Poetic Terms


About Poetic Terms
The purpose of this page of information about poetic terms is to help us to better understand poetry and its different forms and expressions. We have started small, but this page will build. Contact us to let us know if there are terms you would like to see on this page.

Slide presentation: More About Poetry by: Shirley Hammond with a few additions by Glenn Currier

Haiku in Brief
(musings by John D. Call)

Over some thirty years of writing poetry my poems have tended to be brief.  I guess this
is part of the reason I was drawn to haiku.  Also I have for a long time been interested in
Eastern thought, and haiku has its roots in Chinese and Japanese sensibilities, especially
Zen Buddhism.

I spent about two years or so writing haiku and its near twin, senryu, almost exclusively
and have had a few published in a haiku journal.  Both haiku and senryu use the same
variety of line configurations.  The lines can be arranged in many ways, some of which are
illustrated below.  For the most part lower case letters are used and usually no
punctuation or title.

The haiku expresses a sudden experience of the natural world and at its best hints at or
suggests some insight about life, often with an element of surprise.  The senryu
accomplishes the same thing except that its subject matter is human nature and its
interaction with the natural world or with itself. I think of a haiku/senryu as a “splash in
the stream of consciousness,” because like a splash it is sudden and surprising and has the
power to draw one’s attention to itself and for the moment demands one’s full focus.

Below I have given some examples from my own poems to illustrate some different
configurations haiku/senryu can take (not exhaustive) and the difference in haiku and
senryu. 

It should also be said that these examples represent the more “westernized” form of
haiku/senryu (which might be called “free haiku”).  It maintains the spirit of haiku while
not demanding a strict adherence to the criteria regarding form and length (seventeen
syllables in three lines of 5-7-5 syllables), and content that the traditional haiku poets
continue to observe.

Examples of haiku - by John Call

   the wheeling
of nights and days
   caught in a moving shadow


in the autumn wood
    a drizzle
        of leaves


at night – soft light of the snow


            sun setting –
          in the east
      a tower of clouds
   won’t let it go


Examples of senryu - by John Call

traveling through infinite space
I reach
for your hand


with my country friend –
    which side of my heart
shall I pour out


in the eye of a dead fish
     people throwing their Frisbee


ice
water
vapor
water
ice
zazen

All of the above haiku and senryu - Copyright© 2012 by John D. Call

Getting Started

Finally, a good way to get started with haiku/senryu is to read about the process and to
read many poems to begin to take in the sensibilities needed to do it well.  Then write,
write, and write!

The Haiku Handbook
How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku
William J. Higginson

The Haiku Anthology (3rd edition) (Expanded edition)
Ed. Cor van den Heuvel

Haiku:  Eastern Culture
R.H. Blythe

Modern Haiku:  An Independent Journal of Haiku and Haiku Studies
Ed. Charles Trumbull 

 


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