A New Era for Haiku
I would like to discuss certain issues inherent in haiku, not only from just the conventional point of view, but from the vantage point of a new era for haiku around the world. In 1957, a haiku poet and some critics had a round-table discussion on the future of haiku. When critic Hideo Kanda said, “I don’t want to make haiku live any longer by force,” haiku poet Kusatao Nakamura replied, “I’d like to keep it alive till it comes to a conclusion.” From their discussion, we can imagine that the haiku situation in the middle of the 20th century was that the leading figures in haiku felt this unique poetry form would fall into a decline sooner or later.
the Meiji era
Poetry forms which cannot adapt to the times now exist only in collections of past masterpieces. Today few poets try to adopt, for example, the alliterative verse form of brave Beowulf, or rhymed poems in stanzas like those by delicate William Wordsworth. In the previous century when everything around us had been modernized, a number of Japanese poets thought haiku would join such past poetry forms before long. However, this hasn’t occurred. Now haiku seems to be more popular than ever both in Japan and around the world.
The reason haiku has survived seems to lie in its innovative substance. In fact haiku has transformed itself to respond to circumstances in various times. I would like to mention here the distinctive features of haiku especially from its reformative point of view.
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