June 22: 1-6: The Techniques of Close Linkage and Leap Linkage

(See this post for an explanation of what’s going on here.)


The Technique of Close Linkage

“… In making any connection between the two parts of a haiku, the leap can be a small and even a well-known one. Usually beginners are easily impressed with close linkage and experiment first with this form. …

winter cold

finding on a beach

an open knife”

The Technique of Leap Linkage

“Then as a writer’s skills increase, and as he or she reads many haiku (either their own or others) such ‘easy’ leaps quickly fade in excitement. Being human animals we seem destined to seek the next level of difficulty and find that thrilling. So the writer begins to attempt leaps that a reader new to haiku may not follow … I think the important point in creating with this technique is that the writer is always totally aware of his or her ‘truth’. … Usually, if you think about the ku long enough and deeply enough, one can find the author’s truth. …


the early spring sunshine

in my hand”

– Jane Reichhold, Haiku Techniques



Okay, the problem I had here is that although I (think I) understand very well what Jane means by the difference between close linkage and leap linkage, and I have certainly seen many ku where the connection was either invisible to me or I had to think really hard to figure it out, I didn’t actually consider the connection in her second ku here to be any more of a leap than the connection in her first ku. So either I’m unusually perspicacious or I didn’t really understand the second ku at all, or maybe even the first.

I’m actually very interested in this because it does seem to me that how and whether people understand haiku depends much on their experiences and frame of mind, and what one person considers to be an obscure connection can be completely obvious to another. I also frequently wonder whether people get a lot of the connections in my ku at all, and whether, if they don’t, it’s my fault or theirs. I think I’m just going to throw a bunch of ku down here in order (more or less) from what I consider closely to distantly linked, and you can tell me whether you agree with me.

pins and needles
she sews a quilt for
the first baby

lines of code
ants march over the
breakfast dishes

spring downpour
eggshells float in
garbage cans

the hair-clogged drain
she whispers something
he can’t hear

speeding up to pass
we never eat anything
he doesn’t like

trimming square
will her mother give her
the money

29 thoughts on “June 22: 1-6: The Techniques of Close Linkage and Leap Linkage

  1. may be i dont understand it well either. for me the winter cold and finding an open knife on the beach is a greater leap to connect than the wildflowers and spring sunshine in my hand. or it takes more effort to grasp the connection… may be i’m still in the beginning beginner levels.

    may be the cold and knife are in the same place and time, where as the wildflowers and spring sunshine may be quite far apart. …i could have wildflowers in my hand in the summer or autumn and still get into spring sunshine. …it doesnt say that, so i’d take that to mean it’s not mixing seasons… i could be in a cabin at night and hold the wildflowers – and there would be spring sunshine. finding the open knife on the beach and winter cold are simply that point in time. …hmmmm… pondering material.

    i like the ant code the best of yours. that’s a great connection and to me – a great leap. the next two are good too. spring downpour and hair-clogged drain. all three create great visuals that unfold as the haiku moves from line to line. (imo)

    for me i still like the visual of the middle line being the longest tho. that may be minor or just a preference. for some reason i like working my ku out that way tho.

    picket fence
    the sound of trains
    with a stick

    i’m not sure if that follows the form or not.

    butterfly breeze
    the flapping of lace

    • Wrick … I go back and forth on the longer-middle-line thing myself. You may notice if you look back at this post that I have now revised the haiku that didn’t have longer middle lines before so that they do — it took very little revision (just some moving of words from the third line to the second, no word changing or rearranging) and I think all the revised versions are stronger.

      I do frequently grumble about that “rule” because it seems almost as arbitrary as the seventeen-syllable thing, and I do think keeping slavishly to it will deprive the world of some really great haiku, but when I actually stop grumbling and try humbly to make my haiku fit that pattern I’m often (not always) amazed at how much better they work.

      Your second example works really nicely … for the first the problem I see is that it seems to break up the phrase between the first and third lines; how about

      the sound of trains
      running down the picket fence
      with a stick

      Okay, lots of syllables and maybe spelled out too obviously … have to think about that one.

      • Oh man! There’s a rule about the length of the middle line? I’m never gonna get ahead of this haiku business! I find I sometimes like to use a single word in the middle when it’s a concept I want to emphasize – the word (in my mind) can act as a fulcrum between the first and third lines. I’d never argue it’s real haiku, though. I don’t feel qualified to make that assertion.

