Saturday, 29 October 2011

On sunny haiku, and morning Pikachu

ds106 assignment on Haiku. This assignment has been getting considerable traction as of late, so although I initially resolved to stay away from it for perceived lack of understanding of what actually makes a haiku tick..
"Here in US schools, we are taught the haiku merely as the formula of syllables..." -CogDog.
I re-thought my stand and am currently in an, "Eh, why not? You guys can bash me in the comments later," kind of mood. Still, I think it's kind of weird how a form of poetry is so intrinsically connected to a particular language and culture (Japanese) that comments such as these can be made, and quite legitimately argued:
"Haiku have very deep system, but it can work for only Japanese language, so this Haiku will be litbit different style from Japanese language Haiku." -Komiyama.
As for me I definitely feel that there is a kind of wall between haiku and any unfortunate non-Japanese (or non-Japanese speaker) who decides to take on the task of making a haiku of his/her own. This wall can of course be true, or only perceived but I'd like to get peoples' opinions on the matter because I'm not entirely sure which it is. Similarly would anyone know of any other form of poetry (or literary form etc.) that might be specific to a certain language or culture? I can't think of any at the moment but I would be surprised if haiku were to be the only case.

So anyway enough stalling. I said I'd present my own haiku and present it I will so here you go:

"Sunshine when I sleep
Comes early in the morning
Not now, Pikachu"

Sunshine by yeow_tuj via Share-Alike, Attribution CC Licensing. It's my photo and I'll do whatever I please with it! :P

I moved into my new apartment about 4 months ago, and while it's awesome there is the slight issue of my sleeping area being right in front of a ginormous (omg this is actually a word?) window. The window's frosted, but that doesn't stop copious amounts of sunlight pouring into the room on sunny mornings and that's what my haiku was trying to convey I guess. Everyone knows the feeling of not wanting to get up yet, but in addition to alarm clocks and lack of coffee I always feel that the sun itself is trying to slap me awake in the morning...and then when I'm actually up and conscious I look at my watch and I actually still had time to spare. And then there's a huge Pikachu head behind me. I need my coffee.

As for the considerations I tried to follow the "rules" that I got from some related blogs (CogDog, Hamazaki, Komiyama, Lockman). Each of them brought something different to the table, which was nice when trying to compare and contrast and see what has to be done and what can be left open to interpretation...but at the same time it became a little confusing? CogDog and Lockman's takes were quite thoughtful, with the former taking on an almost philosophical air and the latter being quite emotional/personal. Contrast this to the wildly differing styles of Hamazaki and Komiyama, wherein I found the former's to be very instructional and insightful, almost rigid in its "professional" take (I wonder how long the post took..), while conversely when reading Komiyama's haiku I get a very light-hearted, sentimental and playful feeling coming across that might or might not adhere as soundly to the principles of haiku, but definitely comes across to this uninformed non-Japanese as so much more engaging...on a fuzzy feline kind of level. I like cats, call me biased. :P

Going back to Hamazaki's post however, I definitely found the write-up to be the most informative, with the general guidelines of:
  1. Use three lines of up to 17syllables. (I split mine into 5/7/5)
  2. Use a season word (kigo). (Sunshine in the morning? Maybe Summer-ish. As CogDog says, " idea where they fit in the Japanese seasons." But then again as Hamazaki says, "almost all the nouns were categorized into one of the four seasons a hundred years ago, but we cannot do that any more in these days," so maybe I'll be let off the hook this time..)
  3. Use a cut or kire (sometimes indicated by a punctuation mark) to compare two images implicitly. (The last line)
So in conclusion there you have my haiku. Maybe it's off, maybe it's not. Maybe Ben's comment is right? What do you guys think?
"I'm not sure it's the translation into English that a Haiku potentially loses its authenticity, but rather then different pace and tone that many westerners, particularly Americans, bring to the form." -Ben.


  1. This is the blog post I wish I could have written. Splendid work Mome, once again!

  2. Thanks! I blame Pikachu.. O.o

  3. Thank you for the reference to my blog post. It was very interesting for me to read your post this time and I realized that you are still talented even in creative writing.

