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Submit Your Haiku

Updated on August 27, 2012

What are Haiku?

Haiku (Plural), Pronounced High-Coo are a traditional Japanese poem which juxtapose two ideas or images. Early Haiku or Hokku as they were known before the end of the 19th century, were printed in a single verticle line and consisted of 17 syllable-like on. The name haiku was popularised by Masaoka Shiki a Japanese author, poet, literary critic, journalist and major influence on modern or gendai haiku. Earlier masters of the traditional haiku include Basho, Buson and Issa. Haiku has become an increasingly popular art form for Writers and novices throughout the world, due to its short and ostensibly simple structure. The term haiku has more recently 'opened up' and now encompasses poems which, though similar, do not adhere to original criteria. Notably senryu a different style altogether, are often referred to as haiku. There is more on senryu further down this page, as well as further detail on a kind of modern movement to redefine what makes haiku poetry.

I began this page as I, myself, had ambitions to attempt haiku. As an aspiring writer I thought haiku would be good writing practice, as they were short and pithy. Before I began researching the content for this lens, I thought I knew exactly what constituted haiku. How wrong I was! I have come to learn that what I thought were haiku were actually Senryu. It seems also, that most traditional haiku include an observation about nature or the natural world, a point which had me stumped as I am far more interested in the human condition. However, i also found through my research that the above statements are actually in dispute by contemporary haiku poets and historians. While I was initially disappointed with what I'd found, I have been given new freedom in that what now constitutes haiku can vary widely.

Structure and Translation into English

English translation of haiku develops directly into 3 lines of 5, 7 and 5. Yet while gendai haiku (a modern take on the form) are less likely to adhere to the "rule" of 17 on, the aforementioned juxtaposition of images is still the essence of the art. Often containing images of the natural world, traditional haiku are marked by a "cutting" word known as kireji, which usually appear at the end of a verse or phase, providing a grammatical pause and a kind of structural support to the piece. Specific to Japanese haiku, kireji are a word or word combination but in English where there is no alphabetical equivalent, there is a tendency to use dashes or ellipsis as a substitute.

A haiku is a profound testimony that a most humble object of nature when put into the simplest of aesthetic forms can become a revelation.

-Robert Speiss

old pond...

a frog leaps in

water's sound

.....


the first cold shower

even the monkey seems to want

a little coat of straw


- two haiku by Basho. The elipse is used as the kireji in this poem and the "frog" is the kigo, in that it evokes summer.


The Haiku Foundation.org have come up with some English colloquial non-words, which might be used as a substitute for the kireji, not only do some of these examples illustrate how the kireji works in Japanese haiku, they are also hilarious.

Haiku or Senryu?

So, what's the difference between haiku and senryu? Senryu tend to be about human foibles while haiku tend to be about nature, and senryu are often cynical or darkly humorous while haiku are more serious. Unlike haiku, senryu do not include a kireji (cutting word), and do not generally include a kigo, or season word. A line between the modern free-form haiku and senryu is hard to draw and there is much debate as whether certain modern poems should classify as either one or the other. The good news is that while the debate rages on, new generations of amateur poetry writers are springing up, undeterred by what could otherwise be considered constrictive rules. Considered a kind of hybrid by many contemporary traditionalists, an unofficial form of haiku are "Human" haiku. These poems take their inspiration from observations on human nature rather than simply Nature and the seasons. However, as George Swede, co-founder of Haiku Canada points out that, "humor cannot be used to distinguish between haiku and senryu because both types can have humor or not". Swede also points out that "Nature haiku...comprise only around twenty percent of published work (in the best periodicals and anthologies)."


Saying `just one game'

they began to play . . .

That was yesterday.

- translation of an old Senryu about the game of "Go" by an unknown author

"There are some people who believe any reference to human beings in a haiku turns the poem into a senryu. I disagree. In my opinion there should be no separation between human nature and the world of nature."

-Francine Porad, President of the Haiku Society of America

Human Haiku

long commuter ride

a stranger discusses

his incontinence

- Francine Porad - an example of a "Human Haiku"

alone at last

I wonder where

everyone is

- George Swede co-founder Haiku Canada

Some of my own attempts


a singing magpie

one more lifts the melody

"this is mine" they sing


two black and white birds

melodiously singing

"this is my oak branch"

Wait...there's more...

on are syllables

As tigers are like house cats

They both live on earth


Kireji like knives

Dividing an idea

Separating worlds

Which of mine, of the above four Haiku did you prefer?