        And with apologies to Rick for running roughshod over his work, here’s my take:

        train sounds
        running the picket fence
        with a stick

        • Oh…nice solution, Steve. (Yes, I hope Rick isn’t feeling like we’re manhandling his baby…)

          The longer middle line thing, like all the rules, is only a rule if you think it is. It’s based on that middle line/section of the ku being longer in Japanese — makes the rhythm work out more like the Japanese rhythm. But as I’ve mentioned once or twice before, we aren’t Japanese. There are all kinds of plausible reasons for making whatever lines you want whatever lengths you want. I am still clinging to David Lanoue’s definition of haiku (“a one-breath poem that discovers connection”) as the basic one and considering everything else a frill.

          (Although Jane pedantically points out somewhere that although haiku are/should be short enough to be able to be spoken in one breath, it isn’t necessarily desirable to do so — in a classical haiku there is a break between the two parts where you want to pause.)

          • aloha MLA

            yeah. you guys are going to end up with great ku if you keep running over that picket fence ku… go for it. i’m sure there are a dozen ways and hundreds of ku-ers who can improve on what i’ve written. fun. some of the ways probably dont even have one word i’ve used! bwahahahahaha.

            madness: sanity in a world of the insane.

            (i suspect that’s a paraphrase of some line somewhere).

            butterfly trail
            the leaves flutter
            among wings

        • aloha heednotsteve

          yeah, no problem with revising the ku. i think i probably addressed some stuff to you in my long ramble replying to MLA. i think the most important thing we can do when ku-ing, is to keep on trying to ku. regardless of where we are in knowing about ku. so – go for it any which way works for you – that’s your ku. cool on that.

          • aloha,

            Thanks Rick (Wrick?),

            After I wrote my take on your haiku, it occurred to me that what we arrived at was very different than what you intended. We maybe made our very own example of a verse with leap linkage modified to have close linkage. I think the leap linkage is more exiting but more challenging to the reader.

            As for all the rules, oh man, oh man! I want to know them so I can decide when best to break them. Otherwise, I’m relying mostly on luck and intuition. Still, I don’t sweat it too much because I consider my haiku nearly disposable. The ones which don’t work will, of their own, slide into obscurity!

            • yeah – aloha Steve – it’s cool when something inspires us to try our hand at it. sometimes the best work looks like it’s so easy to do that i feel like i could have done it. which of course i didnt, but it makes me feel that way – it just seems to be pulled off with such ease. i like when work has that feel to it. so yeah, cool on something that brings out a new vision from you.

              yeah. the rules. knowing them well enough so that you know when and how you are breaking them is good. i suspect if you asked 10 master ku-ers to each write down the 100 rules they think are the most important regarding haiku, that you’d get 10 lists that were each different.

              it’s probably impossible to gather all the rules of haiku in one place. …so i’d say, as you come across one that feels important to you, pay attention to it and simply go on from there.

      • aloha MLA and heednotsteve

        yeah. i dont see any of the rules as hard and fast. they arent really rules that cannot be broken – so they arent even really rules – imo. it’s just that we are referring to them that way. it’s more like art, you can break any rule in art and still have a great work of art. it’s just that breaking all the rules at once doesnt UsuallY work out well – but then that’s not a rule either. try doing a bad work of art and you can easily end up with something quite interesting as well as reasonably good – if you’re not very careful.

        if a ku is too long (one of the rules of ku) it simply becomes something else. so no, the middle line doesnt HavE to be longer. i like it visually, but that’s a personal preference not a rule.

        yeah again, your revision of my haiku works as haiku altho i agree it has become more of a description – which for some reason i have in my mind that i should try to avoid somewhat. some how i think what i should be doing is more like saying what is there but not describing it – or at least limiting the description. altho i might be hard pressed to say why that is in words at the moment. it’s almost a sentence altho odd – trains running down a picket fence with a stick. funny image as a sentence tho. still… it works, i’d accept it as a ku, but then i’m not an authority on ku.

        and yeah i can see how mine can initially feel like the 1st line and the 3rd should be together. however the last two lines: the sound of trains with a stick – can be taken as the sound. so we’re not talking about actual trains, just the sound of trains. so the first line as a phrase and the last two lines as a phrase with a pause in between works okay to me:

        picket fence ~
        the sound of trains
        with a stick

        it takes the reader engaging with the ku to pull out what is going on – i see that as a leap. i like that. altho may be that’s not the right kind of leap in this case. i think in the reader’s mind we all think of running along a picket fence with a stick – but that doesnt have to be spelled out in the ku… may be that’s not how ku should work either tho… you see… i really dont know much about ku. i am quite sure about that.

