THE ISN'TS OF HAIKU by Lorraine Ellis Harr
Do Your Haiku Submissions Contain Any of These ISNT'Ts? Better Check!
1. Haiku ISN'T a prose sentence divided Into 3 lines of 5-7-5 syllables, nor a "dribble of prose." Haiku IS an art form that requires study and discipline.
2. Haiku ISN'T always divided into 5-7-5 syllables. The 5-7-5 count refers to the Japanese onji (symbol/sound) not to English language syllables. It IS usually in a short/long/short form. It ISN'T "padded" with modifiers to make the count come out right.
3. Haiku ISN'T poetics (in the English-language-poetry sense) but IS pure poetry.
4. Haiku ISN'T simile or metaphor. Simile and metaphor turn haiku into English-poetics.
5. Haiku ISN'T an intellectual statement - it IS an intuitive response to NATURE.
6. Haiku isn't a picture postcard or a "pretty picture". It IS a moment of heightened awareness which may be shared by the reader. It should have depths of meaning.
7. Haiku ISN'T a 3-Line poem with the first or last line a title for the other 2. All 3 lines should be necessary to the clarity of the haiku. Don't waste word-space.
8. Haiku ISN'T summed-up by the poet's intellectual comment regarding the experience. It IS left open-ended, so that the reader can share in its creation.
9. Haiku ISN'T a clutter of words strung together to get a 5-7-5 syllable count, or a staccato tongue-twister. Haiku should flow, especially when read aloud. It doesn't rhyme, except rarely. Avoid run-on lines. Take the time to write haiku without them.
10. Haiku ISN'T a mechanical poetry with rhythms (i.e. iambic pentameter) but the line endings should be as complete a thought as possible, with the total poem as the total expression. Haiku requires polishing! "Anything worth doing is worth doing well".
11. Haiku ISN'T of human values, morals, judgments, comments, etc. It ISN'T an epigram or a couplet. It ISN'T didactic, either overtly or covertly. It IS of Nature & the "Nature of Things". Capturing the "Nature of Things" is the essence of good haiku.
12. Haiku ISN'T anthropomorphic, as English-language poetry. No humanizing of nature or personification! Rather, Naturalize MAN. This is a subtle difference.
13. Haiku ISN'T a generalization about something. It IS a specific thing/time/place/season/event. It IS nature poetry in the Japanese sense (ZEN-like). In the present moment.
14. Haiku ISN'T a "tell-all". It IS indicating by not saying. Show don't tell.
15. Haiku ISN'T obscure. The season (ki) should be named, or a season-word (kigo) used. The reader should be able to co-create the mood/season/event. Be specific. Don't say "tree" if you mean elm; don't say "bird" if you mean wren, for instance. The thing/time/place/season should be apparent to the reader. Avoid "this" or "that" bird/insect/leaf etc. Unnecessary.
16. Haiku ISN'T a "pretty picture", nor is it deliberately grim for the sake of "showing off". It is an interplay between 2 or more things/objects in a state of unresolved tension - don't tell the reader how to react, or feel; leave the reader something to co-create.
17. Haiku ISN'T just anything that comes to mind. It IS a specific enlightened experience shared with the reader. It IS heightened awareness not imaginary images. It IS what is going on right here/right now, not a day-dream or exposition.
18. Use no unnecessary words, that overlap or say the same thing such as April/Spring, Winter/Snow. Each word should have value & importance. Choose carefully.
19. Haiku ISN'T just a "little poem" by anyone who can count to 17. The Masters of the Art worked at it, sometimes an entire lifetime.
20. Haiku ISN'T easy to write, but when you get "hooked" you'll be glad you tried it. The study & discipline sharpen the perception & improve all other fields of writing, as well as adding zest to living. Haiku IS what IS!
by Lorraine Ellis Harr
[I hope this is an unadulterated version. The link I had to these "isn'ts" has long since "died." I subsequently found this online in someone's blog post. Other searches turned up just referencing it's existence, or were clearly someone's brief notes based thereon.]