Haiku is a poetic form originated in Japan which has been adapted for use by poets who write in English and harbor a desire to drive themselves crazy.
The form requires three lines, the first and last holding five syllables, the middle seven. Seventeen syllables in all.
Usually there is an allusion to nature, and a break of some sort that draws attention to a comparison of two images. (See what I mean about driving yourself crazy?)
But not always. Poets tend to go their own way, and adapt poetic forms (like haiku) to suit themselves.
The fun with haiku, I think, is trying to say something without really coming right out and saying it, and to layer as much meaning into the words as possible. And, for me, ambiguity is often an interesting tool (which can drive readers crazy).
Haiku are usually untitled, but I like to use a title of sorts. It can add to the fun. Here’s one I wrote called “Haiku for Hunger”:
Tomorrow lies in
the curve of a woman’s breast
in moonshadow glow.
I think it paints a vivid picture, but there’s the question: What’s it all about?
Maybe it’s about the hunger of a baby, and the image is of a mother sitting in a rocker by the window in the night, breastfeeding a baby which represents the future.
Or it could be the hunger is desire, and the picture it paints is of a man admiring his sleeping wife and contemplating waking her up for some marital bliss to strengthen the future of the relationship (he’s obviously dreaming—or crazy), or hoping to add to the family at some future date nine months hence.
Then again, it could be a fretful insomniac woman up all night worrying what the future holds, wishing she’d covered her filmy nighty with a warm robe.
Or perhaps it’s something else altogether.
But, in the end, it’s only seventeen syllables.
“Haiku for Hunger” is one of a handful of haiku verses in my new collection of Western and cowboy poetry, Goodnight Goes Riding and Other Poems. There’s nothing overtly Western or cowboy about the poem, but I like it and wanted it in the book.
Besides, it could be the woman in question lives on a ranch. I’ll go with that.
The book is due out around July from Pen-L Publishing (www.pen-l.com . Watch for it. I will be.