By Ashley Lister
Two naked bodies
Intertwined twixt midnight sheets
Slick silvered shadows
I can’t believe we’ve gone almost a year on this blog without discussing haiku as a writing exercise. The haiku is one of the most accessible forms of syllable based poetry. When used as a warm up device before writing, it’s a form of poetry that can help a writer focus on the essence of the words in her or his vocabulary.
As most people know, the traditional haiku is a three line poem based on a strict syllable count. Obviously there are some variations.
There’s the pop haiku, characterised by Jack Kerouac’s interpretation of the form.
There are senryu, identical to haiku in form, but with a content that is wry, ironic or whimsical.But today we’re looking at the traditional haiku with its rigid format:
1st line = 5 syllables
2nd line = 7 syllables
3rd line = 5 syllables
It’s worth noting here the definition of a syllable. The definition below is taken verbatim from the trusty dictionary sitting on my desk.
a unit of pronunciation having one vowel sound, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or a part of a word; for example, there are two syllables in water and three in inferno.
Pearsall, J., Hanks, P., (2005), Oxford Dictionary of English, 2nd Edition, Revised, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
However, even with such an authoritative definition, there will obviously be anomalies in the words we select. We hit words like sure, fire and wheel and can’t
decide whether the word includes one or two syllables. Is it ‘shoor’ or ‘shoe-er’? Is it ‘fire’ or ‘fie-arr’? Is it ‘wheel’ or ‘wee-ell’? My usual response to such observations is: How do you pronounce the word? It’s your poem. Own the word.
And that’s all there is to this form. Obviously haiku can be studied in greater depth. There are some forms that demand the author should mention a season or kigo. There are some forms that require a break at the end of the first line and insist on the juxtaposition of two images in the whole poem. But, for the purposes of this warm-up exercise, it’s enough to craft seventeen syllables of serious sensuality into a single haiku.
After the climax:
Glossy flesh lacquered with sweat
As always, I look forward to seeing your poems in the comments box below.