First Time


Some years ago I read Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Traveled, a history and celebration of verse.

Though not a textbook, it does feature exercises for the reader at the end of each chapter.

Following the guidelines in these exercises, I tried my hand (or pen, if you will) at all sorts of verse forms, from sonnets to limericks, and even a gazel. Yet I had never tried a haiku, until now.

The form was developed in Japan in the nineteenth century.

Non-Japanese poets have attempted haikus, including this evocative example from Jorge Luis Borges (literal translation by Stephen Fry):

La vasta noche
no es ahora otra cosa
que una fragancia

(The enormous night
is now nothing more
than a fragrance.)

There are a number of rules to writing a haiku beyond the 5 7 5 syllable count.

It's the norm to allude to the season of the year, at least by referring to the weather or atmosphere.

The poem itself is usually regarding a reverence for life and the natural world, and engages the senses, distilling a moment of epiphany.

In terms of craft, a haiku uses very few verbs, may include puns, and usually includes a caesura at the end of the first or second line.

I tried not to think of all these words as I wrote mine. In true haiku fashion, I waited until I had a moment of inspiration.

Spring. Crimson and gold
Fins flicker under water
The pond of healing.

September-October 2011

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Istanbul: I Only Have Two Days To See Everything!
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Just Plain Nesin