Terebess Asia Online (TAO)


A Haikai Glossary

ageku [concluding verse] The final stanza of a sequence of linked verse, traditionally required to be summary, salutation and augury.

aware [sensibleness] The ability of an object, event or scene to stimulate emotion, particularly of sadness or regret. Used in this sense by Basho in the phrase mono no aware: 'the touchingness of things'.

Bussoku-sekika [Buddha's footprint poem] One of the earliest recorded verse structures, named for the stone on which they are to be found engraved at the Yakushiji Temple in Nara, exhibiting a 5/7/5/7/7/7 pattern.

choku (chouku) [long stanza] Generic term used by modern renku poets to denote any 5/7/5 (or equivalent) stanza other than the hokku or daisan. Cf. tanku

choka [long poem] Arising from the earliest sung traditions, poem of indeterminate length alternating groups of five and seven syllables, and closing with an additional cluster of seven: 5/7/5/7–5/7/7

cho-renga [long renga] A sequence of linked verse. In modern usage normally given as renga. Cf. kusari renga, tan-renga

dai [topic] A predetermined subject upon which the poet must compose.

daisan (daisanku) [third] The third stanza of a sequence of linked verse, and the first being required to show the qualities of both ‘link’ and ‘shift’. Sometimes be described as the 'break-away' verse. Cf. hokku, wakiku

degachi [competitive submission] In renku, the process whereby all participating poets compose a verse for each stanza position; the successful verse being chosen by the sabiki or sosho. Cf. hizaokuri

dodoitsu [fashionable air] A sung form of the Edo period named for it’s contagious popularity. The stanza follows a pattern of 7/7/7/5 syllables.

dokugin [solo performance] A piece of linked verse written by a single poet.

fukyo [poetic madness] A willful, if not mannered, demeanor adopted by Basho in his early years imagined to betray a transport of 'poetic dementia'.

gojuin [fifty] A linked verse sequence of fifty stanzas.

gunsaku [grouped poems] A collection of individual poems composed around the same subject. Cf. rensaku

ha [break-up] Cf. jo-ha-kyu

haibun [haikai prose] Brief and suggestive prose accompanied by one or more hokku or haiku, the relationship between the forms of writing being that of ren, not of illustration.

haiga [haikai painting] Traditionally a painting executed according to the haikai spirit and including a hokku rendered calligraphically.

haigon [haikai word] Any word prohibited from classical poetry but used in haikai. The list would include dialect, vernacular and foreign words or sayings, neologisms, vulgarities and Buddhist terminology.

haii [haikai spirit] Originally identified with levity, refined and extended by the school of Basho to include notions of brevity, suggestiveness and discovery - contrasting the deliberately ornate and intricate styles of classical linked verse.

haijin [haikuist] One who writes haiku.

haikai [jovial] Traditionally a term used to distinguish populist and humourous verse from the more courtly and refined classical style. Later, an abbreviation for haikai-no-renga. In modern times, and principally in occidental usage, a generic term for all forms of Japanese verse, especially haiku.

haikai-no-renga [humorous renga] Populist linked verse, often ridiculous or vulgar, transformed by the school of Basho into literature of the highest quality.

haiku [haikai stanza] Historically the generic term for any stanza of haikai-no-renga. In modern usage, and especially since Masaoka Shiki, the name for a single poem exhibiting the compositional characteristics of a hokku but intended as an independent verse. Cf. jobokku

hana no ku [flower stanza] In linked verse, a dedicated subject (dai) of a given verse position.

hankasen [half kasen] An 18 stanza renga, being the first folio of a kasen renku. As the poem remains, in essence, incomplete, it is often considered more satisfactory as an exercise.

hibiki [echo] A close degree of relationship in imagery or tone between adjoining stanzas.

hiraku [horizontal verse] Any verse of a linked sequence other than the hokku, wakiku, daisan, or ageku. Now frequently subdivided in two categories: choku (long verse) and tanku (short verse).

