One Sentence Haiku

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One Sentence Haiku, One Line Haiku

The following was given as an example to support the theory that Issa wrote one-sentence haiku.

my kiku
shows no interest
in her shape or form

kobayashi issa

Well, here we have to ask:

Did Issa write a one sentence poem or did the translator, Ueda Makoto ?

my kiku shows no interest in her shape or form

waga kiku ya
nari ni mo furi ni mo
kamawazu ni

Well, Issa was rehabilitated in my understanding, he wrote a haiku, with kireji, kigo, choice and play of words (ni..ni..ni, mo..mo.., nari..furi.. ) and all, about his young wife Kiku, Chrysanthemum. Among many possibilities, I suggest this translation:

Oh my wife Chrysanthemum !
for her form and features
she does not care

More of this discussion is here:

About translating haiku in general,
read my musings here:
Daruma Pilgrims in Japan: Kumarajiva, the Translator

Or better, join me at the forum for "Translating Haiku" !

Other haiku by Issa, which are sometimes translated as one sentence, but have a clear CUT in Japanese:

o-nakama ni neko moza toru YA toshiwasure

mikazuki wa soru ZO samusa wa saeaeru

abaraya ni tonde hi ni iru arare KANA

Trying to understand a Japanese haiku in an entirely American/European (add your country) environment, somehow, is like taking a fish out of its water. You can see the dead fish, but not what gives real LIFE to the fish in its own environment.

Sometimes my Haiku friends ask :
What am I missing ?


Here is another example of a haiku which a friend presented with the implication "Even Shiki wrote one sentence haiku!" (unfortunately my friend did not provide the translator, let me know if anyone does).

my summer jacket
wants to get rid of me
and fly away

(written in 1895 in Suma)

Well, here again, looking at the Japanese solves the problem.

夏羽織 われをはなれて 飛ばんとす
natsu-baori ware o hanarete toban to su

There is a definite cesura after line one, the sentence does not continue here but has a natural pause.

my summer coat -
it wants to leave me
and fly away

Tr. Gabi Greve
Summer clothing and Haiku

And one more by Shiki, where the translation ( by Janine Beichman ) reads like one sentence.

in the coolness
gods and Buddhas
dwell as neighbors

The Japanese shows a clear cut, YA, after line one

suzushisa ya kami to hotoke no tonaridooshi

this coolness !
Gods and Buddhas
side by side

Tr. Gabi Greve
Deities (kami to hotoke) in Japanese haiku


Japanese haiku without a cut and only one idea are called "ichibutsu jitate" 一物仕立て.
In composing them you have to be careful not to make it sound like just a prosa sentence.
A lot of free verse haiku (jiyuuritsu haiku 自由律俳句(じゆうりつはいく)are in this format.

In contrast to this we have the haiku with a combination of two ideas, toriawase 取り合わせ.


mishi yume no samete mo iro no kakitsubata

Shushiki (Shuushiki 秋色) (1668-1725)

Waking from my dream,
What a colour
Were the iris flowers!

trans. Blyth

I wake and find
the colored iris
I saw in my dream.

trans. Yoel Hoffmann

A question from a friend:
Is the one-sentence structure of this translation true to the original?

Well, this is indeed just one sentence in Japanese, although rendered quite a bit "poetic" with the NO and word positioning, and not in the way we would talk like this in spoken Japanese. The use of 5 7 5 also gives it a taste of classical poetry.
There is a distinct way of writing haiku, quite different from spoken language in Japanese, that is difficult to imitate in English or German, I find.

mita yume kara sameta toki ni kakitsubata no iro ga arimasu

Gabi Greve, May 2008


One Line Haiku

quoting from a discussion in my Happy Haiku Forum:

A friend wrote (among other things) this part

... about haiku in one continuous line.
So, that begs the question, what do you call haiku in one continuous line?
I have but one answer:
The others (two line, three line, multiple line) should be called names with their line count in the name.


Writing haiku in one line or three lines .. this is not discussed often with my Japanese friends, because it does not constitute a problem to them.
Also dividing a haiku in fragment and phrase seems an American approach to formalizing and explaining haiku.

I have gotten another inspiration to this discussion, an approach I usually take when a Japanese cultural phenomenon just does not fit in any other language so easily: give the child a different name.
Let us not argue about the lines, but call them

A Japanese haiku comes in three sections:

kami go (the top five section)
naka shichi (the middle seven section)
shimo go (the lower five section)

So, given the natural rhythm of the Japanese language, it is easy to recognize these sections when spoken.
( My discussion about 5-7-5 is here: THEORY : Why 5-7-5 ?)

Writing these three sections usually depends on the Japanese paper you are given.

On a small slip (tansaku) it goes from top to bottom.
On a square decoration sheet (shikishi) it goes in three lines, usually from right to left.
NHK Haiku writes in three lines from right to left, name of the artist most left.
Very seldom it is written in three lines from left to right, the Latinized way.
With a wordprocessor, it comes out as one line, from left to right, if not formatted differently.

So, there are many ways to write it in Japanese too, but ALWAYS the three sections are clearly discernable.

Thus, in English it should not be such a big problem whether you write it in one line or in three, but you should take care to make your three sections easily discernable, most probably in a way of using the format of
short * long * short
for the sections as a kind of imitation of the original Japanes haiku parent.


