How To Write A Haiku Poem In English Form

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There are various Japanese Forms of poetry based on syllable structure (see Haiku, Tanka, and Haibun. It’s all poetry to me. Learn the difference.), much like many nations and cultures of the world (see How to Write an Espinela or Décima Poem). The Japanese Haiku poem is probably the most challenging due to its low syllable constraints. (5/7/5 or 3/5/3 or 2/3/2) If you really want to be challenged, try a 1/2/1. I don’t think this is really a Haiku form, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. Examples further down the page.

This post discusses How to write a Haiku Poem in English Form. Haiku purists in the Japanese style attempt to write a Haiku that can be read in one breath. This means it’s minimal in word choice while vivid with imagery and short at the same time. The more you write, the easier it becomes to exclude words such as the, is, and there, etc. from your thoughts while thinking of your poems and count syllables in your head in the middle of a drive to work or store. I find myself tapping with my fingers counting syllables in the strangest locations.

Six things to remember about Traditional Haiku form:

  • You have three lines of poetry.
  • 17 total syllables, some say sounds, in the 5/7/5 pattern. (The syllables of words may vary due to the country’s English you speak.)
  • You normally tell two opposing images in the poem.
  • Lines one and two should read as a complete sentence and lines two and three should read as a complete sentence. Easier than it sounds.
  • Haiku do not have titles/names.
  • You normally use mostly descriptive words and as few filler words as possible, such as the, and, there, is, etc. Note lower in the post my example 3/5/3 version of the 5/7/5 Haiku I provide as an example. You get the same message with each version.

Notice the word normally. You can have the poem be about aspects of the same thing, but normally you look at it from two different ways.

Artistic and traditional elements include kigo or words that are related to seasons: (Learn more about kigo here, a different website. The following through Kigo List T-Z are from the same site.)

  • Nature
  • Colors
  • Seasons

Kigo list A-J
Kigo List K-S
Kigo List T-Z

Noted on the site that not all words are Kigo. “Some are haiku TOPICS (keywords) to be used during the whole year.” There are several helpful links in the site’s sidebar.

You use these elements:

  • to give a visual of whatever you are attempting to relay
  • and usually include the season you write it in

Remember you can use 3/5/3 or 2/3/2 syllable structures as well as many others, but the three below are plenty to start with.

Three examples of the same haiku using the different syllable structures.

5/7/5 Example

The tree is falling,

Down among the river rocks,

Fish bring forth new life.

Lines one and two read as: The tree is falling down among the river rocks.

Lines two and three read as: Down among the river rocks, fish bring forth new life.

  1. The tree is falling and dying among the rocks of the river
  2. And fish are living and bring life among the rocks of the river
  3. Two opposite things happening.
  • Note the capitalization and punctuation in the haiku. It is important to use those wisely to convey your intended message.

3/5/3 Example

tree falling

among river rocks

fish new life


2/3/2 Example

tree falls

mid stream’s rock

new life


1/2/1 Example

tree

feeds water

life

Strangely enough, I like the 2/3/2 version the best and this is the first time I’ve tried one. This is an update on September 12, 2020. The original post is from July 02, 2014. As you can see, over six years and my first try.


Opposites are not a MUST, but are the true way of Haiku and add to the challenge. And you don’t want to reveal to much in the haiku so the reader is able to make an interpretation. Do not let that prevent you from writing. The more you write the closer you get to achieving true Haiku.

Matsuo Bashō Statue Haiku

As Matsuo Bashō put it,

“The haiku that reveals seventy to

eighty percent of its subject is good.

Those that reveal fifty to sixty percent,

we never tire of.”

 

 


My original Haiku reveals 100%.

 The tree is falling,

Down among the river rocks,

Fish bring forth new life.

 

Can I take the Haiku and make it fifty to sixty percent? 

Life splinters apart,

Down among slippery mounds,

Life brings forth new life.

