summer haiku d’été - common loons = plongeons huards

common loons
phantom howlers
pierce the moon

common loons haiku

plongeons huards
fantômes qui hurlent
percent la lune

Richard Vallance

Commentary on the rhythm and format of Canadian haiku:

In my view, the rhythm and assonance of haiku should be poetic, otherwise the haiku is not poetry.

Moreover, the so-called 5-7-5 syllable convention = 5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second and 5 syllables in the third line is not valid whatsoever, because it does not exist in Japanese. Haiku should be free form, allowing anywhere from 7 or 8 to 17 syllables. For instance, in the common loons haiku in English above, we have 3-4-3 = 10 syllables. And since the grammar and syntax of different languages is never the same, the same haiku in French runs to 4-4-3 = 11 syllables, which is scarcely surprising. All too many haijin (haiku poets) try to force their haiku into the strict framework of so-called 5-7-5, with the result that many of their haiku sound stilted and unnatural.

This is especially of translations of Japanese haiku, the most famous of which is the “frog in the pond” haiku of Matsuo Basho (1644-1694). Here are 3 translations of his haiku, one bad in 5-7-5 format and 2 good ones in free format:

bad translation:

Pond, there, still and old!
A frog has jumped from the shore.
The splash can be heard. 

Failures in this translation:
first line: insertion of the words “there” and “still” to flush out the line
second line:  “has jumped”, past tense & “from the shore” is not found in the original Japanese haiku at all!
third line: in the passive voice 

Trans. Eli Siegel

good translations:

old pond
frog leaping
splash

Trans. Cid Corman 

the old pond,
a frog jumps in:
plop! 

Trans. Alan Watts

Original haiku in Japanese:

Furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

This looks like 5-7-5 syllables, but as you can see for yourself in the original haiku in the kanji script, there are actually only 3 kanji characters in the first line, with 5 in the second line and 3 in the third for a total of just 11. So the so-called 5-7-5 strict formula is blown out of the water!

old pond haiku in kanji