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how to write a haiku poem

Updated on May 25, 2011

Write Haiku Poetry for Fun and Profit (mostly fun)

Haiku is a Japanese poetic style and type of poetry, which combines form, content, and language in a meaningful, yet compact form. It is extremely popular today in the English speaking world, as well as in Japan.

It is based on a rich, centuries old Japanese and Buddist culture, esteemed for it's beauty and elegance.

I find Haiku poetry writing to be extremely relaxing and therapeutic. It forces one into the beauty and impressions of the moment, utilizing the senses to capture and reflect on the importance and significance of life all around us.

Haiku poetry can be profound in it's simplicity and message, often speaking to an inner wisdom.

This lens is dedicated to helping others write and appreciate this awesome art form and to have fun doing so.

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Haiku Background Information

Today the subject matter of haiku varies greatly

Haiku are written in many languages, but currently, most poets outside of Japan are concentrated in the English-speaking countries.

Today, It is impossible to single out any current style or format, as no specific subject matter is definitive.

While traditional Japanese haiku has focused on nature and the place of humans in it, some modern haiku poets, both in Japan and the West, consider a broader range of subject matter suitable, including urban contexts.

The loosening of traditional standards has resulted in the term "haiku" being applied to brief English-language poems such as "mathemaku" and other kinds of pseudohaiku.

Example of A Classic Haiku

Shiki (1866-1902)

Fallen leaves

Come flying from elsewhere:

Autumn is ending.

Basho's Teaching

Basho's attitude toward nature was humble, selfless, and deeply respectful. He said, "Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. In doing so, you must leave your preoccupation with yourself.

Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn. Your poetry issues of its own accord when you and the object have become one – when you have plunged deep enough into the object to see something like a hidden glimmering there."

The Basics of Writing Haiku

Haiku Writing 101

Traditional Japanese haiku have 17 syllables in 3 lines of, 5,7 and 5 syllables each. Some English writers stick to this formula - strict form haiku. Many modern poets however feel free to use any short verse, usually shorter than 17 syllables and this is called free form haiku.

Haiku often makes use of a "cut," (sometimes indicated by a punctuation mark) paralleling the Japanese use of kireji, to contrast and compare, implicitly, two events, images, or situations.

Basho, the father of haiku poetry in Japan, over 300 years ago, instructed his students on several important points. First, that the experience the haiku describes, is more important than the language used. The poet should be absorbed in nature. Most importantly, aim for simplicity with elegance, in expressing the original "haiku moment" (the truth of the original observation).

Towards the end of his life, Basho added another principle. He felt that what made the haiku especially meaningful was "karumi" (lightness). He described this as using subjects that were delicate and springy, like a blade of grass bouncing because an insect landed on it. He also used smoke rising, as an example of this.

Basho's very famous death haiku:

Ill on my journey -

dreams roam

parched moors

Modern Haiku Example Composed in English

Autumn Haiku by James W. Hackett

This autumn grandeur!

But for an excited bird,

I might not have seen

Haiku for You - More Haiku References and Reads

Some awesome books to read if you love haiku. Very good therapy. Basho advocated, READ, write, think and reflect.

Time to Write Haiku, Reflect and Write Some More - Practice writing your haiku every day!

1). First some more examples of excellent haiku for your inspiration.

Wet with morning dew

I go

in any direction I want

(Santoka, translated Stevens)

Under forest trees

gold globes of horse dung steaming

in the frosty air

(Cicely Hill)

Behind a lone tree

on the mountain ridge

immense clouds moving

(Michael Gunton)

The blade of grass

sits waving in the wind

with millions surrounding it

(Tony, age 12)

2). Now relax, get into the moment. What do you see, touch, hear, smell, taste? How will you "bookmark" this moment, so you will always remember it? This is a "Kodak moment" so to speak - share this moment with others. How is this moment different from any others you have experienced? There are probably already moments like these in your memory bank - go back and rexperience them.

3). Now write these down, let it flow and don't be self critical. Oh and by the way, these moments can be comical and humorous, as well as intensely personal and meaningful. Capture the spirit of haiku and let it flow. If nothing else, you will feel centered and good about yourself and will have put your current worries and cares aside for a while.

4). Set aside an hour a day to practice, or as much time as you can manage to squeeze in. You can choose to share your work or not, but I guarantee you'll have fun with this and will feel good! I believe that haiku writing, much as meditation can help you reach Zen - that is "enlightenment" through direct intuition.

5). You might also enjoy reading the work of others, as well as more about the fascinating history and development of haiku.

More of Basho's Haiku Wisdom

Cruelty, violence and sensationalism have no place in haiku poetry. The natural processes of suffering and death do- but the attitude to creatures that suffer is compassionate.

In the Japanese Tea Garden - Tea Time Reflection

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Please introduce yourself and leave a message. - Or write a Haiku?

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    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      A form of poetry I have not tried yet, maybe I should; you have made it sound as if I am missing something.

    • ChiWizard profile image

      ChiWizard 6 years ago

      Thanks for this insightful and creative lens

    • profile image

      birthdayquotess1 6 years ago

      writing Haiku poems is very easy, i usually write about nature and do them in a series. i also like to draw a little bit around them so it will look like a nice postcard.

    • profile image

      techie-agent 6 years ago

      I love reading haiku poems. I'm trying to learn this kind of poetry co'z I find it interesting.

    • profile image

      Omsymbol 6 years ago

      Interesting lens with some lovely Haikus. We had to learn Haiku for a writing course I did. Never much at poetry I managed just to do these. They are fun.

    • singlemaltdram profile image

      singlemaltdram 6 years ago

      Great lens, Greg! I've recently been dabbling in haiku myself. I have a work-in-progress haiku lens up now. here's a haiku in response to your lens:

      binary robin

      migrating to a new world

      twittering haiku

    • efriedman profile image

      efriedman 6 years ago

      I enjoyed finding this len. You have made some lovely choices to illustrate haiku. I liked the 19th century haiku you chose that closes "Autumn is ending".

      I have featured your lens on my newly published HaiTweet: a new form of Haiku.

    • SheilaVine LM profile image

      SheilaVine LM 7 years ago

      I wrote a Haiku once I will try and find it. LOve the lense

    • profile image

      writtensouls 8 years ago Wonderful article, here is another article about how to write a haiku.

    • kateloving profile image

      Kate Loving Shenk 8 years ago from Lancaster PA

      Again, truly wonderful work. I love Haiku, but have learned more about how to write Haiku from reading this lens!!


    • profile image

      reflekshins 8 years ago

      Greetings: enjoyed your lens -- if you have the opportunity stop by for a lens visit

    • SalonOfArt profile image

      SalonOfArt 9 years ago

      Thanks once again for yet another great lens. Glad you are back to making great stuff for all of us.

    • profile image

      tdove 9 years ago

      Thanks for joining G Rated Lense Factory!

    • papawu profile image

      papawu 9 years ago

      Beautifully done. The Japanese have indeed been the most prolific Haiku poets for many centuries and I am happy to see that others are taking more interest in this divine writing style.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 9 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      I love this lens. I can see Haiku fitting in will with my photography. I'm marking this lens to come back and practice. Thanks!