        that said… i do sometimes like making one line work with both of the other lines depending on how the reader reads the ku. and in some cases reading the ku one way over another way, the lines do get split in the middle. …that may not be correct for good ku tho.

        the idea was a leap linkage. may be my picket fence ku just doesnt work as such.

        it’s still fun to play with as you’ve done – which is fine imo. just so you know.

        as for the revisions of your own ku – i’m not sure keeping all of the words but shifting them from line to line is necessarily the only way to go about an alternative.

        i do know that it’s easy for me to think and analyze my own ku from a reasonable one, right into the garbage can, thinking i’ve improved it when i’ve actually weakened it. sometimes i think i’m better off leaving a ku that isnt quite right alone rather than making it worse. altho i doubt if i stop trying occasionally. i know Jane will keep at a ku until she gets it right. and wow when she get’s it right. i also believe sometimes she gets a ku right in one shot, right off the writing – wow on that too.

        i like working on my ku in my initial process but then i like letting them go as they become. i may be able to improve on them eventually. i’m sure others could improve on them in many ways. i believe my body of ku will eventually improve over all if not each one as long as i keep working at them. at this point i’m okay with that. that’s why i often leave a ku when i write a note here. i like that.

        and still more: it was pointed out to me at one time that it’s often better to start the 2nd or 3rd line with a preposition than to end one of those lines with one. i think that has to do with each line being a complete phrase on it’s own but also a stand-alone image. …altho i may have that wrong too of course. bwahahahahaha. yeah. i do get my rules and ideas mixed up. i think the idea for me is to try to understand the rules, read them, think about them, read examples – and then forget about all of that when i try to write my ku. …just try to let it all settle into place within the writing of the ku itself… altho i do admit looking for some things i know i often do that weaken my ku… and when i see it… whack. scrap that. …and of course i dont always spot those either. sheesh.

        ..and again on rules… if we as writers break a rule often enough and come out with great ku, then we are actually writing a new rule. that works. cool.

        and again, again on rules. as i’m sure you are well aware there are literally hundreds of them. and in some cases one rule is exactly the opposite of another rule. in fact sometimes it is not possible to follow two given rules in the same ku because you have to break one rule to follow the other. yeah. it’s complex. but it’s fun too.

        and… about our 3 lines… in english. it’s my understanding that in japanese, haiku was traditionally written in one line. it was vertical. and that worked fine. that does not work well in english (because of our letters being narrow and tall among other things) so we broke that one line into 3 lines – which has now become a standard. i think we did 3 lines because 2 lines – with the break where the pause is, can still come out as one very short line – like one word – and one very long line – all the rest of the ku. i dont know that, so that’s just me wondering and guessing – again.

        and to further mix and muddle… there is, in english One Line Ku. …however it follows a slightly different set of rules as i understand it, than our 3 line ku. …i once knew something about those rules and tried some one line ku but then… 3 lines is hard enough for me to get figured out so… i mainly stick to 3 lines now. bwahahahahaha.

        yeah. i ramble. that’s one of the reasons it’s good for me to try to ku. yeah? be short and to the point Wrick. bwahahahaha. and of course take from me only what makes sense to you or you like or works for you in your ku-ing and let the rest go. …and then of course, fun on. – aloha – Wrick

        • Wrick!
          WOW … thanks so much for all your thoughtful, fascinating comments (and for putting up with me and Steve ignorantly monkeying around with and misinterpreting and being all bossy and interfering with your ku 🙂 ). You have given me so, so much to think about … not even sure where to start …

          I feel idiotic for not even recognizing that your ku could be broken up after the first line and make sense — yes that’s a leap and yes I missed it completely. I also agree about avoiding straightforward description in ku (although I guess that was Shiki’s shasei thing … it can work if it’s a good enough description, which mine pretty much never are). I like the ku that make leaps and interesting connections although of course I am capable of completely missing connections that are interesting enough. 🙂 Also, as you are implying here and as Angie also said below — sometimes the really interesting parts of ku are the parts that are left out, and if the ku is just a description of something … there is not enough missing information for your imagination to work with. Or something.

