WHAT IS DAOKU?

Daoku is a modern brief verse form in three short lines that continues the essential aesthetics of the best of old Japanese objective hokku, adapted to a non-Japanese language context.

Daoku is a new term coined specifically to describe modern, objective hokku in non- Japanese languages — specifically those that have as their subject matter Nature and the place of humans within and as a part of Nature, set in the context of the seasons.  Keep in mind that while all daoku is hokku, not all hokku is daoku.  The term daoku is intended to clearly distinguish this particular kind and form of  objective modern hokku from all other kinds, as well as from the many varieties of modern haiku.

Daoku as a neologism combines two very old words:  first the Chinese dào, meaning “way” — as in the way of the universe, and the way to be in harmony with Nature — an aesthetic and spiritual path.  It is the same dao as in the ancient Chinese Daoist classic Dao De Jing.  Second is the Japanese 句 ku, meaning “verse.”  It is the same as the ku in hokku and haiku. This combination honors the Chinese and Japanese spiritual and aesthetic roots of hokku, and thus of modern daoku as a continuation of that tradition.

In form, daoku is written in three brief lines, the second often slightly longer than the others — but not always.  It has a long part of two lines, separated from the short part of one line by appropriate punctuation.  The first letter of each line is capitalized, and the verse ends with an appropriate punctuation mark.

On this site, when old Japanese hokku are translated, they are translated into the daoku form.  So they are “hokku in daoku form.”  When new objective hokku are written in daoku form, they are simply daoku.

Daoku — like old objective hokku — has as its subject matter Nature and the place of humans within and as a part of Nature.  Each verse is set in the context of a particular season, and when shared, is categorized by season — whether spring, summer, fall/autumn or winter.

Having its roots in the aesthetics of Daoism and Zen Buddhism, daoku is a “selfless” contemplative form of verse that de-emphasizes the writer, so it seldom uses the words “I,” “me,” and “my” unless they are necessary to the context.  It also avoids mind-disturbing subjects such as romance, sex, and violence.  It avoids political and social commentary, leaving those for other kinds of verse.

Being objective, daoku presents an experience or event through one or more of the senses — sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.  It avoids adding the opinions and comments of the writer, focusing just on the experience itself.

Being Nature-based, daoku avoids modern technology.

Daoku uses simple and ordinary words to clearly convey an experience.

Daoku has an aesthetic of sparseness that is often described by the term “poverty.”  This is a spiritual poverty that is the opposite of materialism.

Behind all daoku is a sense of transience, of the impermanence of all the things of this world — ourselves included.