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A Few Fun Facts About Haikus by Christine Medeiros

Updated on October 18, 2015

What is a Haiku?

Originating in Japan, a haiku is most commonly known as a poem about one or more aspects of nature, containing a total of 17 syllables made up of the following 3-line pattern:

Format of a Haiku

  • 5 Syllables

  • 7 Syllables

  • 5 Syllables

"Do Haikus Have to Rhyme?"


Haiku poetry does not need to rhyme.

"Is there a wrong way to write a haiku?"

Technically, if you're going "by the book," then yes, poems that consist of anything other than 3 lines that are made up of 5, 7, and then 5 syllables cannot be considered haikus. However, some people may vary the format slightly (like creating 3 lines made up of 3, 5, and then 3 syllables for an English class assignment) or write about a non-nature topic (such as a haiku that focuses on technology for example). Many people also agree that all poetry is creative, original, subjective, and ambiguous, and therefore subject to slight variations and exceptions, regardless of its "structure" or "format."

"How many exceptions to the rules of the English and poetic language can YOU think of?"

"i before e, except after c..."

Like the exceptions in the English language featured above, many of William Shakespeare's sonnets contain one or more lines that don't follow the strict iambic pentameter formula or the ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GG rhyme scheme.

Iambic pentameter contains 5 iams (an iamb is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable)
Iambic pentameter contains 5 iams (an iamb is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable)

Imagery and Haiku

Haikus are often ripe with vivid imageryand figurative language.

Imagery contains descriptive words and phrases that paint detailed pictures in the reader's head.

"The beautiful rose

standing tall against the green,

with its hue of pink."

What is Figurative Language?

Figurative Language contains elements such as:

  • Similes - comparisons using "like" or "as," such as: "Her eyes look like emeralds;"
  • Metaphors - comparisons lacking the words "like" or "as," such as: "Her eyes are emeralds;"
  • Personification - involves animating inanimate objects; for example, "The telephone jolted awake and began screaming loudly throughout the room;" (telephones don't sleep, nor do they have voices);
  • Puns - "plays" on words, as displayed in the following image:

Example of a Pun
Example of a Pun

Haikus may also contain different forms of rhyme such as Internal Rhyme or Alliteration.

What is Internal Rhyme?

Internal Rhyme occurs within the middle of words, such as the "ooo" sound in the following line:

"Sue flew in with a cool new do and tattoo"

What is Alliteration?

Alliteration occurs when the first letters or sounds of words sound the same, as the "ssss" sound in the following example,

"Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore."

Many common tongue twisters contain alliteration.

The title of this article contains alliteration as well, "A Few Fun Facts about Haikus."

A Few of My Nature Haikus About the Seasons

Spring marches onward
like diligent army ants
onto my picnic.

                       Winter watches us
                       With snow on her one track mind
                       We remain clueless.

The summer sun breathes

its firey heat-filled breath

onto nature's wings.

The orange of fall

envelops all that is green

then turns it to brown.

There are visual haikus too!

Visual haikus use pictures within the haiku
Visual haikus use pictures within the haiku

Characteristics of a Haiku - QUIZ

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