10 haikuists and their works

Chapter 1
Before Basho

In Japan in the 15th century, a poetic form named "renga" blossomed.

Renga is a poem several poets create cooperatively. Members alternately add verses of 17 syllables (5, 7, and 5 syllables) and those of 14 syllables (7 and 7 syllables), until they complete a poem generally composed of 100 verses.

Renga was an dignified academic poem. Members were traditionally demanded to present their verses following the medieval aesthetics and quoting the classics.

In the 16th century, instead of renga, it was haikai - humorous poem - that became popular. Haikai (haikai-renga) is a poem made of verses of 17 and 14 syllables like renga, but it parodies renga introducing modern vulgar laughter. Haikai poets used plays on words and treated preferably things of daily life renga hadn't found interesting.

The first verse of renga and haikai is called "hokku". Haikai poets sometimes presented their hokkus as independent poems. These were the origin of haiku.

It was traditionally demanded to adopt a kigo (season word: word reffering to a season) in the first verse of renga and haikai. Therefore, they demand to introduce a kigo in a hokku (and in a haiku) too.

Written by
Ryu Yotsuya

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