What is haiku?

We all have special moments in our lives. Perhaps it was the moment our child took his or her first steps, or said his or her first word. Perhaps it was the moment we were kissed for the first time, or the moment we took that high school diploma or college degree in our hands. Whatever those moments were, we captured them, in a photograph, a video, or simply with a poignant memory, so that we could recapture, and often share, the joy, the pride, the excitement; the emotional experience that made that moment special.

Just as we capture a special moment in our lives, haiku poetry captures a moment in time, creating and sharing the joy, the wonder, and the perhaps profound emotional experience that exists within that moment.

Haiku is a form of poetry that focuses on a brief moment in time, and a sense of sudden illumination or enlightenment. A haiku is a specific type of Japanese poem which has 17 syllables divided into three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. Haikus or haiku are typically written on the subject of nature. The word haiku (pronounced hahy-koo) is derived from the Japanese word hokku meaning “starting verse.”

Haiku poets are challenged to convey a vivid message in only 17 syllables. One of the greatest Haiku poets was the Samurai, Basho (1644-94). Basho’s father was also a Samurai from the Iga province. To become a Samurai, Basho served a local lord who was fond of writing. Basho learned the style of writing Haiku, and wrote under the name, Sobo. During the years, Basho traveled throughout Japan writing and further developing the Haiku style. He died in Osaka, Japan in 1694, and continued to write haiku up until his death. A sample of Basho’s haiku style:

Spring morning marvel
lovely nameless little hill
on a sea of mist

In Japan these poems are valued for their simplicity, openness, depth and lightness.
Structural Rules:
• Use exactly 17 syllables
• Syllables are arranged in three lines of 5-7-5
• Avoid similes and metaphors
• Refers to a season of the year

Haiku poems can describe anything, but are seldom complicated or hard to
understand. Almost all Haiku has a dominant impression, or main idea, that appeals
strongly to one of the five senses.

Each Haiku must contain a kigo, a season word, which indicates what season of the
year the Haiku is set. For example, blossoms would indicate spring, snow would
give the idea of winter, mosquitos would imply summertime. The seasonal words
isn’t always that obvious, you might needs to consider the theme of the poem to
find it. For example:

Clouds appear and bring –
to men a chance to rest from
looking at the moon
The seasonal word in this Haiku is clouds, indicating the rainy season.

Check out my related post: Have you tried White Rabbit Candy?

Interesting reads:








Click to access whatishaiku.pdf


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s