The 2023 Tramping Calendar Haiku and Limerick Competition – chapter 3

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    Tony Gazley

    Mount Taranaki

    2023 Tramping NZ Calendar

    Haiku and Limerick Competition

    by Harry Smith

    Chapter 3

    A haiku is a Japanese three-line verse-form in which the lines have 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively. (Or at least, that is the case for haikus in English. In Japanese the 5,7,5 count actually refers to moras – a mora is an abstract unit of phonetic length and some Japanese syllables are one mora long while others are two or even three moras long.)

    The lines don’t have to rhyme (and it would probably sound rather odd and doggerel-ish if they did), but they can still contain subtle assonances and resonances.

    Haikus are usually about nature and the natural world, so they are a perfect fit for a tramping calendar. Some of the greatest haiku masters spent a lot of time travelling on foot in the mountains – i.e. they were essentially 17th and 18th century Japanese trampers.

    A summer river being crossed
    how pleasing
    with sandals in my hands!
    – Yosa Buson (1716 – 1784)

    Traditionally, a haiku had to contain a kigo or “season word” – a word indicating or suggesting the season (e.g. snow implies winter and cherry blossoms imply spring) but that is no longer considered compulsory.

    Over the wintry forest,
    Winds howl in rage
    With no leaves to blow.
    – Natsume Sōseki (1867 – 1916)

    Contrary to popular belief, haikus are most definitely not simply any three lines that happen to have 5,7, and 5 syllables, or an arbitrary piece of prose that has been mechanically divided up into lines of 5,7, and 5 syllables! A genuine haiku has a definite form and a distinct poetic feel to it.

    Each of the three lines should be distinct but also part of the overall structure.

    Haikus commonly have a slight pause (or caesura) at the end of either the first line or the second line, often indicated in English by the grammatical structure, by a dash or some other punctuation mark, or perhaps by being followed by a word like “but”. (In Japanese, it would be indicated by a kireji or “cutting word”, but these have no direct equivalent in English.) The second part of the poem complements, contrasts with, comments on, or completes the sense of the first part.

    There is generally very little action in a haiku, and there often isn’t even a verb. A good haiku should be simple and concise in form, but will often have a subtle symbolic or metaphoric aspect to it.

    A haiku should present a brief visual image or snap-shot of a scene, or a brief philosophical contemplation or insight or emotional response to a scene.

    An old silent pond
    A frog jumps into the pond –
    Splash! Silence again.
    – Matsuo Bashō (1644 – 1694)

    The best haikus often have a somewhat Zen-like feel to them – simultaneously simple and profound, and sometimes a bit puzzling and mysterious.

    A world of dew,
    And within every dewdrop
    A world of struggle.
    – Kobayashi Issa (1763 – 1828)

    Mountains ribbed with snow:
    bleached whale bones on a bleak beach
    of black iron-sand.

    Chapter 4 Competition Rules

    Winchcombe Biv




    Bribes to the judges are permitted, and indeed encouraged, especially if they consist of money, tramping gear, camera gear, alcohol, or chocolate. There is no guarantee that they will have any influence on the judges’ decision, but it’s worth a try!

    The judges’ decision will be final, and no correspondence will be entered into (except if accompanied by a bribe, as described above).

    The first and second place

    • This topic was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by Tony Gazley.
    • This topic was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by Tony Gazley.
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