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Haiku for You

Updated on October 30, 2009

What is Haiku?

A Haiku is a poetic form that has three lines. The first line has five syllables, the second line has seven syllables, and the third line has five syllables like the first. It originated in Japan over a thousand years ago.

Here is one of my favorite haikus as it appears in one of my favorite books on poetic forms, How to be Well Versed in Poetry:

Geese fly overhead 
Uplifting sight, which I missed 
Counting syllables 
 

Originally haiku meant a poem of this form about something in nature, but it has now come to mean any poem of the form described above. For example, years ago I wrote three haiku about the superbowl:

Super Bowl Haiku 1

Dolts squander millions 
On a thirty second spot 
Selling beer to apes

Super Bowl Haiku 2

Frenzied ritual 
Celebrating violence 
America's pride

Super Bowl Haiku 3

Spectacle of greed 
Sloth, gluttony, violence 
So entertaining
 
 

The first one was published at wbur.org, web site of our local public radio sports show, "Only a Game." The second one is more at the role of the poet-as-prophet (rather than poet for profit) decrying society's ills. The third is a bait and switch kind of humor.

I like writing them. In fact I will write one now:

America sings 
Loudly of democracy:  
Barack Obama 
 

And another:

Leaves fall in color 
Beneath a black and white sky 
Winter is coming
 

A Japanese woman once read Haiku at an annual poetry event I help run. She read each poem twice. I am not sure if that is the authentic style of reading a haiku, or if it was her own style.

Haiku is a useful form to build poetic discipline with results that can turn out quite funny or quite moving and thought-provoking. All in all a most interesting form that has been especially popular for the past 200 years.

You should try it!

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    • Tom Rubenoff profile image
      Author

      Tom Rubenoff 8 years ago from United States

      Wow, I never heard this, Frieda! But it sounds fun!

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 8 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Aha! I figured it out!

      Okay, so I have to write a poem to accompany a visual haiku.

      I remembered you wrote this and came over write away. I remembered though that there was just one more rule, one more rule I was forgetting.

      Then I scrolled down to the reading of the Haiku twice.

      I know why!!!!

      It's because the first line has to make a complete thought, the first and second lines have to make a complete thought when put together, the second and thrid lines have to make yet another complete thought, and finally the third line has to make its own complete thought.

      So you read it the first time stressing the first two as one thought, and then the second time stressing the second two as one thought. Make sense? Thanks, Tom!!!!

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image
      Author

      Tom Rubenoff 9 years ago from United States

      Thank you, Ajcor. It's great to learn something about the poetry of other cultures.

      Cristoph, that is a very nice Haiku in every respect. Thanks!

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 9 years ago from St. Louis

      I, too, love haiku,

      I would do one just for you,

      But I have the flu.

      (Repeat...then bang gong)

    • ajcor profile image

      ajcor 9 years ago from NSW. Australia

      I love the Haiku Tom, and Basho, but I wasn't aware that the correct way to read them was twice so that is good info. cheers and thanks

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image
      Author

      Tom Rubenoff 9 years ago from United States

      I am glad you enjoyed them.

      All the best in the New Year

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 9 years ago

      I especially enjoyed the last two haiku "America sings" and "Leaves fall in color"

      Happy New Year, Debby

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image
      Author

      Tom Rubenoff 9 years ago from United States

      There is nothing better than a comment that illucidates a point within the hub. Thanks so much!

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 9 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Hi Tom! I enjoyed your haiku. I have my MFA in Writing and one woman in my program who happened to be from Japan did her research thesis on haiku. She, too, read each poem twice and said that was the correct way to do a haiku reading.

      Here is a fun NPR interview with the American co-author of Baseball Haiku, who also says haiku is generally read twice: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?story...

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