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Old 08-08-2010, 12:31 PM View Post #1 (Link) How to Write a Haiku
Rose (Offline)
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Note: I'm actually not sure if you guys might be interested in learning more about haiku in general, but personally I think that haiku poems are great. They actually helped me learn how to create imagery because that's what haiku is all about; it's all about creating imagery. (mostly about nature.)

How to Write a Haiku

I-The History of Haiku: Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry that evolved out of an earlier form of Japanese poetry called tanka. Tanka was popular from the 9th through the 12th centuries and was based on the rhythmic use of mora. In Japanese, a mora is a phonetic element typically consisting of a consonant and a vowel. Tanka was typically written by two poets, with one writing the first three lines and writing the final two lines of a 5-7-5-7-7 poem. The numbers refer to the numbers of mora in each line.

Example of haiku written by two famous Japanese poets:
Temple bells die out.
The fragrant blossoms remain.
A perfect evening!

Dragonfly catcher,
How far have you gone today
In your wandering?

Bearing no flowers,
I am free to toss madly
Like the willow tree.

While mora is usually translated to equate to syllable in English, they are technically not the same thing. However, for practical purposes, understanding the form of Japanese poetry in English is based on substituting the English syllable for the Japanese mora.

Haiku evolved as a poetic form in its own right in the 18th century. It retained the initial 5-7-5 form of the first three lines of tanka and dropped the final two lines. Traditionally, the theme of a haiku poem dealt with the seasons and aimed to create an eternal moment when man and nature become presented in a unified whole, free from the bounds of space and time. While this seems like a rather ambitious goal for such a short piece of writing, some of the greatest haiku poets accomplish just that.

As a conclusion: Haiku in Japanese is written in a single vertical line with seventeen sound units or mora (not strictly the same as syllables) in a rhythm of five, seven, and five. In English (a stressed language), the ideas can be expressed with a short line, a long line, and another short line.

II- Choose a Certain Season: Many haiku seem to focus on nature, but what they are really focusing on is a seasonal reference (not all of which are necessarily about nature). Japanese poets use a saijiki or season word almanac to check the seasonal association for key words that they might use in a haiku (hence the haiku is a seasonal poem, and thus often about nature, but does not have to be about nature if the seasonal reference is about a human activity).

The season is important for coming up with words to use in a haiku. Because the poem has so few words, simple phrases such as "cherry blossoms" or "falling leaves" can create lush scenes, yet still reflect the feeling of the verse. Moreover, season words also invoke other poems that use the same season word, making the poem part of a rich historical tapestry through allusive variation. In Japanese, the kigo or season word was generally understood; "autumn breeze" might be known to express loneliness and the coming of the dark winter season.
  • Summer brings about feelings of warmth, vibrancy, love, anger, and many others. General summer phrases include references to the sky, beaches, heat, and romance.
  • Autumn brings to mind a very wide range of ideas: decay, belief in the supernatural, jealousy, saying goodbye, loss, regret, and mystery to name a few. Falling leaves, shadows, and autumn colors are common implementations.
  • Winter usually makes us think of burden, cold, sadness, hunger, tranquility or peace. Ideas about winter can be invited with words like snow, ice, dead tree, leafless, etc.
  • Spring, like summer, can make one think of love, but it is usually more a sense of infatuation. Also common are themes like innocence, youth, passion, and fickleness. Blossoms, new plants, or warm rains can imply spring. Seasonal references can also include human activities, and Japanese saijikis contain many such listings.

Note: Be aware that some references to human activities, such as Christmas, are effective season words, but require a geographical limitation; while Christmas is a winter season word in the northern hemisphere, it's a summer reference in the southern hemisphere.

III-Adding a Contrast or Comparison: Reading most haiku, you'll notice they either present one idea for the first two lines and then switch quickly to something else or do the same with the first line and last two. A Japanese haiku achieves this shift with what is called a "kireji" or cutting word, which cuts the poem into two parts.

This road
No travelers pass along–
Autumn dusk.

586- この道や行く人なしに秋のくれ
Konomichiya ikuhitonashini akinokure.

