Haiku ( 俳句 ) is a favorite pastime for both the Japanese people and the foreign people. The traditional haiku poem consists of 3 lines with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line and 5 syllables in the third line. It includes a seasonal word ‘Ki go’ ( 季語 ) that explains the time and season of the poem. The seasonal word will have an impact on the reader’s feelings as each season tells a different story in Japan. Spring is often related to new beginnings, a fresh start or the time for growth. Summer will relate to warmth, liveliness, full of energy and activities. Autumn gives the feeling of life slowing down, less energy and more calmness. Winter is often related to coldness, still life and sadness.
The most famous haiku poet was Matsuo Basho during the Edo period in Japan. Let’s take a look at one of his haiku poem.
古池や (fu-ru-i-ke ya )
蛙飛び込む (ka-wa-zu to-bi-ko-mu)
水の音 (mi-zu no o-to)
Translation to English:
At the age old pond ( 5 syllables )
A frog leaps into water ( 7 syllables )
A deep resonance ( 5 syllables )
The seasonal word in the haiku poem is ‘frog’ which explains that the season is spring.
From what I’ve learned about haiku is that this poetic style contains two perspectives – one is from the mind ( what you see from your eyes ), second is from the heart ( what you feel from your heart ).
The first image you can see is the stillness of the pond, and then the second image shows that the frog has disturbed the stillness of the pond while making a sound. The interpretation of the haiku poem is entirely up to the reader. The reader can freely relate the meaning to his or her own experiences and circumstances. So there is no fixed interpretation of each haiku poem.
I think that is the true strength of the haiku poetic style – to show deep meanings in 3 simple lines.
Nowadays, new haiku styles are invented and introduced to the international poet community like innovative haiku and contemporary haiku. These new styles don’t follow the 5-7-5 form and they are more flexible with the traditional rules.