hizaokuri [passed along] In renku, the process whereby participating poets contribute successive verses according to a predetermined order. Cf. degachi

hokku [opening verse] The first stanza of a sequence of linked verse, traditionally required to exhibit special compositional characteristics including the use of both kigo and kireji. In modern usage, and especially since Masaoka Shiki known, when composed as an independent poem, as haiku. Cf. tateku, jibokku

honkadori [variation] To draw heavily on a classic text. Done skilfully, considered to be a mark of respect. Not to be confused with plagiarism.

hosomi [slenderness] The use of modest and understated language to evoke a sense of empathy with an object, sometimes tending to personification.

hyakuin [one hundred links] A sequence of one hundred stanzas, the most common form of renga before the promulgation, by Basho, of the kasen.

ji-amari [excess of characters] Conscious and controlled deviation from the prescribed syllable count of a verse form. Not to be confused with free verse. Cf. teikei

jibokku [isolated verse] Largely obsolete. A hokku composed as an independent verse; in modern usage, a haiku. Cf. tateku

jittetsu [ten disciples] Cf. shomon

jo [preface] Cf. jo-ha-kyu

jo-ha-kyu [intro-development-ending] A phrase describing the principal dynamic phases of a renku sequence. May be considered as larghetto, con brio, diminuendo.

jusanbutsu [the thirteen Buddha’s] A renku sequence of 13 stanzas, named for the chief deities of the Taizokai and Kongokai mandalas (Shingon school of Esoteric Buddhism).

junicho [twelve element] A linked verse sequence of twelve stanzas originated in the latter half of the last century by the renku master Shunjin Okamoto. Cf. shisan

ka [Cf. kireji] Emphatic and interrogatory. Usually to end a clause.

kaiseki [dispositions] The environs and seating arrangements pertaining to a session of linked verse composition.

kaishi [folded paper] The folios upon which linked verse are recorded, and which, folded, might be comfortably secreted about the person.

kami-no-ku [upper verse] The first element of a tanka or waka comprising 5/7/5 syllables. Cf. shimo-no-ku

kakekotoba [pivot-word] A homophone or syntax device used to create multiple readings.

kana [Cf. kireji] Emphatic and exclamatory. Wonderment. Usually at the end of the poem.

kanshi [Chinese poem] A poem written in Chinese.

kaori [aroma] The relationship between adjoining stanzas in which both evoke the same emotion, though perhaps using markedly different images.

karumi [lightness] Sometimes given as: "the beauty of ordinary things"; the style, and ideal, promoted by Basho in his later years. The rejection of complexity in favour of simplicity in both language and content. Cf. shofu

kasen [great poet] A renku sequence of 36 stanzas, defined and promulgated by Basho as the new poetic standard to replace the 100 stanza hyakuin. So called for the thirty-six 'immortals' of poetic tradition.

katauta [half poem] A stanza structure of the Manyoshu era, generally having a 5/7/7 syllable pattern though occasionally exhibiting 5/7/5. Cf. mondo, sedoka.

-keri [Cf. kireji] Exclamatory. Verb suffix, past tense marker.

kidai [seasonal topic] Any given season as the fixed compositional component of a verse. May be a specific word (kigo), an event or activity. Cf. sajiki

kisetsu [seasonality] A profound awareness of the seasons and their relationship to man.

kigo [season word] The name of an object or activity actually, or traditionally, associated with a season. A compositional element of most hokku and haiku. Cf. kidai, kisetsu

kireji [cutting word] In most schools of haiku, and for the opening verse (hokku) of a linked sequence, a compositional requirement. The cutting word is a structural device that increases the dynamic properties of the verse enabling a higher degree of emphasis, juxtaposition or suggestion. It may also be used as a punctuation device to interrupt the normal cadence (shichigochou) of the verse. Identified in part by convention, the function of the kireji is difficult to reproduce directly in English. It may be observed that the practice of using a colon, tilde or other punctuation mark as a cutting device in the English language haiku equates only to the Japanese usage of ya. Cf. ka, kana, -keri, -ramu, -ran, -shi, -tsu, ya

kiyose [directory] A condensed almanac of season words (kigo) and topics (kidai). Cf. sajiki

kusari renga [chain renga] A sequence of linked verse. In modern usage normally given as renga. Cf. cho-renga, tan-renga

kyoka [mad poem] A comic, often coarse, tanka, not dissimilar to a limerick.