          I agree that there are lots of other ways to revise than just moving words from line to line (I am kind of an obsessive reviser myself); right here I just wanted to try quickly making all the middle lines longer because of what you said about your preference for that and wanting to see what I thought … I really haven’t had a strong preference up to now, as I said, but I am starting to like the symmetry of that longer middle line, when it’s possible to achieve it without sacrificing something else more important in the ku (which it is much more often than I like to think). As for Japanese ku — yes they are all written in one line, but divided into three sections (of 5-7-5 syllables) which is why our ku are 3 lines.

          I’m interested in experimenting with one-line ku myself — when I was writing half in my sleep last night I wrote a bunch of them as you saw in today’s post (and I’m sure they read as though they were written in my sleep 🙂 ). What I noticed was that sometimes I would come up with a bunch of words that seemed ku-like … but didn’t seem to work themselves into 3 lines or 2 parts … so I wrote them in one. Whether they’re haiku or not I don’t know, but that’s the way they wanted to be.

          That’s really interesting about starting the line with a preposition if it is naturally part of the phrase on the line … I go back and forth so much on line breaks. Sometimes one way seems more natural, sometimes another. Sometimes I change it back and forth a dozen times until I get a headache and then I scream ENOUGH and just leave it one way and have no idea which way is better. Will have to think about it more (when my head feels better 🙂 ).

          yeah, in one of my early posts I said something about needing haiku to counteract my natural tendency to ramble on and on and on … unfortunately so far writing them doesn’t seem to have had much salutary effect on my prose style, I don’t think. 🙂

          The ku you leave here on comments always make my day, they are not only great ku but they further the discussion and give me more to think about … thanks.

          aloha. 🙂

          • aloha Melissa, Steve and all..

            bwahahahaha – we are human beings. i doubt if monkeys analyze how to swing through the trees of a jungle, they just do it. human beings tend to have to monkey around figuring things out before we even begin to swing through things like ku thought in word jungles. so. monkey on. i dont think it’s interfering when it’s respectful. both you and Steve have been very respectful. imo, this is how we learn – i’m learning from you two just as you two may learn from me. in 6 months you’ll be much more knowledgeable about ku than i am – at least i suspect that will happen because of the way you are going about it. my process is much slower… which of course is fine by me.

            yeah. a ku can break any rule. if it’s a good ku, it’s a good ku. so i’d say in Shiki’s case it isnt being a good description that makes it a good ku. it’s being a good ku that makes it a good ku – even when it’s descriptive. defining where description ends and naming begins and then saying that’s okay and this isnt… i’m not sure that’s the point in ku. i think the point may be to keep something in mind. …but let it go when writing and just concentrate on making a good ku. if it works, it’s a good ku.

            yeah. the symmetry of that longer middle line. i think it’s something i notice when it’s not there, but when it’s there i dont notice it or pay much attention to it at all. in some ways that’s good because the focus of ku isnt actually the words but the moment – or may be the part in the mind – the stuff that happens there. so something that attracts attention to the words may not be desirable… that’s just a thought tho.

            now that you mention the japanese single vertical line being broken in to 3 that does ring a bell – but only because you pointed it out. what i dont remember, if i ever knew, is how it’s broken. do you know? is there a mark? or more space? or is it intrinsic in the language. may be one line is broken with something like the sensura (sp?) censura? (~)? some of the stuff in japanese haiku is built into the language if i remember right – phrases that are common knowledge and bring that haiku sense or understanding that everyone who knows japanese already understands and so they automatically break lines with those phrases as a unit because that phrase would always be kept together – we dont have that so much in english – altho in slang we sometimes do…

            it’s interesting to write from our sleep i think. sometimes i think we make great leaps and connections in our sleep and sleep words and sleep sense, that are harder for us to get at when we are fully awake. of course it’s tricky to get that stage where we are still semi-asleep and yet awake enough to write – or remember. i see that as a treat when that happens – cool on you for keeping writing material where you can get at it when you are in that semi-awake moment.

            dreams i think often make great leaps and connections for us. they make great use of dream language that is based on our awake language and visuals, yet it’s often used in unique and unusual ways to get at a message. a message from our sleep awareness to our awake awareness – what ever we choose to call those – subconscious to conscious or dream realities to waking realities etc. of course working a dream phrase into a ku that we finish off in our waking state… might be a challenge. fun again tho.

            yeah. that preposition placement was interesting for me too. sometimes i’ve found i’ve had to let go of what i thought was right either in english or even in haiku to get at improving my ku. wow is that a challenge sometimes.

