How to Write a Haiku

Although haiku looks simple enough that a third grader could write one, the strict guidelines to traditional haiku and the moment of wisdom and clarity they depict, make writing a haiku an artful task in the least. When writing a haiku, it is imperative to keep in mind that the haiku traditionally adheres to strict guidelines in topics as well as form.

Choosing the Topic

Choosing a topic for your haiku should involve great consideration around the kind of emotions you want to evoke in your readers. Themes are unadorned and uncomplicated. Haiku imagery usually revolves around nature and communicates an abstract notion.

Since the restricted form of the haiku does not allow room for much terminology, choosing phrases that are packed with verdant description while setting a certain tone is essential. These phrases are often compiled by using Kigo, or words that are specific to each season.  Using seasons in haiku are effective ways of creating imagery and emotion for the reader.

Above all, it is important to be specific and conjure imagery that opens up a full view into the moment you are experiencing and writing about. Titles are not needed and deemed unnecessary because a haiku is considered complete in itself.

The Cutting Technique

Presenting contrasting ideas in your haiku is a good way to initiate an emotional reaction. Usually, contrasts are set up with the first two lines presenting one idea and then switching suddenly to another idea by the closing of the poem. This technique is referred to as cutting.

Cutting involves juxtaposition of images that help stress the intense and abstract emotional moment a haiku conveys. The two sections of the haiku should enhance and work off each other. In English, the contrast is often emphasized with punctuation such as a colon, long dash or ellipsis.

Metric Pattern of Haiku

The metric form of a haiku depends greatly on what language you are writing in. The Japanese stay within the strict convention of a 17-syllable verse comprised of three metric units of 5,7,5 morae, which are known as “on” or what we would call syllables. It is best for a beginner to stay within these guidelines.

However, different languages have different variations in the length of syllables, hence, there is no rigid format to follow unless you are writing in Japanese. For example, some believe that a 2,3,2 beat count in English is even closer to the haiku syllable form than the 5,7,5 method. Whatever the form you choose to adhere to, keep in mind that the essence of the haiku is more important than the syllable counts of its lines.

Also, haiku do not traditionally contain metaphors or similes and do not rhyme. Lastly, try to remember that the composition of a haiku is meant to be a freeing and an overall inspirational event; so take a deep breath, relax, and go!