How To Write Haiku: The Ultimate Guide For Beginners
People have used haiku for centuries, especially in various forms of Japanese culture, including nature, food, and art. It is a great way to convey an idea or thought in a small number of words.
Writing haiku is simple but can also be challenging due to its strict format and rules. A single word out of place or an awkward phrase can throw off the whole rhythm of the poem.
But if you can produce high-quality haiku, it can make people smile and ponder the world for a few minutes.
So if you are wondering how to write a haiku, you can read further below. This article will guide you with the foundational knowledge needed to create one.
Table of Contents
What is a haiku?
First, let’s discuss its roots.
Haiku was made famous by Matsuo Bash? (1644–1694), who is considered one of the greatest poets in Japanese history.
He was born in Ueno, Tokyo, and died on June 9, 1694, at 57. He lived during the Edo period (1615-1868).
After his son died from smallpox at age 4, he moved around Japan to find peace and happiness. His poems became popular because they were easy for people to understand and relate to their everyday lives.
He wrote over 3,000 haikus during his lifetime and many poems about nature and life.
The word haiku itself comes from Japanese: “haiku” means “to hang up,” and “haikai” means “comic/light verse.”
Initially, they were comic poems used to make people laugh. The Japanese people initially used it for renga. A collaborative poem made up of at least three stanzas.
But it evolved into its form during the 19th century and developed its characteristics. These days, haikus can be about anything — even serious topics.
Next, let’s discuss its structure. A haiku is a three-line poem emphasizing images, emotions, and the natural world.
Most haikus consist of five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. So it’s always written in three strings separated by a single space.
But it’s worth remembering that there are many types of haiku. The most common type you will see nowadays is “haiku sanjuroku” or “haiku in the three sevens style.”
This type follows the 5-7-5 syllable pattern. But it also includes a kireji — a word that separates two phrases in a poem (like “but” or “for”).
How to write a haiku?
People write haikus about nature or everyday life. They’re supposed to be simple but also complex at the same time.
That’s why it’s essential to keep your haiku short and sweet — it should be able to be read in one breath or one inhalation.
In this section, we’ll go through how to write a haiku step-by-step. You’ll learn how to write the correct number of syllables per line and use words that fit perfectly into each position within your poem’s structure.
1. Choose your subject matter.
2. Use the season word to create a mood or atmosphere.
3. Use the word kireji (cutting word) to divide your poem into two parts.
4. Choose a traditional 5-7-5 syllable count or a more contemporary 3-5-3 syllable count format.
5. Add your style with extra adjectives and adverbs, metaphors and similes, internal rhyme, end rhyme, and repetition of words or phrases for emphasis (alliteration).
Haiku in the three sevens style usually takes the form of two phrases that describe opposites and another phrase that describes how those opposites interact with each other.
The sky is blue today
The ground looks grey instead
It must be raining somewhere
Use everyday words
People base haiku on the concept of “non-duality.” This means that everything in the world is connected, and you can express connectedness through this type of poem.
Thus they are meant to be written about everyday things, so try not to use obscure or hard-to-understand words.
So you want to avoid using uncommon or fancy words as they might create separation between you and your reader. Try your best not to use obscure or hard-to-understand words.
So, choose common words and phrases that everyone can understand easily. For example, instead of using ‘happiness’ or ‘sadness’ as a word in your haiku, try using ‘joy’ or ‘sorrow’ instead.
Is rhyming required?
The words do not need to rhyme when writing haiku, but they can help make your poem more memorable if you use them.
You can place rhyming words at the ends of lines to create a strong ending that leaves an impression on the reader.
But some people believe it’s better not to rhyme your haikus because it can make them feel artificial or contrived.
If you decide not to use rhyme in your haikus, it’s essential to have another way of making them sound natural and conversational, like using alliteration.
Start with writing about nature
Nature is the most common subject of haiku. It’s easy to write about nature because it’s everywhere and we have all seen it.
However, there are many things in nature that we don’t notice or ignore. So take a walk outside and look at all the small things you can find. Make notes of them and write them down in your Haiku notebook.
When writing about nature, it’s essential not to use too many descriptions or details. Instead, you want to keep your poem short and straightforward so that you can focus on conveying your feelings rather than explaining everything in detail.
The seasons are another popular topic for haiku. The changing seasons are beautiful reminders of our relationship with Mother Nature, and they inspire many poets to write poems that capture their beauty.
Whether it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall, there’s always something interesting happening in nature during each season that you can write about in your haiku poem.
Now that you know almost everything about writing haiku, all that’s left is to try it out for yourself.
Whether you’re writing one on a whim or intending to share it with others, the best way to start is to relax and be open to creative possibilities.
Start by writing what comes naturally.