Haiku Poetry Analysis
When conducting analysis, avoid pursuing endless tangents and instead closely engage with the text itself. Look at how the different elements of the poem combine to produce a cohesive and meaningful whole. Haiku poet and scholar Jane Reichhold has written an essay titled ‘Fragment and Phrase theory’ that might be useful for this, as it looks at the different parts of haiku.
The essay is freely available from Jane’s website. Learning about the different parts of the haiku will help you to see how haiku poems are ordered and how the different parts of the poem interact.
Once you have closely engaged with each component of the poem, and looked at the significance of each word, survey the general concepts and ideas that exist within it. Try and gain a sense of the overall meaning or feel of the poem. With haiku, it might be useful to look at the kigo, as this will provide a seasonal context, which is often where traditional haiku are rooted.
The kigo is just one of any number of references in the poem, and to be able to explore these fully you will need to research the poet and poem in order to gain an understanding of the circumstances in which it was produced.
When applying the tools of poetry analysis to haiku poetry, you might like to consider these different elements of the poem, I have included certain questions it might be helpful to ask in order to produce a deeper literary analysis.
Form & Structure
- Does the poem conform to the traditional haiku structure?
- Does it consist of a two-part juxtapositional structure, does it contain two images that relate to eachother?
- How do these two images relate and what effect does this produce?
- Or does the poem consist of one essential image?
Read the poem out loud and listen to the rhythm.
- Does it feel complete?
- Is there a cadence?
- Does it have balance and grace?
- How are grammar and punctuation used to create this?
Some Haiku consist of a 'What, Where, When' structure, where each line explains one of these facets of the experience.
Poetry Analysis: Literary Devices
Haiku do not usually contain complex literary devices. There is simply no space for such things in such a short lyric poem.
Instead, the haiku relies on concrete observational images.
You might ask:
- How effective is the haiku in conveying its image?
- How effective is the haiku in precipitating instantaneous realisation?
- What immediately strikes you about the poem?
- What is the focal point of the poem?
- What sense perceptions does the poem appeal to?
- How does its aesthetic compare to those of traditional haiku?
You might also like to consider some of these critical perspectives in order to gather ideas:
- Historical, Cultural
Be careful to retain your own personal impression, don't become blinded by details. How does this poem affect you?
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