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CYBURBIA

Site Reading of an Ancient Art Form

June 16, 1995|DAVID COLKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

How does one find good haiku poetry on the Internet?

The question is not the most asked of Cyburbia. But searching for examples of a centuries-old form of Japanese poetry can demonstrate how amazingly user-friendly the Internet has become.

In the bad old days of the Net--a year or so ago--the only way to find something on this network of networks was to use quirky search engines, such as Fido and Veronica, that were friendly in name only.

But now, with the increased popularity and explosive growth of the World Wide Web--which is accessed with a graphical browser allowing the viewing of not only text, but also photos, graphics and even video clips--Internet searching has become practical even for us non-techies.

So, let's go hunting for haiku.

The Web browser I use is the popular (and free for the downloading) Netscape, which comes in both Macintosh and Windows versions. Right from its opening page you can hit a button marked "Net Search" to go directly to a listing of several different search services.

One of the most popular of these services is Lycos, developed at Carnegie Mellon University, which currently runs a search past more than 3.4 million Web pages.

We ask Lycos (which can be found at http://lycos.cs.cmu.edu/ if your browser doesn't have an automatic link to it) to look for mentions of "haiku." It finds 287 hits.

A quick look through the descriptions of the first 30 brings forth such varied items as the "Haiku Club for Men," an Arizona-based home for lighthearted haiku, to a site maintained by 15-year-old Steve Linn who presents a beautifully designed page of haiku written by students of "Mrs. Rosenbaum's English Class" at a Chicago-area high school.

A lot of the sites found by Lycos mention haiku just in passing. To find Web areas more focused on the poetry, we switch to one of the most useful of all Internet sites, Yahoo.

Maintained by two Stanford students, Jerry Chih-Yuan Yang and David Filo, Yahoo breaks down the Web by categories. In our search, we start by choosing "art" (which includes information on 1,072 sites), then to further refine it we choose "literature" (325), then "poetry" (81) and finally "haiku" (4).

On top of the haiku list is "Dogwood Blossoms: Online Journal of Haiku" based at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. The journal includes original haiku submitted via the Internet, and information about the art form. Submissions must strictly adhere to the traditional three-line format, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the next, and five in the last.

One of the nice features of "Dogwood Blossoms" is that it provides a link to the site maintained by Rodrigo de Almeida Siqueira, an engineering student at the University of San Paulo in Chile. On pages decorated with woodcuts and other graphics, Siqueira explains that haiku is a contemplative form that "must register or indicate a moment, sensation, impression or drama" that is "almost like a photo of some specific moment of nature."

He includes poems written by the 16th-Century master Matsuo Basho, plus a few examples of traditional Japanese music that can be downloaded for inspiration and a quote by William Higginson that declares, "The primary purpose of reading and writing haiku is sharing moments of our lives that have moved us, pieces of experience and perception that we offer or receive as gifts."

One of Basho's poems, which in translation does not have the proper syllable count, reads in the Higginson translation:

An old pond . . .

a frog leaps in

water's sound

Also via Yahoo, we access the "Haiku for People" collection of modern and traditional haiku based in Oslo, Norway, and an "Interactive Haiku" collection put together by a student at Keio University in Tokyo.

Finally, there is the elegantly designed "Shiki Internet Haiku Salon" based in Matsuyama, Japan, named in honor of 19th-Century poet Shiki Masaoka. Not only does it give examples of haiku, but also offers detailed lessons in learning how to write your own poems.

There are lovely examples, including this modern one by a 12-year-old Japanese boy:

The sound of the little waterfall

for a while I am surprised

I continue to hear it

And finally from Shiki himself, late in life:

My remaining days

are numbered

a brief night

The world of Fido and Veronica seems far, far away.

*

Cyburbia's Internet address is Colker@news.latimes.com.

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