Haiku: Easy or Hard?

In this post, we look at the haiku, the famous 5-7-5 syllable poem, or is it? We discuss what makes a haiku here.
Author:
Publish date:

Haiku is one of the most popular forms of poetry; it's also one of the least understood forms. And since haiku are so short, many writers think they can write them as easy (and nearly as fast) as snapping their fingers.

(List of Poetic Forms.)

During the summer months, I'm even occasionally assaulted by Budweiser Summer Haiku radio commercials, which often come off like those Real Men of Genius commercials with less humor and less genius (so really not the same at all).

Haiku is descended from the Japanese renga form, which was often a collaborative poem comprised of many short stanzas. The opening stanza of the renga was called hokku. Eventually, haiku evolved from the left-over and most interesting hokku that were not used in renga.

*****

The Complete Guide of Poetic Forms

Play with poetic forms!

Poetic forms are fun poetic games, and this digital guide collects more than 100 poetic forms, including more established poetic forms (like sestinas and sonnets) and newer invented forms (like golden shovels and fibs).

Click to continue.

*****

Most haiku deals with natural topics. They avoid metaphor and simile. While (I think) most poets agree that haiku have three short lines, there is some disagreement on how long those lines are. For instance, some traditional haiku poets insist on 17 syllables in lines of 5/7/5. Other contemporary haiku poets feel that the first and third lines can be any length as long as they're shorter than the middle line.

Haiku do not have to include complete sentences or thoughts. They do not have titles. The best haiku contain some shift in the final line.

I do not claim to be a haiku master, but here's my attempt at a 5/7/5 line structure:

Clouds mushroom upward
where rain stampedes to the earth,
makes mud fresh again.

But I kind of favor this more contemporary revision I made in a 3/7/4 line structure:

Clouds mushroom
where rain stampedes to the earth,
making fresh mud.

And I could even get as radical as:

Clouds mushroom
where rain stampedes
fresh mud.

Anyway, as my pal S.A. Griffin would say, "It's all about the process."

*****

Click here to see what haiku poet Michael Dylan Welch has to say on the haiku.

Sara Nisha Adams: On the Celebration of Reading in Literary Fiction

Sara Nisha Adams: On the Celebration of Reading in Literary Fiction

Debut author Sara Nisha discusses the impact of growing up reading on her writing as an adult.

Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2021

Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2021

Here are the top live streams, podcasts, and YouTube channels as identified in the 23rd Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 576

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a back to blank poem.

Where Are the Toxic Families in Children's Books?

Where Are the Toxic Families in Children's Books?

Christina Wyman discusses how for children who suffer difficult family dynamics, seeing their experiences reflected in books is few and far between.

the island

The Island

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, build yourself an island.

Nawaaz Ahmed: On Personal Identity in Literary Fiction

Nawaaz Ahmed: On Personal Identity in Literary Fiction

Nawaaz Ahmed discusses how his personal experiences acted as the impetus for his new book, Radiant Fugitives, and how it went from novella to novel.

Comedy vs. Comity (Grammar Rules)

Comedy vs. Comity (Grammar Rules)

There's nothing funny about learning when to use comedy and comity (OK, maybe a little humor) with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Shugri Said Salh: On Writing the Coming-Of-Age Story

Shugri Said Salh: On Writing the Coming-Of-Age Story

Debut author Shugri Said Salh discusses how wanting to know her mother lead her to writing her coming-of-age novel, The Last Nomad.

100 Ways to Buff Your Book

100 Ways to Buff Your Book

Does your manuscript need a little more definition, but you’re not sure where to begin? Try these 100 tips to give your words more power.