Haikai Glossary

ageku: The final stanza of a renga.

aisatsu: “Where a strong guest/host relationship existed among the people gathered to compose renga, the sense of decorum was readily linked to the notion of aisatsu, “salutation” or “greetings,” as an ingredient of the hokku, which was, as you can imagine, based on protocol.” (Haiku: The Evolution of a Strict Poetic Game by Hiroaki Sato.)

aware: The ability of a thing, event, or scene to stir emotions.

ba: “If you look up ba in any Japanese-English Dictionary you’ll find it means “place” or “site” or “occasion”. And these are all true in the most general sense—ba is a pointer to a kind of awareness that something of importance is happening in time and space.” (Jim Kacian in the essay “So:ba,” given at the International Haiku Conference (SUNY Plattsburgh, NY, 2008) and published in Frogpond)

choka: “A long poem on a 5-7 syllabic pattern, ending with an extra 7-syllable line.” (Haiku in Britain, Martin Lucas) (Note: syllable counting while writing in English is often up to debate in this form)

daisan: The third stanza of a renga.

fuga: A sense of mortality and uniqueness, but also elegance and graciousness.

furyu: “Fūryū is tangible yet at the same time, intangible in the elegance which it implies; moreover, just like the wind, fūryū puts forward a wordless, transitory beauty, which can be experienced only in the moment: in the next it is gone.” (Shiseidodojo’s Blog)

fukyo: “A willful, if not mannered, demeanor adopted by Basho in his early years imagined to betray a transport of ‘poetic dementia.”‘ (Terebess Asia Online)

fusoku-furi: A Japanese word meaning “not too close, not too far.” This is an essential element in haiku and many haiku-related forms when dealing with the interaction of two parts in a poem.

ginko: A walk with the purpose of writing haiku.

ha: The central phase of a renga. The development part of a renga. The progression of a renga is jo-ha-kyu. See entries for jo and kyu.

haibun: Prose accompanied by haiku, tanka, or a linked poem that connect in a subtle way.

haiga: “Haiga (俳画, haikai drawing) is a style of Japanese painting that incorporates the aesthetics of haikai. Haiga are typically painted by haiku poets (haijin), and often accompanied by a haiku poem. Like the poetic form it accompanied, haiga was based on simple, yet often profound, observations of the everyday world. Stephen Addiss points out that “since they are both created with the same brush and ink, adding an image to a haiku poem was … a natural activity.” Stylistically, haiga vary widely based on the preferences and training of the individual painter, but generally show influences of formal Kanō school painting, minimalist Zen painting, and Ōtsu-e, while sharing much of the aesthetic attitudes of the nanga tradition. Some were reproduced as woodblock prints. The subjects painted likewise vary widely, but are generally elements mentioned in the calligraphy, or poetic images which add meaning or depth to that expressed by the poem.” (Wikipedia)

haii: “Originally identified with levity, refined and extended by the school of Basho to include notions of brevity, suggestiveness and discovery – contrasting the deliberately ornate and intricate styles of classical linked verse.” (Terebess Asia Online)

haijin: A person who writes haiku, and commonly used as an honorific.

haikai: “Traditionally a term used to distinguish populist and humourous verse from the more courtly and refined classical style. Later, an abbreviation for haikai-no-renga. In modern times, and principally in occidental usage, a generic term for all forms of Japanese verse, especially haiku.” (Terebess Asia Online)

haikai-no-renga: Humorous renga that was transformed into high literature in Basho’s hand.

