Haiku lexicon

Haiku · Tanka · Tan-Renga · haibun · haiga · Renku seal · Renshi · rengay


The tradition of Japanese poetry includes community seals written by two or more partners. A poet - and this is considered a special honor today - begins with the so-called hokku, which is then supplemented by further verses according to different rules and the given order of the participants. Such became early on hokku summarized and published in separate collections. It developed over time hokku to an independent direction of literature, initially known as haikai, since the beginning of the 20th century as haiku. Like no other verse form, haiku has spread throughout the world and is now written in all major languages. Japanese haiku usually consist of three word groups with 5 - 7 - 5 phonetic units (mores), whereby the words are simply strung together in a column. In German, haiku are usually written in three lines. Japanese phonetic units are all the same length and carry less information than syllables in European languages. 17 Japanese sound units roughly correspond to the information content of 10-14 German syllables. That is why it has become common practice among many haiku writers in European languages ​​to make do with less than 17 syllables without losing the content or the picture shown. An essential part of haiku is concreteness and the reference to the present. Traditional haiku in particular indicate a season. A key feature is also the open text that has not been completed and that is only completed in the reader's experience. Not everything is said in the text, feelings are rarely mentioned. They should only be revealed through the specific things listed and the context.

Modern haiku schools not only question the traditional form, but also some rules of text design and try to break new ground.

Summer grass is all that remained of the warrior's dream

Matsuo Bashô, 1644-1694


The Tanka is the oldest Japanese short poem form. It is already listed in the first anthologies from the 8th and 9th centuries; its origins go back to the 5th century. For the first time, the tanka delimits the lines of 5 - 7 syllables that are common in the long poem in a closed form (meter 5 - 7 - 5 - 7 - 7). It served upscale correspondence in feudal Japan. The form kept coming up for a short time and in an artistic way, but never attained the popularity of haiku. The poem is divided into an upper gallery consisting of three lines and the two-line lower gallery. Its popularity is growing rapidly today because it offers a little more space. However, this fact should not tempt you to split a long sentence into five lines. A break in content should be felt between the two parts, which contrasts the two against each other and which can also be illustrated by a line spacing. Both the closed and the structured spelling are common. In terms of content, the Tanka is a self-contained poem that is not tied to any particular topic. In the sense of haiku, the upper gallery can represent a picture or experience, set in motion. The next two lines have the task of completing the picture, letting the movement run out, interpreting what has been experienced. So the two tunnels are more in the relationship between question and answer, riddle and solution, departure and arrival. Careful choice of words, avoidance of rhymes, word separations or repetitions of words also apply to the Tanka. A flowing rhythm and a melodious speech melody are preferable to the harshness of the Iambian staccato.

Haiku, Senryu and Tanka have no headings or signatures. The discussions about this regulation and the deviations from it are as old as the poem.

the wind today has this spice from the sea from the dunes of 'he thinks of me'

Ingrid Kunschke


Japanese "tanrenga" (short chain poem) is the name for the ancient Tanka (to 5-7-5 / 7-7 moors) by two authors, which was called "renga" (chain poem) at the time. The term “renga” immediately extended to the longer chain poems that arose in the period that followed, and so typical Renga units are 2 or 3 verses (Mitsumono), 10, 12, 18 (half-casings), 20, 36 (casings ) and more verses in the traditional system. Each 5-7-5 unit and each 7-7 unit is to be regarded as a closed verse (ku).

The first verse in these systems always has the name "hokku“, The second waki or wakiku, the final verse ageku (completing verse). In order to distinguish the verse-rich renga from the initial two-stanza renga, the latter is called tanrenga. The 5-7-5 syllable verses are called “long verses” (chôku), and the 7-7 syllable verses are called “short verses” (tanku).

