How to Make Haiku in English
By Howard Doyle
(Dept. International Studies / 国際コミュニケーション学科 Kochi University / 高
知大學
in connection with Kochi University English & Japanese Haiku Translation
Competition
It is easy!
A Haiku is a very short poem which people
first wrote in Japanese.
Now people write Haiku in other languages
too.
Like this:
(Photoby Howard Doyle, Exhibit of students Haiku from英語テクスト構成研究中級Course June2008)
Counting Syllables in Haiku
Normally Haiku have 17 syllables
-
often as:
5 syllables + 5 syllables + 7 syllables
Do you know what syllables are?
Syllables are the different parts of a word that you
say.
For example,
• ‘syllables’
–> syl – la - bles
this
word has 3 syllables.
OR
• this word in Japanese:
• お好み焼き
おこのみやき ->
o-ko-no-mi-ya-ki
6 syllables!
But be careful !
– the way to see syllables in Japanese is
different to how to see syllables in English.
This is because spelling in English and also pronouncing words in
English are done in different ways.
Like this word:
•
‘vegetables’.
vege – ta – bles
• (sounds like ‘veg – ta – bulls’) 3 syllables!
Or this word:
•
‘strawberries’ can be
straw – berries
(sounds like ‘straw – bries’) 2 syllables
OR
straw – ber – ries
• (sounds like ‘straw – be – ries’) 3 syllables
First, let’s try to make a Haiku in
Japanese
Actually you can make haiku in Japanese in a really
similar way to making haiku in English.
For example, you can start by thinking something like this:
I smell smoke. What smoke is it? What is it coming from? Oh! it is fish.
Fish cooking! Special Japanese style cooked saury (or ‘sanma’ – 秋刀魚).
Also it is autumn now. Hmm! – people often cook sanma in autumn. Hmm! –
so, if I can smell smoke from cooking sanma, it must be autumn. So,
hmm! – autumn = smoky sanma. Hmm! – and therefore, smoky sanma
equals autumn!! Interesting!!
[ア!けむりの におい だ! 何の けむり かな?!ア!魚の けむり だ! やいてる さかな! 秋刀
魚 だ!そう だな!やはり 秋ですね! Hmmm! やぱり 秋刀魚が 焼いて、 そして けむりの に
おいも あれば、 秋の きせつと 分かる。 だから、 秋=焼いてる秋刀魚のけむり … Hmmm! だ
から 秋刀魚の けむり = 秋 !! Hmmm!!! おもしろい!!…]
So, now I can think of how to start the haiku:
•
smelling smoke and I don’t know what it is.
あっ! けむり だ! なん の けむり か な?
Then:
• I remember it is the smoke from sanma cooking
あっ! さんま が やいてる!
Then:
• I remember it that people often cook sanma in autumn
そう だ な! さんま は あき に です ね!
Then:
• I know it must be autumn now.
だ から やぱり いま は あき だ な!
Then I start to put these different thoughts together, something like this:
• Oh! Smoke! What kind of smoke is that?
あっ!なん の けむり か な?
Then:
• Sanma is cooking!
さんま が やいてる!
Then:
• Therefore it’s autumn
さんま は あき に。
… and another idea:
Sanma is autumn fish, so therefore I should
know it is autumn, because autumn ‘is’
smoke from cooking sanma
[さんま は あき の さかな、 から あき の きせ
つ と わかって しまう、 なせなら あき の は
やき さんま の けむり か な!?]
So, then I can start cutting and changing
different bits – words, grammar, the word
order, etc.
But I also need 17 syllables – maybe 5 – 5 – 7,
but just now anything is OK.
Also, if you like you can change some bits from
kana to kanji, or from kanji to kana
Then in the end, I make something like this:
何の 煙か? 秋の焼き 秋刀魚だな!
な-ん-の-け-む-り-か?
あ-き-の や-き
さ-ん-ま だ な!
[7 syllables
5 syllables
+
+
5 syllables
= 17 syllables]
*This haiku is not the traditional 5 – 5 – 7 syllable haiku pattern. It
is a 7 – 5 – 5 syllable pattern. This is OK – of course it is still a
haiku with 17 syllables.
Second, let’s try to make a haiku in
English.
There are 2 ways to make a haiku in English:
1. make the haiku in English from the start; &
2. make the haiku in Japanese and then
translate it into English.
Let’s look at both of these ways. Then you can
practice a little bit and see which way you
like to make haiku in English.
i.
