Thursday, 26 March 2015

How About Some Haiku?

If writing is good for our spirits a little haiku can provide a patch of happiness in a difficult day. Here's a "medical haiku" inspired by a patient who was very proud of his seven syllable diagnosis:

Body pain, mind lame
The knife will fix it

Writing it gave me the breath of fresh air I needed to get through a long day in general practice. It's the structure and the brevity, the creativity and the intellectual challenge that combine to make writing haiku so refreshing.
Is this Murray River sunset worth a haiku?

Haiku, if you are unfamiliar with them, are a traditional Japanese poetic form dating back to the 17th century. Haiku are short and highly structured, having 17 syllable in their original Japanese form, and are meant to express profound emotion and philosophical insight usually through appreciation of the beauty of nature. In English, the 17 syllables are usually divided into 3 lines of five, seven and five syllables, but many liberties are taken with structure.

Haiku were preceded by about 800 to 1,000 years by Japanese songs or "waka" These were in a long form or choka and a shorter form or tanka. 
A tanka follows a 5,7,5,7,7 syllable pattern with 31 syllables in total. Very early tanka date back as far as 900 AD and are often mood pieces about love, the shortness of life or nature. The extra syllables provide more room for metaphor and other poetic devices that tiny haiku don't allow for.

Apparently, in ancient Japan, poets gathered to compete in contests and join in renga parties
where they took turns to write tanka length stanzas of a longer poem, or renga. Now, call me odd if you like, but this sounds like great fun to me! I bet there was plenty of sake and lot of laughter by the end of the night - and one very long and rambling poem.

Those ancient Japanese really knew how to enjoy themselves.

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