Kastanienbaum - The bicycle basket underneath

fills with flowers ...

on the way home very carefully around every stone

Franz-Christoph Schiermeyer / Claudia Brefeld


“Haibun” is a contraction of “Haikai no bunshô” and means Hai (kai) prose (bun) or prose in Haikai style. The term came up at the beginning of the 17th century. These prose statements were made in the form of mis cells, diary notes or travel diaries, letters, essays and the like. Ä. recorded. The Haibun had its forerunners in Japanese literature. Above all, the literary genre “Zuihitsu” (Miszellen) and the diary and travel diary literature (Nikki, Kikô) enjoyed great popularity. “Zuihitsu” means “following the brush (hitsu) (zui)” and refers to writings which, from spontaneous inspiration, “allow the impressions, experiences and considerations to flow into the brush” and sketchily put them on paper. A Zuihitsu can consist of simple word notes, sentences, but also longer essays. In terms of content, it has a thematic diversity: nature and human life, social criticism, science, philosophy, literary theory, etc. It is precisely because of this variety of topics that writers, scholars, statesmen, monks like to use this form of literary recording. The classic masterpieces of Zuihitsu are the Makura no sôshi (pillow book) by the lady-in-waiting Sei Shônagon (10th century AD), the Hôjôki (records from the ten feet in the quarter of my hut) by Kamo no Chômei (1153-1216) , the Tsurezuregusa (recordings in leisure hours) by Yoshida Kenkô (1283-1350) and the Kagetsusôshi (notes on cherry blossoms and full moon night) by Matsudaira Sadanobu (1758-1829). It goes without saying that a Haibun has a high proportion of Haikai. In general, a Haibun is a relaxed sequence of Haikai prose and Haikai poetry. The haikai are either sprinkled into the prose text or complete it. The conciseness of the Haikai represents the lyrical high point of the prose text. However, as the Haibun literature shows, a Haibun does not necessarily have to have one or more Haikai. Many texts can do without this, without losing their poetic value. As for the Haikai, the Haibun Matsuo Bashô (1644-1694) is the first, if not the most important, representative. Other respected Haibun writers include Yosa Buson (1715-1783), Yokoi Yayü (1702-1783), Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827). For Bashô, a successful Haibun must meet the following criteria: It must not be constructed by the mind, but must arise from the spontaneous experience; it should have a closed overall concept and should not be conclusive; it must have a concise and simple style; The use of allusions to famous poets, scholars, monks etc. from the past are considered an essential stylistic device.

Afterwards at the stop

There are five of us in London. A couple of friends, my children and I are drifting through the shopping streets on this unusually sunny, yes, warm October morning. And even though the newspapers are talking about the economic crisis, people hurry packed in plastic bags between all the department stores and cafes in this and that direction. Again and again I bump against their edges, smell expensive perfume up close, say “Excuse me” twice and then leave it. Because nobody speaks on these boulevards. There, we want to take the bus! An old bus, one with an open plateau at the end! One of those you can jump on! I jump ... "Do you still have them all?" My friend commands me. Not only that I almost drove off alone, because nobody could run after this hustle and bustle. Not his wife, nor my daughter. And if I had thought that my son, at eight years old, could have nothing better to do than jump after his father. Thank God the boy was too slow to hold on to him. I should have seen how horrified he looked after me. And they would only have caught up with me because the next stop was less than a hundred meters away and the bus still had to wait.

"Sorry," I say. And after a while: "I don't know what's got into me."

I was born here. My father died here. Now I'm disconnecting the umbilical cord ...

