The very old practice of using models to learn hokku is, as I have mentioned earlier, also a very good one. One should not think of it as simplistic or elementary, because if offers the opportunity to fix these models in one’s head and to understand how hokku works structurally, and ultimately aesthetically.
When working with models, we may disregard our usual habit of only reading hokku that are in season. You may recall that the exception to that habit is in hokku used for teaching and learning. So one may use a model from any season for practice in any other season.
In model work, we need not pay attention to the Japanese version of a hokku. The Japanese language is structurally very different than English. When learning hokku in English, it is important to work from English models.
In the study of models, we quickly find that there are several types of common hokku. By learning these different types, we expand our range. Because it is so frequent and useful, I like to begin with the “standard” hokku.
A standard hokku consists of a setting, a subject, and an action, not always in that order. Here is a standard hokku by Uejima Onitsura, whom we commonly know as just Onitsura:
A cool wind;
Filling the sky —
The sound of pines.
Working with such a model is simply a matter of changing the various elements in it and substituting others. We can change one or two or all of them, and each will give a different result. Some changes will be effective, some will not. By doing this, we learn how to combine elements in hokku, and we also learn the overall structure.
Onitsura’s hokku consists of these elements:
A cool wind; (setting)
Filling the sky — (action)
The sound of pines. (subject)
Here is how one begins to work with a model through changing elements:
The spring morning: (setting)
Filling the forest — (action)
The sound of birds. (subject)
It is easy to see that we have substituted other elements in the same structure. We can go on doing this, using a wide range of topics:
The morning sky;
Filling the meadows —
The gold of poppies
One can easily see that the possibilities are infinite, which is why there are great numbers of hokku just of the “standard” kind alone. And that is only one of several kinds of hokku.
One must not think this method too basic. It is remarkably useful, and it enables the diligent student to quickly learn the basic forms of hokku. When one adds to this the knowledge of the aesthetics of hokku, it provides an excellent grounding in the writing of original verses.
Any of the good hokku in the archives of this site may be used as models. The more one works with them, the more one will expand one’s knowledge. A teacher can show how to work, but only the student can do the learning through repeated practice.
If anyone has questions about this or about anything else, feel free to ask me by clicking on the “comment” button at the end of this or any other article. Your question will be seen only by me, and I will reply to your email address.