Let’s try to make a Haiku in English from
the Start
(what you are going to write about):
1. think about: somebody
or something (ie
Eg.
- a person,
- an animal,
- a season,
- a particular place,
- a time,
- a condition, or
- a feeling
A party
With friends from my old
school
Feeling happy
In a restaurant
2. think about
•
when or where
(ie any time or place)
Eg
any special time
or place
A party
In a restaurant
3.
think about what is happening
(ie any event, or a change):
is anything happening,
or has anything happened,
or will something happen;
or is there a change,
or is something changing
now,
or has something changed
or did something change
before,
or will something change in
the future
Eg.
A party with old friends
Talking together
I am feeling nostalgic
So, I can get this set of points:
A party – in a restaurant – with old school friends – talking together – I feel nostalgic
But, if I just use this, there are 21 syllables, which is too many syllables
•
A party – in a restaurant – with old school friends – talking together –
I feel nostalgic
A – par-ty – in – a – res-tau-rant -
with old school friends – talking together – I feel nostalgic
But, if I just use this, there are 21 syllables, which is too many syllables
•
A party – in a restaurant – with old school friends – talking together – I feel nostalgic
A – par-ty – in – a – res-tau-rant
7 syllables
–
with – old – school – friends – tal-king – to-ge-ther
9 syllables
– I – feel – nos-tal-gic 5 syllables
7 syllables
So, then I can start cutting and changing different
bits – words, grammar, the word order, etc
But I also need 17 syllables – maybe 5 – 5 – 7, but just now
anything is OK – even 5 – 7 – 5!!
Then in the end, I make something like this:
In a restaurant talking with my old school friends.
It has been a long time.
In - a – res-tau-rant
[ 5 syllables
-
+
tal-king - with - my - old - school - friends
7 syllables
+
-
It’s - been - a - long - time!
5 syllables
= 17 syllables ]
[Question for you: To change the haiku from 21 to 17 syllables, WHAT HAVE I
CHANGED?]
*(By the way, if you make a haiku like this you can enter the competition)
ii. Let’s try to translate a Haiku
from Japanese to English
First, take your Haiku and make a literal translation.
This means translate every word in order.
[Of course the English will be strange, but you fix the English
grammar and idiom and vocabulary later.]
• な-ん-の-け-む-り-か? あ-き-の や-き-さ-ん-ま だ な!
• なん の けむり か?
あき の やき さんま だ な!
• What (of) smoke (is that)?
Autumn (of)
barbeque(ed) saury(fish) (is) (n’t it)!
• What smoke is that? Barbequed saury, isn’t it?
Second, fix the grammar and idiom and vocabulary.
Maybe you need to do this a couple of times, because sometimes
there is more than one way to say something in English.
Also, of course, maybe your Haiku in English will not be 100% the
same as it is in Japanese – don’t worry, because this is normal.
But please try to translate as closely as possible.
• What – smoke – is – that? - Bar-be-qued – sau-ry - is-n’t – it!
[TOO SHORT]
• What – smoke - is - that? - It’s - the – bar-be-qued – sau-ry –
of – au-tumn, - is-n’t – it!
[17 SYLLABLES, BUT NOT QUITE RIGHT]
• What’s – that – smoke? - San-ma – ya-ki! - The – smo-king –
fish – of –au-tumn
[TOO SHORT!
BUT MANY PEOPLE KNOW ‘SANMA’ IS A FISH
& ‘YAKI’ IS ‘BARBEQUED’ – OK!]
Third, change the translation to fit 17 syllables.
If necessary, you can have 16 syllables or 18 syllables
(because sometimes different people say different
English words in different ways).
Maybe you need to cut some bits from your translation,
or change some bits, or add some bits – don’t worry,
because this is normal.
But please try to keep it as similar to the original
Japanese as possible.
• Oh! – What’s – that – smoke? - Ahh! – It’s – san-ma
– ya-ki, - the – smo-king - fish - of - au-tumn.
[CHANGED A LOT,
BUT EXACTLY 17 SYLLABLES.
THIS SEEMS MUCH BETTER!!]
• Oh! What’s that smoke? Ahh! It’s sanma yaki, the
smoky fish of autumn
Another question for you:
Please look at the original Japanese haiku • 何の 煙か? 秋の焼き 秋刀魚だな!
and the final English translation haiku • Oh! What’s that smoke? Ahh! It’s sanma yaki,
the smoky fish of autumn
What has changed?
(Advice: of course the language has changed!! But what else??!)
Try to make a list!
… and good luck making interesting haiku in English
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