Rhyme and Rhythm


Rhyme and Rhythm

Endrhyme is not usually common in Japanese haiku.

But there is a technique of using the same ON sound for the first sound of each of the three segments of a haiku.
This is called too-in とういん【頭韻】 alliteration, consonance.


aota ni wa
aoki yamiyo no
arinu beshi

Hirai Shoobin 平井照敏

The three segments start with the sound A.
I can not translate this properly, but the meaning of this haiku is

over the green fields
there should be
a green night sky

green fields -
growing over them should be
green night sky


CLICK for original LINK ... blog.goo.ne.jp

あざみ あざやかな あさの あめあがり

azayaka na
asa no
ame agari

The English does not convey the alliteration of the Japanese, just the meaning.

so bright
rain ends

Taneda Santoka 山頭火


CLICK for original LINK ... jalan.net

aotsuta no ganji garame ni magaibutsu

the vine creeper
has completely wrapped it -
cliff Buddha

Shoobu Ayame 菖蒲あや

WKD : Magaibutsu 磨崖仏 Stone Carvings and Sculptures

The first sound of each segment is of the A-sounds. And most of the sounds are in the Japanese way softened, GA-sounds.


wata chiru ya ko-yabu ko-yashiro ko-mizo made

cotton fluffs scatter -
to the little thicket, to the little shrine
to the little ditch

Kobayashi Issa
Tr. Gabi Greve


Alliteration Haiku


utagau na
ushiro no hana mo
ura no haru

do not be in doubt -
even the flowers of the tides
have spring in the inlets

(My translation does not show this alliteration well.)


kiku no hana
saku ya ishiya no
ishi no ai

chrysanthemums blooming -
in a stonemason's yard
amid the stones

Tr. Barnhill

chrysanthemum flowers
are blossoming - amongst the stones
of a stonemason's

Tr. Greve

Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉
at Hatchobori canal 八丁堀, Edo.
This area of the town was known for its stonemasons, because the stones could be transported by ship on the canal. Even in these harsh surroundings, some chrysanthemums had made their way to flowering.

(This haiku has the cut marker YA in the middle of line 2.)


Time turns towards trouble
The thieves torture the timid
Thrusting their thunder

source : jonathanxopher, 2007

samukaroo kayukaroo hito ni aitakaroo

you must be cold
you must be itching
you must long to see people

Masaoka Shiki, 1897
He wrote this for his good friend Kawahigashi Hekigoto, who was in hospital with smallpox. Shiki himself was also bound to his bed with tuberculosis at that time.


quote from
Global Haiku Tradition

the swallow swoops
barely rippling the canal’s surface
—perfect kill

Timothy Russell, shiki workshops 4941

This is on of Timothy Russell’s haiku that is completely from nature. The picture of the bird swooping in and getting its prey is something that can only been seen in nature. This reminds me of watching animals hunt for food on the Discovery Channel.
The first line, “the swallow swoops,” is a great opener. The alliteration of the ‘SW’s’ works really well in helping to visualize the bird fly down to catch its prey. In the second line the word “barely” emphasizes the preciseness of the swallow attack as it skims across the surface. This line creates a good image of the water. I can see the small ripples of the water. Finally, the last line sums it all up; “—perfect kill.”
source : Jared Stahl, 2003


© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

His translations apply a 5–7–5 syllable count in English, with the first and third lines end-rhymed. Yasuda's theory includes the concept of a "haiku moment" based in personal experience, and provides the motive for writing a haiku. His notion of the haiku moment has resonated with haiku writers in North America, even though the notion is not widely promoted in Japanese haiku.

Henderson translated every hokku and haiku into a rhymed tercet (a-b-a), whereas the Japanese originals never used rhyme. Unlike Yasuda, however, he recognized that seventeen syllables in English are generally longer than the seventeen moras of a traditional Japanese haiku. Because the normal modes of English poetry depend on accentual meter rather than on syllabics, Henderson chose to emphasize the order of events and images in the originals. Nevertheless, many of Henderson's translations were in the five-seven-five pattern.

