If there’s one thing that we remember from High 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. Haiku Day reminds us that there is so much more to this style of poetry than a misspent week in our literature courses!
History of Haiku Poetry Day
The history of Haiku Poetry Day traces the origin of this poetic form. It 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 it’s Renga and Renku roots. In the late 1800’s Hokku was renamed to Haiku when it appeared independently by Masaoka Shiki.
There were two masters responsible for elevating Haiku to an independent art form, Matsuo Bashō and Ueshima Onitsura. These two were considered Masters of Poetry, and helped to bring Haiku to being appreciated and understood outside of its original context of Renku. So important was Basho to the history of Haiku that he was elevated to 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 your High School curriculum) was Hendrik Doeff of Denmark. As commissioner of trade in Nagasaki in the 19th century, he developed a love of the art. He managed to bring it to the West, but it wasn’t greatly received. In fact it took until the early and mid-1900’s for English Haiku to appear.
How to celebrate Haiku Poetry Day
Get out your pen, wander in nature, and wait for something to inspire you! Haiku Poetry is about beauty captured in short simple stanzas. With it’s relatively simple style, anyone can write Haiku poetry, but it takes a true master to capture the heart and mind in the space of 17 syllables. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous (or if you know Japanese) you can try writing in the original language. 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!