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Bridging Cultural Gaps

Instead of expressing what they want to, some try poetry. Some find poetry fit to speak of what they observe, and to suggest a lot too. Poetry can also give rise to joy of being succinct and snappy, and paint with words, so to speak. As there are many painting styles, there are many poetry styles, and room for much experimentation too.

This page heads a series of haiku poems by famous haiku writers - Basho, Buson, Issa, and Shiki - they are all here along with others.


In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;

Petals on a wet, black bough.

Ezra Pound

In this haiku (poem) by a Western poet, the title is an integral part of the whole. Other Western poets too have sought to capture of the haiku tradition, if not its metre. Adaptations have resulted.


A haiku is a shorthand-looking poem, traditionally with a seasonal reference, but not always. The word haiku (plural: haiku) comes from Japan. It is an unrhymed verse form and hokku is another name for it. Haiku poems have only three lines and may read very much like telegrams.

The haiku (hokku) was derived from the tanka poem. The haiku form first derived as its three opening lines. The content may contain allusions arrived at in another culture, that is, some words stand for (symbolise) something else, suggest something else, or refer to it.

In Japan, haiku gradually changed with time. Some knowledge of Japanese culture is good for appreciating these aspects and perhaps enhancing our appreciation of works in this genre, but is far from necessary. Being oneself is necessary. True appreciation stems from that, naturally. It can be enlarged by such as knowledge of the culture, but first things first.

Along with over a hundred haiku, there is brief mention of some details of the old craft and for forming its content. However, Japanese is a more syllabic language in construction than English, and there are not good enough reasons to make metre and syllables a strait-jacket for one's expression, I figure. Still, the terse suggestiveness of haiku has inspired Western artists, in part as Japanese woodcuts and paintings have inspired famous European painters from the 1800s and onward. Artists have approached and in some cases imitated the impromptu-looking, but calculated haiku style. It may resemble modernist poetry and lyrics in some of its facets. Some warm-up lines are next in line:


Resembling Poetry and Lyrics

I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills

When all at once I saw a crowd

A host, of golden daffodils . . .

William Wordsworth


Brightened Up Somewhat

I wandered lonely,
tearful, gloomy
Lo! yellow daffodils.


Birds and Fishes

Millions of little fish come along the shore.

Coasting this granite edge of the continent

On their lawful occasions: but what a festival for the sea-fowl

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Man's fate and theirs.

Robinson Jeffers

Haiku variant:

Man's Fate

Little fish

Entering the coastal waters

Soon feasted on by sea-birds.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird


He rode over Connecticut

In a glass coach.

Once, a fear pierced him

In that he mistook

The shadow of his equipage

For blackbirds.

Wallace Stevens

Rivers and Mountains

The bird flew over and

Sat - there was nothing else to do

Do not mistake its silence for pride or strength

Or the waterfall for a harbor.

John Ashberry

And One for My Dame

I sit at my desk

each night with no place to go,

opening the wrinkled maps of Milwaukee and Buffalo

Anne Sexton


Outside, a heavy frost–dark

footprints in the brittle

grass; a cat's.

Richard Kenney

Song lyrics approach haiku at times too.

Desolation Row

Good Samaritan, he's dressing

He's getting ready for the show

He's going to the carnival tonight

On Desolation Row

Bob Dylan

Summer in the City

Cool town, evening in the city

Dressed so fine and looking so pretty

Cool cat, looking for a kitty

The Lovin' Spoonfuls

The lines above are either verbatim quotations, verses with parts left out as shown, and lines with some words left out with no signs whatever. Wordsworth's poem goes on. The lines of Jeffers are selected from inside his poem. The verse by Stevens is quoted verbatim; it is one of thirteen "pieces". A few lines from an Ashbury poem are quoted verbatim, as are the ones by Anne Sexton and Kenney, and Dylan. Our lines from a song by Cohen, on the other hand, are shortened here.

On to Haiku of Basho


Haiku, haiku-like and similar poetry, small poems, Literature  

Encyclopaedia Britannica is also Britannica Online.

Fergusson, Margaret, et al. The Norton Anthology of Poetry. 4th ed. New York: Norton, 1996.

Levenson, Michael, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Modernism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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