Friday, January 27, 2012

Season Words Exercise

Exercise: Create a list of seasonal references for a place you know well.

Haiku is or can be more complex than three lines of five words, seven words, five words, which is what has become an American notion of haiku.There are many other characteristics of haiku, and the one we’ll focus on today is the “season word.”It is a sometimes indirect reference to winter, spring, summer or fall  - and true haiku always have one.

There is actually a list of a hundred “season words” but some are pretty specific to Japan, such as the spring word that means “nightingale”.  If you read or hear a haiku about viewing cherry blossoms, you likely are hearing a spring poem.

Winter might be represented simply by “snow” or some variation on “cold.” But there are other concepts associated with the season – some of them cultural, like the “viewing of cherry blossoms.”

Japanese is a deliciously contextual language, and the different Japanese poetry forms often include a great deal of wordplay based on how a character can be pronounced, what it means in Japanese or Chinese, and a great deal more.

In English traditions there have been a number of attempts to create a set of season words. Sometimes the traditional season words work fine for us, but sometimes they don’t.

Try creating ten seasonal references for YOUR favorite place.  What do you notice about them? Where do they overlap? Did you get confused? How did you work around that?