one of the most important form of traditional japanese poetry. Haiku
is, today, a 17-syllable verse form consisting of three metrical units
of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. Since early days, there has been confusion
between the three related terms Haiku, Hokku and Haikai.
The term hokku literally means "starting verse", and was the
first starting link of a much longer chain of verses known as haikai.
Because the hokku set the tone for the rest of the poetic chain,
it enjoyed a privileged position in haikai poetry, and it was
not uncommon for a poet to compose a hokku by itself without
following up with the rest of the chain. Largely through the efforts
of Masaoka Shiki, this independence was formally established in the
1890s through the creation of the term haiku. This new form of poetry
was to be written, read and understood as an independent poem, complete
in itself, rather than part of a longer chain. Strictly speaking, then,
the history of haiku begins only in the last years of the 19th century.
The famous verses of such Edo-period (1600-1868) masters as Basho,
Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa are properly referred to as hokku
and must be placed in the perspective of the history of haikai
even though they are now generally read as independent haiku. In HAIKU
for PEOPLE, both terms will be treated equally! The distinction between
hokku and haiku can be handled by using the terms Classical
Haiku and Modern Haiku.
of the modern haiku dates from Masaoka Shiki's reform, begun in 1892,
which established haiku as a new independent poetic form. Shiki's reform
did not change two traditional elements of haiku: the division of 17
syllables into three groups of 5, 7, and 5 syllables and the inclusion
of a seasonal theme. Kawahigashi Hekigoto carried Shiki's reform further
with two proposals:
would be truer to reality if there were no center of interest in it.
importance of the poet's first impression, just as it was, of subjects
taken from daily life, and of local colour to create freshness.