haiku: “Haiku in English is typically a three-line poem that uses concrete sensory images to convey or imply natural and human seasonal phenomena, using a two-part juxtapositional structure as well as simple and primarily objective language. Originally a Japanese genre of poetry, now written and adapted in many languages worldwide, traditional haiku in Japanese consists of seventeen sounds (not to be confused with syllables) in a pattern of 5-7-5. Because of differences in language, this rhythm is generally not followed for literary haiku in most languages other than Japanese. As intuitive and emotional poems, haiku often capture a sense of wonder and wholeness in presenting existence such as it is. Rather than presenting one’s emotions, haiku present the cause of one’s emotions, thus empowering the reader to have the same intuitive reaction to an experience that the poet had.” (Michael Dylan Welch, http://graceguts.com/)

haimi: “1) The spirit of haikai. 2) Haikai mood.” (haiku.ru)

hanami: “cherry-blossom-viewing,” where an assortment of tidbits, along with an ample supply of sake, is taken out picnic-style under cherry trees in full bloom.” (Haiku: The Evolution of a Strict Poetic Game by Hiroaki Sato.)

hoi, also hon’i: “The conventional associations or connotations of poetic imagery, particularly season-words.” (Haiku in Britain, Martin Lucas)

hokku: “The hokku began a linked verse form known as renga, written by two or more poets. In a renga, the first verse (in a pattern of 5-7-5 sounds) was followed by a verse in a 7-7 pattern, followed by another 5-7-5 verse, and so on. Renga were typically written in lengths of 100 verses, sometimes even 1,000. The hokku poem set the tone for the entire renga, yet was also deliberately fragmentary and “incomplete,” a trait still evident in haiku today. Readers “finished” the poem in their imaginations. Hokku also commemorated the season in which the renga was written, and this seasonal element is still central to the haiku art. Bashō, the first great master of what became known as haiku, wrote mostly haikai no renga in a pattern of 36 verses (the modern term is renku), and his hokku were so good that his students collected them separately from the renga where they first appeared. It was not until the 1890s, though, thanks to the efforts of Shiki, that haiku became a truly independent poem.” (Michael Dylan Welch, http://graceguts.com/)

honkadori: A poem alluding to another poem. They are commonly written out of respect and are nods to carrying on a tradition of themes. It is not plagiarism, but can be thought of a poem written in tribute.

hosomi: “The use of modest and understated language to evoke a sense of empathy with an object, sometimes tending to personification.” (Terebess Asia Online)

ichibutsu jitate: “haiku with only one theme.” (World Kigo Database)

jo: “Poetic technique of introducing a contextually important word in an apparently inadvertent manner.” (haiku.ru) “The opening phase of a renga.” (Haiku in Britain, Martin Lucas) The progression of a renga is jo-ha-kyu. See entries for ha and kyu.

juxtaposition: “Juxtaposition is an act or instance of placing two elements close together or side by side. This is often done in order to compare/contrast the two, to show similarities or differences, etc.” (Wikipedia)

kakekotoba: A word or phrasing that allows for multiple readings.

kaori: “Literally, ‘scent’. Used to denote the method of impressionistic linking in renga.” (Haiku in Britain, Martin Lucas)

karumi: “Like so many of Bashō’s critical terms, karumi defies easy definition. In its most general form, as a salient characteristic of Japanese art from cooking to painting, “lightness” is a minimalist aesthetic, stressing simplicity and leanness. For Bashō, it meant a return to everyday subject matter and diction, a deliberate avoidance of abstraction and poetic posturing, and relaxed, rhythmical, seemingly artless expression.” (269) “In contrast to the “heavy” poem, which is conceptual or leaves little room for alternative interpretations, the poetics of lightness leaves a space for the reader to become an imaginative participant. (271) Karumi also implies rhythm and attention to the poetry of the ear, what Ezra Pound referred to as melopoeia, especially those sound patterns that generate emotional connotations.” (272–273; “this thought would also seem to resonate with Eliot’s notion of the “objective correlative,” wherein writers can trust the effect of images because of the emotions that innately correlate to objective description).” (From Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory, and the Poetry of Bashō (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1998, by Haruo Shirane).

kessha: The head person of a haiku society. His or her primary task is to revise his or her students’ work. 

kidai: A seasonal subject. 

kisetsu: Awareness of the deep relationship between humanity and the seasons.

