Monday, July 19, 2010

Haiku Analogs

Haiku Analogs

The word ‘analog’, in the context of syllabic poetry, means two or more forms of poetry that share an overall syllable count, but that differ in how those syllables are distributed over the lines of the poem. In this post I am going to write a bit about analogs to the Haiku form. In the context of this post, I will be referring to syllabic Haiku; that is to say Haiku written in accordance with the 5-7-5 lineation. A lot of Haiku is written in free verse style, with no set lineation (see my post "Siblings" for a discussion of the three main approaches to Haiku in the west). Free verse Haiku does not lend itself to Analogs because there is no fixed line count and line count is the basis for generating analogs of syllabic forms. So from the persective of syllabic Haiku there are four Haiku analogs: the Monoku, the Crystalline, Haiku Prime, and Cinqku.

The Monoku

A Monoku resembles a syllabic Haiku in that both have seventeen syllables, but a Monoku is written on a single line. In other words, the syllabic Monoku is a one line poem of seventeen syllables. The Monoku has several sources. First, Japanese Haiku are sometimes written in a single line. This is particularly true when Haiku are written on a painting or photograph. This is possible in Japanese because the three sections of a Japanese Haiku are separated by ‘cutting words’, or ‘kireji’, that are readily recognizable by a Japanese reader. There are no equivalents to cutting words in English and for that reason English translators have used as a standard the division of the Haiku into three distinct lines; substituting lineation (and/or punctuation) for the cutting words in Japanese.

The second source for Monoku is, I suspect, the epigram. Haiku have a tendency to morph into epigrams anyway, even when written on three lines. This is particularly true when the Haiku poet drops the traditional seasonal reference. It is not clear where the Haiku ends and the epigram begins; this is sometimes true even for seasonal Haiku which at times can read like epigrams about the seasons.

The third source for the Monoku is modern free verse. One-line poems are a feature of short-form free verse and have been for some time. Since many Haiku poets have absorbed free verse norms and write in basically a free verse manner, it is not surprising that Monoku, or Haiku written on a single line, would appear as an option.

The Monoku has the ability to play on ambiguities which three line lineation would make problematic and thus there is often in the Monoku a deliberate use of wordplay. Here are some examples of Monoku I have written:

July late morning fog slowly lifting the pink camellias

An example of the ambiguity and word play is show by dividing the above Monoku into two sections:

July late morning fog slowly lifting

late morning fog slowly lifting the pink camellias

By deliberately not using punctuation and just writing a single line the feeling of the fog communicates while it is lifting, and the seeming way it lifts the camellias, can be communicated.

Here’s another:

no moon last night I remembered you are gone

The two sections are: No moon last night

And: Last night I remembered you are gone

The phrase ‘last night’ functions as a kind of pivot, shared by two phrases. This is a short-form Monoku, only eleven syllables, but it still has the kind of complexity one can find in a Monoku.

Not all Monoku have this kind of pivot:

vultures slowly circling above the field beneath swiftly moving clouds

What distinguishes the Monoku from the Haiku is that the single line of the Monoku has no breaks; it just goes from the first to last syllable. In this sense the Monoku differs from a Japanese Haiku written on a single line because in Japanese Haiku the single line is still divided into three sections through the use of cutting words. In the Monoku this usually does not happen and instead one has a complex statement with overlapping parts forming a complex whole.

I enjoy writing Monoku. Here are few to round out the presentation:

sixty years went by the falling maple leaves uncover bare branches

the empty bookshelves in the early morning silence is my scripture

pine incense placed upon a cliff between Andromeda and Saturn

An important poet in the development of the Monoku is Marlene Mountain whose work can be found at Marlene Mountain’s work is striking, cutting, sometimes bitter, opinionated, and intense. A lot of it is written on one line, but has deep roots in the Haiku tradition. MM is a free verser; that is to say specific lineation is not her concern so I don’t consider her to be a syllabic poet. But through her contacts and the intensity of her verse she demonstrated the efficacy of a one-line approach to Haiku, including the more syllabically strict forms of Monoku.

