Haiku and Stress | What is Haiku? | Haiku's History
During the Heian period of Japanese culture (700-1100), it was considered a social requirement to be able to instantly recognize and recite both Japanese and Chinese poetry. It was around this period of time that short forms of poetry (tanka)were starting to be widely acknowledged to be more popular than long forms of poetry (choka). The rigid lifestyles of the time could also be seen in art and every poem had to have a specific form. The approved form was the 5-7-5 triplet followed by a couplet of seven syllables , and it is still used today among most people.
From the 5-7-5 triplet developed the renga (linked verse) and the kusari-no-renga (chains of linked verse). It was then that Japanese poetry underwent a a huge change in which the rigid forms of the past were replaced with a airier tone. This new form was called haikai and was later named renku.
The poet Basho turned the former ways of poems on their heads and made the hokku into a poemthat stood on its own, later to be known as haiku. Basho's work focused around the concept of a feeling of lightness -- so much that he abandoned the traditional syllabic limitations to achieve it.
Since the time of Basho, the history of haiku mirrors Zen ideals. While it has underwent many changes, developments, and editions, good haiku today is surprisingly similar as to when Basho developed the form in the seventeenth century.
So what should haiku accomplish and just what should it provide the reader with ? According to the classic haiku poets of Japan, haiku should present the reader with an observation of a natural, commonplace event, in the simplest words, without verbal trickery. The effect of haiku is one of "sparseness". It's a momentary snatch from time's flow, crystallized and distilled. Nothing more, nothing less.
Of all the forms of poetry, haiku is perhaps the most demanding of the reader's participation because haiku merely suggests something in the hopes that the reader will find "a glimpse of hitherto unrecognized depths in the self." Haiku is nothing without sensitivity.
Two other major haiku poets who helped shape haiku into what it is today, both of whom followed in the tradition of Basho, were Buson and Issa.