If you can recall the days of Quizilla without relying on the Wayback Machine, you’ll know that asking, “Which Singer Are You?” or, “HOW EVIL ARE YOU????” did not often result in taking sides and throwing stones. Not so haiku, I’m afraid. Which type of haiku poet you are can get your shitpost taken right the heck off r/haiku. And I’m not kidding!
In an effort to bring some climbing gear to a situation I am making-a-mountain-out-of-a-molehill of, here’s ‘What Type of Haiku Poet Are You????’ to encourage understanding and compassionate co-existence between the warring factions.
Sculpture depicting the first European haiku attempt. Photo by antonio filigno on Pexels.com
the haiku traditionalist
A Traditionalist’s haiku will have a 5-7-5 syllable pattern, be about nature and/or contain a seasonal word, will not be a split sentence, and will be serious1 gosh darn it!
A Traditionalist would love the wikipedia entry for haiku. I couldn’t possibly do it justice, so I will paraphrase it here as, “You didn’t really want to write a haiku. Why don’t you go have a nap?”
The wiki is so daunting in fact, it has certainly been responsible for preventing the births of thousands of baby haiku. It’s a very poetic form of birth control.
After you’ve rested, you can head on over to Reddit, where you’ll find a very clear line drawn in the sand. Reddit user Haiku-Haiku is a Traditionalist, and a moderator of the subreddit r/haiku. They would have you take note of the following:
“Please be mindful that poor effort, split sentence, and meta haiku may be removed as a priority. Do not complain when they are… just resubmit a better quality effort.
What is a split sentence haiku you ask?
It is where you take / a sentence and split it on / the syllable count
Also your “Refrigerator” effort will definitely be removed.”
That shizz doesn’t fly over on reddit.
the haiku fundamentalist
Fundamentalists are all about essence. A Japanese haiku is a lot more concise than its western cousins, mainly because Japanese words tend to have more syllables. Therefore, some poets opt for an altered structure to better translate the haiku’s essential style. Robert Kelly was (officially) the first Haiku Fundamentalist. He created a new form, the lune, in the 1960s. The “Kelly Lune” follows a 5-3-52 syllables per line structure, in an attempt to re-create the less verbose Japanese style. Not long after, poet Jack Collom was inspired to create his own version of the lune, a word-count based variant. The “Collom Lune” is 3-5-3 words per line.
thin sliver of the
high up the real world
-Robert Kelly, “Knee Lunes.”
empty popcorn bowl
sadness creeps slowly over me
I’m so hungry
-Me, Anne. I like popcorn.
To stay true to the fundamentals, these should still be about the natural or seasonal, not tasty food like mine is. They should also not be split sentences like Mr. Kelly’s. I am undermined/by my choice/of these examples.
the haiku modernist
The modern haiku is everywhere. It’s in your twitter feed. It’s in your salad bowl. It’s sliding into your dms, like, right now.
The modern haiku poet is a rebel. It can be a split sentence, it can be a joke, it can be meta. It’s probably going to be 5-7-5 syllables per line most of the time (but we all make mistakes). And, you guessed it—the famous “refrigerator” haiku referenced above…
“Haikus are easy
but sometimes they don’t make sense
the haiku purist
If you are following all the ‘rules’ as outlined on the haiku wikipedia page–in Japanese–you’re a purist. You may also qualify for a Purist membership card if you operate a Basho fan account.
古池や 蛙飛び込む 水の音
Furuike ya/ Kawazu tobikomu/ Mizu no oto
The old pond
A frog leaps in.
Sound of the water.
(thanks to the folks at Masterpieces of Japanese Culture for this translation)
too many haikooks in the haikitchen
In the end, I think the best thing would be for all of us to remember that, just as language changes and the meanings of words change, so do art forms. Haiku is an art form that has adapted to the people who have learned to love it. Whichever category of haiku poet you are, let’s join together as Haiku Diplomatists. We’re all just poets after all. At least we can agree on that.
1. People who write an irreverent haiku and tag it #senryu are Traditionalists.
2. The internet is riddled with suggestions that it is in fact 3-5-3. I am siding with the 5-3-5ers because it appears poems written by Kelly follow this pattern. Whichever way you go, you’re still a Fundamentalist in my book.
3. Attribution is discussed at dejakudiary.wordpress.com