D’s Poetry : Haiku 9 : Kireji

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

“Eagle Curtains Sword
Drawn Light into the dark night,
Bless-ed Snow doth falls.”

Divvya Nirula

What is a Kireji?

Kireji refers to the part of a Haiku that splits the verse into two parts. The first part is the setting of the poem. While the second part is the action. Like an introduction, quickly followed by a conclusion.

As we know, traditional Haiku poetry has certain requirements. Though very concise, it is highly structured. We have learnt that kigo is an important part of a Haiku. It indicates what season the poem is set in. And then there is the kireji, which cuts the poems two distinct parts. Classical haiku has a list of kireji used. These include ka: which is used to indicate a question. Ya: is used to emphasise the words preceeding it. –Keri: is an exclamation.

Use of Kireji

The division of a haiku verse can be better understood through an example. The Haiku below is presented first in its original Japanese form, then in English.

hatsuyuki ya kora no hangā oto tatete

first snow . . .
the children’s hangers
clatter in the closet

Unknown (translated by Emiko Miyashita)

In the English translation above it is clear. ‘First snow’ is the setting of the poem, wherein the action takes place. And rest of the poem explains what is happening in that setting.

A kireji has no English equivalent in use or vocabulary. But the best way to understand it, is that it eases the transition between the two parts of the haiku. Thus making it a complete and seamless poem. Haikuists believe that the 17 syllable verse is split in 3 lines. But it should never be split into 3 parts. As this would result in a very disjointed poem. Therefore, the use of kireji is important.

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.