In English, it is essential for nearly every haiku to have this two-part juxtaposition structure.

The idea is to create a leap between the two parts, and to create an intuitive realization from what has been called an "internal comparison." These two parts sometimes create a contrast, sometime a comparison. Creating this two-part structure effectively can be the hardest part of writing a haiku, because it can be very difficult to avoid too obvious a connection between the two parts, yet also avoid too great a distance between them that becomes obscure and unclear. The haiku poet wants to come up with the perfect words to spark the emotions (not ideas) they wish to communicate. It doesn't have to be extremely severe; it can be anything from one color to another. In English, punctuation between the two lines can create that contrast, although this is not necessary provided that the grammar clearly indicates that a shift has occurred.

Example of English Haiku:
Make up your mind snail!
You are half inside your house
And halfway out!
Richard Wright

IV-Use Primarily Objective Sensory Description: Haiku are based on the five senses. They are about things you can experience, not your interpretation or analysis of those things. To do this effectively, it is good to rely on sensory description, and to use mostly objective rather than subjective words.

In the falling snow
A laughing boy holds out his palms
Until they are white.
Richard Wright

V-Like Any Other Art, Haiku Needs Practice: Bashō (Matsuo Munefusa) said that each haiku should be a thousand times on the tongue. It is also important to read good haiku, and not just translations from the Japanese but the best literary haiku being written in English. To learn haiku properly, it is important to take it beyond the superficial ways it has been taught in most grade schools. It is important to distinguish between pseudo-haiku that says whatever it wants in a 5-7-5 syllable pattern and literary haiku that adheres to the use of season words, a two-part juxtaposition structure, and primarily objective sensory imagery.

Here are some Haiku poems
written by poets of different nationalities like Richard Wright, his daughter Julia, Jorge Luis Borges, Bashō, and others...

VI- Some Tips and Notes:

  1. To get inspiration and begin to understand the subtle emotions within images from nature, read the ancient works of famous haiku poets, such as Bashō, Buson, Issa, or Shiki.

  2. Write what you see, not what you feel. In the end, haiku are about emotions expressed through concrete images. When reading haiku, don't read them like you would other poems. Haiku are written to capture a feeling and image. Keep an open mind when reading haiku and try to feel what the writer was trying to get across. The more you read haiku, the easier they are to understand. Haiku has been called an "unfinished" poem because each one requires the reader to finish it in his or her heart.

  3. Remember that Japanese was originally a pictographic language. When it is written, it uses mostly picture characters to represent ideas visually instead of letters such as those in our English alphabet. Because there is so much difference between the Japanese language and English language, haiku in English will have some differences.

  4. There are some who say that haiku can just be a short fragment (no more than three words) followed by a phrase. The following is an example of such a structure, which is often very effective, but this example fails to have the necessary seasonal reference or to create an intuitive spark or leap of understanding in the relationship between the two parts.

    Early evening
    Small flat stones
    Line the shore.

  5. The haiku doesn't have to be serious. It can be funny, although traditionalists might call it a senryu rather than a haiku. Note that the following is not an example of senryu, but merely a three-line poem that attempts to be funny (this is the sort of poem that both haiku and senryu writers consider to be what has been called a pseudo-haiku or pseudo-senryu):

    I like red roses
    red roses are my favorite
    Pretty red roses

  6. It is worthwhile to read both classic and contemporary Japanese haiku poets in translation otherwise you will get a skewed perspective of what constitutes a 'Japanese haiku'.

  7. Here's a good place to search for online haiku links.

  8. "With Words" gives an easy overview of haiku and its history in the West.

  9. Here's a good article by Michael Dylan Welch on How to Become a Haiku Poet.

  10. The word 'haiku' is both singular and plural, so it is generally considered incorrect to say 'haikus'. Also, because the term is not a proper noun, the term should not be capitalized within a sentence. Haiku also do not rhyme and should not be titled (although there is a tradition in Japanese haiku that they occasionally have 'headnotes' that identify the place or circumstances of composition, but this should not be confused with a title).

