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Practicing the Traditional Use and Form of Haiku Poetry

by Tameko Barnette

In the 20th and 21st centuries, most writers and people who take writing classes are introduced to the popular form of the seventeen-syllable Haiku poem.  Even with the historical information of Matsuo Basho, a Buddhist monk and poet, who was instructed by his teacher to write Haiku as a form of poetry that would assist him in learning concentration, mindfulness, and how to cultivate inner peace, students and poetry enthusiasts would still use the pattern of seventeen syllables within three lines.  What did Matsuo Basho write that was so different from this particular form?

The poem often shared is called, "Old Pond."  It reads as follows:

An old pond,

the frog leaps in --

water sounds

As it shows, this poem doesn't have seventeen syllables, but it does have two images and a third line that is supposed to juxtapose the images.

One running theme from the 17th century to 21st century is common and that is the contemplation of nature; whether it is the nature of the plant and animal kingdoms or the nature of human life, which is often found in contemporary Haiku.   The traditional use and form of Haiku brings to mind the question of what would a poem in that form, even shorter than seventeen syllables with two images that are opposites, how would it sound and feel?

Perhaps, it could sound and feel like this one:

a coffee shop,

the man eats french fries;

no outside food allowed

This was a quick attempt to bring together two images that reflect the nature of human life yet, they juxtapose each other.  Haiku poetry is far more than a form that helps a person who naturally leans towards brevity; it can literally help with concentration, mindfulness, and with enough practice, the cultivation of inner peace.

In conclusion, research the Haiku poem and use this traditional style to see where it takes your thoughts, your concentration, and your writing.