October 1, 2023


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Literary Essay: Haiku- The Tiny Poem and its Journey by Pravat Kumar Padhy

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In this essay, award-winning poet Pravat Kumar Padhy traces the history of Haiku and the characteristics of Haiku writing.


Japanese literature is largely inspired by Chinese literature during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) in China. The oldest Japanese poetic form, renga, is the nucleus of the evolution of tanka and haiku down the literary history. Waka or uta originated in the 7th century AD in Japan.  Waka (WAH-KAH) (wa means ‘Japanese’, ka means ‘poem’) was later named as tanka. The waka was written on seasonal subjects (kidai). The waka remained as the neoclassical Japanese literature as characterized by the poets of the Man’yōshū, Kokin Wakashū, and Shin Kokin Wakashū eras. 

The schemata or morae (sound units) patterns follow 5-7-5-7-7 (known as ‘sanjuichi’, the Japanese word for 31). The original structure was in 5-7, 5-7, 7 and subsequently, it became 5-7, 5-7-7 during the Man’yo period. Towards the end of the twelfth century, slowly the 5-7-5-7-7 format had been modified by dividing it into 5-7-5 and 7-7. By the fourteenth century, this took the shape of renga written in sequence by the participating poets. In the sixteenth century the opening stanza or the starting verse (5-7-5, go schichi go) of renga was named as ‘hokku’ and the last two-line (second verse) as ‘wakiku’. 

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