Ralf Broker


As in the word haiku means shark, in the word haiga "funny" or "humorous and ga means in general" an image ", a colored or black and white image, a drawing or a graphic. By haiga we mean the combination of visual and textual elements on a common surface: a canvas, a scroll, a sheet of paper, a fan, etc. The Haiga is a further development of Chinese Nanga painting, which artists from China with new elements also spread to Japan. Nanga painting is characterized by a spirit similar to that of haiku poetry. Haiga is a form of visual art in which text and image are combined on a common surface. Two worlds coexist on one painting surface and it is up to the artist to find the optimal way, each with its own rules and its own aesthetics (haiku or Picture). The essentials of haiku poetry are known - the essential points that describe visual art are color, lines or Brush strokes, the areas, the outlines and the composition of the picture. For the total work of art, the Haiga artist considers exactly where and in what form he places the text for the Haiku on the picture. Haiku and picture in a haiga should be displayed and work equally. The content of the text is translated into a visual language. The image and text correspond in such a way that the image should remain an independent work of art and not become a "literal" illustration of the haiku idea. I would even go so far that the described event should not be represented one to one, but would find a common level in a new representation. The image within the visual-textual composition reflects simple everyday life with its comical or humorous facets. When looking at the picture and haiku, the tiny and fleeting events unfold in the empty, unpainted space. The artist or artists avoid the description or Presentation of unnecessary trivialities. The Haiga is defined by the same characteristics as the Haiku poetry: The Haiga is unromantic, very close to the earth, unpretentious and humorous, it makes the unspectacular, daily topics and objects visible. These characteristics can also be found in the terminology known to us: Haikai taste, Haikai fragrance, simplicity, frugality, modest and simple lifestyle, bitter and passing beauty, transcendence, avoidance of the ordinary and of cleverness and refinement. Haiku no kokoro (heart and soul of haiku) can also be found in the Haiga. Simplicity, simplicity Thrift and modesty are the main characteristics of Japanese aesthetics: “(…) the greatest effect with the smallest means is particularly true for the Haiga” (Stephen Addiss) Just as the Haiku is divided into two between the first two lines and the third line (surprising twist) gives, also in modern Haiga a division of Haiku and eg digital art. In a haiga, neither the haiku explains the picture nor does the picture illustrate the poem, but haiku or Images add a new layer to the other artistic element. In a haiga, the haiku and picture are presented together and given the names of the artist and the poet (often one and the same). Today we differentiate between different forms of Haiga: the traditional Haiga, the contemporary Haiga and the experimental Haiga. The traditional haiga today has a double meaning: On the one hand, we understand a traditional haiga to be a Japanese art form that started with Socho, Buson, Goshun, Shiroi and Issa or experienced its heyday and in which the haiku was written in brush calligraphy - the art of fine writing - and composed together with a painted brush picture - and what is still used today. On the other hand, today we understand a traditional Haiga in the non-Japanese world to be a total work of art by a multi-talented team of artists:
  • Author
  • Haiga-Artist
  • Translator into Japanese or English language
  • calligrapher
  • Musician
  • Presentation
The contemporary Haiga is designed either by a painter-poet or by two people. Ie a poet writes the haiku and a haiga artist provides a picture. The images can be digital images, graphic images, painted images, photographs (also known as photo haiku) or collages. The experimental haiga can be found particularly with Susumu Takiguchi (calligraphy haiga) or with other artists who work with alienation, collagen and other stylistic devices.

Renku seal

The chain seal tradition began more than a thousand years ago. Authors met to create a chain poem for entertainment and relaxation, in which each writer tried to outperform the other, but also wanted to create a poem by traveling through the seasons, Japanese landscapes and visiting different locations , This type of courtly initially serious chain seal was called "renga" or "ushin renga". Around the 17th Century the chain seal by samurai and merchant stand, who had the prosperity and leisure to indulge in this art, had been disqualified from the "funny renga" to the "nonsense" chain seal. During the lifetime of Bashô (1644 1694) and his students, completely new principles of intuitive linking between the stanzas, the progression to ever new scenes of life and the observance of a correspondence between image and language were introduced based on old traditions of chain poetry. This type of chain seal was so different from the now tasteless haikai, much deeper and more serious that this form of chain seal has been called "Renku" (literally: "concatenated verse") since then. There are different lengths and forms of the renku: the hyakuin with 100 stanzas, the Kasen with 36 stanzas, the Nijûin with 20 stanzas, the Hankasen or "Halbkasen" with 18 stanzas, the Shishi with 16 stanzas, the Jûsanbutsu with 13 stanzas and the Jûnicho and Shisan with 12 stanzas each. The most common form is chasing with 36 stanzas and will be discussed here. The other applications of the Renku are modifications of the cheese shape, but all follow the same principles of "link and shift". In principle, the overall structure of the Kasen consists of three parts: the introduction, the prologue or the overture (6 stanzas) - (jo) the main movement, the development or expansion (24 stanzas) - (ha) and the conclusion, the conclusion or the epilogue (6 stanzas) - (kyû). Certain verses have special names or are reserved for specific topics. For example, there are three verse positions within the case that are dedicated to the moon and two that are dedicated to the flowers - traditionally the cherry blossoms. Other stanzas describe the run through the seasons, tell of love or relate to free topics. Link and shift - connection and diversity (of location, people and scenery) is the basic principle of Renku. It is characterized by the two keywords "link and shift" (connection and location or Change of scene) rules. The most diverse types of linking or the principles of verse connections on the one hand and principles of progression (the moving ahead, moving forward) and the principle of diversity, the change of topics and characteristics. "Link" (tsukeai) refers to the connection or relationship between two successive stanzas; "Shift" (tenji) has with the diversity of the topics or Objects and their properties and shapes. "Shift" determines the steady progress through different places and events of the Renku poetry. These traditional ideas and points of view go back to the work of Matsuo Bashô (1644-16949) and his successors. Linking categories: - object linking (mono-zuke) = includes a link between the objects / people, the location or the time of two successive stanzas. For example: An “umbrella” in one verse can be answered with “rubber boots” in the next verse. An activity in a stanza can continue in the following stanza at a different time or in a new place, etc. This can be formulated narratively, but objects or images must be directly related to one another. - meaning linking (imi-zuke) = concatenation by the meaning of the words: realizes a concatenation of two neighboring stanzas by the meaning of the words, by allusion or by quotations, winged words, "tea kettles" or other word games. For example, mold means a white horse in one verse and a mushroom-like coating on organic substances in the next. - scent linking (nioi-zuke) = fragrance connection: Bashô deepened the chaining concept under the term “scent linking”, the fragrance connection. He and his successors divided the scent linking into several categories. We basically speak of scent linking when the connection between the verses is more a matter of mood and emotion than a rational association of thoughts or ideas behind the verses. Shift - principle of advancement and diversity: Linking from one stanza to the next is the heart of every Renku composition. In order to avoid monotony and standstill, it is important to master "progression and diversity" (advancement and diversity). The renku lives from the principles of progression and diversity or "shift" (tenji) for short. It is important to always move forward to new topics (see below) and not to look back. Progression - Moving Ahead: The basic idea of ​​"advancing" is not to process the same experiences, feelings or similar topics in the changing verses. There is a recurrence of characteristics or Avoid behaviors or a "local" return within three consecutive verses. In this context, three consecutive stanzas are always considered: The "youngest" or last stanza is called "linking verse" (tsukeku) or subsequent verse. the middle of the three stanzas is called "preceding verse" (maeku), or middle stanza and the first or the first written is called "leap over verse" (uchikoshi) skip or return stanza. The poet of the subsequent verse must absolutely avoid a return (also called uchikoshi) to the world of the leap-over verse. This means that the author of each follow-up verse may use words, topics or elements that relate to the subject areas or Obtain scenery from the previous (middle) verse. However, he must avoid referring to topics from the leap-over verse or the stanzas before it. Diversity - The diversity of topics and their elements: interior and exterior scenes should change in a comprehensible manner and should not be repeated in the linking and in the leap-over verses. This principle also applies to things, their nature, moods, states of mind, etc. In the time of the classic Renga poetry, there were long lists of topics and materials, even special words, that could only be repeated after a certain number of stanzas or that were only allowed to be used so often within a Renga poetry. But these lists were essentially only for the seals in the Renga tradition with a hundred or more stanzas. Most groups of poets only allow one topic or material to appear once within a Kasen - but they make sure that all of these topics or at least every topic can be found in the Kasen. Conclusion - balance is the key (note balance and harmony): With a Renku seal, it is crucial to maintain a balance between "link" and "shift". Shift (the principle of advancement and diversity) is the framework for the structure of the renku, while link (the types of chaining) is the flesh and blood that is supposed to describe the quality of life. If shift (the principle of progress and diversity) is overemphasized, we run the risk of losing real life and thus the fun of the Renku seal. If shift (ignoring the principle of progress and diversity) is ignored, the result will be monotonous.