The Crystalline

The Crystalline is a creation of Denis Garrison, a well-known and highly influential poet and editor of many short verse magazines. For years he was the editor of Modern English Tanka. The Crystalline is introduced in his book “Eight Shades of Blue”, a collection of Haiku, Tanka, and Crystallines.

Garrison defines the Crystalline as follows, “DEFINITION: The ‘crystalline’ is a new haiku analogue; a seventeen syllable couplet that assimilates as much as possible from the Japanese haiku tradition into the English poetic tradition. A primary concern for the crystalline is the euphony of the verse. . .

“PROSODY: A crystalline is, ideally, a couplet of exactly 17 syllables. A couplet may be “regular” or “irregular” depending upon the symmetry of the lines. A regular couplet’s syllables are distributed 8 + 9 or 9 + 8. Other distributions are “irregular” but entirely acceptable if the verse works best divided unevenly.”

It is appropriate to note that some traditional Japanese Haiku are divided in this way in the sense that either a cutting word or conjunction of some kind will be placed at the ninth syllable, yielding two sections of eight syllables on either side of the central word. An example is the use of the word ‘ya’ in this placement. The result is a Haiku that could be counted in the way Garrison structures his Crystalline. The Haiku that are structured in this way also have cutting words at the usual placements to create the usual 5-7-5 syllabic structure. When both are present this creates complex syllabic patterns and phrasings that have a contrapuntal quality to them.

Garrison’s essay, “The Prosody of the Crystalline” contains much additional information and suggestions. If you are interested I recommend that you get the book “Eight Shades of Blue” which is available from (I recommend that you get it in any case since it is a superb collection.) But I won’t reproduce the entire essay here. Instead, here are a few examples from Garrison’s collection:

Day so bright, shadows seem like night,
Cool veranda, dark within the light.

Windy, wintry day, the dead leaves fly.
No birds will try this pallid sky.

Late winter sky, lonely miles from you.
The spruce hills turn a darker blue.

At the bottom of the wishing well,
a thank-you note lies bleeding ink.

Waiting for her at the clinic.
Windows writhe with rivulets of rain.

Notice the concern with the lyrical and musical aspects of poetry; the frequent use of alliteration and assonance, and the explicit use of rhyme. The Crystalline is concerned with bringing these elements of poetry into the Haiku context in a flexible couplet form.

Haiku Prime

Haiku Prime is a four-line analog to the traditional syllabic Haiku. I am the originator of this analog. It consists of the first four prime numbers: 2-3-5-7, which added up make 17 syllables. It is one line short of the Prime: 2-3-5-7-11, for a total of 28 syllables, an analog for the Four-Seven Quatrain. The Prosody of Haiku Prime is very simple, consisting solely of the syllabic form. Like Garrison with the Crystalline, I have a strong interest in poetic euphony and I would encourage poets interested in Haiku Prime to incorporate the full range of poetic skills into Haiku Prime, such as rhyme, assonance, and alliteration. Regarding lineation, run-ons are to be avoided and in general the syntax and lineation should match.

Part of my interest in developing the Haiku Prime is that I wanted to see how a Quatrain form would work when the Quatrain did not have lines that were all the same syllable count. In other words, I wanted to apply what I had learned from Chinese Quatrains to a Quatrain form with varied line count and the Haiku Prime seemed like a good candidate. For this reason, end rhyme is strongly encouraged. Here are a few examples of Haiku Prime:

Gray dawn
Mist in the morning
In summer it does not last

A Psalm
Before dawn
Before the world wakes
While the air is cool and calm

Toast and tea
Such simplicity
And the sound of morning mist

Makes me smile
His music’s sunny
Haydn makes life seem worthwhile

The Cinqku

The Cinqku is another syllabic creation of Denis Garrison, who seems to delight in creating syllabic forms and particularly in creating analogs. Here is Garrison’s Prosody for the Cinqku:

