Sunday, December 05, 2010

Review: Japanese Haiku: Its Essential Nature, History, and Possibilities in English, With Selected Examples


Japanese Haiku: Its Essential Nature, History, and Possibilities in English, With Selected ExamplesJapanese Haiku: Its Essential Nature, History, and Possibilities in English, With Selected Examples by Kenneth Yasuda

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I was given this by my sister and her husband after my various attempts at haiku on Twitter. It's an old thesis turned into a book, which explains the fairly academic style. At points this can be fairly dry, and can assume you know a lot about the background of poetry and haiku (which I don't), but there are also some excellent parts to it, and overall I found this really interesting.

The first and last sections held my interest the most. The first is a discussion on what a haiku should be, and discusses ideas about zen experience in poetry form, the idea that a haiku represents a single breath, and the notion that the haiku should give you, as the reader, a complete sense of what, when, and where.

The middle section deals with the 5-7-5 rhythm and why it may actually be essential, and how the haiku developed. This was a bit of a slog, as reference to poetry timing terms is completely lost on me, and I always get mixed up between hokku, renga, and so on. Still, very interesting in terms of Japanese history and the emphasis placed on poetry in society. Tales of haiku competition being organised, with 3,000 poems being written against each other, were fairly other-worldly.

The last part then elaborates on the use of the seasonal element, and is well worth a read as it's worth getting a deeper insight into what this should entail, along with how it's been used over the last thousand years or so.

As haiku develop in pace with the world, but also as they get taken up with some misunderstanding and simplicity in the West, this is a pretty fascinating book, and offers some excellent advice and perspectives for those looking to understand what a haiku is, beyond its simple rhythm.



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