Haikus, Tankas, and Japanese Love Poetry

by phil on Saturday Nov 20, 2004 1:07 AM
Japan, poetry

(a pic of an azalea [1])

I picked an azalea
And brought it home.
Now when I contemplate it,
In its crimson dye
I see the color
Of my lover's robe.
—Lady Izumi Shikibu

I used to ridicule Haikus and other short Japanese poems for being what I called "wanna-be zen." But as I'm digging in, I'm unlocking their hidden beauty.

click here to look inside this book I'm reading

Here's the trick to reading them. Take an index card and cover every line except the first. Read the first line outloud. Think it through and visualize what is being said. Repeat this for the other lines. And then re-read the poem quickly from top to bottom. Soon a strong dream-like scent should manifest, and in some cases, it will put a light sting into your heart.

Haiku syllabic form is 5-7-5. And Tanka's are 5-7-5-7-7

Here's a Tanka I just came up with:

In fall's cobalt dusk
A reminisce of you heats
My hands in caress.
Hand-in-hand we used to stroll
Down the middle of the road.

Writing this down kind of makes me shiver.

Let's see if I can write a Haiku

Microwave love notes.
Papercut your right pinky.
But let your heart bleed.


I've never been a fan of poetry. Or let me correct that. I've never been a fan of reading other people's poetry. Writing poetry is a different matter. Self-expression is what I'm into.

Hmm, but I'm starting to like these condensed form poems. In a way, "the medium is the message" once again; the short form forces compressed impact. Haikus and Tankas are short on story and narrative, but strong on straight emotive wiff.

And, I've been going this route on my mind blog with various one-liners:

  • I'm looking for my peace-maker.
  • you're going to poison your ontology
  • why do I check my e-mail?
  • I'm trying to get from A to B, but I just don't know where B is.
  • free will is the ability to back intention with action.
  • metallic paper cuts
  • dream about washing machines
  • virtual blood transfusion
  • filipino sand castle
  • 60 minutes of awry.
  • Dreaming of ostrich eggs
  • all your candy-colored lipstick smears

In these short-forms, I'm looking for sweet partnerships between words and concepts. A conceit laced over the right thoughts can drop a mini atom-bomb. datz why I like poetry.


somas said on November 20, 2004 9:55 PM:

good stuff! very jim morrison-esque. i get what your saying. my favourite haiku remains :

If only we might fall
like cherry blossoms in the spring
so pure and radiant.

it's in 6-8-6 form. keep writing.


spoom said on November 21, 2004 3:10 AM:

Very nice. I found your site on a whim, google-searching for "this site does not exist".

by coincidence, I had tried my hand at writing haiku in portuguese on the Sao Paolo Craigslist earlier today:

Muxha, gatinho
lixiera com seu rabo
dando olhada

in loose (7-5-3) translation:

Moosha, sexy little cat
trashcan with his tail
checking out

Keep writing and praising the writing of haiku!

m. nelson said on November 22, 2004 8:41 PM:

I love Japanese love poems and have dabbled a few times in its simplistic elegance that brings much depth of heart, especially when I am with a new love.

Here is my newest, not quite right "on" but I believe the "quintessential essence" is more important than the on count.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

I rode high in the saddle
and knew just when to jump off
that bronco when he bucked.
Even Cowgirls get the blues
On a one trick pony.

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