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April 2013
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National Poetry Month: Composing Haiku

"Five Pines" and the Onagi Canal by Hiroshige

"Five Pines" and the Onagi Canal by Hiroshige

O snail. Climb Mount Fuji, but slowly, slowly!

—Kobayaski Issa


The haiku is a miniature that originated in Japan. In these little poems, a scene or impression is captured in just a few words.

The basic haiku is composed of 17 sounds: 5 + 7 +5, producing a poem that can be uttered in a single breath. This formula isn’t ideal for English-speaking poets, because the English unit of sound, the syllable, varies in length, whereas Japanese “on” are uniform. Composing a haiku that is between 10 and 14 syllables in English is closer in scale to the Japanese haiku.

Japanese haiku are typically written on a single line, and have two phrases; two disparate ideas which evoke meaning when juxtaposed. English-speaking poets tend to use 3 lines. For example:

The crow has flown away:

swaying in the evening sun,

a leafless tree.

—Natsume Soseki


Lightning flash—

what I thought were faces

are plumes of pampas grass.

—Basho Matsuo


Over the wintry

forest, winds howl in rage

with no leaves to blow.

—Natsume Soseki

  • Marilyn

    One wonders about
    Bach’s time management – all that
    music, all that sex;

  • Richard Rann


    Wealth of ages thrive
    Soaring Perfection of Centuries
    Fly Free in air

  • candomarty

    Brahms and Dvorak

    Morning Program gems, always


  • PhilinYuma

    Great music and ads!
    Heightened musical insight,
    Greater Spex appeal.
    (This is mainly for those who listen to the streaming program)

  • Bridget S.

    finals start next week,
    frantically scrambling to
    Henryck Górecki

  • mark

    Wunderhorn and sea pictures, back to back,
    my birthday?
    Or Dame Janet’s.

  • mark

    Too transported to hear the announcers,
    except Mrs Flynn.

  • Mollie Ivaldi

    Mist of melodious music perfumes my morning —

    Arpeggios with delightful librettos;

    Uplifting lilts to please the mind.

  • Bill Smetak

    Shaking his fist against
    the sky