MUCH IN LITTLE

Etsujin wrote:

How serenely they fall
When the time comes —
Poppy flowers.

That is a “statement” hokku.  A “statement” hokku makes a simple, true observation about something; it tells us something we already know but did not know we knew until we read the verse.  We must be careful to distinguish such a remark from just commentary or elaboration, in which personal views may enter into the matter.  The remark in a statement hokku should be something obviously true, about which there can be no controversy.

In technique, note how this verse in English uses the “double subject.”  By “double subject,” we mean that the hokku first introduces the subject one way — with either a pronoun or a noun — and then goes on to finish by repeating the subject using the other term.  If it begins with a pronoun, it continues with a noun; if it begins with a noun, it continues with a pronoun.  Look again:

How serenely THEY fall
When the time comes —
POPPY FLOWERS.

“They” (pronoun) and “poppy flowers” (noun) both refer to the same subject, thus the name “repeated subject.”  This is very handy when writing hokku in English.

We should also note that this verse could easily be used as an “occasion” hokku.  An “occasion” hokku is a verse written for a specific occasion — as a greeting, as a parting, on a birth, or on a death, etc.

The characteristic of an “occasion” hokku is that it must be equally meaningful when NOT applied to an occasion as when applied.  For example, we see that this makes a quite good hokku without application to any occasion.  But it would also make a very appropriate and meaningful hokku on the calm passing of a loved one.  So an “occasion” hokku must work well when applied to the specific occasion and when applied to no occasion.  By “occasion” we mean an event in human life.

David

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