Verbs used in Haiku


Verbs used in Haiku

verbs used in haiku -
I sense a question mark
on her face


A friend asked

I would like to hear more about verbs.
I know that haiku is often called the poetry of nouns.
I tend to think that verbs have equal ability to show and not tell.

Happy Haiku Forum

and friends stated

as far as I know the use of verbs is restricted, isn't it?

I was told "we use any form of the verb 'to be' " ...

............................................. and here is another quote

"Haiku: A Poet's Guide"
by Lee Gurga, (c)2003, page 48:

Nouns and literal images

With nouns we are most clearly able to convey our experiences without interpretation. "Show, don't tell," is the haiku way.
Here is an image: a boy on a swing.
Here is a statement: I saw a boy on a swing.

The image presents what was experienced without putting the author in the picture. Further, the image here, like many images in haiku, does not contain a verb. Though verbs are certainly used in haiku, they are not absolutely necessary and many haiku poets do without them.
Nouns are the meat of haiku.
Quoted in Happy Haiku Forum


Without the frog jumping in the old pond,
we might not even be here discussing this subject !

And the frog took two verbs to jump, tobu and komu. Combined verbs are rather common in the Japanese language.

This argument of verbless haiku made me think about kigo ... and kigo used with verbs.

Sometimes the Japanese verb is implied in the noun, like "flower viewing" hanami, hana o miru koto, where the verb is MIRU, looking at, seeing.

Japanese poets often say: "Haiku is the poetry of the first person", and since the Japanese language does not always need to state the ACTOR, it is implied to be the poet.

When a Japanese verb is used explicitly, we can translate this as

I did xyz
We did xyz

If it is another person acting, it is usually mentioned too.

Translating this as
................................. xyx-ING

is trying to avoid mentioning the person who is doing the act. But in the Japanese original, it is usually quite clear.

I checked the last 12 winning entries for NHK HAIKU in November 2007 and found 11 of them using a verb.

The important cut marker KERI can only added to a verb.
nari ni keri ... is a line 3, simply saying IS/HAS ...

There is a theory that
Basho used more Chinese characters and nouns, writing about the Elite of Japan, whereas Issa used more hiragana and verbs, to talk about the human situation of his time.

I suggest
wheather to use a verb or not, or an adjective or not, for that matter, depends on the situation you experienced and want to transform into a haiku.

Your thoughts on this subject are most welcome.
Please add them as a comment.

End of Year Activities ... ... a KIGO LIST

I collected some SPRING kigo including verbs.
Quite a lot ! And not yet all of my notes checked ...

With verbs, we also have the problem of "written literary, classical language" (bungo 文語) and spoken colloquial kogo language (koogo 口語).
To bring this over in a translation is quite difficult.

. WKD : Language : Bungo and Koogo 文語 と 口語  

Gabi Greve

. Adjectives and Onomatopoetic Words in Haiku  



yoku mireba ... looking closely

CLICK for more photos

yoku mireba nazuna hana saku kakine kana

looking closely:
a shepherd's purse blossoming
beneath the hedge

Matsuo Basho, trans. Barnhill

Even in seemingly simple haiku, Basho often finds ways to give them some depth of meaning. Japanese commentators have suggested that the phrase "looking closely" alludes to a line from the Chinese poet- philospher Cheng Mingdao (aka Ch'eng Ming-tao) (1032-85) which goes,
according to Barnhill:
"when one looks with tranquility,
one sees that all things are self-content."

And Ueda, in his book "Basho and His Interpreters," quotes the commentator Tosai, who says: "The sentiment expressed here is reminiscent of the Chinese line
'Everywhere I am startled to find things renewing themselves.' "

Blyth translates the first phrase of Basho's haiku, 'yoku mireba', as "looking carefully." Blyth, in discussing this haiku of Basho's,
quotes one by Shiki which uses the same opening phrase:

yoku mireba kyuri no tsubomi ya kusa no naka

Looking carefully,--
The buds of a cucumber flower
In the grass.

Shiki, trans. Blyth

Compiled by Larry Bole
Simply Haiku, March 2008

(When) closely inspected,
Nazuna in bloom
(Under) the hedge!

Tr. D. T. Suzuki

When I look carefully
I see the nazuna blooming
by the hedge!

Tr. tom.d.stiller

[When] carefully seen,
Nazuna in bloom,
The hedge!

... www.sacred-texts.com . Tr. anonymous


Basho's hokku have been called a "poetry of nouns"
because of its tendency to rely primarily on image rather than statement.
We can look back at the Sado Island, crow on a withered branch, and old pond poems as examples.
In each case we have the same pattern of noun, noun-verb, noun.
Much of the dynamism of these poems is in the stark imagism that turning them into a statement would only dilute.

MORE about the Poetry of Nouns and
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

MORE hokku with an order " let us do this!" - seyo せよ !
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


A Japanese haiku sensei (teacher) stated :

"Japanese Haiku is poetry of the first person"

writing haiku ...
In Japanese, that is
ME !


WORDS in Japanese ... Original. bioglobe
Words used in Japanese :
14 % are verbs 動詞 in school textbooks, a check of about 550 words.


autumn morning -
the buttered side
of my toast


Emotions expressed directly in Haiku

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My Haiku Theory Archives  


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