            i think it helps me to take each line of a ku and simply look at it individually to check if it functions as a phase in itself. even the two lines that are hooked together can each function as a single line phrase – as well as being hooked.

            writing and looking at each line that way, i can see which line is longer too. and from there i can look at possible middle lines for my longest line. a lot of ku too depends on punchline like qualities. not giving up the punchline till the end can bring a lot of pop to a ku.

            combining that line by line phrase check with the preposition idea… helps me.

            keeping that in mind here are two rewrites of the ku above of yours that i liked a lot:

            ants march
            over breakfast dishes
            lines of code

            and then i thought, could i keep your first line as the first line and still make it work:

            lines of code
            over breakfast dishes
            ants march

            i think the 2nd one has more surprise to it. the first one tells me what everything is. but the second one keeps me going because i can connect – over breakfast dishes – to either the first line OR the second. either way it makes ku sense. but we get to explore with it more and i think it unfolds more and more as each line alters everything that has gone on before it until i get to the final line. i think that is a good thing in ku. i think there are more possibilities with the rewrites this 2nd way.

            and of course this is why i think you have a great haiku-moment eye. you see great possibilities in common things. that’s a great asset. so wow on that, because when you combine that with the exploring you are doing now… in 6 months or a year from now… yeah, it’s going to be wow all over again with what you write.

            as i said. i look for improvement over the body of work and time rather than between each ku. it’s easier to see when you look at ku from 6 months ago vs ku from a year and a half ago. as long as we keep writing i think have the chance to improve. so yeah. go for it.

            yeah too. even if i have improved in my ku from when i started, i dont think it’s changed much about my ramblability. bwahahahaha. i’m glad you dont mind. and the others here who are reading too. thanks for your reading and commenting or just saying hi. it’s fun to know others value what is being said. …of course.. take what works for you and let the rest of it go, unless or until it makes sense to you – then take that for your own too.

            aloha – Wrick

            • Wrick, you’re making me work. 🙂 (Don’t worry, it’s good for me. And fun.)

              Good question about how the Japanese haiku are broken up — I don’t know, maybe they just count the syllables? And yeah you’re right, I think some of it is that they have some set phrases that just fall into five or seven syllables (that’s partly what the season words are about, I think) — they’ve been writing poetry with five and seven syllable sections for over a thousand years now and they kind of have it down, I think. 🙂 They also have something called kireji or “cutting words” that act sort of like punctuation, but as far as I can tell they use them to indicate where the haiku breaks into phrase and fragment, not at the end of every line.

              I have learned a ton from your proposed rewrites of the ant code ku, especially with that last one — you’re right, it creates a much greater sense of surprise and enlightenment and ambiguity to keep the ants for the reveal. I was even wondering if it would be possible to keep the ants for the very last word, like so:

              lines of code
              over the breakfast dishes
              march the ants

              (I have a prejudice against leaving out articles most of the time, as you can see … somehow it seems to make the syntax seem too artificial to me to leave out an article where we would naturally use one in English. I think it makes some sense in my first version and your revised version because we might plausibly say “ants march over breakfast dishes” but I don’t think we would ever say “over breakfast dishes march ants.” That phrase to me needs articles to be idiomatic English.)

              Boy I sure hope my ku will be better in 6 months or a year … right now I am feeling like I am standing staring up at a very high mountain. 🙂 But you’re giving me a pretty good push. Thanks for that.

              • oh, a quick thought —

                lines of code
                signal from breakfast dishes
                marching ants

                (I’m enjoying this thread!!)

                • Oooh, another whole interpretation. 🙂 Thanks for that perspective, Angie. Now I feel like asking every haiku poet I know to rewrite this thing to see how many versions we can come up with.

                • aloha and cool Angie – i think it’s cool that you think about haiku even in quick thoughts. and even more cool that you share your thoughts – especially here.

                  i find that trying to put my thoughts into writing often helps clarify my thinking to myself. i like that. sometimes i not only get to find out what i think, but i get to find out when i disagree with what i thought i thought. cool on that too. write on. aloha – Wrick

              • aloha again Melissa – yeah on the japanese punctuation.

                i think punctuation in japanese is more like using the word – so rather than a comma (,) they’d use the word (comma). but then that is counted in the syllable count too. so for the word – comma – (our english word) that would count as 2 syllables. in english we dont do that. this again contributes to the difficulty in using 5-7-5 as a rule for haiku. when a japanese haiku is translated into english, even if we get the meaning of each word right and the sense of the haiku close AND the syllables match up – if there is any punctuation in it – our syllable count is going to be off. bwahahahahaa – more reason to pay attention to things other than 5-7-5 in writing haiku.