kigo: “Kigo (季語 “season word”) (plural kigo) is a word or phrase associated with a particular season, used in traditional forms of Japanese poetry. Kigo are used in the collaborative linked-verse forms renga and renku, as well as in haiku, to indicate the season referred to in the stanza. They are valuable in providing economy of expression.” (Wikipedia) “This is a short form for kisetsu no kotoba 季節の言葉, season word, seasonal word, seasonal phrase, seasonal expression. Such a word or phrase does not only refer to a phenomenon in nature (the bees and the butterflies, the weather report), but it shows us how things change within each season. Furthermore it incorporates the seasonal aspects in human life, such as ceremonies and festivals, lifestyle and food, as they flow within the seasons. Traditional Japanese haiku are about the changes of the season (not simply about nature!) and the season words help to express this feeling of change.” (World Kigo Database)

kire: Meaning “the cut. ” “Similarly, the disjunctive effects of haiku’s reliance on cutting, or kire, which Gilbert calls “a haiku fundament,” would appear to suggest the fragmented self that we experience when we no longer dwell in the Imaginary Order. But as Gilbert points out, “It is the semantic act of cutting which paradoxically forges the sense of non-duality, that is, a reader-sense of coherence arising from the fragmentary aspects (katakoto) of haiku. If coherence did not occur, we would not have a poem, but merely a grouping of linguistic fragments.” (Jouissance among the Kire: A Lacanian Approach to Haiku by Ian Marshall)

kireji: “Kireji (切れ字 lit. “cutting word”) is the term for a special category of words used in certain types of Japanese traditional poetry. It is regarded as a requirement in traditional haiku, as well as in the hokku, or opening verse, of both classical renga and its derivative renku (haikai no renga). There is no exact equivalent of kireji in English, and its function can be difficult to define. It is said to supply structural support to the verse. When placed at the end of a verse, it provides a dignified ending, concluding the verse with a heightened sense of closure. Used in the middle of a verse, it briefly cuts the stream of thought, indicating that the verse consists of two thoughts half independent of each other. In such a position, it indicates a pause, both rhythmically and grammatically, and may lend an emotional flavour to the phrase preceding it. Kireji have no direct equivalent in English. Mid-verse kireji have been described as sounded rather than written punctuation. In English-language haiku and hokku, as well as in translations of such verses into this language, kireji may be represented by punctuation (typically by a dash or an ellipsis), an exclamatory particle (such as ‘how…’), or simply left unmarked.” (Wikipedia)

kiyose: An almanac of seasonal references. Similar to a saijiki, but without examples from poetry.

kokoro: “Heart, feeling, soul. The opposite of kotoba – substance.” (haiku.ru)

kokoro-zuke: “Renga linking based on associations of feding or imagination, literally ‘heart-linking’.” (Haiku in Britain, Martin Lucas)

kukai: An often friendly haiku contest, judged anonymously by participants. Sometimes, the term can be used to indicate a haiku meeting.

kyoka: A parodic subgenre of the tanka form of Japanese poetry.

kyu: “The final phase of a renga.” (Haiku in Britain, Martin Lucas) The progression of a renga is jo-ha-kyu. See entries for ha and jo.

ma: The unsaid in a poem. “Literally, ma is the sense of time and space, incorporating between, space, room, interval, pause, time, timing, passing, distanced, etc. More particularly, ma may be taken as the timing of space, as in the duration between two musical notes. Silence is valued as well as sound. It is said that the ma aesthetic is influential upon all varieties of Japanese art.” (Simply Haiku, Denis Garrison) There are many definitions of ma. “…ma denotes a line in space, a measure of length or distance. The first character in this word originally stood for a “hold in the ground,” and later took on its present meaning of a “hole in the universe” or “the sky.” Ono Susumu[8] suggests that the ancient Japanese divided space vertically into two parts. One was sora (空 , sky), which was understood as absence of content, emptiness. The other was ame or ama ( 天, heaven), which was the opposite of kuni ( 国, region, realm, government) and thus meant an earthly area of habitation and rule.” (Ma: Place, Space, Void by Gunter Nitschke)

makoto: “Sincerity or truthfulness in poetry.” (Haiku in Britain, Martin Lucas)

maeku: “In a renga, the ‘previous verse’, i.e. the stanza with which a connection is made.” (Haiku in Britain, Martin Lucas)

