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Get To Know Me

Notes - In Japanese, which Haiku were first written, there are no plures. You have one Haiku, two Haiku, etc. Therefore, I will not write the Japanese with English endings so they will agree with the rest of the sentence.
Also, in Japan it is proper to write a person's family name before there personal name. This shows respect and honor for ones family.

What is the history of Haiku?
The form of poetry known as Haiku today first appeared in Japan around the 16th century. Before then there where courtly poems called Tanka. These had five lines with five syllables in the first line, followed by seven in the second, five again in the third and ending with the last two lines having seven syllables. Soon, companions writing Tanka formed into a game of writing multi-author poems. The first person would write a verse of three lines, the syllables being five-seven-five. Then a driftnet author would write a verse of only two lines both with syllables of seven. The game would go on and the poem would be dozens of verses long by the end. This new form was called renga and soon much importance was placed on the starting verse called hokku. Many people would write the hokku before they went to renga parties so they would have a very impressive opening is the game was started. After a time, the hokku grew in popularity and became a form all in itself. Still the word was not in the Japanese language until the 19th century. Then the latest "Master of Haiku" Shiki Masaoka made the word by blending the formal name of the game, haikai no renga, and the name of the starting verse, hokku.
Today, the English-speaking world has transformed Haiku. No longer dose it neither follow the oringal five-seven-five patterns, nor do they speak only about nature.

Who are the Great Masters of Haiku?
Basho Matsuo- is undoubtedly the first great poet of hokku and haiku. He was inspired by Tchouang-tseu, a philosopher in the fourth century. He often quotes him and uses similar themes in his haiku. For example in this one haiku:
To a leg of a heron
Adding a long shank
Of a pheasant.
Basho was creating a parody of the text in "The Book of the Master Tchouang" where it says "When you see a long object, you don't have to think that it is too long if being long is the property given by the nature. It is proved by the fact that a duckling, having short legs, will cry if you try to draw them out by force, and that a crane, having long legs, will protest you with tears if you try to cut them with a knife."
Most of Basho's haiku are overly dramatic. They emphasize one emotion or feeling and often have a paradoxal twist.
Buson Yosa- the 18th century was when the haikai no renga became steadily less popular and more effort was put into the beginning hokku. Buson was a very talented painter and writer. Much driftnet then Basho, Buson didn't write about philosophy or grand ideas, instead he described landscapes with such grace that has never been captured again. His works have had a colossal impact on modern haiku and it is a sham that his works rely so much on the functions and double meanings abounding in the Japanese language. The very thing that makes the poems so breathless is also the thing that makes them so hard to translate into other languages.
Issa- Born in Kashiwabara, Issa spent much of his early life in poverty. At the age of twenty-five he was finally able to attended a school for Haiku writing. He learned techniques there that would help him become a great writer. His haiku are drenched in double meaning that takes a few reads before you can only begin to understand them.
Shiki Masaoka- Coined the word "haiku" in the 19th century giving the poetic form a word. The latest of all the masters he was a major critic. He wrote many essays, including "Basho Zatsudan" where he berated Basho's famous works saying they lacked poetic purity and grace. He thought that Buson was a wonderful poet on the other hand, writing that his haiku where technically refined and they transmitted impressions to readers with superb clarity. His ideas on laconic, or the use of minimum words, and shasei or sketching, refreshed the haiku community and caused uproar in Japan.

What does Jack Kerouac have to do with Haiku in America?
He is one of the best-known writers of the '50s. He wrote many haiku and a couple of novels the most famous being "On the Road". He had an unhappy life with two failed marriages and alcoholism until his death in 1969.

Who are the living contributors to the Haiku scene today?
Kay Anderson, Dimitar Anakiev, and Fay Aoyagi to name a few. They each have written many books as well as haiku. They are also all involved in organization keeping haiku alive today around the world.