DEFINITION: The "cinqku" is a new tanka analogue; a seventeen syllable cinquain that assimilates as much as possible from the Japanese haiku and tanka traditions into the English poetic tradition. A primary concern for the cinqku is the effective use of the line break.
Cinqku is a cinquain [i.e. five-line] form of tanka, one that is a closer analogue to tanka than is the American Cinquain (Crapseian) and that maximizes the utility of the line break technique. A cinqku is a cinquain with:
· a strict syllable count (2,3,4,6,2) making 17 syllables on 5 lines
· no title
· tanka style free diction and syntax
· no metrical requirement
· a turn that may be similar to kireji or a cinquain turn.
Single cinqku generally are not titled however a poem consisting of several cinqku may be titled. Linked sequences are excellent natural forms for cinqku.
This was taken from an online site which can be found here:

Here are a few of Garrison’s Cinqku also found at this site:

five cold years
but never gone—
our bedroom's fragrant with
her scent

July storm
writhing steam lifts
through the downpour—falling,

And here are a few by the British Poet Brian Strand who is a significant syllabic poet of the short forms in the essay and many other short forms as well:

the first
heavy frost
whitens the lawn—
overnight fall becomes

bells echo
across the square—
sepia memories

the hedge a
welcome haven---
down my neck raindroplets

by a smile,
the warmth of love
engaged and now lives on---

Unlike the Crystalline, the Cinqku is not presented in any of Garrison’s books. Additional information regarding the Cinqku can be found here:

The Cinqku continues to undergo evolution in Garrison’s thought. In an email to me he wrote, “I developed cinqku as a haiku analog but later found it more interesting as a set form variety of minimalist tanka.” In this I think the Cinqku resembles the Lanterne, another minimalist Tanka-like five-line form. Like the Haiku Prime, which I sometimes think of as a cross between the Haiku and the Chinese Quatrain, Garrison’s Cinqku arises out of the intersection of two older forms, the Haiku and the Tanka. Garrison is the perfect person to facilitate such a cross as he has written Haiku and Tanka for many years, as editor has had contact with nearly all the Haiku and Tanka poets in the U.S., both major and minor, and has an intimate knowledge of Japanese culture having been raised there.

Concluding Remarks

One of the reasons I write about analog forms, forms of syllabic verse which have the same overall syllabic count with different lineation, is that analogs offer a key to understanding how syllabic verse functions. Analogs are a way of clarifying the interaction of lineation and syllable count which goes to shape a particular syllabic form. Composing in analogs demonstrates, as no theoretical understanding can, how these two factors work to delineate a particular form.

To summarize:

Syllabic Monoku: One line of seventeen syllables.
Crystallines: Two lines, seventeen syllables, divided into 9-8 or 8-9 with other variations.
Haiku Prime: Four lines, seventeen syllables, distributed as follows: 2-3-5-7.
Cinqku: Five lines, seventeen syllables, distributed as follows: 2-3-4-6-2.

These Haiku analogs are legitimate forms of poetry in themselves. They enrich the world of Haiku in the way that new kinds of roses or geraniums enrich the world of gardens. Give them a try if you find them attractive.


Gabi Greve said...

Thanks for the information!
Gabi from Japan.

Dan Gurney said...

Yes, thank you, Jim. I found this post most informative. I may try some of the forms you've described here. I'm particularly attracted to the Cinqku form.

Jim714 said...

You are welcome, Gabi. Are there these kinds of experiments taking place in Japan? I get the impression that Japanese Haiku has retained its traditional approach.

Dan, I'm not surprised that you like the Cinqku. It has that cadential quality with the closing short line that seems to appeal to you. I hope you give it a try.


Gabi Greve said...

Hi Jim,
some experimenting is done, mostly by poets influenced from gaikoku ...
NHK haiku on weekly TV is quite mainstream.