kyu [rush] Cf. jo-ha-kyu

maeku [front verse] The first in a pair of linked stanzas. Cf. tsukeku, maekuzuke

maekuzuke [verse capping] A popular pastime from the 17th century in which persons competed to add a successful linking verse (tsukeku) to a given maeku. Often hosted by professional poets, and tending to wit rather than beauty, the game became a forerunner of senryu. Cf. mankuawase

mankuawase [collected verses] An anthology of the winning submissions from a maekuzuke contest.

mondo [dialogue] Early precursor of the sedoka. A pair of katauta in the form of question and answer, each part being taken by a different poet. Occasionally one stanza will take the form of 5/7/5 syllables.

mono no aware Cf. aware.

mushin renga [carefree linked verse] Originally a courtly pastime for numerous participants, often taking place upon the conclusion of a more serious contest between individual poets. Cf. uta-awase

nagauta [long song] Cf. choka

nagori no omote [second folio, front] In renku, the second phase of the development period ha, this being recorded, traditionally, upon the principal face of a fresh sheet of writing paper (kaishi). Cf. sho-ori no omote

nagori no ura [second folio, back] In renku, the verso of the second kaishi, the face upon which the stanzas of the closing movement kyu would be recorded. Cf. sho-ori no ura

nioi [fragrance] Linkage so fine as to be almost intangible. A style refined by Basho. Cf. kaori.

nijuin [twenty line] A linked verse sequence of twenty stanzas originated in the latter part of the last century by the Japanese renku master Meiga Higashi. Considered to be the shortest from able to accommodate the classical structural requirements. Cf. jo-ha-kyu

on [sound] The smallest metrical unit of Japanese utterance; the unit by which stanzas are measured. Frequently given (as elsewhere in this glossary) as ‘syllable’, may be more correctly identified with the Latin term ‘mora’.

onji [sound marker] A character in the phonetic alphabet. Largely obsolete. Cf. on

onsetsu [syllable] Cf. on

oriku [acrostic] An linked verse which generates an acrostic from the first word or character of each stanza.

-ramu (-ran) [Cf. kireji] Subjunctive. Verb suffix.

ren [interaction] A core concept of Japanese aesthetics that extends to all artforms and may also be found in ideas of social organisation. Ren exists in the space between difference and similarity.

renga [poetic dialogue] A poem of two or more indirectly linked stanzas, usually composed by several persons, and alternating long stanzas of twenty-one syllables with short stanzas of fourteen. In modern usage, a long sequence of linked verse whose content continually evolves. Cf. cho-renga, kusari renga, renku, rengay, tanrenga

rengay [linked image] A modern term for an English language form devised at the end of the 20th century by the American poet Garry Gay. A six stanza collabourative poem for two or three authors that develops a single theme. To a degree, individual stanza structures seek to reflect the Japanese model, in this case alternating 'long' stanzas, presented on three lines, with 'short' stanzas, presented on two.

renju [colleagues] In poetics: those who participate in the composition of linked verse.

renku [linked verse] Modern term for a sequence of linked verse (renga) whose content continually evolves, especially that composed according to the school of Basho.

rensaku [linked poems] A collection of individual poems which function as successive stanzas in a larger composition. Cf. gunsaku.

ryogin [-] Linked verse composed by two poets.

sabi [quietude] A mood of quiet - even solitary - beauty, elegaic rather than nostalgic.