Define Haiku.
hai·ku ( P ) Pronunciation Key (h k )
n. pl. haiku
1. A Japanese lyric verse form having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, traditionally invoking an aspect of nature or the seasons.
2. A poem written in this form.
[Japanese: hai, amusement (from Middle Chinese b ij, pha·j) + ku, sentence (from Middle Chinese ku h).]
Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

What is the difference between Haiku and Senryu?
Haiku were written about nature, senryu on the other hand are sarcastic or at time sardonic poems about people. The form is named after an Edo period writer, Senryu Karai whom the form is named for.
Some senryu include the kigo or season words in haiku. These words have second meanings more times, and are often placed with much humor out of context in senryu.
Modern haiku are more like senryu then traditional haiku.

What is the difference between traditional and contemporary Haiku?
As I stated above, haiku written today is more like traditional senryu - they are about people and places more then nature. English haiku has been altered the most. With the five-seven-five structure, the English haiku can become long and tedious to read. More and more writers today are tossing the frame to the wind and using shorter lines.

What is the difference between Western and Eastern Haiku?
Eastern haiku is a wonderful art form. Due to the nature and style of the Japanese langue and a few others, double means are rampant. With the addition of kigo, it adds a whole other layer to the poems that makes them at times sarcastic and teasing. The kigo often create a world with a simple word. For example, in this haiku -
autumn rain --
the weathered tire swing
The autumn rain could symbolize a grim feeling and the weathered tire overflowing gives a sense of loneliness in a time of bounty.
In Western haiku the frame of five-seven-five is often too long for the author's meaning. Therefore, many have switched to a three-seven-three format. For example this haiku-
his side of it.
her side of it
winter silence
-Lee Gurga
The lines are each four syllables for a total of twelve.

What is SPAM Haiku, and does it have a place in the serious writing community?
SPAM haiku are poems written about the caned meat that is SPAM. SPAM is also an electric mail that advertises a product and is quite annoying. People now have been trying to form haiku out of the subject lines of these unwanted ads. On a message board/chat room SPAM is a post that disrupts the normal flow of conversation. SPAM haiku is just as annoying as all of those things put tighter and has no purpose in the writing community.

Marge Piercy
Marge Piercy was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1936. She was the first of her family to attend college. She went to the University of Michigan. She gained a Master's Degree from Northwestern University. Her mother had always influenced her to be an independent woman. This is why she left her first husband, who treated her like an inferior and didn't care about her writing.
After leaving her husband she moved to many different cities developing her writing skills. She had become poor and resorted to taking various jobs around Chicago, while trying to become published. Unfortunately her work went unnoticed and unpublished.
After another failed marriage Marge continued to take interest in feminist activities, which strongly influenced her writing style. The issues that she fights for contribute to the passion she puts into her writing. Her writing has a truthful look on the world around her. The idea of independent women shows up in many of her poems. Other things that Piercy writes about are things found in nature. She seems to love nature and the many things in the world.

Colors Passing Through Us. By Marge Piercy

Purple as tulips in May, mauve
into lush velvet, purple
as the stain blackberries leave
on the lips, on the hands,
the purple of ripe grapes
sunlit and warm as flesh.
Every day I will give you a color,
like a new flower in a bud vase
on your desk. Every day
I will paint you, as women
color each other with henna
on hands and on feet.

Red as henna, as cinnamon,
as coals after the fire is banked,
the cardinal in the feeder,
the roses tumbling on the arbor
their weight bending the wood
the red of the syrup I make from petals.

Orange as the perfumed fruit
hanging their globes on the glossy tree,
orange as pumpkins in the field,
orange as butterflyweed and the monarchs
who come to eat it, orange as my
cat running lithe through the high grass.

Yellow as a goat's wise and wicked eyes,
yellow as a hill of daffodils,
yellow as dandelions by the highway,
yellow as butter and egg yolks,
yellow as a school bus stopping you,
yellow as a slicker in a downpour.

Here is my bouquet, here is a sing
song of all the things you make
me think of, here is oblique
praise for the height and depth
of you and the width too.
Here is my box of new crayons at your feet.

