A haiku (俳 句 jai-cu) is a short poem composed of three verses that uses sensory language to capture a feeling or an image. Originally, Japanese poets developed this type of poetry and they often find their inspiration in nature, in a moment of beauty or in an emotional experience. To write a haiku, you can start by brainstorming and then compose the poem with strong details and detailed images. Lastly, be sure to perfect your haiku and listen to how it sounds out loud to make it look its best.
Part 1 of 3: Brainstorming Haiku Ideas
Step 1. Go for a walk in nature
Many haikus are inspired by natural objects, such as trees, rocks, mountains, and flowers. To get some ideas for writing the poem, you can take a walk in a nearby park or go on a hike in a forest. Go on a hilly trail or visit a body of water like a river, lake, or beach. Spend some time in nature and observe it so you can have some ideas to include in the poem.
If you can't go out for a walk in an area with nature, you can see some photos and works of art in books or on the Internet. Find a specific natural scene or object that inspires you, such as a tree or flower
Step 2. Focus on a season or event of the season
Haikus can also be related to a season, such as fall, spring, winter, or summer. You can also focus on a natural event that occurs at a certain time of year, such as the cherry blossoms in your neighborhood or the salmon race in the river that passes near your home.
Haikus related to the seasons usually focus on a specific detail of the time and mention the name of the season. Writing about a season could be a fun way to describe a specific detail that you love about that season of the year
Step 3. Choose a person or an object as your topic
Not all haikus should talk about nature or the seasons. You can be inspired by a specific person or object. Maybe you want to write a funny haiku about your dog or a thoughtful haiku about a toy from your childhood.
Try to focus only on one person or one object. Haikus are short poems and you may not have enough space in three verses to write all your thoughts about the person or object
Step 4. Read some examples of haikus
To get a better idea of this genre, read some recognized haikus and considered good examples. You can find many examples in books or on the Internet. Read some haikus that talk about nature and other topics. You can read the following:
- haikus by Japanese poet Matsuo Basho
- haikus by Japanese poet Yosa Buson
- haikus by Japanese poet Tagami Kikusha
- haikus by American poet Richard Wright
Step 5. Focus on an event from your past or something that is troubling you
Try to find a similarity to nature or a metaphor that expresses your feelings briefly. This could be an example:
- Boom boom bam bam!
- My head is a battlefield.
- With an infinity of explosions.
Part 2 of 3: Write the haiku
Step 1. Follow the structure of the verses and syllables of a haiku
Haikus have a strict structure: three verses, with 5, 7 and 5 syllables. This means that the first verse must have five syllables; the second, seven syllables; and the last, five syllables.
- In total, the poem will have seventeen syllables. To count the syllables in a word, put your hand under your chin. Then say the word. Each time the chin touches the hand, you must count one syllable.
- A haiku does not have to rhyme or have a specific rhythm, as long as it complies with the syllable count.
Step 2. Describe the topic in sensory details
Haikus attempt to give the reader a brief feel for the subject with the use of the senses. Think about the smell, feel, sound, taste, and look of the item. Describe it using your senses to bring life and power to the page.
- For example, you could write about the "musky smell of pine needles" or about the "bitter taste of morning air."
- If the haiku is about someone specific, like your dog, you can describe the "clawing of its claws on the tiles" or the "wet coat of the wet dog."
Step 3. Use concrete descriptions and images
Avoid confusing or abstract descriptions. Instead, look for specific images that the reader can easily visualize. Instead of using metaphors or similes, describe the topic in specific and unique details.
- Avoid long descriptions or elaborate language. Use a simple vocabulary to be able to comply with the syllable count that a haiku must have.
- Do not use clichés or phrases so hackneyed that they have lost their meaning. Instead, look for images and descriptions that feel unique.
- For example, you could write "Autumn leaves brush the ground" or "Dog follows strong blue bird."
Step 4. Write the poem in the present tense
Give haiku immediacy with the present tense, rather than the past. Also, the present will make the verses simple and easy to understand.
Step 5. End with a surprising verse
The last verse of a good haiku will be intriguing and leave the reader with a surprising final image or reflect on the previous two verses in an amazing way.
For example, the haiku of the Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa has a surprising last verse: "I return to my village: / what comes my way / becomes a bush."
Part 3 of 3: Perfecting the Haiku
Step 1. Read the poem out loud
When you have a draft of the haiku, read it out loud several times. Hear how it sounds. Make sure all the verses flow easily and that they meet the 5, 7, and 5 syllable count. The haiku should sound natural when read aloud.
If you notice any odd or choppy verse, tweak it to give it a regular sound. Change very long or complicated words. Make sure the poem sounds nice when you read it out loud
Step 2. Show it to other people
Ask them for some comments. Ask your friends, family, and colleagues what they think about haiku. Ask them some questions about whether the poem presents a moment in nature or a season.
If the haiku focuses on a specific subject or object, ask others if they think it explores it in a correct way
Step 3. Center the haiku on the page when it's done
Place it in the center of the page and center the verses to form a diamond. This is the traditional format of haikus.
- You can also add a short title at the top, such as "Autumn" or "Dog," but avoid long titles with lots of words.
- Many haikus don't have a title, so you don't have to title them.