Glossary Terms

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Haiku (or hokku)

A Japanese verse form of three unrhyming lines in five, seven, and five syllables. It creates a single, memorable image, as in these lines by Kobayashi Issa, translated by Jane Hirshfield:

        On a branch
        floating downriver
        a cricket, singing.
(In translating from Japanese to English, Hirshfield compresses the number of syllables.)

See also “Three Haiku, Two Tanka” by Philip Appleman and Robert Hass’s “After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa.” The Imagist poets of the early 20th century, including Ezra Pound and H.D., showed appreciation for the form’s linguistic and sensory economy; Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” embodies the spirit of haiku. Browse more haiku.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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