical matters pertaining to haiku-writing, you definitely should spend some time there.
3 thoughts on “Haiku in English: Discuss”
Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Melissa. I believe I’m the friend Gabi refers to in her comment: the one who says that in ELH, we have season words, but not kigo. Gabi tends to emphasize the kigo tradition, and we’ve been carrying on our friendly conversation for some time now. You and the blog have given me more to think about.
Oh, I have piles and piles of notes and thoughts on kigo (lots from Gabi’s writing) that I want to assemble into some sort of coherent form someday soonish…I’d love to hear your thoughts, Bill.
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