Haiku poetry follows a certain recipe. Just like chocolate chip cookies have to have chocolate chips in them to be a chocolate chip cookie, a haiku poem has to have certain elements, or ingredients, to be a Haiku poem.
What Is a Haiku Poem?
What makes a poem a Haiku poem and not a chocolate chip cookie?
- Three lines, that don’t rhyme, with seventeen syllables. Five syllables in the first and third line, and seven syllables in the second line.
- Each haiku “must contain a kigo. A word that indicates the season in which the poem is set,” according to the World Book Encyclopedia, page eight, volume nine, between the words Douglas Haig and Hail, and according to Japanese tradition. The word that indicates season can be obvious, like ice to indicate winter. Or it can be more subtle, like using the expression fragrant blossom to indicate spring.
- The words and expressions in the poem are usually simple and deal with everyday situations and feelings.
- Usually, haiku does not contain metaphors and similes.
Haikus Are About a Single Moment
“Haiku explores a single moment’s precise perception and resinous depths.”
— Jane Hirshfield, The Heart of Haiku
Matsuo Bashō, a popular Japanese poet, composed this poem in the late 1600’s.
frog leaps in
the sound of water
furuike ya kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto
How to Write a Haiku Poem
Our teacher for this lesson is Matsuo Bashō, a popular Japanese Poet from the 1600’s. Bashō will show us how to write a haiku poem.
Jane Hirshfield explains in her book, The Heart of Haiku, how Bashō encourages us, to see for ourselves, hear for ourselves, and if we enter deeply enough this seeing and hearing, all things will speak with and through us.
“To learn about the pine tree go to the pine tree; to learn from the bamboo, study bamboo.”
— Matsu Bashō, Jane Hirshfield, The Heart of Haiku
Using the four guidelines mentioned above, think of an everyday situation, feeling, or a precious moment. Such as a blade of grass, a sink full of dirty dishes in the spring, a warm cat, or the sound of snow falling.
If your haiku poem is about something that has happened in your past, if you are remembering a snowfall from last winter, then sit in a quiet spot and go to the memory. Remember the snow.
Use all of your senses. Think of what you heard, felt, tasted, smelled and saw. Let us live the moment with you.
If your haiku is about a blade of grass, as Bashō said, go to the grass. Yes, that’s right. Go outside right now and lay down in the grass and let the single blade of grass speak through you. Study the grass.
If you are writing about a warm cat, go to the cat and study the cat. Study the sink full of dirty dishes while you wash them. To learn about snow go to the snow.
Ready to Write Your Haiku?
Hi! Ku-djah help me write a haiku?
This is not a haiku. This is a knock knock joke about writing haikus. But your Haiku will have three lines with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line.
If you are not sure how many syllables are in a word, you can check out your word on Mirriam-Webster, an on-line dictionary.
Haiku poetry is a form of poetry that is stripped down to the bare essentials. Words that show but don’t tell.
Would you like to write a Haiku poem? Or would you rather make chocolate chip cookies? Just remember to put the chocolate chips in, or it will just be a cookie.
Practice staring at a blade of grass for fifteen minutes. No, I have a better idea. Come and help me wash my dishes. We can both write about washing dishes.
Okay, seriously now. Please write your thoughts down about something you see in your everyday world, and then try to fit it to the five-seven-five pattern.
Write a haiku poem and share it with us in the comments. You can also share it on our Facebook page. Then please be kind and comment on someone else’s work.
Wishing you all my best.