Haiku & Sumi-e
Sumi-e, Flowing Spirit
Sumi-e, "ink picture" in Japanese, is an art form so refined by the Japanese
that many assume the art originated in Japan. Chinese calligraphy forms the
basis of Sumi-e, practiced in China as early as 200 C.E. (current era).
Zen Buddhist monks are credited with introducing the art to Korea and Japan
around 1300 C.E.
Sumi-e is ink and ink-wash painting with a defined brushstroke technique.
The subject of the art is not so much an object, as the essence of an object,
its spirit. To present that essential spirit the scene is simplified,
capturing only the most necessary elements. Much like the enforced
restraint of a well-formed Haiku, limited strokes convey a wealth of
meaning in pattern and organization. Each brushstroke pervades the senses.
My master-teacher offered Sumi-e as an opportunity to learn patience.
Garden Sculptures from recycled materials.
Ink and WaterColors
Haiku, Essential Songs
Al Rocheleau, a poet and teacher, treats Haiku in the section
Haiku: Beyond the 5-7-5
The Forms of Poetry Part Six,
© 1998] shares the goal for writing appropriately soul searching Haiku, and
points [out] the differences in verbal techniques for nature-based haiku and
According to master Rocheleau,
"One should not confuse haiku with Senryu, another three-line, 5-7-5 style that
is NOT nature-based, but is much more open in both subject matter
(including the human side of existence) and subjective viewpoint, incorporating at times,
even humor and political content. "
EagleTurtle will sometimes use the term "Haiku" very generically because
that is the most readily recognized word for a short syllabic-based poem.
To honor the form appropriately, we should recognize some key components, and some
expanded or differentiated forms that are often confused.
- Haiku —Haiku is an objective, Japanese short poem based on a nature theme, with
three lines consisting of the following syllable-per-line set:
five, then seven, then five.
- Kidai —seasonal topics
- Kigo —season words
- Kireji —cutting word
- Kidai —seasonal topics
- Toriawase (juxtaposition of two "things")
Example: "Listen" is one those plain English words which turn
poetic if correctly used. The first line is visual.
The second line turns all that into audio, a switch which has a similar effect to
that of kireji (cutting word). A switch from one sense of ours to another is a
very effective way of making a haiku dynamic, non-flat and more immediate,
Basho's favourite trick!
- Hokku —opening verse: The first stanza of a sequence of linked verse,
traditionally required to exhibit special compositional characteristics including
the use of both kigo and kireji. In modern usage, and especially since
Masaoka Shiki known, when composed as an independent poem, as Haiku.
- Maekuzuke —Pronounced "maheecoozookay" maeku-zuke or
maekuzuke literally means "joining to a previous verse"
- Renku —In renku, the mae-ku (previous verse) is capped by
- Renga —poetic dialogue: A poem of two or more indirectly linked stanzas,
usually composed by several persons, and alternating long stanzas of twenty-one
syllables with short stanzas of fourteen. In modern usage, a long sequence of
linked verse whose content continually evolves.
- Senryu —Japanese for "river willow", Senryu was the
pen name of the renowned master of "verse-capping contests" (maekuzuke).
senryu, also a three-line, 5-7-5 style that is NOT nature-based, much more open
in subject matter and viewpoint, possibly incorporating humor, political content,
and sometimes the cynicism and mocking independence of the style and meter of an
opening verse typical of the author, Senryu.
- Sijo —Korean three-line poetry form; The most melodic and fewest syllabic
count of the Pyongsijo style, is now identified "sijo" and is the form
to which North American poets are most acquainted.
- Tanka —short poem: A poem comprising two elements
—a 5/7/5/ kami-no-ku (upper verse) and a 7/7 shimo-no-ku (lower verse).
In modern practice the two elements are frequently so fused as to be indistinguishable.