A haiku in English is a very short poem in the English language, following to a greater or lesser extent the form and style of the Japanese haiku. A typical haiku is a three-line observation about a fleeting moment. Traditional haiku expressions were restricted to observations of nature but modern forms have not followed that tradition.
The rules and expressions for writing haiku have varied widely as the form has evolved and authors are free to use any forms they wish as long as some minimal conformity is observed. Poetry not observing the minimal requirements are simply not haiku!
There are no specific rules for writing haiku; however, the structure of haiku is always the same, including the following features:
- Only three lines, totaling up to 17 syllables throughout
- The first line is no more than 5 syllables
- The second line is no more than 7 syllables
- The third line is no more than 5 syllables like the first
- Punctuation and capitalization rules are up to the poet, and need not follow rigid rules used in structuring sentences
- Haiku does not have to rhyme, in fact many times it does not rhyme at all
- Some haiku can include the repetition of words or sounds
Process of Creating Haiku
Even though there are specific rules for writing haiku, the process can still be fun and rewarding.
If you are trying to write haiku for the first time, consider some of the following steps:
- Begin by reading examples of haiku to help you get inspired about the subjects and construction of haiku. Haiku is simply a beautiful form of poetry, so take time to appreciate it before you begin writing it. Ample examples are available online and through your local library.
- Create a list of possible subjects that you might write about, considering various aspects of nature that inspire you. Consider animals, insects, seasons, and more. Even the smallest natural details can make for great haiku.
- After you choose a subject, you may want to look at a few pictures of it, or go outside and admire it. Like all of the great poets before you, some of the greatest inspiration comes from simply admiring nature and the world around them.
- Make a list of words that relate to the subject you have chosen. Be as descriptive as possible and don’t worry – none of the terms will go to waste! Whatever you don’t use in one haiku can be used in another poem.
- Begin by writing with the 5-7-5 rule in mind. If you have trouble determining how many syllables are in a word because you are not sure you are pronouncing it correctly, remember that you can always look the word up here on Your Dictionary for a count of the syllables.
Remember to be creative not only with your use of words, but also with your punctuation and word order. Haiku is not designed to read like a sentence, so do not feel bound by normal capitalization and structure rules.
Reading through examples of haiku can greatly help you understand, appreciate, and eventually write haiku yourself. Reading haiku to children can also help them develop a sense of how to interpret poetry, and begin the process of writing their own simple poems. When reading such haiku poetry out loud to children, consider having them guess what topic is being described in the poem.
[NOTE: More to follow including examples.]