Haiku and Sciku

What is a haiku?

A haiku is a form of Japanese poem consisting of 17 syllables (known as on or morae) in three phrases (5, 7, 5). Haiku traditionally tend to be associated with nature, have a seasonal reference (a kigo) and contain images of juxtaposition with a cutting word between them (a kireji).

Throughout both traditional and modern haiku these rules have all been broken (sometimes all at once).

Origin of haiku

The modern haiku originates from the opening stanza of a Japanese collaborative linked poem (known as renga) which alternated between verses of 17 (5,7,5) and 14 (7,7) syllables. The 17 syllable verse (known as a hokku) was re-named to haiku by Masaoka Shiki in the late 19th century. Today a poem consisting of just the first two verses of renga (5,7,5,7,7) is known as a tanka.

What is a sciku?

Sciku is a portmanteau word for scientific haiku, the structure of haiku with the subjects of science and mathematics. Given haiku’s traditional association with the natural world, it isn’t an especially great leap to get to scientific subjects of sciku. Whilst sciku are a relatively new art form, there are a few sciku practitioners out there – check out Further Reading for more information.

Trying to obey traditional haiku rules and convey the essence of a scientific finding is tricky. Here at The Sciku Project the 17 syllables and line structure tend to be maintained but the other traditional rules are not strictly upheld. If there is a lot to say then occasionally a scientific tanka may be more appropriate, you can see an example here.

Why do the haiku at The Sciku Project have titles?

Traditionally haiku don’t have titles – the haiku itself should contain everything there is to say. As always though, exceptions to this rule have been made and sometimes a title can help to further illuminate the haiku itself.

For practical reasons (to do with website organisation) the haiku here at The Sciku Project require a title. As such the titles given are simply a few words of the haiku presented. Apologies to haiku purists!