How rough the sea!
And, stretching off to Sado Isle,
The Galaxy . . .

On a journey, ill –
And my dreams on withered fields
are wandering still.

higoro nikuki karasu mo yuki no ashita kana

The usually hateful crows!
They also . . . on a morning
When it snows . . .

source : The Bamboo Broom


Alliteration can be a tribute to the music of language, and works that way as long as it does not distract from what the words say. I find that use of alliteration acceptable in haiku.

Rhyme is rarely found in haiku. When it is, it works best if unobtrusive - the reader does not even notice it on first reading. In my view the same is true for all modern poetry.

source : Karen Peterson Butterworth, NZ


More external LINKS on rhyming haiku

Can you rhyme Haiku poems? Yahoo knows the answer

by Alexey Andreyev
Classic haiku do not rhyme. However, rhymed haiku are possible.

by Mark Smith
about Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

by Charles Trumbull



haregiwa no
harari kirari to
haru shigure

almost fine now -
harari kirari falls
the spring sleet

Kawasaki Tenko (Kawasaki Tenkoo) 川崎展宏

with a lot of A-sounds and R-sounds in Japanese, that give it a delicate spring feeling. All three segments start with HA.



Matsushima ya
aa Matsushima ya
Matsushima ya

A famous haiku by ?
Matsushima, famous area near Sendai, Northern Japan


In language, alliteration refers to the repetition of a particular sound in the first syllables of a series of words and/or phrases. Alliteration has historically developed largely through poetry, in which it more narrowly refers to the repetition of a consonant in any syllables that, according to the poem's meter, are stressed, as in James Thomson's verse "Come ..dragging the lazy languid Line along".
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

is the repetition of vowel sounds to create internal rhyming within phrases or sentences, and together with alliteration and consonance[1] serves as one of the building blocks of verse. For example, in the phrase
"Do you like blue?",
the /uː/ ("o"/"ou"/"ue" sound) is repeated within the sentence and is assonant.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

Related words

NHK Haiku, August 2009

- quote -
Harold Stewart:
The use of rhyme in haiku is not that far wrong when one understands that in Japanese, due to the constructive use of the vowels in the language, one has a one-in-six chance that any two lines will rhyme. Thus, the Japanese haiku often have not only a line-end rhyme but often one or more internal rhymes. And the writers used this ability to strengthen their poems. Because rhyme occurs so easily it is easier to ignore because the syntax is not shaped to cause the rhyme as must be done in English. As in the example above, one can feel and see where Stewart made a change to get the rhyme.
It can happen that a person’s first version of writing down a haiku will naturally contain a rhyme. At this point the author can decide whether to keep it or to find synonyms to avoid the rhyme.
One thing to think about in making this decision is the feeling that when lines end with a matching rhyme, there is a feeling of the poem ‘closing down’ or seeming to be finished. We are so trained that rhymes occur at the end of a line that when the ear hears the rhyme, the mind automatically signals that the poem is ended. In haiku, we want exactly the opposite situation – the poem should open out, leaving something else to be thought. The reader should carry the words farther – to continue to think about it, ponder what has been said in order to arrive at the reader’s own understanding of the poem.
Also, when a series of haiku are rhymed, their very shortness will lead to a sing-song feeling of repetition that quickly becomes monotonous. Because English has been called a rhyme-poor language, our options for rhyme are greatly curtailed as we have less choices than other languages.
For these reasons, and to separate haiku from the styles of Western poetry, it has always been a basic rule that haiku are not rhymed.

Harold Stewart.
A Net of Fireflies. Tuttle: 1960. Page 88.
- source : ahapoetry.com -


. Jim Wilson .

