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Haiku Examples: What is Haiku?

Updated on March 2, 2013

With many misconceptions about haiku, more Americans seem to believe the misinformation about haiku than understand the true spirit of haiku. Those who want to learn how to create real haiku can learn a lot by examining haiku examples. First, I'll provide an overview of what haiku is. Then, please take a discerning look at these haiku examples and see how the rules relate.

What is Haiku?

Haiku are short poems that describe one moment in nature within the context of a season. The haiku poet does not judge or interpret the scene for the readers. Therefore, haiku should never contain judgment words like "best" or "beautiful" or say what the image means to them. Instead, the haiku poet describes the image and allows the readers to relate to the scene in their own way.

The season of the haiku image is an important element of the poem. A haiku poem include a seasonal reference word called a kigo. The seasonal reference does not have to be a stereotypical seasonal reference like snow or blizzard for winter. In addition to references to seasonal weather, the kigo can be the animal life or plants that are associated with the season.

Seasonal references are different depending on geographic locations and seasonal events in the location. The seasons mentioned in haiku can be shown by a crop being harvested or blooming trees. Haiku poets can be creative in their inclusion of season words. I prefer a looser translation of the kigo. I like when haiku contain a seasonal reference that's unexpected like a holiday or a point in a cycle.

Haiku Examples

An old pond!
A frog jumps in-
The sound of water.

-Matsuo Basho

Ballet in the air...
Twin butterflies until, twice white
They Meet, they mate

-Matsuo Basho

In my old home
which I forsook, the cherries
are in bloom.

-Kobayashi Issa

The winds that blows -
ask them, which leaf on the tree
will be next to go.

-Kyoshi Takahama

First autumn morning:
the mirror I stare into
shows my father's face.

-Kijo Murakami

The summer river:
although there is a bridge, my horse
goes through the water.

-Masaoka Shiki

What about the 5-7-5 syllable count?

Americans, like myself, typically are taught in school that a haiku is a poem that is three lines and fits a syllable count of five syllables in the first and last lines and seven syllables in the middle line. This erroneous belief that haiku has to fit a 5-7-5 syllable count seems based on the structure of traditional Japanese haiku.

A traditional form of Japanese haiku was organized by "on" sounds which are not the same as English syllables. Resources say that the 17 "on" sounds in Japanese is equivalent to 12 English syllables. Many haiku poets suggest people write haiku with 14 syllables or less to capture the true spirit of haiku.

Additional Haiku Examples and Resources:

Haiku Examples

Haiku Rules


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    • Sheila Wilson profile image

      Sheila Wilson 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Anytime, Lizam1. I mean that. Feel free to send me a message if you want feedback in the future. Over the years, I've helped many poets with haiku. I'm quite passionate about this form. It's a wonderful challenge.

    • Lizam1 profile image

      Lizam1 5 years ago from Victoria BC

      Sheila I REALLY appreciate your taking time to review my work and the suggestions. Bless you dear lady.

    • Sheila Wilson profile image

      Sheila Wilson 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I believe it's better for a haiku to be 12 syllables or less in order to follow the true spirit of haiku. I think of the 5-7-5 syllable formula as the English bastardization of haiku. Thank God, serious haiku poets are learning to move away from that.

    • James-wolve profile image

      Tijani Achamlal 5 years ago from Morocco

      Haiku often expresses feelings and thoughts about nature; however, you could write a poem about any subject that you would like to in the form as you stated above 5.7.5 and one has to avoid similes and metaphors.A haiku is necessarily imagistic, concrete and pithy, juxtaposing two images in a very few words to create a single crystalline idea. The juxtaposed elements are linked in Japanese by a kireji, or “cutting word”,poets writing haiku in English or other Western languages often use a dash or an ellipsis to indicate the break or cut between the linked images.However,some critics say that to write a haiku in English, concentrate more on simply capturing a fleeting moment, evoking a beautiful image of the ephemeral quality of life. You can ignore rules about the number of syllables so that instead you can focus on the thought behind why those rules were made, which was to create simplicity and beauty.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I really appreciate you helping to guide us on this journey. Let's see if it works.

    • Sheila Wilson profile image

      Sheila Wilson 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Lizam1~ your friendship haiku likely would be considered senryu rather than haiku. With your spring haiku, you've done a great job of expressing the seasonal references, but I believe maybe you are over-emphasizing that. Take a look at a spring scene and describe more than just the signs of spring.

      I like this one of yours-

      "Whether old or young

      Lovers, families, children

      New memories born."

      Using one of your other references, I would change it to:

      Pink blossoms

      above lovers and children-

      new smiles

      The reason I would change "memories" to "smiles" is that as a haiku poet, I'm interested in describing what can be seen. Of course, there is something happening under the surface, but that's for the reader to decide. I think you could play with those spring haiku, keeping in mind the spirit of haiku, and create some wonderful poems. I hope you'll share.

    • Lizam1 profile image

      Lizam1 5 years ago from Victoria BC

      Sheila I think you will be inundated by your generous offer. My Hiaku on friendship is very popular but now I see it is not really a Haiku. Any feedback would be appreciated though on Haiku for Spring that I wrote last year as a hub.

    • Sheila Wilson profile image

      Sheila Wilson 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thank you, DanaTeresa, for your comment. I found this hub with some links to more information about how to write haiku- I see the author linked to one of my other hubs about haiku, but they must have accidentally added a "." to the end of the link. That hub seems to have a lot of resources. I plan on going through it myself.

    • DanaTeresa profile image

      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      a very nice treatment of one of my favorite poetic forms. i have written a number of haiku myself. i was not familiar with the information about 5/7/5 not being the correct structure. i would love to learn how to write them properly. gues it is time to do more studying!

    • Sheila Wilson profile image

      Sheila Wilson 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Lizam1~ thank you for your comment. The misunderstanding about haiku structure is ingrained deeply in English haiku. That's what we've been taught in schools. I hope you'll try some haiku. It hurts me that the misinformation is so widespread. Haiku is such a beautiful challenge when done correctly. I'd be happy to help you or anyone else who wants feedback on haiku they've written.

    • Lizam1 profile image

      Lizam1 5 years ago from Victoria BC

      Thanks for enlightening me on the origin of Haiku and the correct understanding. I have to confess to using the term Haiku to 5/7/5 verses I have created.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Very interesting! Sharing!