Voila, here is my solution to the TUNDRA poem!
(You have to decide for yourself if this looks like a haiku
or not.)

And would you introduce writing your one-line haiku from top to bottom, just to imitate one way of Japanese writing? I have my doubts, but some Americans tried ...

It is of course a discussion taken with a lot of humour.

We even have haiga with one word ...

one word haiku ...
are you sure about it?
I doubt it!

. . . . .

your favorite Basho, written
"Japanese style imitation in English":


. WKD : spelling Japanese haiku  

Matsuo Basho also wrote quite a few hokku in three segments 5 7 5 with the cut marker KANA at the end of line 3.
. One sentence hokku by Basho .


Phrase and Fragment

The "phrase" part of a haiku usually comprises 2 lines,
the fragment 1 line.

Read Jane Reidhhold
- source : www.ahapoetry.com

The Poetics of Japanese Verse: Imagery, Structure, and Meter
Koji Kawamoto
, , , he calls the two parts the ‘base’ and the ‘superposed'
The core of the haiku is the base section whose task is to draw the reader unconditionally into the world of the particular verse through an unexpected and arresting configuration of words. The base section is the kernel from which the complete poem springs and upon which the success of the haiku ultimately depends.
The superposed section serves to orient the reader to some of the many plausible meanings and images in the base section. The superposed section, in the most simple form, consists of a word with a fairly fixed poetic essence - for example a kigo or the name of a famous place – to which a cut marker like ‘ya’ or another particle is added as necessity requires.

- source : Kooji Kawamoto


Here is Susumu Takiguchi on the one line problem
- On the one-line haiku -

A discussion about True Haiku :

From One-line Poems to One-line Haiku
Bill Higginson about one-line haiku, in SimplyHaiku

Marlene Mountain on the subject ...
one-line haiku !

Marlene Mountain on the subject ...
More about experimental haiku !

The Way of One
... By Jim Kacian
A PDF-File. Search for KACIAN.


Monoku, one line ku, one-liner, one sentence ku, run-on sentence ku, one-line poem and other expressions are also sometimes used in English.
But this often also refers to a different kind of poem.


Can you make just one line dance?

source : www.thehaikufoundation.org


Tundra, tsundora ツンドラ .. a topic for haiku

Traditional Japanese Haiku
Some more Theory .. for the serious student. By Gabi Greve


To the Daruma Museum Index
To the Worldkigo Database



Gabi Greve said...

5-7-5 segmentation is not a division based on content as we think of it in English.

Strictly in terms of content, the classic Japanese haiku are composed of two major parts of varying lengths, such as 5-12, 12-5, 8-9, 9-8, 7-10, and 10-7, in the generally decreasing order of prevalence, with the first two being the most prevalent.

. . . . . READ MORE HERE :
Imaoka Keiko on the structure of Japanese haiku


Anonymous said...

quote from

I thought haiku were supposed to be a sentence?

Thanks for your question! It's a question that many beginners struggle with, and which has been also complicated because there are several early haiku books where each line begins with a capital letter and the final line ends with a punctuation mark.

To answer your particular question, it is true that we don't need to have complete sentences for our haiku. In fact, it would be hard to accomplish one major component of the haiku -- the "break" -- in the space of a single sentence.

In haiku, there are typically two separate pictures or images represented. Some people call them "Phrase" and "Fragment". The Fragment is assigned to either the first line or the third line of the poem, while the Phrase is allowed to share the other two lines.

If we look through the Kukai Archives we will see that almost every "high points" haiku follows this structure.

Usually this takes the form of:

phrase part a
phrase b

While there definitely doesn't have to be complete sentences, you also don't want to cut out words that are needed to make the sentence flow. They call this "Tontoism" in haiku (like Tonto and the Lone Ranger).

horse scare
bad storm come

- tonto the haiku poet

Many people admire the structure of

longer line

and if you don't follow that a great many of our poets will just flat not consider voting for it. So, don't use unnecessary words, but make sure you include enough words for the phrases to make sense. While its ok to use more syllables, try to NEVER go longer than
5 / 7 / 5

Gary Warner

Anonymous said...

quote from Larry

In an essay titled, "one image haiku," Marlene Mountain quotes Basho's haiku "looking closely" as being an example of a "one image" haiku.

Here is what she says:

Basho, also, wrote single image with two components haiku:

Looking carefully,--
A shepherd's purse is blooming
Under the fence.

By dropping the superfluous opening comment, and assuming all haiku poets look with care, the structure--flower under the fence is the same as crow on a branch.


When I come across published haiku similar to this, I always think of them as being "half haiku," or "2/3 haiku" anyway!

If you want to do some reading, there is a discussion of the "single object" poem in Haruo Shirane's book, "Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory, and the Poetry of Basho," at the end of Chapter 4:
The Art of Juxtaposition, in a section titled, "The Single Object Poem."


Anonymous said...

in Japanese Haiku ?

Tsubouchi Nenten, who attains his mastery via fragmentary and playful language, at times lacking kigo and kireji.
He writes that “katakoto 片言” (fragmentary language) is a sine qua non of haiku, and of traditional Japanese culture.