Manyoshu: “The oldest anthology of Japanese poetry. It is made up of 20 volumes containing more than 4500 nagauta, tanka, and sedoka verse; their authors are unknown.” (haiku.ru)

mujo: Impermanence. “A prominent and complex idea in Japanese literature as well as Buddhism and Daoism, and central to Basho’s writings. One of the most fundamental aspects of life is its changefulness, which can take many forms: the regular cycles of the seasons, the creative transformations of nature, the rise and inevitable fall of ruling houses, the inescapable degeneration of aging, the inconstancy of lovers, the inevitability of death, the uncertainty of life, etc.” (Terebess Asia Online)

musbin: “A term applied to (early) renga to denote light-hardheartedness.” (Haiku in Britain, Martin Lucas)

nibutsu shoogeki: “lit. “two things – shock,” juxtaposition, contrasting two things.” (World Kigo Database)

nioi: “Linkage so fine as to be almost intangible. A style refined by Basho.” (Terebess Asia Online)

omoi: “(lit. Thought, meditation) In poetics – the idea and the emotional content of verse.” (haiku.ru)

on: A sound unit in Japanese that is incorrectly translated as a syllable. It is a unit by which stanzas are measured. On are evenly measured, whereas syllables widely vary in length. That is why counting syllables when writing haiku and related forms in English is not recommended.

ren: “A core concept of Japanese aesthetics that extends to all artforms and may also be found in ideas of social organisation. Ren exists in the space between difference and similarity.” (Terebess Asia Online)

renga: “The use of the word renga in Japanese has varied considerably over time. But it seems always to refer to poems of linked stanzas of alternating lengths roughly 17 and 14 on or “sounds”, more or less equivalent to three and two short verse lines in English. Usually such poems are written by two or more people, though masters and students have written solo renga for models or practice. At different times the lengths of typical renga have varied from two stanzas to a thousand or more. In the heyday of aristocratic, classical renga there were two main types: “serious renga” (ushin renga–literally, “renga with heart”), which followed the courtly traditions of elevated diction and tone (no Chinese loan-words, no vulgar images); and literally “heartless renga” (mushin renga), which allowed virtually all subject matter and words that would never appear in a courtly tanka, for example.” (William J. Higginson, “RENGA” AND “RENKU”)

rengay: “The rengay is a collaborative six-verse linked thematic poem written by two or three poets using alternating three-line and two-line haiku or haiku-like stanzas in a regular pattern. The pattern for two people is A-3, B-2, A-3, B-3, A-2, B-3, with the letters representing the poets, and the numbers indicating the number of lines in each given verse. For three people the pattern is A-3, B-2, C-3, A-2, B-3, C-2. Unlike renku, Garry [Gay] [the founder of rengay] proposes that a rengay stay in one season and develop a single theme. Since they are brief, rengay are also more easily remembered than renku, and more likely to be published in the various haiku journals.” (Michael Dylan Welch, http://www.graceguts.com/essays/rengay-an-introduction)

renku: “…poets and scholars adopted the term renku to refer specifically to renga composed in the style and manner of the Bashô school. Both classical, courtly renga and Bashô-style renku have continued, side-by-side, albeit somewhat underground, throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.” (William J. Higginson, “RENGA” AND “RENKU”)

sabi: “The celebration of that which is old and faded.” (Britannica.com) “Sabi means things whose beauty stems from age. It refers to the patina of age, and the concept that changes due to use may make an object more beautiful and valuable. This also incorporates an appreciation of the cycles of life, as well as careful, artful mending of damage.” (http://mercury.lcs.mit.edu/~jnc/nontech/wabisabi.html)

saijiki: An almanac of seasons with examples from haiku and related forms.

sedoka: The sedōka, or “head-repeated poem,” consists of two tercets of five, seven, and seven on, or sound units in Japanese. An uncommon form, it was sometimes used for dialogues. In English, the on does not correspond to syllables in an exact manner, however.