                most things i’ve read indicate that it’s better to leave punctuation out of haiku unless it’s really necessary. let the reader decide what is to be emphasized and where a pause or a stop should be. i used to use punctuation to help clarity – or i thought it helped – but i’ve found by choosing my phrases right i dont really need punctuation often at all. in fact… now as i think about it, it’s very rare that i use punctuation in my ku. cool on that.

                one more thing about multiple meanings in haiku – at least as i understand it. it’s not ambiguity that we are after in ku. we are after clarity. clarity With multiple meanings/interpretations is a desirable thing in haiku – clear, rather than ambiguous alternate meanings/interpretations. a subtle difference but significant in my way of thinking about it… concrete images, concrete meanings (yick, funny – that word concrete sounds like such a rough, hard thing for such a beautiful thing as haiku). …even if i dont always hit the mark in what i write, clarity with multiple meanings is something i value in my ku. bwahahahaha. sheesh. again.

                yes. i agree about using articles in ku. use them when they are needed – especially for clarity and meaning. brevity has a place in haiku but it’s not the only thing. when i get down to it, 17 syllables is actually way more than i need most of the time.

                there is another thing i look for when i write/read ku. it’s the flow of what is said being natural – you said that you’re self i noticed. however, that doesnt always mean correct. my test for me is to read my ku out loud – or at least out loud in my head – to see if each phrase is lined up with the way i’d speak it. in the way i’d speak in every day talk. the way i’d say it.

                i dont usually speak in just phrases of course – however, is the phrase the way i would say it if i said it in a conversation with a friend – that’s the question i ask. that’s what i’m looking for in the ku – a phrase that feels like i’d use it in casual conversation with friends (which is also why i wouldnt use big words and try to show off my vocabulary either – i dont need to do that with fiends – simple words, simple speak – simple ways of saying it). that’s the natural way i want a ku to work and to be read. easy. natural. casual conversation with a good friend. so that the words are not noticed so much as the image they bring into the skull when there is a sudden clarity to what is being said.

                for me, – ants march – yes, i’d say that. that feels like something the way i’d speak it in a sentence – however for me – march the ants – altho correct, isnt the way i’d speak. or at least for me it doesnt feel as natural. i’d have a difficult time finding that in my common talk language even tho it’s correct to say it that way. does that make sense? i’m trying to make my haiku flow and roll off my tongue in an easy natural way. so that it’s a simple natural way to speak. even tho it is not a sentence. …i’m not sure if i’m saying this well and i’ve probably said it way too many times. once would be better – there i am rambling again. sheesh.

                of course we come from different parts of the country. each area has it’s own way of speaking. which means that from one area to another we might have different phrases or ways of speaking, even in english, that are common in one area and not so common in another.

                writing in our own english area way of speaking – i think that’s good. so if you’d speak – march the ants – in your area then it makes sense to use that phrase in your haiku. our own way of speaking feels natural to us. but go even just a few miles away and sometimes there is a slightly to very different way of speaking the same language. amazing, yes. what works for one writer may be slightly different for another. i think this is okay. of course if we come up with a ku that works in both areas – way cool on that.

                language is fluently changing all the time. so even if one of my ku feels natural to me now, it might not feel that way ten years from now, even in my own area. yeah. okay. that’s the way it works sometimes.

                i’m thinking i’m talking too much. writing you haiku is probably a better use of time than reading everything i’ve written here. oops.

                improvement doesnt come evenly space. it may come in leaps and bounds and it may come in slow increments over long periods of time – over time you’ll see it. yeah, we all get stuck sometimes, when we know we are stuck, that’s the beginning of becoming unstuck. over greater amounts of time you’re more apt to see improvement clearly. just keep at it. it’s an amazing journey – or it has been so far for me – and it just keeps getting amazinger. and heck, i still get to travel on it for the rest of my life. cool on that, yes. aloha – Wrick

                • Aloha Wrick (you have no idea how funny it seems to a Wisconsinite to be saying aloha, every time I say it I feel like I’ve been transported to a beach in Maui and I’m holding a drink with a pink umbrella in it. Not that that’s a bad thing. 🙂 )

