Saturday, July 08, 2006

July 8: Haiku Day

On this date in 1853, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry sailed into Japan’s Edo Bay with a flotilla of U.S. gunboats and issued an ultimatum from President Millard Fillmore. If Japan did not open itself to trade with America, they would risk war with the United States. Japan at that time was a feudal monarchy that had isolated itself from other nations, forbidding its citizens to leave their island nation or to trade with any foreigners.

It was Perry’s trip and the subsequent Treaty of Kanagawa that finally opened Japan to trade with the outside world. Amazingly this small nation, that was more than one hundred years behind the rest of the world in industrial advancement, made up lost ground to become a major industrial and technological world power by the beginning of the 20th century (1).

The transformation of Japan from an isolated nation to an international trading power has resulted in linguistic changes as well. The Japanese have adopted many English words, so many in fact that this lexicon has a name: Japlish, a blend of Japanese and English.

English has also adopted several Japanese words:

Zen (2)

The art and culture of Japan has had a large influence on the art of the West, and one particularly influential written form that emerged from Japan during the 1880s and 1890s is the poetic form haiku.

The following definition is from Success with Words: “Haiku is a three-line poem whose lines consist of five, seven, and five syllables respectively, and whose subject matter reflects nature and the changing seasons in such a way as to trigger a flash of insight in the reader” (2).

Today’s Challenge: Five Plus Seven Plus Five Equals Seventeen

Use the definition above and the pointers below to write your own haiku.

The focus of haiku is imagery and rhythm (not rhyme).

You don't have to name a specific season, but you should use a "season word" (In Japanese it's called a kigo) that gives a clue to the season you are writing about.

Also, since you are trying to capture a moment in time -- the now -- write in present tense and don't worry about writing a title.

Quote of the Day: Haiku lets meaning float; the aphorism pins it down. --Mason Cooley

1- Yenne, Bill. 100 Events that Shaped World History. San Mateo, CA: Bluewood Books, 1993.

2 - Reader’s Digest Success with Words: A Guide to the American Language. Pleasantville, New York: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1983.

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