What is Haiku Poetry?

HaiĀ·ku: An ancient form of Japenese poetry, typically containing a total of 17 syllables shared between three lines, arranged in a pattern of 5-7-5. The first line consists of 5 syllables, the second line 7, and the last line contains another 5 syllables.

Some Characteristics of Haiku Poetry:

  • An English-language haiku typically consists of 17 syllables
  • The format is composed of 3 lines of 5-7-5 (syllables)
  • 2 simple subjects are often placed in juxtaposition
  • These 2 images are usually separated by punctuation
  • Haiku often contains a seasonal reference, and
  • Poems are traditionally about nature or the natural world

An Example of Haiku:

Traditional haiku often focuses on very simple subjects while providing an interesting or unexpected perspective. Two distinct images are usually placed in juxtaposition, allowing the reader to see an enlightening connection between the two. Like a good joke, the first part serves as set-up while the second part delivers the punchline. Consider this ancient haiku by the haiku master Issa (translated):

The wren is chirping,
But it grows dusk
just the same.

Notice the two images: a wren chirping and the growing dusk. The poem involves nature, includes two simple subjects in juxtoposition and makes a connection between the two that tells us a little something about ourselves: Try though we may, we cannot add hours to the day.


FREE An Introduction to Haiku Poetry PDF Booklet

FREE Booklet

This FREE booklet introduces readers to the style, format and history of haiku. The booklet includes examples as well as a brief introduction to the ancient Japanese masters. Ideal for students and teachers alike!

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Are you ready to try YOUR hand at haiku? Choose a photo above for inspiration, practice writing poems and feel free to submit your best work.