Guest Blog Posts

"SHASHIN – KAKU, a new style of Haiku" – guest blog post by Wayne Scott Ray

In developing a new haiku style of poetry, I had to come up with a name. During my investigations into the history of haiku (l) I came across two Japanese words that I have chosen to describe this new style; Shashin, meaning photograph and Kaku, meaning picture (to sketch or draw).
The first line is made up of up to two words of no more than three syllables or two feet (2), a foot is one breath-stress producing either one or two syllables. The rhythm of Japanese poetry is based on the beat of stress rather than on the number of syllables (3). The only restrictions placed on the first line are that it must let the reader know exactly what it is you want to talk about and it must be connected to the second line in continuity of thought.
The structure of the second line is made up of up to six syllables or three feet and acts as an ending thought to the first line and must show no contrast. The object of the first and second lines is to `paint a picture’ that will leave a very strong impression on the mind of the reader. A `photograph’ that says everything. Subjective, maudlin ideas and rhyme are not accepted.
Use of non-traditional haiku themes is encouraged, however, traditional seasonal themes with provocative content are acceptable. The overall feelings and ideas embodied in the first two, 2 – 3 beat, lines must be clear and concise with no hidden images.
The third line, as in the haiku, is the contrast line with less syllables than in the second line, two to three feet (five syllables). Shashin-kaku must make a clear statement about life and the world around us.
The best method of dealing with the writing of Shashin-kaku haiku is to compare it with the traditional and modern haiku of Japan as well as with the modern haiku style. Traditionally, the Japanese haiku style in English consists of a 5-7-5 syllable or 3-4-3 beat (4) poem with a seasonal word or theme. The haiku form in any language is a triplet verse of 3-4-3 beats. Fundamentally, haiku is not syllabic poetry (5). It is the haiku in the Japanese language that the syllables are counted and not necessarily the English translations. Haiku as a verse form is more than four hundred years old with its origin in the haikai, a light hearted linked verse consisting of 36, 50 or 100 verses composed by a team of poets. The opening verse, called the hokku, was in three lines of 5-7-5 syllables with the second verse a 7-7 syllable couplet. (6)


The old pond
a frog jumps in
sound of water

Modern Japanese haiku dates from the time of Shiki, circa 1896, when he and his followers broke with traditional haiku thought and strove to appeal directly to emotion and abhor wordiness, leaning towards a diffuse style, as well as detaching themselves from any lineage of classical haiku masters, creating a new haiku. They respected the poem more than the poet. (7)


cold day in spring
bumping into this and that
a blind dog walking (8)

Haiku in present day Japan still has a seasonal theme as with the modern form yet distinguishes itself from traditional form. North America has no haiku tradition. Most ‘modern’ writings are based on what has already been written and translated. Haiku in Canada today, has a much more free style form where content and structure are concerned. The seasonal theme can be found in most of the Canadian haiku but there is no set beat, or 5-7-5 syllabic structure. Jones, in his book The Brave Never Write Poetry (Coach House Press, Toronto 1985), found himself in 1982 "in a direction out of my current sense of emptiness [in] zen. That autumn I found myself in the role of secretary of the Haiku Society of Canada and organizing a massive reading at Harbourfront . . . Rather than encouraging me, this brought about my complete disillusionment with haiku. Everywhere the subject matter was foreign to that of contemporary North American existence . . . I lashed out at the audience: Do you really want to hear this crap?" (9a)


Eating candy floss . . .
Until we come to the crushed
cat in the road

Cold, evening wind:
I give a wino
my last cigarette (9)


these clouds reveal
too much moon (10)


just changed,
he lay on my belly
the warm swell of pee (11)

The following samples of poems will introduce you to all the other, left over, haikuish, short poems which do not fit into the standard haiku form. These Shashin-kaku follow the structure set down in the beginning of this essay. I have included samples of haiku by various poets that I feel fit into this style.

is not for any man
missing my son

three girls
under an umbrella
acid rain

(For Jones)
In a dream
they become one
moth and flame

Outside Tobique
Nation Drumming Circle
Japanese tourist
Wayne Scott Ray

among headstones
in the cemetery
a condom
– Herb Barrett (12)


Shan-zi haiku

Andreas Gripp (London, Ontario) has a new style: "Shan-zi is an eastern-inspired form I came up with at a time when I was writing lots of haiku (as well as Tanka and Sijo). I guess I was searching for something that allowed a little more “breathing room,” so to speak, while maintaining structure and meditative qualities inherent in Japanese and Korean verse. I don’t quite remember how the 4-5 5-4 4-4-5 scheme won out exactly — perhaps it was merely the sound and flow of the first one which I’d written and that it appeared to me at the time to be ideal with regards to what I was endeavouring to do which was expand on the haiku (even allowing for it to be titled) without it becoming too long. I released a chapbook of Shan-zi in 2007 — the first poem in it is an example of the form itself":

Backyard in June

In the garden,
butterfly and moth
Petals undisturbed
by quiet flight

Tender breezes
and my breathing
embrace the silence


Joge uta haiku

The following longer poems are composed of a main prose poem of twelve lines which begins and ends with a Shashin-kaku Haiku of the same theme. I call this style Joge uta (upper and lower poem).


music blares
and in the restaurant
a blind boy

I see you now
do you see my sounds
my vibration’s
my music
quarter in the slot
play me
music plays me
plays you
my music box mouth
has no eyes
I feel your smile
feel mine

dark sounds
penetrate dark spaces
inside smile

– Wayne Scott Ray


his wife sits
weeping softly as he speaks
they both hurt

morphine drips
thin anaesthesia
through veins
as my friend’s
brittle bones
he tells his life
drifting in and out
on tides of pain
there is
no more time

eyes close
pain will end too soon
eternal sleep

– Miki Mesiab

1. Ueda, M. (1978), Modern Japanese Haiku, University of Toronto
2. Okazaki, T. (1986), New Cicada Haiku, v. 3 N. 2 p25-28
3. ibid.
4. ibid.
5. ibid.
6a.Hass, R. (1994), The Essential Haiku. p. 3-7.
6. Ueda, M. (1978), Modern Japanese Haiku, p 3-23 &
7. ibid.
8. ibid. p 54, p 94
9a. Jones (1985), The Brave Never Write Poetry, Coach House Press, p.83
9. Jones (1984), Two Cops Kissing, HMS Press.
10. Faiers,C. (1986), Foot Through The Ceiling, AYA Press
11. Hryciuk, M. (1985), This Is Hilarious, Unfinished Monument Press
12. Tidepool 4 and 5 (1987-88), Hamilton Haiku Press

Do you have something say about poetry? An essay on being a poet, tips for poets, or poetry you love? is now accepting pitches for guest blog posts. 

Contact me here if you are interested! 

Wayne Scott RayWayne (Scott) Ray was born in Alabama  and spent most of his first fifteen years on Ernest Harmon Air Force Base in Stephenville, Newfoundland until moving to Woodstock, Ontario in 1965. Wayne is the founder of HMS Press publishing, co-founder of the Canadian Poetry Association (CPA) (1985-88 Toronto & 1992-1995 London). He was the recipient of the Editors Prize for ‘Best Poet Published in 1989’ from Canadian Author and Bookman. He helped establish the London Arts Council and was the President of the London New Arts Festival in 1999. Wayne has eighteen books and chapbooks of poetry, fiction and non-fiction published as well as credits in anthologies, periodicals, journals and newspapers across Canada between 1983 and 2016.
You can email Wayne (Scott) Ray at

Leave a Reply