A hokku in daoku form by Shōha:
On the white wall,
Shadows of dragonflies
白 壁 に 蜻 蛉 過ぐる 日 影 かな
Shira-kabe ni tombō suguru hikage kana
White wall on dragonfly pass shadow kana
The shadows of the dragonflies and their translucent wings on the white wall in the autumn sun are fleeting, and their impermanence is in keeping with the sense of autumn as a time when impermanence is much in evidence.
This hokku is a study in grey and white — the whiteness of the wall, and the faint grey shadows of the dragonflies — so it is very simple, but also effective.
This daoku (objective hokku) is a good example of the “setting/subject/action” form because they are so clearly separated here:
Setting: On the white wall
Subject: Shadows of dragonflies
Action: Flitting by
The S/S/A form is a very good one for beginners in hokku because it enables them to arrange the significant elements of a hokku experience easily, and countless hokku can be written using it. Because it is simple does not mean, however, that it is only for beginners. It is a good tool for writers of hokku at any stage, from beginner to very advanced.
For those of you who may come to hokku from other short verse traditions such as modern haiku, be sure to note the definite characteristics of the daoku form:
It consists of three lines.
The first letter of each line is capitalized.
There are two parts to the verse, one long and one short.
The two parts are separated by an appropriate punctuation mark.
The daoku ends with an appropriate punctuation mark.
Remember that unlike modern haiku, contemporary hokku in English has not only a definite form, but also definite aesthetic principles that the student of hokku must gradually learn and absorb. Also unlike much of modern haiku, hokku keeps the strong connection with the seasons found in old hokku, so every verse has a seasonal heading in parentheses, as you see above.
Also, it is very important to remember that unlike much of modern haiku, contemporary hokku has as its subject matter Nature and the place of humans within and as a part of Nature, set in the context of the seasons.
If you are unfamiliar with the term daoku, it simply means an objective hokku — one without any opinions or comments of the writer added, or as we commonly say, “no thinking.” Daoku form means the standard form we use in writing contemporary hokku — the form shown above.