sabiki [conductor] One who guides the process of linked verse composition. Cf. sosho

sajiki [seasonal almanac] A comprehensive study of season words (kigo) and topics (kidai) with examples and records of usage. Cf. kiyose

sangin [three voices] A sequence of linked verse produced by three poets.

sedoka [doubled poem] As with mondo, a pair of katauta, normally written by a single author. The two halves of the poem may address the same subject from differing perspectives.

senku [-] A linked verse sequence if 1,000 stanzas, generally conceived as ten hyakuin.

senryu [river willow] The pen name of the most renowned master of verse-capping contests (maekuzuke). By extension became identified with the type of sardonic, worldly-wise front verse, maeku as set by Senryu and, ultimately, as an independent poem of this style and meter.

shasei [sketching] The contention that the substance of haiku be best drawn directly, and solely, from life. Widley practiced by the school of Basho, the theory was elevated to the status of doctrine by Masaoka Shiki.

-shi [Cf. kireji] Emphatic. Adjective suffix indicating a comparative: looks like; sounds like; savours of; smacks of.

shibumi [astringency] The antithesis of saccharine or cloying sentiment.

shichigochou [cadence] The natural metre of Japanese utterance, falling in phonetic clusters of 5 and 7 onsetsu.

shikishi [square sheet] A piece of art paper used to record a short poem.

shimo-no-ku [lower verse] The second element of a tanka or waka comprising 7/7 syllables. Cf. kami-no-ku

shinku [synchronised verse] In linked verse, two adjoining stanzas exhibiting a particularly close relationship. Cf. soku.

shiori [wilting] A delicacy verging on pathos that intends a deep sympathy for both nature and humanity.

shisan [-] A renku sequence of 12 stanzas. Cf. junicho

shishi [-] A renku sequence of 16 stanzas.

shofu [Basho style] The mature style of Basho, known principally for its quality of lightness, quietude and simplicity. Cf. karumi, sabi, wabi

shomon [Basho school] Because of Basho's mendicant existence the school was considered to reside with the author and with the jittetsu, the ten great disciples.

sho-ori no omote [first folio, front] In renku, the opening movement jo, this being recorded, traditionally, upon the principal face of a dedicated sheet of writing paper (kaishi). Cf. nagori no ura

sho-ori no ura [first folio, back] In renku, the verso of the first kaishi; the face upon which the stanzas of the first part of the development section ha would be recorded. Cf. nagori no omote

soku [disparate verse] In linked verse, two adjoining stanzas exhibiting a particularly distant relationship. Cf. shinku.

sono mama [unadorned] The treatment of an object or event without interpretation or embellishment.

sosho [haikai master] An honourific denoting a highly accomplished poet who presides over the composition of linked verse. Cf. sabiki

tanka [short poem] A poem comprising two elements: a 5/7/5/ kami-no-ku (upper verse) and a 7/7 shimo-no-ku (lower verse). In modern practice the two elements are frequently so fused as to be indistinguishable. Cf. waka

tanku [short stanza] Generic term used by modern renku poets to denote any 7/7 (or equivalent) stanza other than the wakiku or ageku. Cf. choku

tan-renga [short linked poem] A two stanza poem, the 5/7/5 maeku (front verse) being written by one person, and the 7/7 tsukeku (joined verse) by another.

tanzaku [tanka sheet] A narrow strip of paper on which tanka or haiku may be written.

tateku [vertical verse] A hokku intended purely as the first verse of a linked sequence. Cf. jibokku, hiraku

teikei [fixed form] A core concept of Japanese aesthetics that finds particular expression in poetry. That principal which locates the creative dynamic in the tension between form and freedom.