                  Wellll…with the Japanese punctuation I don’t think it’s that they write out the word “comma,” they just have words that function sort of like pauses … but sometimes they can also be used for emphasis … so you get debates among translators about exactly what they mean in any given haiku. This is my highly unprofessional understanding anyway (although my husband does know a little Japanese and he has looked at some of these things for me). As usual take with several handfuls of salt …

                  I think the main thing contributing to us (usually) needing fewer syllables for an effective haiku in English is that the Japanese count syllables differently than we do – they could have a two-letter word that looks like one syllable to us and they would count it as two or three, maybe. I guess they’re not technically syllables they’re counting but “onji” which are not really the same thing. Again, don’t ask me for further details or trust that I actually know what I’m talking about. 🙂 I think Jane has some information about this on her site and I’m pretty sure Bill Higginson talks about it in his book and of course Google always comes through for us in the end.

                  Yeah, the fashion now is for no punctuation in haiku. Which I mostly heed as well. And there are all kinds of philosophical reasons given for it but my secret sneaking suspicion is that basically, it’s just a fashion. I’m cynical like that. I frequently consider fully punctuating and capitalizing my haiku just to be contrary, but then I get scared that all the other haiku poets will gather round me in a circle and make fun of me, so I don’t. Someday maybe I’ll be brave enough to do it.

                  with the ambiguity/clarity thing … I suspect we are meaning the same thing, just using different words. I don’t think of ambiguity as a bad thing … okay, here’s the Wikipedia definition of it: “a word, term, notation, sign, symbol, phrase, sentence, or any other form used for communication, is called ambiguous if it can be interpreted in more than one way. Ambiguity is different from vagueness, which arises when the boundaries of meaning are indistinct.” So just like you said — something can be ambiguous, i.e. able to be interpreted in more than one way, and still be clear, i.e. not vague or incomprehensible.

                  I should definitely read my ku out loud more. I am not a very speaking kind of person. (I know I seem like kind of a loudmouth on this site, but that’s just my writing voice, my real one is very quiet. 🙂 ) But I know that speaking poetry is vital. I act Shakespeare in a very amateur way, so it’s not like I don’t understand the concept — just need to put it into practice.

                  Yeah, I am all about natural syntax. The thing is that my natural syntax does tend to be more formal and highfalutin than most other people’s. I read too much. 🙂 It’s not that I’m a fan of using long or obscure words to impress people or something, I just really like words, and I like to use lots of different ones. I like shades of meaning and sometimes the most ordinary words don’t express the exact shade of meaning I want. Also I was subjected to a very fancy private education for high school and college and the people there didn’t talk like ordinary folks. 🙂 Sometimes I wish my speech were more folksy and down-to-earth but we have to play with the cards we’re dealt.

                  Please feel free to keep talking, I have learned a huge amount from you in the last few days. And your ku are part of the way I learn, so feel free to keep dropping them by as well. 🙂

                  see ya soon, as we say in Wisconsin. 🙂

                  • aloha MLA – hey, if we keep writing replies here will we eventually get down to one word per line?

                    yeah aloha was hard for me for a long time too. i have some background in minnesota, among other places… i like the meanings behind the word aloha tho.

                    i’m no more of an authority on japanese than you claim. so salt over shoulder on what i say too. yeah, as i understood it… the japanese count is with “on” which is probably what you said – onji. and as i understood it – that’s a sound, not a syllable. …not that i know quite what the distinction is…

                    yes, again – i hadnt thought about it that way, but you’re right. punctuation being popular or not in haiku is probably more fashion.

                    …i frequently will say i dont do something and then do it. or i’ll say i do it this way and then i’ll turn around and promptly do it the other way. what’s that? bwahahaha – probably just me being contrary or stubborn. …just so you know – you’ll probably see it – i wrote a ku with punctuation in it a little while ago. sheesh.

                    yeah – i’d say, do haiku your way. or at least go at it your way. i think you’re doing that so cool.

                    sometimes i have to do something all wrong and try to make it work that way just so i’ll know it’s wrong – unless i make it work of course. may be if i do it wrong enough, i have a chance of doing it right? is there some survival value in that?

                    yes, your point on ambiguity is spot on. cool.

                    i think i read my ku outloud in my head more than outloud with my voice. i tend to read that way.