Green as mint jelly, green
as a frog on a lily pad twanging,
the green of cos lettuce upright
about to bolt into opulent towers,
green as Grand Chartreuse in a clear
glass, green as wine bottles.

Blue as cornflowers, delphiniums,
bachelors' buttons. Blue as Roquefort,
blue as Saga. Blue as still water.
Blue as the eyes of a Siamese cat.
Blue as shadows on new snow, as a spring
azure sipping from a puddle on the blacktop.

Cobalt as the midnight sky
when day has gone without a trace
and we lie in each other's arms
eyes shut and fingers open
and all the colors of the world
pass through our bodies like strings of fire.

Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, on the West Hills of Long Island, New York. He was the second born of nine children. His mother was illiterate so she never read his poems, but he adored her and she gave him unconditional love. His father was a carpenter and a stern disciplinarian. It is doubtful that he ever read any of his son's poems. Walt's father was too burdened with the struggle to support his family of nine children, four of whom were handicapped.
Walt had to leave school at the age of eleven to help support his family. When he was twelve he began to learn the printer's trade. He fell in love with the written and printed word. He read a lot and became familiar with Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and Scott. He knew the bible well and desired peace and equality between all people.
When Walt was seventeen he began working as a one-room schoolteacher on Long Island. He allowed his students to call him by his first name and came up with games to teach them arithmetic and spelling. He taught school until 1841, then turned to journalism as a full time carrier. He became the editor of many Brooklyn and New York newspapers. In 1848 he went to New Orleans and became the editor of the New Orleans Crescent for a brief time. While he was there he became interested in the French language. Many of his poems contain French words.
In 1848 Walt returned to Brooklyn and founded the "Brooklyn Freeman" Between 1848 and 1855 he developed his own style of poetry. One of the great sources of Walt's inspiration was music. A year before he died his final essay summed up 30 years of his life. It begins with his memories of "the best of songs heard" and it ended with another statement about music, "the strongest and sweetest songs remain yet to be sung."
O Captain! My Captain! By Walt Whitman
O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up-for you the flag is flung-for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths-for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Robert Frost
Robert Lee Frost was born San Francisco, on March 26, 1874. He was one of America's leading 20th century poets and a 4-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize. His verse was traditional, but he often said that he would as soon play tennis without a net as write free verse. He was an expert in the interplay of rhythm and meter and in the poetic use of every day vocabulary. Therefore his poetry is traditional and experimental.
After his father died in 1885 when Robert was 11 years old his family moved out of California to live in Massachusetts. He attended high school there then went to Dartmouth College, but only stayed there for less than one semester. He then taught school and worked in a mill as a newspaper reporter. In 1894 he sold "My Butterfly: An Elegy" to The Independent, a New York literary journal. A year later he and
Elinor White got married. From 1897 to 1899 he went to Harvard College but left without a degree. For the following ten years he wrote poetry, operated a farm in Derry, New Hampshire, and taught at Derry's Pinkerton Academy.
In 1912 he sold his farm and used the money to move his family to England. There he devoted himself to his writing. He was almost immediately successful. A Boy's Will was accepted by a London publisher and brought out in 1913, followed a year later by North of Boston. Good reviews from both sides of the Atlantic resulted in the publication of the books from Henry Holt and Company and the establishing of Frost's transatlantic reputation.

Ghost House by Robert Frost

I DWELL in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow.

O'er ruined fences the grape-vines shield
The woods come back to the mowing field;
The orchard tree has grown one copse
Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops;
The footpath down to the well is healed.

I dwell with a strangely aching heart
In that vanished abode there far apart
On that disused and forgotten road
That has no dust-bath now for the toad.
Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart;

The whippoorwill is coming to shout
And hush and cluck and flutter about:
I hear him begin far enough away
Full many a time to say his say
Before he arrives to say it out.

It is under the small, dim, summer star.
I know not who these mute folk are
Who share the unlit place with me--
Those stones out under the low-limbed tree
Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar.

They are tireless folk, but slow and sad,
Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad,--
With none among them that ever sings,
And yet, in view of how many things,
As sweet companions as might be had.