Saturday, February 24, 2018


Photography by Nina Grace


In our HaikuMasterClass talented American poet Nina Grace offered two versions of her poem Solemn sky: one in 17 syllables, other version, very reduced, is only 6 syllables. In my comment I wanted to offer some general explanation, then to teach the art of composing haiku, and to show what usually is lost with such reduction. Originally I posted my answer in my comments to her post but because I think all this discussion is of general interest I republish it here again via Kamesan's Haiku Blog:

solemn skies break free
releasing diamonique stars
smokey clouds erased
- - - 5-7-5. ©Nina Grace

Another version:

break free
solemn skies
- - - ©Nina Grace

"Classical" mistake in interpreting 5-7-5 is speaking about it as an "obligation" that you "must" fulfill in artificial way by filling out unnecessary words. Such mistake in interpretation is very often intentional; it wants to cover with the mist real reasons for destroying the most basic and most simple tool in poetry - the form. We must start explanation from this point: form is a part of the freedom of expression not a limit and obligation. The simplest way to create poem is to count syllables. It is an anti-intellectual, childish way that anyone understand - you do not need any theory for using this tool; it is ancient. You do not need to know anything but just to speak through the rhythm of nature ( 5 and 7 syllables are taken from nature). So when they take from you the tool of form basically they disable you to have spontaneous free talk through haiku. They disable you to express things essential to you in the most free and simple way. Instead you must speak in very indirect and artificial way only through collecting images (using the theory of juxtaposition). And, when you must speak only through the images you are basically mute. That is the real goal of dropping the form out. Poets transformed into mute image collectors ("stamp collectors"?). Poets disabled to criticize! Poets disabled to open the heart!(sic!) It is clear right wing politics in haiku. You can read contemporary so called "ELH" days and days but you will learn nearly nothing about the authors as human beings. So it is not the same when you jump into the personal poetic experience through the door of rhythm and through the door of image. Rhythm is the most basic, most direct and most simple way to talk. Contemporary Western haiku poets mainly forget to speak in natural way own language when create haiku poems. That is why I selected for this Saturday haiku from Kamesan's anthology on War... poem of an excellent poet, James Kirkup, to learn again spontaneous expressing of a poet through haiku:

British hooligans
act like apes – no compliment
to that noble beast
- - - James Kirkup (1918-2009, UK/Andorra)

Back to the above poems of Nina Grace. Classical structure of the haiku usually has two parts that creates superposition (juxtaposition). One of the parts is natural, other human, personal (or historic, social, scientific etc). So the "mistake" in composition of Nina's 5-7-5 version is that both parts of juxtaposition are taken from the nature, human part is missing. The first part of Nina's poem speaks about liberation of the stars, so the "liberation" is the topic of the poem. The third line could use the same topic but taken from human world. I will try just to give a didactic example:

- - - After Nina Grace

Solemn skies break free
releasing diamonique stars
far away from Cuba
- - - Dimitar Anakiev

I hope you can see what way art of composing haiku works. Comments and discussion are very welcome.

Dimitar Anakiev

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