The Department of English Announces The Robert Muroff Scholarship in Creative Writing Scholarships for Best Creative Non Fiction, Fiction, Poetry, or Dramatic Writing
$400 *prize for undergraduate winner
$100 *prize for undergraduate runner-up
$400 *prize for graduate winner
$100 *prize for graduate runner-up
Competition open to all Adelphi University students
Creative Non Fiction and Fiction: 3500 words maximum
Poetry: 5 pages maximum
Dramatic Writing: One-act, 10 minute play, or a scene or monologue that can exist on its own
Topic: God in government and politics in America or God in governments worldwide and America
Furthermore, writing should employ a haiku aesthetic
To enter submit two copies of your entry. One copy should have a cover sheet with your name, address, phone, number, status as a graduate or undergraduate, and email. The other copy should have no identifying information, as the contest will be judged anonymously.
Deadline: Monday, April 11, 2016 at 4pm
Submit entry to the English Department Office, Harvey Hall Room 216
*Prizes will be applied directly to tuition bill.
Seven Rules for Good Haiku
David G. Lanoue, President,
Haiku Society of America
1. A haiku doesn’t need to be 5-7-5 syllables. Even Basho and Issa occasionally wrote with a different number of onji (Japanese sound units). More importantly, Japanese define onji quite differently from English “syllables.” For example, the one-syllable English word, “strength,” adds up to six Japanese sound units:
Furthermore, Japanese words tend to have more sound units than English words have syllables:
Consider Basho’s famous haiku:
furu ike ya (5 onji)
kawazu tobikomu (7 onji)
mizu no oto (5 onji)
This literally translates to:
old pond (2 syllables)
a frog jumps in (4 syllables)
water sound (3 syllables)
This haiku has been translated hundreds of different ways, but no one has ever produced a good 17-syllable version. Those who have attempted this pad their translations with unnecessary words, violating the important rule of succinctness (see below).
Assuming that 5-7-5 onji equals 5-7-5 English syllables is a tragic mistake that, sadly, many language arts teachers in the U.S. continue to make, to the detriment of their students.
Of course, some very fine poets are capable of making good 5-7-5 haiku, but this is only because they follow all of the following rules as well. Most successful poets who publish in prominent haiku journals today write poems that have considerably fewer syllables than 17.
2. Succinctness. Haiku poet and editor Jim Kacian once told me about haiku: “Make it as short as it can be, and as long as it needs to be.” If you can cut out a word that’s not absolutely needed, do so.
3. Broken syntax. A haiku shouldn’t (ideally) read like a complete sentence. The typical Japanese haiku consists of two parts. Often the first part is a sentence fragment like “spring rain” (harusame ya), “autumn wind” (aki kaze ya), and so on. The “ya” in these examples functions like a verbal punctuation point, announcing a break or caesura.
To use an example from Issa, a faithful translation of one of his poems is:
snow melting –
the village is flooded
Note that Issa does not write this as a complete sentence:
in the melting snow
the village is flooded
Skillful haiku poets should make good use of fragments and internal syntactic breaks.
4. Discovery. I like to define haiku as, “a one-breath poem that discovers connection.” In a good haiku the poet discovers a connection: between an old pond and the sound of a frog jumping into it; between snow melting and children filling a village.
To write such a poem, the poet needs to approach the universe in a spirit of wide-eyed attentiveness.
This does not mean, however, that every haiku needs to be a field note written at the scene of inspiration. Haiku masters often rely on memories, reflecting on the connections within.
Haiku is not an opportunity to show off one’s cleverness. This is why many people, cognizant of the Buddhist tradition that informs haiku, suggest that the controlling attitude in haiku shouldn’t be an egotistical “look at me!” but more like a discoverer’s attitude of, “look at that!”
This is why the finest haiku lack rhyme and obvious poetic devices that pull the reader’s attention away from the central discovery to focus on the cleverness of the poet.
5. Suggest; don’t tell all. A good haiku leaves space for readers to fill in gaps with their own contemplation and imaginations. What is the deep connection between an old pond and a frog’s plop? What is the deep significance of snow melting and hordes of children taking over a village? Leave gaps for the reader (and you, the poet) to contemplate.
6. Be concrete: image, not abstraction is the norm in haiku. This is the “show; don’t tell rule” that has become basic in modern poetry. Don’t say “love”; show love. Don’t say “freedom”; show it.
7. Seasons. Classical haiku normally suggest a season of the year, but Basho, Issa and other Japanese masters wrote plenty of seasonless haiku as well. Strive to connect your poem to seasons of the year, but realize that this isn’t absolutely required. Many contemporary Japanese haiku poets wrote without “season words” (kigo).
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