Wednesday, 30 April 2014

And now for something completely different... Haiku.

If you expected my normal brand of snarky self-depreciative musings today, then you're in for a shock. Instead, I went and got creative. I was having fun with my Japanese revision, so... I decided to write some haiku!

You know what a haiku is, right? Or, at least, you know a vague approximation of what counts as a haiku. See, upon deciding to write some haiku in Japanese, I realised there was a load of practices and concepts I didn't actually know about. This only took a cursory Wikipedia search to pull up, and yet we all consider haiku to be a cool, hip poetry form while knowing nothing of its origins and original rules. There are a few main things I found out...

1. In Japanese poetry, haiku are counted in on - which are not quite the same as syllables. So, while the 5-7-5 pattern is how they operate, a Japanese 7-on line may not be a 7-syllable line. For instance:

sore ga kawaii desu 
(That is cute.)

In English, you'd say that "so-ray ga ka-wa-i des", so it appears to fit as a middle line of haiku.
But in Japanese - even though you'd say it the same way - it contains 9 on. Conveniently, on seem to correspond pretty well to hiragana characters.

2. Traditionally, Japanese haiku have a kigo - a seasonal reference. There are long lists of motifs which are shorthand for various seasons in ways which may not immediately make sense to Westerners. Frogs mean spring, the moon means autumn, and these aren't used nearly as often in modern works apparently. Still, it's interesting to think about.

3. Kiru, or "cutting". This is the essence of haiku, often brought about through use of a kireji (cutting word). It sort of relies on juxtaposition with a word in between them to act as a verbal punctuation mark and indicate some sort of relation. I'll admit, I didn't manage to use many kireji in my compositions as I'm still too concerned with getting Japanese grammar passably correct, but maybe if I write more I'll work on it.

TL;DR: There are seasonal references, a cutting word, and 14 on in a 5-7-5 configuration. Here's some stuff I wrote, complete with syllable-accurate translations (that took a few liberties with my original Japanese). Knock yourself out.


多い 人
世界 です

Ooi hito
no sekai desu ya
kimi ni atta.

There are so many
People in the world - and yet
I (somehow) met you.


この 言葉
見る かしら

kono kotoba
o kakimasu, kedo
miru kashira.

I write these words now
But I still wonder whether
You ever see them.



hanabira o
ochiru. anata mo
ushinau ka?

The cherry blossoms
All fall to the ground. Do I
Have to lose you too?



kocchi to issho
ni tsuki ni tabun
tobimasu ka?

Will you come and fly away
To the moon with me?

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