ELH and Rhyme: Part 1

I’m going to take a few posts to discuss rhyme in ELH.
But as a prelude I want to touch on Basho’s use of rhyme in his “Narrow Road to the Deep North” (Oku no Hosomichi). I am aware that rhyming in Japanese is much easier than it is in English because of the structure of Japanese phonemes. It is therefore to be expected that there will be rhymes in Japanese haiku. Even so, I do not think the usage of rhyme by Basho is incidental or trivial and I suspect it has something to teach ELH, even though rhyme in English is more difficult and therefore has a more striking effect. By ‘rhyme’ in this context I am referring to end-rhyme, not interior rhyme or to assonance.

It is often said that haiku is a form of poetry that is ‘unrhymed’. But I don’t think that is quite accurate. Rhyme is used, as we shall see, by Basho in his haiku. What is fair to say is that rhyme is not a formal requirement of Japanese haiku. Unlike some forms of English or Chinese poetry where a rhyme scheme is a required formal element, the haiku form does not require that the poet incorporate rhyme into the poem. But that does not mean that Japanese haiku poets do not use or are unaware of its effects. Rhyme can be used (along with other sonic effects) for expressive purposes, as one tool to create an attractive haiku.

Looking at the haiku in Basho’s ‘Narrow Road’ I count 64 overall. Of these 13 use A-B-A. 4 of these are by Sora. 11 haiku use the A-A-B scheme. 4 use the A-B-B scheme. And 3 use A-A-A, one of those is by Sora. That is an overall count of 31 haiku using end-rhyme. That’s a little under 50% of the haiku. So the division between haiku that use end rhyme and those that do not is about 50-50.

I find the use of end-rhyme in the ‘Narrow Road’ to be effective and pleasing. This is illustrated in particular with the very last haiku:

hamaguri no / futami ni wakare / yuku aki zo

like a clam from its shell,
setting off for Futami Bay:
departing fall

(Barnhill, “Basho’s Journey”, page 77)

This is a particularly strong rhyme for it isn’t just the last syllables of lines 1 & 3 that rhyme (no / zo); the scheme encompasses guri no / aki zo, repeating the i – o pattern. I found only one other haiku that has an o / o end-rhyme for lines 1 & 3, so it is a rarely used sonic resonance in the work. And in that other haiku for line 3 it is the long ‘o’; so I suspect that would sound more like a slant rhyme in Japanese than a full on rhyme as in the closing haiku. (I’m not really sure of that; those who know Japanese, please feel free to correct me on this point.) In addition, there is no equivalent to the i – o pattern found in the concluding haiku. My feeling is that the end rhyme pattern in the concluding haiku is very strong.

Interestingly this rhyme pattern is replicated in the translation by Dorothy Britton:

Sadly, I part from you;
Like a clam torn from it shell,
I go, and autumn too.

(A Haiku Journey, page 85)

Notice how Britton replicates the two-part vowel pattern with ‘from you / tumn too’, which, I think, is quite an achievement in translation.

My feeling is that the effect of the A-B-A rhyme scheme is to frame the haiku and give it a definite sense of closure. For that reason it feels particularly appropriate for the closing lines of the ‘Narrow Road’. It feels like the last chord of a song. It is strongly cadential and very sonically satisfying.

Admittedly this is a brief overview of just one of Basho’s work. But I wanted to give this as background because I think the use of rhyme in ELH has Japanese precedent. Again, admitting that the sonic contours of the two languages differ, nevertheless the way Basho uses rhyme in the ‘Narrow Road’ does have some applicability, I feel, to ELH.
Now, on to some of the ways ELH poets use rhyme.

. Matsuo Basho Archives 松尾芭蕉! .


***** Haiku Theory Archives



Anonymous said...

An interesting read. Thanx for posting, Gabi.

Gabi Greve said...

nige tori ya ko o furikaeri furikaeri

the fleeing bird
turns back to her children
turns back...

A hunting scene. The mother or father bird, pursued by a falcon or hawk, keeps turning back toward the nest.

David Lanoue