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Haiku: Teaching Japanese Poetry Writing

Haiku can be a way through which children can express their inner souls, a window through which one can see a child's world.

Poetry can be a way through which children can express their inner souls, a window through which one can see a child's world. Good poetry, like good prose, is efficient, but the beauty of poetry is that it is extremely efficient. Poetry can be the essence of what one is trying to say; without the adjectives or the extra articles, it is the core of what one means.

Haiku is one of the poetry forms I introduce to my junior high students, but it is not one of the first poetry forms I introduce. I usually wait to introduce the haiku. I introduce it when my students' world is most beautiful. If I am in a geographic area in which fall is glorious, I introduce the haiku in the fall. If I am in an area in which spring is an exceptional season, a time bursting with fragrance and hope, I introduce the haiku in spring. Haiku is a poetry form that needs beauty to become a thing of beauty.

The haiku is a very structured poetry form. Initially introduced by the Japanese, they are three-lined poems containing five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third. Containing just seventeen syllables, the haiku cannot capture a "big picture." One depicts in them tiny images of incredible beauty, something glorious that might be missed if the writer had not taken the time to point it out. In a haiku one may depict a drop of water on a leaf reflecting early morning light, the smell of the evening dew, the answer of one bird to another's call, the persistence of a flower pushing its way through the cracks in the pavement to touch the sky. A haiku is about serenity and peace. It is getting in touch with nature; it feels like a walk in the woods.

As a teacher, first explain the haiku's rigid structural format of five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third. Read several to the class. There are some wonderful Japanese haiku available, several of which I have included at the end of this article. Establish a mood. To do so, use visual imagery and/or music or pictures of pastoral scenes, and when the students seem to have some glorious scene in their mind's eye, challenge them to record it -- in seventeen syllables. Do not break the mood until poetry is produced. Then read the products to the class. Students who have written a haiku might try a senryu, poems with the same format as haiku but about any topic, or a tanka, a five-lined poem about nature with syllables per line of five, seven, five, seven, seven. Students can then recopy their poetry and illustrate it, decorating the room with their images of beauty. This type of poetry is like a walk in the park. It is perfect for those break-away days when the world is too beautiful to do anything else but write poetry.

EXAMPLES OF HAIKU

Fallen sick on a journey
In dreams I run wildly
Over a withered moor
by Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

The first snow! Enough to bend the leaves Of the jonquil low. by Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

A giant firefly: that way, this way, that way, this -- and it passes by. by Issa (1762-1826)

First autumn morning: the mirror I stare into shows my father's face. by Kijo Murakami (1865-1938)

For love and for hate I swat a fly and offer it to an ant. by Shiki (1867-1902)

After killing a spider, how lonely I feel in the cold of night! by Shiki (186

SOME HAIKU BY STUDENTS

Soft little droplets
Which quench mother nature's thirst
making the world green
by Kristen Armand

A gentle breeze blows
Taking the scent of a bud
Along for the ride.
by Samantha Keim

SOME TANKA BY STUDENTS

Outside the rain pours
Tapping against the window
Do you hear the sound?
It is like a melody
Softly it whispers to me
by Samantha Keim

A small green oval Falling free and gracefully Through the dark blue skies Never seeing the tall tree It once lived peacefully on by Jeanne Jord

SOME SENRYU BY STUDENTS

The tears of a girl
With a crushed and broken heart
Hidden from her friends
by Jeanne Jordan

"Sleep" Completely motionless Discovering strange worlds Where no one bothers you by Aaron Ryan

A soft gentle touch Only a woman could give To the man she loves by Samantha Keim

Feelings flow freely Stress is gone, I can relax I find inner peace by Melissa McDowel

Article by Glori Chaika

NOTE: Glori Chaika teaches gifted 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in a suburb of New Orleans, Louisiana. She is a published author who has won a Distinguished Teaching Award from Duke University. She was awarded a Fulbright Memorial Fund scholarship to study school systems and teacher training programs in Japan during the fall of 1997. Ms. Chaika was named the 1997 Elks Teacher of the year in her Louisiana parish. She has written other stories for Education World, including Seventh Graders Writing Italian Sonnets? You Bet!, Six Hundred U.S. Teachers Will Travel to Japan: Want to Go?, and A Teacher's Guide to Getting Students' Work Published.

Copyright © 1998 Education World®

Updated 10/29/2010

 

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