Haiku: “Young Man”

Ageing Man in Mirror

(In the mirror)

Where’s the young man gone,
who lived in mirrors so long?
Putting old masks on.

This was published in Asses of Parnassus, a most worthy site for short verse, especially the flippant, frivolous or sarcastic. “Young Man” seems to be a theme I keep returning to, probably because I keep having birthdays. It’s easy enough to feel in your early 30s when you’re climbing a tree to pick fruit, or swimming, or reading; but a mirror may offer an unexpectedly different opinion.

Technically a loose sort of haiku, this poem meets the requirements of 5-7-5 syllables and the volta between lines 2 and 3, but hardly addresses a season and its sensibilities. The rhyme and near-rhyme of the three lines is not something required in Japanese, but seems to me to be necessary in an English haiku to make it a poem, i.e. to differentiate it from 17 syllables of prose written over three lines.

3 thoughts on “Haiku: “Young Man”

  1. Michael Burch

    I like your poem, congrats, but I’m not buying your attempt to redefine the term “haiku.”

    Rhyme in English language poetry has never been “necessary,” since Anglo Saxon poetry didn’t rhyme and major poets like Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth and Frost wrote blank verse. Rhyme has always been optional in English poetry.

    The 5-7-5 syllable form cannot be heard in English, so I see no reason to adhere to a “rule” that doesn’t make sense.

    As for rhyme being the only way to write haiku that is actually poetry in English … well, all one has to do is provide a few examples to the contrary. Here are some of my translations of the Oriental masters …

    Oh, fallen camellias,
    if I were you,
    I’d leap into the torrent!
    ― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

    Grasses wilt:
    the braking locomotive
    grinds to a halt
    ― Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

    Come, investigate loneliness!
    a solitary leaf
    clings to the Kiri tree
    ― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

    shatters the darkness―
    the night heron’s shriek
    ― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

    Liked by 1 person


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