Wordsmith Wednesday–True Haiku

The poetess Ukon

Image via Wikipedia

Many of us enjoy writing 17 syllable poems that we call “Haiku.” These are divided into 3 lines of 5-7-5 syllables each. To be honest, we often take liberties with this centuries-old Japanese form, which is okay. As former poet Ted Kooser says in his wonderful book, The Poetry Home Repair Manual, “Don’t worry about rules.”

There’s another poet who is known for her translations of Japanese poets. In her stunning book Nine Gates, Entering the Mind of Poetry, Jane Hirshfield presents details of Haiku and other Asian forms. She presents such masters as Basho, Shikibu and Ono no Komachi.

A key element of Haiku (and similar forms) is its focus on the natural world. Using concrete sensory images–tactile, visual–these word artists create a subjective interpretation of objective reality. To me, this Zen-like experience is an example of the poet’s power to observe and translate the mundane into the sublime.

Another aspect of true Haiku is that the poem should always evoke one of the four seasons–either directly or obliquely through description.

In no way do I want to discourage Haiku that adheres only to syllable count. Rather, I invite you to take it a step further and try to compose a Haiku while turning to nature for inspiration and incorporating a seasonal reference.

I strongly suggest adding Hirschfield’s book, as well as Kooser’s to your library. You won’t be disappointed.

This week I will be posting three Haiku on One Shot Wednesday: http://onestoppoetry.com that observe the form as developed by the Japanese poets.

8 thoughts on “Wordsmith Wednesday–True Haiku

  1. […] For more information on the Haiku form, you may want to visit my previous post: “True Haiku” written in June of this year: https://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/wordsmith-wednesday-true-haiku/ […]


  2. trisha says:

    thanks a lot for the post victoria. i initially stuck with only nature while writing haiku after reading others i realized that experiment is allowed.


  3. jgavinallan says:

    Victoria: I ate this up. Reason…poetry to me is akin to my skill in Chemistry(or lack of) I read it twice…and wanted to take notes.
    I want to be a poet—soooo much



  4. […] idea behind this attempt at my first Haiku came from Victoria [live2write2day]. Her Wordsmith Wednesday explained a little more about the Haiku and its […]


  5. Tino says:

    I guess if I can just about manage the Octain, then maybe I should try Haiku?

    Thanks for explaining a little more about them.


  6. Bodhirose says:

    I so admire those haiku masters who could so succinctly convey so much with so few words. It truly is an art form–I would love to have a couple of those books you mentioned too.


  7. Shashi says:

    I liked this post… its good and enjoyable reading.



Your comment and feedback are important to me. Thank you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s