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The official requirement that an English haiku have the 5-7-5 syllables does not quite make it a haiku.

We don’t speak Japanese, the ideal medium for haikus, for transmitting the ideograms, ideas and Japanese cultural metaphors.

We don’t have cultural metaphors that are short enough to have either 5 or 7 syllables and at the same time artistic. (“ Pop goes the weasel” “Annie get your gun” –maybe?)

Though I’ve been working on the concept of Neohaiku, it still suffers from wordiness. But it might grasp the sense of haiku formula –not the syllable formula—the three object structure. That means that the haiku should have a set up, an attribution and a delivery.

From the Haiku clinic (
A Riddle type, free of the syllable formula:

deepening night
shadows the tips
of bat wings

An Emotion type, also free of the formula:

Chapel walk--
last semester's papers
scattered on the bricks.

I think had these haikus been massaged into the 5-7-5 syllable formula, the flavor of the situation would have fizzed out.

To check with translations of the haiku masters (of the 17 century), like Bosho:

Waterjar cracks:
I lie awake
This icy night.

Heron's cry
Stabs the darkness

Sick on a journey:
Over parched fields
Dreams wander on.

Again, no formula, only the 3 object structure in English. In Japanese they would still use the 17 character format, a visually pleasing arrangement of their ideograms. Which must be Katakana and Hiragana.

Does anyone know if Kanji, being whole-word ideograms, are ever used in Haiku?

Then I come back to the HUP: why use the syllable formula in English?

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The following comments are for "HUP: The Haiku Uncertainty Principle."
by Teflon

if haiku is 5-7-5, does that mean in Japenese or in english, as japanese syllables are different than english syllables....Bob:)

( Posted by: poetryman [Member] On: September 10, 2004 )

depends on mentality

I guess the Japanese haiku first of all is driven by characters:

Looking at the three syllables, doesn't it create the tought of three ideas? But in English 7-5-7 haikus, the syllable awareness is gone.

( Posted by: Teflon [Member] On: September 10, 2004 )

That certainly poses a problem. Japanese words were ideal for haiku; their multiple syllables could create an utterly simple, but beautiful, image within a few words. As well, each haiku could have multiple meanings and translations, as a large amount of Japanese words had several meanings.
Here, English can never reach the full beauty Japanese splendors in Haiku. We can write a haiku with many one-syllable words, and the meaning is often plain. In this, 5-7-5 loses importance in English, as with such a pattern we could easily write a haiku with 17 words.

( Posted by: Ilan Bouchard [Member] On: February 28, 2005 )

Ilan summarizes
I think your comment is a good summary on the differences between the two languages, as felt acutely in the genre.

( Posted by: Teflon [Member] On: March 1, 2005 )

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