Different types of poems have specific structures eg. a sonnet has 3 quatrains followed by a couplet and a prescribed rhyming form, or a villanelle. Sometimes the format of a poem depends on the poet. A haiku has just three lines – can you imagine writing a poem in 3 lines? I mean you can, but try with 5, 7, and 5 syllables on each line.
Matsuo Basho is one of the greatest haiku poets. On reading his poems I feel like I am living inside the world that he creates. Although his description is bare the mind fills out the details. Consider:
An old pond... A frog jumps into the pond, splash! Silence again.
These lines transport me into a completely different world. The structure of this haiku is also quite interesting: the first line sets the scene, then ACTION! followed by the outcome.
I decided to write a haiku of my own, and trust me when I say it was so difficult to write that I was ready to pull my hair out.
First, I had to think of a story or a thing that I like. I chose books.
The message that I wanted to convey is that the size of the book is not correlated to the ideas contained in it. Some of the most insightful books I know are very small.
Books with many pages Value is greater than pages Pages not equal to value
6 7 8
I liked the story but the syllables on each line are not right. I am also repeating the same words again and again and it’s somehow not very “poetic”
Next, I replaced the first line with
Books "have" pages
This still doesn’t convey the variety in book sizes. Also, the last line seems to have the same message as the second one. Here’s a better version:
Large books, small books Value greater than pages Read for the value
Aha! The syllable count is correct and I like the structure: The first line sets the scene the second makes an observation and the last draws a conclusion.
What do you think?
Resources: The first two images are by the great Hokusai (The Great Wave – one of my favorite paintings). The last is by Kitagawa Utamaro.