IS DAOKU OLD OR NEW?

 

Autumn begins;
The evening shower
Has become a night of rain.

That verse — loosely translated here — was originally written in the 18th century by Taigi.  It expresses the transition from the season of summer to that of autumn.

Some may wonder if daoku is an old or a new verse form.  The answer is that it is both.

It is old in that it is based on the best aesthetics of the old Japanese hokku that began to be seriously practiced in the latter half of the 17th century. 

It is new in that it is commonly written in English, though of course it may be written in other contemporary languages as well. 

It is also new in that it uses capitalization (which did not exist in old Japanese) and punctuation (which takes the place of the old “cutting words” used in Japanese hokku).

Daoku is new in that it replaces the old “season words” that made learning hokku so complex with a simple seasonal heading for each shared verse in parentheses —  like this: (Autumn).

And it is new in that it is based on real experiences of the five senses.  Many old Japanese hokku were written from the imagination, though they appear to be real experiences.  When those old hokku are used as models for learning daoku, they are treated as real experiences.

Some may wonder how daoku differs from that other widely-known form of contemporary short verse, the haiku.

Daoku differs from contemporary haiku in that daoku has a definite form and definite subject matter, and keeps the old connection with the seasons.  It also differs from most haiku written today in that daoku capitalizes the first letter of each line and uses punctuation both within and at the end of each daoku, while haiku often omits both, or may use only a perfunctory hyphen.

Daoku also differs from much contemporary haiku in that it is an objective, selfless, contemplative form of verse — not a verse for “self-expression.”  Daoku allows Nature to speak through the writer, rather than the writer giving personal opinions about or reflections on Nature.

In practice, daoku can be treated as a completely modern form of short verse in English and other contemporary languages, though of course its roots go back directly to the best aesthetics of the old hokku.  Because of that, it is generally far closer to the old hokku than modern haiku, which has taken quite a different direction in most cases.  It is so close that old objective hokku may be used in translation as models for learning daoku.  In the transition from the old Japanese hokku to the English language, daoku removed a great deal of unnecessary cultural baggage, which makes it a more universal form of verse.

That frees daoku to be completely of the place and language in which it is written.

And by the way, “daoku” is both the singular and the plural.  So we can say, “This daoku is….” or “Those daoku are ….”

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