In this new version, the same thing is said but also leaves some interpretation to the reader, which in a way I like to do for the reader. Give the reader something they can connect within their own way. It is easy to slip away from writing haiku this way as you begin to play around with different themes.

That is the basic way I usually like to write Haiku but often veer off into another message. It is fun, challenging, and an artform. I am not saying I am an artist, but I do believe those who can do it well, are. I am still a finger painter in this world, but I enjoy staining my skin in the ink.

To get to the point where you can consistently write like a true Haiku artist it could take years, but writing is the purpose and eventually, you get there, if that’s where you want to go. Otherwise, enjoy the way you want to write and the message you wish.


Below should be all you need to help with Haiku: Sure there are plenty of sites you’ll discover, some thatt even write the haiku for you, but why?

  • The best syllable counter is the dictionary. Others I’ve used will give different counts to the same word or the same Haiku. Stick to the dictionary. I’m deleting the syllable counter link from my poetry challenge with my next challenge, 10/12/2020. https://www.merriam-webster.com/
  • For synonyms, thesaurus.com. It also provides antonyms and the drop box where you enter your word also includes DEFINITIONS as an option.
  • The Kigo Lists

For other types of Haiku click and read-Haiku, Tanka, and Haibun. It’s all poetry to me. Learn the difference.

To learn Freku, which I came up with, click and read – NEW FORM of Haiku & Poetry.

To learn the Shi Rensa or Four Chain haiku, click and read – Four Chain | Shi Rensa Haiku.

For examples of my own Haiku offerings click here and you will leave this page.

For a list of the weekly Haiku Poetry Prompt Challenges and the current challenge post I host, click here and you will leave this page.

Much Respect

Ronovan

Originally posted July 02, 2014.


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251 thoughts on “How To Write A Haiku Poem In English Form

  1. Great article. I started writing haiku’s because of you. There not terribly good, but they are fun.

    Like

  2. […] I’ve been seeing some mention of not knowing the structure of Haiku. If you are such a person, please scroll down the post until you see the section that I have given the color red this week. It has not been that color in the past, but the section has been there none the less. In that section is a link to an article titled How to write a Haiku Poem. Oh, what they hey, here is the link here. […]

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  3. Wow, I had never (or don’t recall) being taught/reading the “right” way to write a haiku; I only remember the 5-7-5 rule and that its “usually” about nature in some fashion. This does, indeed, add a whole new aspect to the challenges for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the read. Interesting. Nice to know I can use 5-7-5 if I wish to. Especially if I am using syllables/sounds properly. Also, nice to know people have opinions about Haiku that differ from others, as well as those that enter my contest who do 3-5-3 and actually random syllable/sound counting that have no rhyme or reason.

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      • Please remember that 5-7-5 is actually a violation of what they count in Japanese (which isn’t syllables), not a preservation of the Japanese form, despite widespread popular belief and misguided school textbooks. I doubt you’ve had a chance to read very much at what is linked to on the page I sent you, so I encourage you to research the issue more. At the very least, I encourage you to make sure the haiku you write hit the other necessary targets and aren’t just counting syllables — if you choose to insist on that. Also, the word “haiku” isn’t a proper noun, so it’s not capitalized. And what do you mean by “using syllables/sounds properly?

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        • You know, I was being polite with my previous response. Please don’t continue. You attempting to enforce your thoughts on my take on Haiku won’t work. We enjoy doing Haiku this way. Please refrain from attempted badgering.

          Liked by 1 person

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  5. […] What changed with the form was the syllables. I still wanted them to be 10 per line. Then I participated in MMA Storyline’s 100 Word Flash Fiction Challenge. I thought this challenge is perfect for trying out my new style for the very first time. So, I wrote 10 lines, 10 words per line, with only 10 syllables per line. Yes, that means only one syllable per word. Your word choice is even more vital here than in other poems. Other than perhaps a Haiku, especially the 3/5/3 version, that’s syllables, not necessarily words or even the non-e…**. […]

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