Jin-ku is my own invention. It is an adaptation of the haiku form: the traditional Japanese poem that is comprised of 17 syllables in three lines of five, seven, five.
In haiku, one tradition is to tell without telling (a Zen-sounding phrase, and haiku are influenced by Zen), especially in relation to the natural world. There are so few words to express what you want to say, but this restriction is transformed in the challenge and the beauty of alluding to a season or natural event obliquely, sparsely, carefully and with great focus. It may be wasteful in such a short poetic form to use the word ‘summer’, when you can write about the blackcurrants that only fruit in summer.
Here is a haiku by the Japanese master of the form, Matsuo Basho (1644-1694):
In the twilight rain
these brilliant-hued hibiscus —
A lovely sunset.
So what is a jin-ku?
A jin-ku is even more restrictive than a haiku. (It is important that the ‘jin’ is strongly pronounced.) ‘Jin’ is the Kurdish word for ‘woman’. ‘Ku’ is a slang word for ‘friend’ (not in Kurdish -I don’t know the origins). ‘Jin’ resonates strongly with me as a feminist, as Kurdish women are leading the way for women in the Middle East. See my earlier post on the revolution in northern Syria.
To make friends of women means, not to oppress them, and to become as self-aware as possible about strains of patriarchy that exist within us even as the most enlightened of men and women. This is not to say that toxic matriarchy doesn’t also exist.
The jin-ku form is comprised of only 13 syllables. 13 because all the haiku masters were men. They had the relative freedom of expression of 17 syllables, whereas the women of their time are relatively obscured. Thus by ’13’ -also representing the 13 moons of the year; the banished natural rhythms of Earth and of women; that number made ‘unlucky’ by patriarchy -women, gender rebels and male allies can show that beauty in poetic form can flower under even stricter conditions than the haiku.
Just as women have been forced to express their truth in highly restricted circumstances throughout much of history, so the highly restricted jin-ku form can bear the most telling and profound fruit, and be a site of poetic resistance to patriarchy.
Women, gender rebels and male allies are free to write jin-ku, but a jin-ku (the singular and the plural use the same description) to be truly a jin-ku must:
- allude to patriarchy and / or the liberation and self-governance of women
- continuing the tradition of haiku, be rooted in nature
The 13 syllables can be divided into various forms. This is something to play around with. In my first public jin-ku, I have gone for a 5,7,3 structure:
By the wild river
still reaches God machines’ noise
-drown Him here
If you would like to write some jin-ku and send them to me, I will publish them here on my blog on the 13th of the month. I reserve the right to offer editorial suggestion before publishing.
I hope that together we can build a tradition of jin-ku that will one day overtake and supersede the haiku tradition that has been dominated by men.