How to Read Haiku

With The Heron’s Nest Editor Fay Aoyagi and Haijin Chad Lee Robinson

Kitagawa Utamaro, circa 1790s

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |

Early on in my haiku and haibun journey, editors rejected my haibun and several advised me to read haiku, said that I’d not be able to write a good haibun until I had mastered the haiku part of haibun’s prose-haiku partnership. I had already looked at the many definitions of the two related genres, but found definitions lacking, particularly the formulaic ones like 5-7-5 syllables in 3 lines, short-long-short.

So I read a lot of haiku, both those of the Japanese masters and of contemporary haijin who managed to get their haiku published and learned I simply didn’t get much out of them. Indeed, I mostly wondered why the editors picked the haiku featured in their journals.

I learned that Haiku are not only difficult to write, but they are also difficult to read and understand, to “get the poetic spark,” so to speak. A problem was that I had a tendency to read them once quickly and to read too many at a time. In short, I was glancing at them, not engaging in deep reading.

I decided that in order to better understand haiku and thus, to be better able to write a worthy haiku and haibun, I had to first hone my reading skills, so that I could appreciate and understand why the editors selected some and not others, and particularly not mine. And that’s what this three part series is about – How to do a deep reading of haiku as a first step in learning how to compose haiku.

Continue reading -> Part 1

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