What is haiku?
Haiku is a Japanese poetry form. A haiku uses just a few words to capture a moment and create a picture in the reader’s mind. It is like a tiny window into a scene much larger than itself.
Traditionally, haiku is written in three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line.
Here’s a haiku poem written by a Sct Jörgens Skole student:
Noone is the same
neither inside or outside
We are all unique
Characteristics of haiku
The following are typical of haiku:
- A focus on nature.
- A “season word” such as “snow” which tells the reader what time of year it is.
- A division somewhere in the poem, which focuses first on one thing, than on another. The relationship between these two parts is sometimes surprising.
- Instead of saying how a scene makes him or her feel, the poet shows the details that caused that emotion. If the sight of an empty winter sky made the poet feel lonely, describing that sky can give the same feeling to the reader.
How to write a haiku – try it!
In your haiku, try to use details related to the senses — sight, hearing, touch, smell, or taste.
Or follow the steps below to write a “surprise-ending haiku.” This is based on an exercise from the poet Ron Patchett which is described in The Haiku Handbook by William J. Higginson:
- Write two lines about something beautiful in nature. Don’t worry about counting syllables yet.
- Write a third line that is a complete surprise, that is about something completely different from the first two lines.
- Look at the three lines together. Does the combination of these two seemingly unrelated parts suggest any surprising relationships? Does it give you any interesting ideas?
- Now rewrite the poem, using the 5-syllable, 7-syllable, 5-syllable format and experimenting with the new ideas or perspectives that have occurred to you.
Haikus from 8 a and b at Sct Jörgens Skole: