Reading Proust: "Proustku"

Haiku is a very old form of Japanese poetry that has traditionally followed fairly stringent guidelines. I was fortunate to be involved in a 3 month-long haiku workshop with the World Haiku Club where I learned a lot about the form from some very accomplished haijin (haiku poets).

Associating the word “haiku” with what I will be writing here will be plain wrong in most cases. for this project I’ll be doing something a little different: the “Proustku”. The form I will be writing will be closer to senryu, which are structurally identical to haiku but much more flexible in content. Occasionally there will be haiku among the senryu but that will occur only when the pages of the text happen to evoke some particularly strong image of an appropriate type that I can capture with the form. Basically, I will try to capture something of the memories that Proust reconstructs in his book, but attempting to capture both the events and/or the feelings Proust’s narrator describes. I’m sure that my idea of this invented form will develop as I go and become more concrete in time.

Any time I have put haiku-like forms on the web, somebody comes along and complains that what I am writing is not haiku because it doesn’t follow the 5-7-5 syllable form. However, most haijin writing in English acknowledge that the 5-7-5 form does not come cloest to representing the Japanese original form. For example, the amount of information contained in 5-7-5 Japanese “syllables” is much less than in that many English syllables. Therefore, many English haijin espouse a smaller number of syllables (3-4-3, for example) to more closely approximate the quantity of information in a Japanese haiku, but they also do not believe in holding too strictly to these counts. In these Proustku, I’ll typically use a loose form consisting of a longer line between two shorter ones, with the syllable count generally not exceeding 5-7-5, but often being less.