Wordsmith Wednesday: More About Haiku

Basho by Basho by Sugiyama Sanpû (1647-1732)

Image via Wikipedia

“In this mortal frame of mine…there is something called a wind-swept spirit, for it is much like thin drapery that is torn and swept away at the slightest stir of the wind.” Basho, 1687

Last week when I had limited Internet access I had time to read Jane Hirschfield’s informative and beautifully written book on Haiku: “The Heart of Haiku.” Focused on the life and works of the 17th Century Japanese word artist (and I would say, mystic) Basho, Hirschfield peppers her exposition with elegant examples and succinct instruction.

Most of the time, after I’ve completed reading a book on Kindle, I send it to the archives at Amazon and then recall it if there’s something I want to rehash. This book, however, will reside on my device both as a source of instruction and inspiration.

Here are a few brief points that I would like to share with you about the art of Haiku:

  • Unless something is seen with a fresh eye, it is not worth writing down. (after Basho)
  • While English Haiku is written using the 5-7-5 syllable line structure, Japanese poetry is based on sounds.
  • Haiku always evokes a season, either by name or association.
  • Haiku offers the chance to make emotional, spiritual and psychological discoveries.
  • Haiku seeks to eliminate the space between the poet and the object of his poem. This allows the poet to truly perceive the object.
  • The new perception becomes the basis for an inner response on the part of the poet and reader.
  • The five-line Tanka (or Waka) preceded the Haiku. The syllable count for Tanka is 5-7-5-7-7.
  • Another poetic form called Renga consists of 3 and 2 line stanzas that build on one another. This form lends itself to collaborative poetry.
  • Basho taught: “If you have three or four, or even five or seven extra syllables, but the poem still sounds good, don’t worry about it.”

I strongly recommend “The Heart of Haiku” to anyone who loves this poetic form, has an interest in Zen Buddhism, or just wants to write poetry in which every word resounds.

For this weeks conversation, I am posting a Haiku that I wrote and would love to see you build on it in a collaborative effort. So when you visit this post, read all the comments and use the last Haiku posted as a prompt for your own that you will then add to the comments. I hope there will be enough of a response that I can compile them into a separate post. Of course, you will be acknowledged for your contribution.

Here’s the introductory Haiku:

Morning sun wakens

Arouses a ruddy sky

With his tender touch.

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/

And this, my friends, is my 500th post! Thank you for all your encouragement.

25 thoughts on “Wordsmith Wednesday: More About Haiku

  1. […] Wordsmith Wednesday: More About Haiku (liv2write2day.wordpress.com) This entry was posted in writing prompt. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment. « How Do You Start? […]


  2. Thanks for sharing this. I’ll probably come back to revise the lesson:-) Say, how does this sound?

    The night roams sleepless
    Searching for the morning gold
    In the dawn, she dies.


  3. Other Mary says:

    What an excellent post. I find haiku very difficult to write well; there is so much more than 5-7-5 to the good ones. I’m glad for the instruction. Also, congratulation on #500! -Other Mary


  4. Bodhirose says:

    I do love haiku and would love to “master” it someday! Here is one I wrote when I was just getting going with my blog. I think it follows the theme of mornings we have going here.


    Oh, and congratulations on 500 postings, Victoria–that’s quite an accomplishment!


  5. dani says:

    congratulations on your 500th post, Victoria! thank you for your Wordsmith Wednesday posts ~ always interesting and filled with valuable information.

    i have added this link to my notes on poetry form. {you have no idea how much i regret having “haiku” in my blog name ~ i was SO ignorant then!}


  6. Claudia says:

    yep – same line as brian mentions..with the fresh eyes..
    i think good haikus are really difficult to write..
    and congrats on post #500 victoria….looking forward to what you come up with for mark’s prompt..


  7. brian says:

    if something is not seen with a fresh eye itisnot worth writing down…that is a great line for any writing we do…


  8. Night fades into day.
    Birds chirp and squawk. Then silence.
    Change whispers, “Arise.”


  9. Mike Patrick says:


    Being somewhat of a poetry snob, I always considered haiku something one wrote when writer’s block interrupted the writing of real poetry. A couple of months ago, during a major writing block, I began researching haiku. I spent a day reading the works of Basho and other notable haiku writers. I also read about the philosophy behind haiku. I found it to be a very beautiful and meaningful form, with many levels of meaning springing from that eastern philosophy.

    I’m reminded of a phrase from the movie, The Last Samurai (a great movie). Kin Watanabe’s character, Katsumoto, was looking at cherry blossoms when Tom Cruise’s character, Algren, walked up. Katsumoto said, “The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.”

    I’m not sure that we of the Western World can ever acheve that mindset. Until we do, all we can hope for is an honest effort when writing a haiku. I no longer consider them a lesser form of poetry. They may well be the apex of poetry.

    Since my research, I have only attempted one haiku. It can be seen at http://thepoetsquill.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/she-weeps/. This is my second attempt.

    Summer sun dries out
    the lotus blossoms wet home.
    It’s soul still lingers.


    • Your Haiku gives me the chills, Mike. Do you feel like you might be channeling Basho? I have never seen “The Last Samurai”–think that needs to change. Thanks so much for the incredible addition


  10. I love where this is going. Thanks, David.


  11. David says:

    Sorry for the double entry. I had misspelled Jinksy’s name the first time and didn’t withdraw the comment quickly enough. Feel free to remove the duplicate.


  12. David says:

    My addition follows Jinksy’s

    Morning sun wakens
    Arouses a ruddy sky
    With his tender touch.

    Sunlight’s soft fingers
    brush aside the veil of night.
    A new day begins.

    Pearls on spear tips
    gently heated, the lawn’s
    wetness yields its breath.


  13. YAHOO! The big 5-0-0, and we are all the better for it. Thanks for this explanation of the art of haiku. I now resolve never to post another, simply because I thought it was simply a matter of certain phrases working out in syllables. Always an accident for me. Now I understand there is much more to it, especially the seasons and sounds, and I’m looking back on my “haiku” and thinking to myself, “they are more like hai-boo-boo”!! Loved yours, though! Congrats on the 500th! Amy


    • Oh no!!! I would never have posted this if I thought it would keep anyone from writing haiku. We’re poets, after all, and that gives us permission to break the rules, right? I feel terrible, now. Please everyone, FEEL FREE TO DO WHATEVER YOU WANT WITH THE 5-7-5 syllable form. Please!


  14. jinksy says:

    Sunlight’s soft fingers
    brush aside the veil of night.
    A new day begins.


  15. umaa says:

    Hi Victoria,
    I have read about this man Basho too and loved his haiku and his dedication to it.I have done my bit of haiku in my blog almost above 50 🙂 and I am happy to share it with you.


  16. Evocative haiku. I am a Buddhist, so the principles of writing this form of poetry sound right up my ally. I just have to settle into myself a bit to do it. I’ll give it a whirl.

    Thanks for challenging me!


    • I look forward to it, Lorna. One of the things I love about Buddhism is that we can all incorporate it into our own belief systems. (At least I think we can).


      • Pat Cegan says:

        Congratulations on 500! I must learn more about this poetry form as I just play at it and take great liberties with it. Nice to know the book is on Kindle. I will definitely download it to the no books in English jungles of Brazil. Hugs, pat


      • Oh, girl. I bet you LOVE Kindle. I know I do, even with plentiful access to books. It only costs $ .99 on Kindle!


  17. jgavinallan says:

    I will get book…I love to read new things…
    I will try a posting for you soon…but I must help Julia and Michael…don’t you agree?
    see things with a fresh eye…the first commandment of a writer…


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