See results

Reader Contribution number ONE

I heard a bird sing

A bliss in time

Now no more....

Reader contribution number TWO

Blemished by struggles

I persist along the path

brandishing life's stripes

Reader Contribution number THREE

Beach kitteh ponders

Is light wave or particle?

Ocean but fish soup?

Reader Contribution Number FOUR

#HaiTweet Voice mail a heinous wait on hold to reach a human,

frustration mounts.

Then birdsong in the garden reminds me of a parallel life

Reader Contribution Number FIVE

Yesterday, it was

Thirty three rings in the tree

Years pass by like wind

Reader Contribution number SIX

drugs were there


now i can't get drugs


no way now

Reader Contribution number SEVEN

He is beautiful,

So too is his family.

So I walk away.

Reader Contribution Number EIGHT

China toils to learn

what is within and without

and then find itself

Reader Contribution Number NINE

fingers to her lips

invisible cigarette

blossoms falling

Reader Contribution Number TEN

to be him

can't imagine a worse fate

to be me

Reader Contribution Number ELEVEN

bird sings at window

closing window, smash his head

now bird no more sing

Reader Contributions Poll

See results

Submit your own haiku or senryu to be voted on via a poll!

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    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      China toils to learn

      what is within and without

      and then find itself

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      fingers to her lips

      invisible cigarette

      blossoms falling

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      to be him

      can't imagine a worse fate

      to be me

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      bird sings at window

      closing window, smash his head

      now bird no more sing

    • singlemaltdram profile imageAUTHOR

      singlemaltdram 

      7 years ago

      @manchester lm: Thanks Manchester, i really like the twist at the end and in sticking to the 5,7,5, I'd say it's a classic format Haiku. Cheers!

    • manchester lm profile image

      manchester lm 

      7 years ago

      He is beautiful,

      So too is his family.

      So I walk away.

    • singlemaltdram profile imageAUTHOR

      singlemaltdram 

      7 years ago

      @gypsyman27 lm: Thanks Gypsyman, simple, elegant (reminds me a bit of an Alice in Chains song) - perhaps insight into the mind of an addict. thank you for the contribution.

    • gypsyman27 lm profile image

      gypsyman27 lm 

      7 years ago

      Drugs were there

      Now I can't get drugs

      no way now

      I really enjoyed the lens. See you around the galaxy...

    • singlemaltdram profile imageAUTHOR

      singlemaltdram 

      7 years ago

      @mellex lm: Thank you, Mellex, I've felt like that so often! You're not giving away your age are you?

    • mellex lm profile image

      mellex lm 

      7 years ago from Australia

      Yesterday, it was

      Thirty three rings in the tree

      Years pass by like wind

    • efriedman profile image

      efriedman 

      7 years ago

      Enjoyed your description of senryu and LOVED the LabKitty haiku submission. :-)

      My submission: Not typical form.

      I've been experimenting with new form of haiku called #HaiTweet. Governed by the total number of characters and spaces (140) rather than 5-7-5 pattern of lines, inspired length of a twitter message. Here's a submission I wrote:

      #HaiTweet Voice mail a heinous wait on hold to reach a human, frustration mounts. Then birdsong in the garden reminds me of a parallel life

      (Search #haitweet for more)

    • singlemaltdram profile imageAUTHOR

      singlemaltdram 

      7 years ago

      @LabKittyDesign: Ha! good call L.K.! So cat-like...Profound and Profane, great stuff.

    • LabKittyDesign profile image

      LabKittyDesign 

      7 years ago

      Beach kitteh ponders

      Is light wave or particle?

      Ocean but fish soup?

    • singlemaltdram profile imageAUTHOR

      singlemaltdram 

      7 years ago

      @anonymous: I love it Tipi! As i understand it, i feel you've captured the essence of haiku, regardless of the much-disputed-anyway 5,7,5 form!

    • singlemaltdram profile imageAUTHOR

      singlemaltdram 

      7 years ago

      @anonymous: terrible? You've done this before! "life's stripes" is brilliant!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      I heard a bird sing

      A bliss in time

      Now no more....

      This is harder than I thought....having trouble getting my brain in gear and have changed it again and again....may you have others with success! An interesting challenge.

    • filmic profile image

      filmic 

      7 years ago

      nice lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      Here is my terrible contribution:

      Blemished by struggles

      I persist along the path

      brandishing life's stripes

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      Awesome lens! I love Haiku too. Sometimes I write them whenever inspiration strikes but I read them more so. Thank you for the wonderful information :)

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