The Breath of Haiku

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Haiku in English is now a popular and diverse genre of writing which has evolved in various ways since its adaptation from the Japanese. The modern haiku can be about anything, not just nature, and the distinction between haiku and senryu - haiku of human nature as opposed to the world - is often blurred. Knowledge of the form and its possibilities is gaining. There are some who still believe that a haiku must be written in three lines of 5/7/5 syllables. That option came about as the first haiku were translated into English. The seventeen on, or sound units, in which Japanese haiku are, mostly, composed (even there, dissenters could be found by the beginning of the twentieth century) were transposed into seventeen syllables, as the nearest equivalent. But on and syllables are not the same; on include pauses and forms of punctuation. Japanese haiku are written in one vertical line, but translators did not adopt this practice in English because it doesn't sit well with our script. So, one can see that, from the outset, some decisions around translation were arbitrary. Over time, arbitrary decisions established as conventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-48
Number of pages5
JournalEnglish in Aotearoa
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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