approaching haiku

Haiku is commonly described as a nature poem in three lines with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second line, and 5 in the third line. This definition is at best old-fashioned and at worst erroneous.

The reality of haiku today is much more complicated. It is a powerful discipline that is ripe with the potential to engage with the world in new ways.

In my explorations of English language haiku, I have found the following approaches to be useful for substantive writing and the proper mindset:

  • use no titles (haiku are identified by their first line)
  • write in present tense
  • show, don’t tell
  • the 5-7-5 syllable structure has largely fallen out of fashion in favor of haiku with fewer than 17 syllables
  • use simple, everyday language
  • three lines is most common, but one, two, and four lines are also acceptable
  • avoid end rhymes
  • haiku experiences will arise from your surroundings, stay alert!
  • write directly, so that your readers can easily imagine themselves having the experience you’ve captured
  • let things be as they are, elaboration is unnecessary
  • don’t proselytize
  • present an experience for the reader to interpret
  • use a phrase and a fragment that juxtapose each other
  • see the universal connections in common, everyday experiences
  • name or imply a season
  • honor small, simple things
  • as much as possible, keep your ego out of it

For further exploration, visit The Haiku Foundation at: https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/

The following online journals display a wide range of the expressions contemporary haiku is capable of:

For a lively audio exploration of haiku, listen to the Poetry Pea Podcast: https://poetrypea.com/category/podcast/

Published by Craig Kittner

The Adult Contests Director for the North Carolina Poetry Society, Craig has lived in a lot of places. Providence, RI saw the start of interesting things that DC helped solidify. He's worked a lot of jobs, too. Dealing blackjack was an interesting challenge. Now he lives kind-of-near the sea and makes his living through communication. But don't we all. Recent publications include Rabid Oak, Bones, and the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.

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