Blog 87: Writing A Haiku

May 9, 2019

You may be wondering; Haiku? What the heck is a haiku?

A haiku is a very, very, short poem. So short in fact, that it only has three lines in English and a total of 17 syllables. The haiku originates from Japan and was previously called hokku, the name haiku came from the Japanese writer Masaoka Shiki at the end of the 19th Century.

In Japanese, haiku are traditionally printed in a single vertical line while haiku in English often appear in three lines parallel to the three phrases of Japanese haiku. Haiku usually don’t rhyme and follow a 5, 7, 5 syllable structure.

There is quite a lot of history behind the haiku and where it originated from, my explanation is brief so if you’re interested, I recommend that you do some further research.

In Japanese, nouns do not have different singular and plural forms, so “haiku” is used as both a singular and plural noun in English as well.

Why am I telling you about haiku? Well I have a friend who is a talented poet, but a few weeks ago he was struggling to even put one poem together that he liked. His poetry is usually several lines long, so I suggested that he try something a little simpler. Now I’m not saying haiku are simple, because they’re not, but I wanted my friend to focus on writing just three lines with the 5, 7, 5 syllable rule. I thought that if he could achieve that, it might help him to become inspired so that he could focus on writing a longer poem again.

As I said, the haiku isn’t as simple as it first looks. Typically a haiku should follow these three rules…

  1. There should be a juxtaposition of two images or ideas with a ‘cutting word’ between them (A verbal punctuation mark).
  2. Haiku should be 17 syllables in three phrases of 5, 7, 5
  3. A haiku should contain a seasonal reference, usually a word or a phrase associated with a particular season.

I didn’t ask my friend to stick by all of these rules as I didn’t want to put too much pressure on him. My suggestion worked though, and it wasn’t long before he was coming up with lots of different haiku. They may not follow all the rules but I thought I would share some with you…

misty veil of stars
unreachable as they seem
enlighten our lives.

waiting for the tide
set for our next adventure
islands yet unseen.

fingers brush colours
of spring blossomed emotion
stories hang to tell.

a child held tulip
innocent as the years youth
winters mourn distant.

For his first attempt at writing haiku I think my friend did a great job. He confessed that he is now feeling more confident in his abilities and he is feeling more inspired too. So if you’re a poet and you’re struggling to find inspiration, then why not try writing a haiku?