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History Of Haiku Essay, Research Paper

In Japan, short poems have a long history. The earliest Japanese poetry such as that of the Manyoshu, written in 759 A.D., includes stirring narrative, dramatic and short lyrical poems which scholars believe were originally written as part of the pre-Buddhist or early Shinto ceremonial rituals (Haiku). This anthology includes anonymous songs and prayers designed to celebrate and pacify the gods, prayers for safe voyages, formal eulogies on the death of an Emperor or Empress and courting, marriage, planting and harvesting rituals. The 5 syllable, 7 syllable, 5 syllable haiku has evolved and been reinvented many times over the centuries. One such form is the 31 syllable waka composed of five 5-7-5-7-7 syllable phrases. Developed as the early imperial court of the late eighth century consolidated cultural, social and political forms, the waka took its place as one of the important regularized poetic forms of the period. Within imperial circles, minor officials and scribes gained recognition as poem-providers and word specialists due to their ability to compose waka (Haiku). Nevertheless, early Japanese poetry went beyond official usage. In the 14th century, an intellectual game developed where one person would write the first half of a waka-like poem, and another would complete it, adding the two 7-syllable stanzas.As many as four people took part in composing such poetry in what developed as a serious poetic form, with many complicated rules to ensure that the elegant court-poetry diction and aesthetic ideals were maintained. However, in large social gatherings where Japanese rice wine, or sake, was often served, participants became inebriated and started writing haikai, comic linked verse, which ignored many of the rules and allowed any subject matter at all, from the truly crude and erotic to pure slapstick, daffy comedy. According to Dr. Kerkham, it was this lower-level poetic form which Matsunaga Teitoku, haikai master, tried to clean up and popularize and teach to his student Matsuo Basho (1644-1694). Basho’s haiku, written while travelling around Japan, made him one of Japan’s most celebrated poets. By the time of his death, Basho had more than 2,000 students. Today as interest in haiku continues to grow outside of Japan, Basho’s fame is becoming increasingly international. Other poets such as Buson, Issa, Ryokan, and Masaoka Shiki, the father of modern haiku, also gained fame as major haiku poets helping to make it a poetic form popular in all corners of the world. Works CitedHaiku. University of Texas. 23 October 1999 http://asnic.utexas.edu/asnic/countries/japan/haiku.html MLA. Modern Language Association. 23 October 1999 .


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