senryu: “Senryu (more accurately presented in English as senryū, with a macron) is similar to haiku except that it tends to be more satirical or ironic in tone, and does not need to include a season word or two-part structure (although some senryu may still include these elements yet still be considered as senryu). Haiku tend to celebrate their subjects (even if dark), whereas senryu tend to have a “victim,” and may or may not be humourous. I don’t mean that they are about a victim as a subject, but that the poem itself victimizes the subject, even if lightly, yet may do so without preaching or holier-than-thou moralizing. Haiku typically treat their subjects reverently, whereas senryu do so irreverently. Haiku try to make a feeling, and senryu try to make a point. And if haiku is a finger pointing to the moon, senryu is a finger poking you—or someone else—in the ribs.” (Michael Dylan Welch, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Haiku and Senryu But Were Too Busy Writing to Ask)

shahai: A photo accompanied by a haiku or a related poem that connect subtly.

shasei: “To sketch from life,” or “to depict as it is,” or “reality.” An aesthetic promoted by Shiki, relating to western ideas of sketch art.

shiori: “A delicacy verging on pathos that intends a deep sympathy for both nature and humanity.” (Terebess Asia Online)

shofu: The later style of Basho known for lightness, simplicity, and quietude.

sono mama: Describing an object or event without interpretation or fanciful words.

sumi-e: “Sumi-e is the Japanese word for nlack ink painting. East Asian painting and writing developed together in ancient China using the same materials: brush and ink on paper. Emphasis is placed on the beauty of each individual stroke of the brush. The Chinese speak of “writing a painting” and “painting a poem.” A great painting was judged on three elements: the calligraphy strokes, the words of the poetry (often with double meanings and subtle puns) and the ability of the painting strokes to capture the spirit (Ch’i) of nature rather than a photographic likeness. The artists of Japan, Korea, and Malaysia learned from the Chinese and then developed their own versions of East Asian brush painting.” (http://www.sumiesociety.org/whatissumie.php)

the eight manners: “Shikô (1665-1731), one of Bashô’s disciples, discussed “Eight Manners” of linking (hattai). In each of them, the reader, or the following poet in a renku session, must move into the context of the preceding verse in order to understand or create the following verse. The Eight Manners are “person” (sono hito), “place” (sono ba), “season” (jisetsu), “time of day” (jibun), “climate” (tensô), “timeliness” (jigi), “compassion” or “empathy” (kansô), and “nostalgic image” (omokage). In each case, one enters into the world implied by the preceding stanza and brings out some essential characteristic of that supposed world in the following stanza. So, for example, one might find the setting suggested in one verse appropriate to a character introduced in the next, or vice-versa. One might see a possible seasonal aspect in a normally seasonless stanza, and so definitely move to that season in the next. And so on. Timeliness refers to current fashions; compassion to an appropriately empathic, or even religious response.” (William J. Higginson, “RENGA” AND “RENKU”)

tanka: “The typical lyric poem of Japanese literature, composed of five unrhymed metrical units of 5,7,5,7,7 ‘sound symbols’; tanka in English have generally been in five lines with a total of thirty-one or fewer syllables, often observing a short, long, short, long, long pattern. Tanka usually need no titles, though in Japanese a ‘topic’ (dai) is often indicated where a title would normally stand in Western poetry. In Japan, the tanka is well over twelve hundred years old (haiku is about three hundred years old), and has gone through many periods of change in style and content. But it has always been a poem of feelings, often involving metaphor and other figurative language (not generally used in haiku). While tanka praising nature have been written, and seem to resemble “long haiku,” most tanka deal with human relationships or the author’s situation. In the words of Sanford Goldstein, “behind the scene is the autobiographical moment of the poet’ (‘Tanka Off the Back Burner,’ Frogpond,XV:2 Fall–Winter 1992). The best tanka harmonizes the writer’s emotional life with the elements of the outer world used to portray it.”’ (Castles in the Sand (Press Here, 2003)

tan-renga: “A two stanza poem, the 5/7/5 maeku (front verse) being written by one person, and the 7/7 tsukeku (joined verse) by another.” (Terebess Asia Online)

teikei: The tension between form and freedom.