-tsu [Cf. kireji] Emphatic. Verb suffix, present perfect tense marker.

tsukeai [joining together] The act of linking one verse to another.

tsukeku [added verse] The second in a pair of linked stanzas. Cf. maeku

tsuki no ku [moon stanza] In linked verse, the moon as dedicated subject (dai) of a given verse position.

ushin renga [heartfelt linked verse] In contradistinction to mushin renga, linked verse seeking to express the most refined sentiment in a classical manner.

uta [verse] Generic term for any verse written, recited or sung in the Japanese, as opposed to foreign, manner.

uta-awase [poetry contest] A courtly diversion in which participants were invited to compose tanka on assigned topics (dai) frequently for prizes. Cf. mushin renga

utsuri [reflection] A sense of movement or transference between adjoining stanzas. Occasionally, a degree of visual harmony.

wabi [frugality] Simple asceticism dating from the medieval period and proposed anew by Basho. An austere sense of beauty.

waka [Japanese poem] Originally a designation for all forms of poetry in the Japanese, as distinct from the Chinese, style. The term became identified with the short poem (tanka) of the classical period comprising two elements: a 5/7/5/ kami-no-ku (upper verse) and a 7/7 shimo-no-ku (lower verse). In modern usage sometimes differentiated from tanka by considerations of tone.

wakiku [flanking verse] The second stanza of a sequence of linked verse, often considered as a ‘buttress’ to the opening stanza.

ya [Cf. kireji] Exclamatory. Usually to end a clause.

yugen [mystery] A style both elusive and enigmatic, yet spiritually compelling.

za [ensemble] In linked verse, the place of composition and the participants taken together. By extension, the essential spirit of such activity. Cf. ren

zoku [base] The low register language and culture of the common people.



Additional Notes

basho. “Banana” or “plantain.” A small, tropical-looking tree with large oblong leaves that rarely bears fruit in Japan. The leaves tear easily in wind and rain, and so the plant has become a symbol of impermanence. Matsuo Basho took his most famous pen name from this plant precisely because it was so vulnerable to nature elements and “useless.” A seasonal word for autumn.

danrin. A popular school of haikai poetry established by Nishiyama Soin (1605-1682). It gave poets greater freedom in subject matter, imagery, tone, and poetic composition than the earlier Teimon school. Basho was a follower of this school before he set up his own, known as Shomon.

fuga. “The poetic spirit.” A combination of “wind” and “elegance,” this term refers to the aesthetic vitality and sensitivity found in haikai poetry as well as associated arts such as waka, landscape painting, and the tea ceremony.

furyu. “Aesthetic elegance.” It is an extraordinarily complex term, including associations of high culture, art in general, poetry, and music, as well as ascetic wayfaring and Daoist eccentricity. Basho sees the roots of these in rural culture.

haibun. “Haikai prose-poems.” Normally a brief prose text that exhibits haikai aesthetics and includes hokku. Basho was the first great haibun writer.

haikai. “Comic, unorthodox.” An abbreviation of haikai no renga, but also a used as a general term for other genres and art forms that show haikai no renga aesthetics and what Basho called the poetic spirit (fuga). In this general sense, it might be translated as Haikai Poetry or Haikai Art. For Basho it involved a combination of comic playfulness and spiritual depth, ascetic practice and involvement in the “floating world” of human society.

haikai no renga. “Comic renga,” although “unorthodox” or “plebian” may be more accurate than “comic.” A verse form, similar to traditional renga, that developed in the late medieval and Tokugawa periods. Compared to traditional renga, its aesthetics were more inclusive in subject matter and imagery and more earthy and playful in tone. Parodies of the classical literature were common. Basho was a master of haikai no renga.

haiku. An independent verse form with a 5-7-5 syllabic rhythm. A modern term, its was popularized by the great but short-lived poet Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) who wanted to establish the haiku as a verse form that stands by itself, separate from the linked verses of a renga. It is supposed to contain a season word (kigo). When the West first learned about Basho and other pre-modern poets, the term haiku was anachronistically applied to their hokku. Properly speaking, haiku refers only to poems written in the modern period (beginning 1868). However, because of the popularity of this term and because of the strong continuity in the literary traditions of hokku and haiku, I use the term haiku for Basho’s hokku.

