D’s Poetry : Haiku 6 : Hokku

D’s Poetry is a living archive of all poetry penned by me, Divvya Nirula. Join me on this journey today as we discover Hokku, predecessor of the Haiku.

“I am in disgrace,
Having fallen from heaven,
But God on Earth waits.”

Divvya Nirula

Hokku in 17th Century Japan

Prior to the 17th century, Haiku were not considered poetry. These short 3 lined verses were inserted before poems. And at the time, they were known as hokku. However, this changed in the 1600s.

The hokku was initially just an introduction to the renga or poem. But during Bashō’s era, it became recognised as independent poetry. Great haiku poets through history highlighted that brevity did not reduce the impact of their words.

Hokku arguably engages the reader’s five senses, in a way that no other form of poetry does. Despite being just 17 syllables long, these poems conjure images. They transport you to a different place. And you become a participant and witness. Consider the following verse by Yuso Buson.

A summer river being crossed
how pleasing
with sandals in my hands!

Yusa Buson (translated by Unknown)

After reading the above, I feel like I am taken to this cool river, on a hot summer day. And my sandals are in my hand, as I playfully traverse the waters. Such is the power of hokku. To engage the mind and the senses.

What is further notable about hokku, is that it has no rhyme scheme. Traditional poets have always manipulated and moulded their words to create a rhyme while conveying meaning. But not hokku. Perhaps this factored in to the resistance that some felt against labelling these short verses as poems.


You are invited along on this journey of discovery and writing. For more poetry and verse by Divvya Nirula, please visit the archive for D’s Poetry.