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Power to Poetry Through Exposure

metrical tree of an iambic foot

metrical tree of an iambic foot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the misconceptions about poetry is that you have to spend years studying it, learning every nuance about it, have an MFA degree in it, ad infinitum before writing your first poem of consequence. I’m sure some teacher somewhere planted that propaganda early, during the organization of educational systems, to terrorize the average student into the closet, never to pen verse again.

Odd as it may seem, verse began long before written language. When you find an ancient Viking, ask him. He can probably recite one of the sagas and leave you breathless for a couple of hours.

What is it about poetry that demands that it be written down in certain forms to be considered legitimate?

Consider this case: unless one is a serious scholar of poetic form, the truth about the small and unobtrusive haiku, with its few words and syllables, would never surface in this country. True Japanese Haiku has no title (Americans seem to find one necessary for meaning.) It uses 17 morae, which are not syllables.

For those who are really interested in a complete explanation of the difference between morae and syllables, Marc van Oostendorp published a marvelous paper on Mora Theory in 2005. Suffice it to say that individual languages, such as Japanese, are high in moraic qualities. Entire analysis formulas exist to document a language’s spoken moraic structure.

American English isn’t an especially moraic language. And there are probably few poets in this country that would rather do pure Haiku than use syllables and deviate. When I have at least a few months to devote to additional study, I’ll delve into this precision of thought. Until then, I’ll muddle through with the American version.

Here’s a simple haiku as an example.

 Water rushing now,

Stones weeping my memories

Time flows without end.

This verse, that I wrote many years ago, exhibits the common 5-7-5 syllable line scheme. The trick to Haiku, I’m told, is the juxtaposition of its subject elements.

Here I begin with rushing water, placing it in the present tense in the first line; nothing unusual there.

The second line acts as a transition to the next line/subject. The stones are weeping memories. Whose memories? Mine. I’ve placed myself in this short tale, which also combines the presence of now and the past of my memories.

The third line twists what has already been stated to take everything into another time zone. Subject has shifted to Time, away from Water. The last word completes the concept of never-ending Time. Yet both subjects are brought together by the verb flows.

To me, this verse silhouettes several concepts and story specifics. It may not be the greatest example of haiku ever written. I certainly don’t believe it is. I do think that it shows how such a verse is written and how the meaning morphs from one subject to another, using a transition line to make its case.

Please let me know what you think. Did my small poem do its job? Did it work as hard as it could to tell its story? Oft times only the reader can tell effectiveness. Drop a comment and give me your opinion.

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  1. Poetic Bloomings
    April 28, 2012 at 6:52 am

    Spot on, Clauds. Your explanation is thorough and understandable, and your sample is beautiful and meaningful. What more could we ask?

    Thank you for this post!

    Marie Elena

    • claudsy
      April 29, 2012 at 4:24 pm

      Thanks so much, Marie Elena. So glad I could come up with something acceptable and worthwhile.

  2. April 29, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Great explanation, Claudsy. The picture you gave me with these 17 syllables: you sitting by a stream casting away stones infused with your pain that are accepted whole by the healing waters once again reminds us that the moment is but a small mark on the infinite course of the future.

    Very well done!

    • claudsy
      April 29, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      Thank you so much, Meena. I’m so glad that you liked it. Your comment exhibits your own poetic nature and word prowess.

  3. April 30, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks, Claudsy. Your example and explanation will prod me into thinking more before I write another haiku.

    • claudsy
      April 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm

      It was the best I could do on short notice. I’m glad it helped. I know that reading about the original helped me, so thought I’d pass it on. Stop by any time. I know you’ll have great success with your haiku. You’ve made some great poems this past few months.

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