hokku. “Opening stanza.” The first stanza of a renga, with a 5-7-5 syllabic rhythm. This stanza was considered the most important and was usually offered by the master poet at a linked-verse gathering. A season word was required. Eventually poets wrote hokku as semi-independent verse: as potential starting verses for a renga sequence, to accompany prose in travel journals and haibun, or to be admired on their own.

karumi. “Lightness.” An aesthetic characterized by greater attention to the mundane aspects of life, everyday diction, and generally avoiding the heavy, serious tone of some classical Japanese and Chinese poetry. Basho promoted this aesthetic in his last years.

kasen. A thirty-six stanza haikai no renga, the most common form in Basho’s time.

kigo. “Season word.” A word that in the literary tradition suggests a particular season (e.g. autumn) and possibly a part of a season (e.g., early spring), even if the object (e.g., moon or bush warbler) may be seen in other seasons. Season words may be an image derived from human activity (such as a seasonal ritual) as well as from nature. Every hokku and haiku should contain a season word. Traditionally collections of Japanese hokku and haiku verse were organized by seasonal order. There are now numerous season words dictionaries (saijiki or kigo jiten).

kiko bungaku. “Travel literature.” Accounts of travel in prose, often accompanied by verse. Similar to and overlapping nikki bungaku, diary literature.

monogatari. “Narrative.” Prose narratives and tales, often including verse and sometimes quite lengthy. The genre began and reached its peak in the Heian Period (794-1186). The most famous is The Tale of Genji (Genji monogatari), by Murasaki Shikibu (ca. 1000).

mujo. “Impermanence.” A prominent and complex idea in Japanese literature as well as Buddhism and Daoism, and central to Basho’s writings. One of the most fundamental aspects of life is its changefulness, which can take many forms: the regular cycles of the seasons, the creative transformations of nature, the rise and inevitable fall of ruling houses, the inescapable degeneration of aging, the inconstancy of lovers, the inevitability of death, the uncertainty of life, etc.

nikki bungaku. “Diary literature.” Diaries have been a prominent form of high literature since the Heian Period (794-1186), although this term is fairly recent. See kiko bungaku.

renga. “Classical linked verse.” Renga is a linked-verse or sequenced poem with multiple, alternating stanzas. The first stanza consists of a 5-7-5 syllabic rhythm. This is then coupled with another stanza with a 7-7 syllabic rhythm making a poetic unit of 5-7-5 and 7-7. Then comes the third stanza with a 5-7-5 rhythm. This is linked with the second stanza to make a poetic unit of 7-7 and 5-7-5, with the first stanza “forgotten.” The linked verse continues this way, usually up to one hundred or, in Basho’s time, thirty six stanzas (called a kasen). Usually this was a group poem, with poets alternating stanzas. Modern renga is called renku.

sabi. “Loneliness.” The term suggests both sorrowful and tranquil, a response to the realization and acceptance of the essential and shared loneliness of things. It can refer to an aspect of the fundamental nature of reality, a quality of a particular moment in nature, and the state of mind that apprehends and conforms to loneliness of the world. This term was a central spiritual-aesthetical ideal of Basho’s school.

teimon. An early school of haikai poetry established by Matsunaga Teitoku (1571-1653). It was characterized by verbal wit that was not allowed in traditional renga but depended on a knowledge of the classics and observed extensive rules of composition. The Danrin school was in part a reaction against the relative conservatism of this school. Basho began as a Teimon poet.

utamakura. “Famous places.” The term refers to places famous in Japanese history and culture. These had specific associations concerning historic events, famous people, aspects of nature, and emotional tone.

wabi. “Aesthetic rusticity.” A complex term that suggest simplicity and poverty, unadorned natural beauty, the elegant patina of age, loneliness, freedom from worldly cares, refined aesthetic sensitivity, and tranquillity. In some cases, it includes a tone of deprivation and desolation.

waka. “Classical Japanese verse.” This poetic form consists of a 5-7-5-7-7 syllabic rhythm. It was the principal verse form in the Heian and early medieval periods, and continues to be written today (now called “tanka ”).