    I think what Komiyama wrote about haiku is a bit too insufficient and needed some more words to explain it. What she tried to say (I guess) is that Japanese traditional haiku is so strongly related to its old customs and tradition that it is very hard (even for most Japanese) to understand the core of the poetry such as wabi and sabi for foreigners (which I don't agree with). To tell the truth, haiku is now totally obsolete in Japan. Only a few aged groups of people actually make them constantly. Tanka, the other short poetic form with 5-7-5-7-7 syllables, is a bit more popular because it can express one's feeling more directly in it. As I mentioned in my blog post, there are so many haiku practitioners in the world today. Although this minimal poetic form depends much on each culture (since we have to use the connotations of the minimum words embedded in each culture at maximum), As far as I know, the rules still work for most of the haiku practitioners around the world except season words. To sort the argument, maybe we'd better distinguish the appreciation of the classical literature in Japan from today's creative writing activity for the people in the world.

    As for your haiku, it really captures the critical moment that everyone might have had in one's daily life and evokes the very feeling in that situation as you discribed. "Sunshine in the morning" is often used in Japanese traditional haiku as the winter (and sometimes autumn) word. It is probably because people are more likely to feel and appreciate the warmth of the sunshine in the cold temperature. (But it doesn't mean that the event happening in your haiku is in winter. Actually, it's totally opposite. We can guess it's summer since there is no blanket or quilt on the futon and the small remote controller of an air conditioner is found in the photo.) Personalization of the object (in your case, Pikachu) is also often done in haiku, although some readers might not understand what the Pikachu is and might lead to the different interpretation of the poem without attaching the photo (which is out of the rules this time). However, it still cleared all the rules and successfully generates a certain scenery in the reader's mind.

    I hope my comment makes some sense to you in somehow.

  4. I'm about to show my total haiku ignorance. I don't know how to make a plural reference.

    Should there be an 's' at the end as in "Bobby made 7 really cool haikus"?

    or, "Jessika's six haiku win the award forever" ??

    Please help??

  5. As far as I know, there is no "s" in the plural form of the word "haiku". For your reference:

    Merriam-Webster Online

  6. Oh wow, Shinichiro you're the haiku master! Thanks for all the feedback!

    It's interesting to know that even among Japanese there seems to be some kind of rift between those who do haiku "right" and those who make "mistakes", which if your comment of "haiku is now totally obsolete in Japan" is true that would actually be quite shocking seeing as how I don't expect it to exist anywhere else if NOT Japan. :O

    Perhaps I think it would be more accurate to say that the style of the literary form has changed over time, which you address in your statement of "...we'd better distinguish the appreciation of the classical literature in Japan from today's creative writing activity for the people in the world." I would draw a similarity to classical Shakespearean plays. The language (even if its English) and mannerisms involved are very much different from plays today but both are still called "plays". If someone wants to take the extra effort to mimic the Shakespearean style he/she may do so as an extra, a "period" play, and I think this is what is happening with haiku now compared to the "original" kind if I'm understanding your points correctly. If that's the case then we can quite safely say that although Haiku now differ largely from haiku as it originally was, that it's just a change of the art form over time rather than its erasure, and it might be useful to note these historic changes if one is aiming to study haiku proper (i.e. beyond ds106 :P).

    Apart from that I would also like to thank you for taking the time to analyse my haiku (and photograph!) and for commenting. It's definitely a great help. It was particularly interesting to learn that the phrase "sunshine in the morning" exists in actual Japanese haiku, but in a very different sense. It seems that one cannot fully understand haiku (or at least "traditional" haiku) without having been properly exposed to a certain breadth of work, if phrase and word-based connections have their own implications. Haiku are short but they're sure tough!

    I also agree on the Pikachu bit, that it definitely closes the reading of the haiku to those in the know and that others not in the know may interpret it in a different way. I would be interested to know what those interpretations are though; it sounds like it might be interesting :)

  7. Oh and also, I would agree with Shinichiro on the "s" thing. It works the same way as saying "sushi" instead of "sushis" and I guess an English equivalent would be "fish", where there's no distinction between the singular and plural. I believe this is the case because the Japanese language often does not innately distinguish the singular and plural either and so the conjugation rules are carried over as is.

    For contrast when Japanese-to-English loan words are attached to an English word (e.g. Sumo "wrestlers"), then an "s" may be affixed as per normal English structure, the reason there being that the back end of the subject is in regular English and may be conjugated as such.

  8. Thanks for this. I love Komiyama's post too but I'm late to the game (time moves quickly in DS106) so your post is a good round up of what's going and I love your analyses.
    Nice Haiku too.
    I must say, though, that I really wish I had sun streaming into my bedroom to wake me up. Much more civilized than an alarm clock. It's so dark and grey these days in Canada.

  9. Thank you! Mm well I don't mind the sun coming in when I have to get up anyway, but on the weekends...

    On the other hand if it's dark and grey in Canada for a stretch I can see how it would make a nice change :(