It’s not so simple,
As writing five-seven-five,
But we think it is

If there is one special thing that certain people tend to remember from school, it’s the day that we were introduced to the great Japanese art-form that is Haiku. While it may have an ancient and noble history, it is likely at it’s most ignoble when a group of young kids try to cobble together Haiku in series of five-seven-five! Still, just the act of being creative can be fun and exciting, whether young or old. 

Haiku Day serves as a reminder that there is so much more to this style of poetry than a misspent week in high school literature classes. Instead, it’s a day to celebrate the width and depth and breadth that can be enjoyed when words are limited but imaginations are allowed to soar. 

History of Haiku Poetry Day

The history of Haiku Poetry Day traces the origin of this beautiful, yet simple, form of poetry. 

Haiku was originally found as the opening to another form of Japanese poetry called a Rengu. It took until the mid-1600’s for Hokku, the form Haiku was found in at this time, to start appearing independently from its parent form, Renga, and its Renku roots. 

In the late 1800’s Hokku was renamed to Haiku when it appeared independently by the famous Japanese poet, author, and literary critic, Masaoka Shiki. Although Shiki only lived a short 35 years, he is credited with the writing of almost 20,000 stanzas, which is quite an accomplishment. He was considered to be one of the first great Haiku Masters.

Two other masters who were responsible for elevating the form of Haiku poetry to an independent art form are Matsuo Bashō and Ueshima Onitsura. These two were considered Masters of Poetry, and helped to promote Haiku so that it was appreciated and understood, even outside of its original context of Renku. So important was Basho to the history of Haiku that he was considered to be a ‘Saint of Poetry’ 100 years after his death.

So how did Haiku come to be in the West? 

The man held responsible for this (and thus it appears in school curriculum books) was an unlikely Danish man named Hendrik Doeff. As commissioner of trade in Nagasaki in the 19th century, he developed a love of the art of Eastern poetry. Although he managed to bring it to the West himself, in general it wasn’t greatly received at first. In fact, it took until the early to mid-1900’s for Haiku to appear in the English language. 

No matter what language a person speaks or where they come from, Haiku is one where the number of syllables used in a poem can serve as a framework for some of the most beautiful pieces of art ever formed. And Haiku Day is just the day to celebrate and appreciate this! 

How to Celebrate Haiku Poetry Day

Celebrating Haiku Day centers all around the notion of poetry and beauty. Try these ideas to incorporate into the day: 

Write a Haiku Poem

Get out a pen and paper, wander in and out of nature, and wait for something to bring a little bit of inspiration! Haiku Poetry is about the beauty that can be captured in short, simple stanzas. 

With its unique style (five syllables on the first line, seven on the second, and five again on the third), anyone can write a Haiku poem. However, it sometimes takes a true master to capture the heart and mind in the space of 17 syllables. 

Read a Book of Haiku Poetry 

For those who are feeling less inspired to create their own poetry, reading Haiku written by others is a great way to enjoy the day. Here are a few to get started with: 

  • Japanese Haiku Poems (2003) by Peter Washington 
  • The Haiku Anthology (1974) by Cor van den Heuvel
  • The Essential Haiku (1994) by Robert Hass 
  • Haiku: Japanese Art and Poetry (2010) by Judith Patt

Learn a Bit of Japanese

For those who are feeling particularly adventurous (or for those who already know Japanese) get even deeper into the craft by trying to write in the original language. 

Today, people who want to learn a new language have more opportunities than ever to access lessons through apps and online formats, as well as the ability to communicate with native speakers through the internet! 

Try these ideas for learning Japanese: 

  • Duolingo. This free app is a great way to learn Japanese as it offers beginner and intermediate options. Learning comes through pictures, listening and repeating important key phrases about a variety of topics.
  • Busuu. Another app for language learning, this one claims that 22 hours spent on the app are equal to an entire semester of college-level language learning. It includes full language courses as well as opportunities to converse with native speakers all over the world.  
  • I Will Teach You a Language. This method is very different in that it uses the power of story to not only teach the language but also give a peek into how to be a cultural insider.

Haiku Poetry Day is a great opportunity to let your creativity flow, and really begin to appreciate the complexities of life refined down to simplicity. Who knows? You could become the next Haiku Master!

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