                    yeah, i’m a slow reader. it’s the way i had to read in order to understand, other wise i easily get the opposite meaning from something by missing a word – my eye tends to jump all over – it has a hard time starting in the upper left corner and working across and down on a page. so i learned to compensate for that by making my eye go over each word and confirming it by listening to it in my skull. once in a while that’s handy. it does make for slow slogging through a lot of information tho. …which is probably also one of the reasons why i like images. of course i watch those visually in my skull too.

                    yeah, i tend to write more like i think than how i talk. i know how that works. …which is also why i dont use capitals very often – i almost never use capitals when i speak but then i dont use them when i think either.

                    yeah. i think we become what we have around us – and especially in those heavily forming years. play the cards our dealt. that makes sense to me. cool.

                    it’s good for me to think about all this ku stuff too. i think it does show up in my ku. even if i’m just trying to fling them down. cool on that.

                    yeah. see ya. and heck yeah, i’ll keep flinging haiku. i have a long way to go. cool on that as well. aloha –

                    • I was wondering that about the one word per line myself. I guess maybe we’ll find out if this goes on long enough …

                      Although it looks like we are starting to come to agreement about most things now … fun when that happens.

                      Yeah, onji is the plural of on (although linguists will tell you the correct terms is really mora, plural morae). Still don’t have a firm grasp of what it is exactly.

                      I think it’s probably a definite advantage to be a slow reader when it comes to understanding poetry — I’m an incredibly fast one which means I end up sort of skipping over stuff and not really taking the time to think things through sometimes. I try to force myself to slow down but it’s hard. What I end up having to do is read over and over again.

                      see you in the funny papers, as my Canadian grandmother used to say.

  2. it confuses me, too.
    I tend to agree — Jane’s first example seems an easier connection. I think it does rely on the reader’s experience.

    of yours, the clogged drain affects me the most. there is to me a lot unsaid in those few words; and what’s unsaid is emphasized by the words that are there (she whispers something/he can’t hear). I feel like haiku is more about what isn’t said than what is.

    but the more I read about haiku, the less I understand.

    • “the more I read about haiku, the less I understand.” … oh me too! It all seems so easy when you’re first starting out … now I feel like I could spend the rest of my life chasing that perfect sub-17-syllable clump of words, or maybe I should just let it find me …

      That’s an interesting thought about haiku being more about what isn’t said than what is, will have to sit with that one for awhile.

  3. oh — I meant Jane’s 2nd haiku was an easier connection, the wildflowers.
    with the knife, I think you need knowledge of what an open knife could mean.

  4. Interesting.

    I take it to mean the close linkage is more literal and observational, where the leap linkage relies on unstated connections or context. I can see, though, where the reader might bring leap linkage to a poem intended as close and vice versa.

    Except, maybe, for the most literal linkages, so much of it seems to depend on the experience and knowledge of the reader. Having been married for over 15 years, the hair clog haiku is, for me, almost a close linkage but if I’d read it 20 years ago I’d have struggled to understand it.

    Or maybe it doesn’t mean what I think it does.

    Oh, my head!

    Anyhow, I really like the spring downpour/floating eggshell verse, also. It’s very visual and tactile.

    • Funny observation about the hair clog ku — going on 20 years of marriage here 🙂 and I’m sure you’re right, it would have been a head-scratcher a couple of decades ago.

      Although maybe it doesn’t mean what I think it does, either. 🙂

      I’m glad everyone seems to like most the 3 haiku I like most.

      By the way Steve if you still want to renga … drop me an email (link on my About page).

  5. Wow…so many great comments. I’m glad I’m not the only one confused by Jane’s examples. In fact after seeing how *everyone* was confused I decided to look this section of the essay up in her book (published after and containing revised versions of many of the essays on her site) and discovered that there, the example given for leap linkage is:

    a fish opens a door
    in the lake

    which definitely, to my mind, requires more thought than the knife haiku…though still isn’t nearly as obscure as a lot of haiku I’ve read. It’s pretty cool, though. I guess I should probably be checking the book for revisions before I put this stuff up here … looking through I see that a lot of the example haiku are different from the online versions, and usually the revisions make her explanations a lot clearer.

    • Yes it is! Thanks SO much to all who have contributed! It’s at times like these that I am so, so glad I started a blog and have been able to meet all these amazing people from all over the world who are on the same wavelength as me.

  6. I thought all the participants in this conversation might like to know that I just pasted all these comments into a word processing document and it told me that they contained nearly 7,000 words. That’s pretty epic, folks. We’re about a tenth of the way to a book after three days. So I’ll expect the manuscript by the end of next month, OK? 🙂

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