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One of the things I talked about yesterday was the idea of a "turn", in which one part of the poem shifts a bit from the other, leading to some sort of new insight or realization, possibly (or even preferably) one that feels fresh or (at least slightly) surprising.

I thought it might be helpful to look at some classic haiku (in translation) to see exactly how these surprises unfold.

Here is one from Basho:

In the cicada's cry
No sign can foretell
How soon it must die.

The kigo in this is "cicada", which is associated with summer. I can't decide where this poem "cuts" - is it after the first line, or the second? I think it's after the second - the poet discusses the cicada's cry and the second line seems to continue that conversation. That last line hits with a wallop, though, doesn't it?

Here's Murakami Kijo:

First autumn morning
the mirror I stare into
shows my father's face.

Don't you love the double meaning of "autumn" here - it's late in the year, perhaps, but also represents middle age, I think. What a story, too, and it's one many of us middle-aged folks can appreciate-- that realization that one is aging (and starting to look like one's parent). When he starts out on that "first autumn morning" looking into the mirror, that ending is probably not where you thought he was going, right?

And here's Kobayashi Issa:

Don’t weep, insects –
Lovers, stars themselves,
Must part.

This is an autumn poem (weeping insects are likely crickets, which are associated with fall). Issa has made the "cut" explicit by adding an em-dash at the end of that first line. In it, he addresses the insects, with the two following lines going someplace more profound than one might expect when conversing with invertebrates. Then again, if it's autumn and the insects are about to die off, perhaps the idea of offering comfort is a good one.

There are, of course, haiku with less-astounding takeaways, but one of the reasons that these have weathered the test of time and still feel fresh to readers today is for the way their direction shifts or turns.

Back tomorrow with some talk of haiku's sibling, senryu.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Andi Sibley
Apr. 7th, 2016 03:22 pm (UTC)
Kelly, I am very much enjoying your haiku posts. So wonderful to see all these separate and very important elements getting play all by themselves. You are doing a wonderful job here!
Apr. 7th, 2016 04:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you, birthday girl!!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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