  11. Haiku in Japan traditionally follow a rhythm of 5-7-5 Japanese sound units using 'on' as a counter for those sound units (for example, the word 'haiku' is two syllables in English but three sounds in Japanese). The Japanese language systems (plural) don't contain alphabets. Outside Japan, most practiced haiku writers write about 10 to 17 syllables to approximate the brevity of a Japanese haiku, which is sometimes described as a one-breath poem.

  12. Haiku originated from haikai no renga (a collaborative group poem usually one hundred verses in length; a kasen renga had thirty-six verses). Renga collaborations began with what was known as a hokku (starting verse) that indicated the season and also contained a cutting word. Verses that followed after the hokku typically did not (and should not) contain cutting words because 'cuts' (after the first verse) existed between the verses. The first verse did not have anything to shift from, so it was necessary for it to contain a cut or shift within the first verse itself. This tradition has remained with haiku as an independent poem.

VII- Overall Summary:

A haiku has the following mechanisms:

• It is three lines or verses in length.

• it is seventeen syllables long.

• the first line is five syllables long.

• the second line is seven syllables long.

• the third or last line is five syllables long.

• its theme is usually about nature.

• it usually presents or talks about a still image of nature; sometimes, it talks about a concept,
an abstract thing (ex. love, peace), a situation or the like.

• it is a tersest (a tersest is a three-line stanza or a three-line poem)

• the original haiku does not have a title; western haiku poems usually have titles.
Das ist das ende

						Last edited by Rose; 08-11-2010 at 08:21 AM.
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Old 08-10-2010, 09:26 PM View Post #2 (Link)
Izanagi (Offline)
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*Begins to read.*

I know of Haiku, but have never thought of trying it. Now that this is here, I've had an interesting idea for a character.

'There probably isn't any meaning in life. Perhaps you can find something interesting to do while you are alive. Like how you found that flower. Like how I found you.'
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Old 08-11-2010, 07:41 PM View Post #3 (Link)
Notte (Offline)
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I remember having to write a Haiku at school. It didn't work very well But I will probably try now.

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Old 08-12-2010, 02:59 AM View Post #4 (Link)
Bowie20049 (Offline)
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Click Me
Originally Posted by Young Writers Online View Post
i before e except after c unless e before i because forget you that's why

ಠ_ಠ Did you know that: I has an anime list /人◕‿‿◕人\?
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Old 08-12-2010, 06:40 AM View Post #5 (Link)
Rose (Offline)
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Haiku in singular and haiku in plural. You can't say haiku's'.

Just sayin'. xD
Das ist das ende

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Old 08-13-2010, 10:55 AM View Post #6 (Link)
Spacepirate (Offline)
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Haiku treads
snowfall on water

On another note, this guide matches with a recent crit (almost guide) that I did. So this could be of some help? Some of my crit is from articles that I searched for and I'll link them later.

Seriously. More people should write haikus (I thought the plural had an "s"?) since they are, somewhat, 'easier' but often more 'prettier'.
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Old 04-07-2011, 12:23 AM View Post #7 (Link)
crayons932 (Offline)
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Thanks for the guide rose. I embarked on a haiku writing spree for a recent contest. The goal was to come up with the best haiku criticizing Glenn Beck. I won the contest, but nevertheless, my haikus were mostly crap.

This will definitely help me improve on my haiku skills

Here's the link to the contest. The only problem is is that it posts my full name, but oh well. Look at the top rated.

It all was worth it for the punch line

"When I meet you, in that moment, I'm no longer a part of your future. I start quickly becoming part of your past. But in that instant, I get to share your present, and you, you get to share mine. And that is the greatest present of all." Hiroshima - Sarah Kay
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Old 01-26-2012, 03:25 AM View Post #8 (Link)
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I'm a big fan of
writing haiku. In fact, I
hope to write thousands.

In non-hakiu speak, I've always been a fan of these little dittys, and use them as mental excersizes between articles or stories. One of my goals is to get a collection of them published one day.
This is my blog, Korsgaard's Commentary.
Let me know what you think, remember to subscribe!
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Old 07-16-2018, 12:41 PM View Post #9 (Link)
AlisonClark (Offline)
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Good idea!
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