The Haiku: National Poetry Month- Day 2

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It’s Day 2 of National Poetry Month! Today, I thought I’d spotlight one of my favorite kinds of poems: the haiku.

What is a haiku?

The haiku is a Japanese poem that consists of 3 lines and 17 syllables. The first line has 5 syllables, the second line has 7, and the third line has 5. Traditional Haiku poems are generally about nature, but can always include a metaphor to a larger theme.

Haikus, though very short, can have a profound meaning and heavy impact. The great thing about haiku poems is that they provide the perfect gateway into the art of poetry for the new poet. What’s more, they are also a great exercise for the accomplished poet. I find that they help stretch my creativity because they are so precise in form. The fact that they can only use so many words makes the impact of each word that much more valuable.

Here are some famous haiku poems:

The wren
Earns his living
Noiselessly.

Issa

In the twilight rain
these brilliant-hued hibiscus –
A lovely sunset

– Basho

The crow has flown away:
swaying in the evening sun,
a leafless tree.

-Soseki

Non-traditional haiku poems

Some write haiku poems that are not about nature, but they still work just as well. Here’s an example of an inspirational haiku:

Hold on to nothing,
and nothing
will possess you.

-Author Unknown

Poets have also been known to put a series of haikus together to form a longer poem:

In the cicada’s cry
No sign can tell
How soon it must die.

First day of Spring-
I keep thinking about-
the end of autmn.

Moonless night…
a powerful wind embraces
the ancient cedars.

Don’t imitate me;
it’s as boring
as the two halves of a melon.

The moon so pure
a wandering monk carries it
across the sand.

Will we meet again
Here at your flowering grave –
Two white butterflies?

-Matsu Basho

How to write a traditional haiku

  1. Think of a word or a specific thing in nature that you want to write about
  2. Brainstorm about what reminds you of that specific word or thing
  3. Play with syllables in words until they fit the criteria for the 3 lines
  4. Put your poem together!

Have you written a haiku before? Do you have any suggestions?

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