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Japanese form

by Jeff Phelps on February 6th, 2014

Haiku is not a kind of tag wrestling, as all creative writers know.  It isn’t Sumo.

P1010011It’s a poetic form which originated in Japan.  I won’t say any more than that for fear of being set upon by Haiku experts, but it’s short – which is nice in all sorts of ways – and there are some stunning examples.  Some of the ones on this postcard are pretty good – Seamus Heaney’s of course, and John Cooper Clarke’s observation on the belief some have that Haikus have to be 17 syllables in total.  You see, for some people it almost is a religion.  It has ‘beliefs’.

Back in 1996 there was even a championship, which makes me think it was a little like Sumo.  You could send up to six entries on the back of the postcard.  This was followed by a Celebrity Gala Haiku evening.  I wonder how much it cost to get a ringside seat?

There’s another Japanese form called a Renga which is a collective poem – a chain poem.  P1010012Some poetry friends and  I had a go at one in 1989.  In two days we wrote and printed something that opens up like an OS map.  We thought it might only be the second European Renga in history.  It’s strange and rather nice to look at and hold.

Now a nearby U3A have asked me to lead them in a communal poem and I thought about the Renga again, and, of course, Haiku – and the fact that several of us will sit down and try and produce something in co-operation rather than in competition made me realise it’s not like Sumo after all.

But don’t believe me. Try the British Haiku society.


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