Renshi is a term for modern chain poetry, (ren - connected poem, shi - in a modern, formally independent style). At least two or more poets (and translators) meet in a common place for a personal encounter. Participants are poets who are not shaped by the tradition and the classic rules of Japanese short poetry (compared to the Renga / Renku poetry). The language can be monolingual or multilingual with a multicultural background. The central, classic motifs such as moon, blossom, love are no longer used for structuring. The motifs of the poetry are the entire spectrum of our experiences, but, to make the difference clear, essentially essay poetry and not the result of observing a (natural) event, apart from the comments on the concrete encounter on site. Minimum speed: Every author is under a certain time pressure, which he masters with his ability for spontaneous and original creativity due to the situation of personal encounter. No competition: team spirit connects the authors. The central concern is the common creative process, respecting the diversity of the co-author. The number of chain links is free. The stanza form is free, unbound, very rarely the tanka form or the sonnet form. The number of verses is free. The verse metric is free. Linking: The answering poet takes up a word from the last verse, the superficial meaning or the associations of a further level of meaning, 'smells' (after Bashô) the scent of the previous stanza and thus starts the next chain link. Dualistic connections are also deliberately tried out. Political and cultural allusions are also taken up. In the course of the new chain link, however, there is no further telling or even sticking to the 'topic', instead there is a change of associations, an unexpected turn to a new topic, a leap into contradiction Every single step is free from the desire to return. You follow the run and change your mind just from wanting to move forward. The trace of the previous step is blurred and the very personal idea of ​​the follow-up author points in a new direction, which again ... etc.


The Rengay was developed in 1992 by the American Gary Gay based on the Japanese Renku seal. Gary Gay has been Chairman of the American Haiku Society since 1991. He developed this novel structure of community poetry out of the disappointment of rarely being able to complete a renku session in a single session and the desire for a simple, straightforward, topic-centered form that can be used without much prior knowledge. "Ren" means "connected" as in the Japanese word Renku, the suffix "gay" comes from Gary Gay's last name. The English word "gay" also means among other things cheerful, lively and is intended to indicate the easier character of the poem. In contrast to the Japanese Renku with its strict form and the difficult to understand rules, the American Rengay is simply designed. A leader is therefore not necessary, all participants have equal rights. It consists of 6 three or two-line verses that are written alternately as follows: 2 participants (A + B): A-3 lines • B-2 lines • A-3 lines • B-3 lines • A-2 lines • B-3 lines 3 participants (A + B + C): A-3 lines • B-2 lines • C-3 lines • A-3 lines • B-2 lines • C-3 lines or alternatively 3 participants (A + B + C): A -3 lines • B-2 lines • C-3 lines • A-2 lines • B-3 lines • C-2 lines While in Renku it is essential to go through a yearly run and the participants cover as wide a spectrum of world experience as possible , the Rengay is usually based on a topic that is determined in advance. This can be a season, but other contents such as fire, water, certain cities or situations are also possible. The headline of the Rengay usually picks up a word or a combination of words from the completed seal. As in the Renku, it is not wrong to proceed with link and shift to guarantee a greater variety of topics and perspectives. However, inventor Gary Gay does not consider this to be absolutely necessary. Each verse can only be based on the agreed subject, without paying attention to the previous verse. In his opinion, there is nothing wrong even with the repeated use of meaningful words. But as with other forms of chain seal, the following also applies here: each verse must stand on its own and be able to exist as such. Ultimately, the quality of the verses and how they interact determines whether a Rengay is successful or not. Since the Rengay was provided with only a few rules from the outset, it has developed in several directions and, unlike its traditional ancestors, is predestined for further experiments. For example, the Dutch haiku author Max Verhart developed the variant of the "mystery rengay" in 2000: the participants start without an agreed subject and are surprised by what emerges in the course of the poetry (the first mystery rengay by Max Verhart and Betty Kaplan appropriately bore the title: Dracula's Coffin). Authors from different countries often write multilingual Rengay. You can also find so-called Solo Rengay, which was written by only one poet.

All in all, this is an open and easy-to-learn form of community poetry, in which the focus can be on the joy of poetry and experimentation.

autumn glow

In the high maple next to the stone cross

a shimmer of red.

Church clock. In the night silence

clearly falls a first apple.

Haze in the hills. The ups and downs of the baskets

between the vines.

Two wine festivals to choose from on Saturday evening.

Impending sky.

Your father holds the kite,

but a Withrust him away.

Thanks to forecast food. On TV football and fire in the fireplace.

Udo Wenzel: Verses 1, 3, 5

Horst Ludwig: Verses 2, 4, 6


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