A haiku (俳句 high-koo) is short three-line poem that uses sensory language to capture a feeling or image. Haiku poetry was originally developed by Japanese poets. They are often inspired by nature, a moment of beauty, or poignant experience. Great fun to create as a family or individually in your prayer time or quiet time.
Go for a walk in nature
Many haikus are inspired by objects in the natural world, such as trees, rocks, mountains, and flowers. To get ideas for your poem, take a walk in the garden, a park nearby or go for a hike in the woods. Head to a mountain trail or a body of water like a river, lake, or beach. Spend some time in nature and observe it so you can get ideas for the poem.
If you can’t go outside for a walk in an area with nature, try looking at nature photographs and art in books or online or at objects you may have in your home.
Find a particular nature scene or object in nature like a tree or flower that inspires you.
Haikus can also be about a season, such as fall, spring, winter, or summer. Seasonal haikus often focus on a specific detail about the season, naming the season in the poem. Writing about a season can be a fun way for you to describe a particular detail you love about that time of year.
Follow the traditional line and syllable structure of a haiku.
Traditional Haikus follow a strict form: three lines, with a 5-7-5 syllable structure. That means the first line will have five syllables, the second line will have seven syllables, and the last line will have five syllables.
Remember that a haiku does not have to rhyme
looks something like this: one to four lines, no strict syllable count but brief, and often with a long/short or short/long asymmetry
Describe the subject with sensory detail.
Haikus are meant to give the reader a brief sense of the subject using the senses. Think about how your subject smells, feels, sounds, tastes, and looks. Describe the subject using your senses so it comes alive for your reader and feels powerful on the page.
For example, you may write about the “musky scent of the pine needles” or the “bitter taste of the morning air.”
Write the poem in the present tense
Give the haiku immediacy by using the present tense, rather than the past tense. Using the present tense can also make your lines simple and easy to follow
End with a surprising last line
A good haiku will have an ending line that is intriguing and leaves the reader hanging. It may leave the reader with a surprising last image or reflect on the previous two lines in a surprising way.
For example, the haiku by Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa has a surprising last line: “Everything I touch/with tenderness, alas/pricks like a bramble.”
Polishing the Haiku
Read the haiku out loud
Once you have a draft of the haiku done, read it aloud several times. Listen to how the haiku sounds. The haiku should sound natural when read aloud.
Here are three examples of haiku from Basho Matsuo (1644-1694), considered the greatest haiku poet:
An old silent pond... A frog jumps into the pond, splash! Silence again.
Autumn moonlight— a worm digs silently into the chestnut.
In the twilight rain these brilliant-hued hibiscus - A lovely sunset.
Here are examples of haiku from Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), credited with reviving the haiku and developing its modern format:
I want to sleep Swat the flies Softly, please.
After killing a spider, how lonely I feel in the cold of night!
For love and for hate I swat a fly and offer it to an ant.
A mountain village under the piled-up snow the sound of water.
Night; and once again, the while I wait for you, cold wind turns into rain.
The summer river: although there is a bridge, my horse goes through the water.
Haiku by Nicole Dickson