How to haiku

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Lesson Two

Hope you all had a chance to read Michael Dylan Welch’s essay in the last newsletter! I thought his explanation of syllables in haiku was very good. Some journals do insist on 5-7-5 still and others don’t want any 5-7-5, so make sure you read the submission guidelines carefully.

Today I wanted to go more into depth about season words in haiku. Known as kigo in Japanese, season words add layers of common understanding to a haiku. For example, the season word “cherry blossoms” tells you exactly what time of year it is as well as brings up colours and smells that are common to all (or at least most) people. In addition a season word generally imparts a sense of emotion, in the case of cherry blossoms that would likely be love. Season words also ground the haiku in nature.

There is a great list of over 500 season words available here. New words have been added over the years, especially ones that are specific to North America.

We generally think of the four seasons, but in Japan there are also mini-seasons and micro-seasons! A really good resource about these seasons is the Naturalist Weekly. I encourage you to sign up to the email list.

In senryu, another tercet Japanese short form, no seasonal reference is required although one can be used. In haiku there is usually only one season word but that’s not a hard and fast rule.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about either Michael’s essay from last week on syllables or about season words!


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