tōki: In a renga, the hokku part follows the rule of tōki, or “this season.” A mention of the season is needed. 

toriawase: “literally “taking and putting together,” a combination, an arrangement, an assortment. I prefer the idea of toriawase as a combination, symbiosis, a pair that belongs together. The combination (often referred to as juxtaposition in ELH), should not be too close and not too far removed – to find the proper balance shows a skillful haiku. With the CUT in haiku, you can stress the unity of the two parts.” (World Kigo Database)

tōza: In a renga, the hokku part follows the rule of tōza, or “this session.” Describing something directly at the renga writing session is needed. 

tsukeku: “In a renga, the ‘following verse’, i.e. the stanza which has been connected.” (Haiku in Britain, Martin Lucas)

usbin: “A term applied to renga to denote seriousness or literary decorum.” (Haiku in Britain, Martin Lucas)

uta-makuta: “Literally, a ‘poetic pillow’, i.e. a place name famous in Japanese poetry.” (Haiku in Britain, Martin Lucas)

uta-monogatari: “Literally, a ‘poem tale’, i.e. a prose account of the origins of a tanka.” (Haiku in Britain, Martin Lucas)

wabi: “Cultivated simplicity and poverty” (Brittanica.com) or “austere sense of beauty” (Terebess Asia Online)

waka: “Waka (和歌), or Yamato uta, is a genre of Japanese poetry. Waka literally means Japanese poem in Japanese. The word was originally coined during the Heian period to differentiate native poetry from the kanshi (Chinese poems) that all educated Japanese people were also familiar with. For this reason, the word waka encompasses a number of differing styles. The main two are tanka (短歌, “short poem”) and chōka (長歌, “long poem”), but there are also bussokusekika, sedoka, and katauta. These last three forms, however, fell into disuse at the beginning of the Heian period, and chōka vanished soon afterward. Thus, in time, the term waka came to signify the one sub-form tanka. Japanese poet and critic, Masaoka Shiki, created the term tanka in the early twentieth century, saying that “waka should be renewed and modernized.” Until then, poems of this nature had been referred to as waka or simply uta (“song, poem”). He also invented the term haiku for his revision of the old hokku form, with the same intention.” (New World Encyclopedia)

wakiku: “The second stanza of a renga.” (Haiku in Britain, Martin Lucas)

yojo: “Literally, ‘surplus meaning’ i.e. poetry which goes beyond the superficial.” (Haiku in Britain, Martin Lucas)

yugen: “Yūgen is an important concept in traditional Japanese aesthetics. The exact translation of the word depends on the context. In Chinese philosophical texts, the term was taken from yuugen, which meant “dim”, “deep” or “mysterious.” In the criticism of Japanese waka poetry, it was used to describe the subtle profundity of things that are only vaguely suggested by the poems, and was also the name of a style of poetry (one of the ten orthodox styles delineated by Fujiwara no Teika in his treatises). In the treatises on the Noh theatre by Zeami Motokiyo, it refers to the grace and elegance of the dress and behaviour of court ladies.” (Wikipedia, with edits)

zappai: “Zappai (雑俳) is a form of Japanese poetry rooted in haikai. It is related to, but separate from, haiku and senryū. The Haiku Society of America refers to zappai as “miscellaneous amusements in doggerel verse,” although a more accurate definition might be, as Lee Gurga suggests, a form of poetry that “includes all types of seventeen syllable poems that do not have the proper formal or technical characteristics of haiku.” (Wikipedia)

zoka: “It is the vitality and creativity of nature, its tendency and ability to undergo beautiful and marvelous transformations. It is not a place or collection of things, nor is it something outside nature that is directing it or bringing things into being—thus the translation of ―the Creator is misleading. Zōka is the ongoing, continuous self-transforming creativity of the natural world.” (Simply Haiku, David Landis Barnhill)

zoku: The language of common people.