October 4th, 2005

Egrets Reading

Kigo for Scifaiku?

The practice of using kigo, Japanese season words, in the writing of haiku becomes even more important when poets venture beyond haiku to renga, Japanese linked verse. The season a particular link references through its kigo is important because a renku must move logically through the seasons. If a renku starts, for example, with a hokku that contains a “fall season” word, then the next couple of links should also have fall kigo, then the links should move to winter, followed by spring, then summer, etc.

Logically, you just cannot follow a spring verse with an autumn verse.

In the writing of scifaiku, poets usually use keywords instead of kigo, i.e. science fiction and science concept words like “FTL travel” (faster-than-life travel), “android”, “gravity”, “black hole”, etc.

So, what happens when you try to write scifaiku linked verse? From a seasonal standpoint, chaos!

A group of my scifaiku friends and I formed a private yahoogroups list a few years ago to collaborate on a genre-themed Japanese-style linked verse experiment. We set out to define what seasons might be in a setting that is non-earth based. Mary Margaret Serpento came up with the following categories:

Storage (Death)

Then, we sat down and categorized various science/science fiction topics into these categories. Finally, we used this as a template to write a half-kasen renku together.

We were all reasonably satisfied with the result, although it has yet to be published.

However, there are other ways to think of scifaiku seasons. As NASA gathers more and more information about Mars, other planets, the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, and other solar system moons, we are starting to learn about the seasons of Mars, and of the other planetary and lunar bodies.

So, with some research, it is possible to start writing Martian spring verses as opposed to Martian winter verses.

The only problem with this is that not everyone reads the NASA press releases, so even if a Mars-themed haiku had a Mars spring kigo, the average reader may not realize this.

The jury is still out as to whether it is necessary to use actual kigo instead of “keywords” for scifaiku. However, I’m interested in exploring the topic further, so I’m interested in hearing what others might have to say on this.