Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Haiku is a form of poetry accredited to the Japanese. It has only three rules.

1. No narrative.
2. Kigo (nature reference)
3. Syllable count. (5-7-5)
These rules are clear and traditional. If they are broken, what you have written is not haiku.
If someone starts their example with the line "on a scorching day", the reason this is wrong is because it's an incomplete thought which turns the following lines into explanatory narrative.
If someone ends their example with the line "dangling from a horn", this turns the preceding lines into precursory narrative. When I pointed out to a self claimed teacher that each line has to be a complete thought, he responded by saying "I've never heard that criteria before", after clearly stating that haiku does not contain narrative. So apparently this person did not understand the definition of narrative.
The "cutting point", change, or "surprise element" is an extension of the first rule because if this element is not present, the poem's stagnation evokes narrative.
What this means is that

copper wire sculptures
resembling ripened chilis
sit on the table

is stagnant and not a haiku, whereas the following is:

she wakes in the marsh
a frog jumps in the water
SPLASH! right on her boobs

if the poem ends with Splash! What was that sound? It's not haiku because it ends with question rather than a complete thought.
Here is a variation that is acceptable even though someone might overlook it's presence of change and erroneously consider it stagnant:

she wakes in the marsh
relaxing in the rowboat
listening to frogs
The kigo is also an extension of the first rule because it requires the poem to be comprehensive to it's reader. If the poem is foreign to it's reader, it's not haiku. So the nature reference also means that the subject matter must refer to the writer's personal experience in daily life. What this means is you can't just dream up a haiku, you have to have actually experienced it.
Another mistake I encountered is when someone claiming authority to talk about haiku said it's more about aesthetic than form. It's not. Haiku expresses an equal balance of both and if it doesn't, it's not haiku. The syllable count expresses the form, and the subject matter expresses the aesthetic. Haiku is the harmony between the two. If someone tells you one element is more important than the other in haiku, they're wrong and talking about another poetry form that is not haiku.
A common element I have encountered in attempted haiku instruction is introducing it with the statement that haiku is a difficult art form to master, which is wrong. To say that haiku is difficult to master is an attempt to implement narrative to haiku. That person doesn't understand the definition of narrative and therefore isn't competent or capable of even writing let alone imparting haiku to a student.
Absence of narrative is what gives haiku it's perfect harmony with nature. This is why haiku isn't an entry in a poetry contest. This is why haiku is not protected by copyright license. If you have a copyright licensed book that tells you it contains haiku, it's wrong. Whatever's in that book isn't haiku. This is why haiku is not a topic of debate. You can't argue about haiku. You can't use haiku to outsmart someone. Because those things are manifestations of narrative, which is unrelated, by definition, to haiku. There is no "modern haiku". There is no haiku "genre". There is no "published haiku", unless the content is public domain and rights are reversed instead of reserved. This is why you find these publications allegedly on the topic of haiku that tell you that eastern and western rules regarding haiku are different and the eastern rules are clear and "won't be discussed here". Really? Why not? Because haiku is something an aggressive person can't possess and control and this challenges their common comfort so in lame defense they publish defiant prattle and call it haiku. But it's not. Haiku is meritous, not difficult. If you're incapable of comprehending merit, you can't write haiku. Put this pamphlet down and forget it or embarrass yourself. It's your decision.
Absence of narrative is what makes haiku simple. Haiku is never complicated. If there is any element of complication to your poem, it isn't haiku. Also haiku doesn't contain self referencing content, because this creates narrative. This is why derogatory language or any word having negative connotation is not used in haiku.
Although each line must form a complete thought in itself, it must also enrich the understanding of the other two lines or else it creates narrative. So you can't write haiku that doesn't make sense. If the last line of your poem is refrigerator, it's not haiku.
Finally, haiku does not have an author or a title. This is because these things implement narrative, which disqualify the work as haiku. If an author tries to use the rhetoric that the rules are made to be broken, remember that although you are free to ignore the rules of haiku, what you write is not haiku if you do so.
If you're one of the rare few that is selfless and literate enough to understand what is written here, being unencumbered by the mental illness known as oppositional defiance disorder that stops the kind of person who attempts to own haiku with a copyright license from learning, you've earned your copy of the only accurate instructional text on haiku in plain English that exists.

Here's what you can do now:

1. Look for haiku and collect it in a "haiku bank"
2. Write your own haiku and share it with someone. You are not allowed to keep your own haiku. If you do, it's not haiku.
3. Print this text into a pamphlet and distribute it freely to those interested in haiku. If you do this, you have to write it yourself from scratch. You're not allowed to copy/paste it. Also, the correct method of distribution is leaving it where someone will find it, such as a cafe bookshelf. Leaving it in an inappropriate random place, such as a park bench where it is liable to be picked up and discarded to get it out of the way for sitting, is not allowed.

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