Skip to main content

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.

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.

From Script

The Secret as a Narrative Framing Element (From Script)

In this week’s roundup brought to us by Script magazine, read more filmmaker interviews from the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, including an exclusive interview with Sundance’s U.S. Dramatic Audience Award and Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award winning filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz.

How To Write a Protagonist Leading a Double Life

How To Write a Protagonist Leading a Double Life

Inspired by personal experiences, author Kyla Zhao discusses how to write a protagonist leading a double life.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Romance Writing Virtual Conference, 6 WDU Courses, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce the Romance Writing Virtual Conference, six WDU courses, and more!

Popular Fantasy Tropes for Writers

21 Popular Fantasy Tropes for Writers

Here are 21 examples of fantasy tropes for writers to consider and subvert when writing fantastical fiction.

Writing Goals and Intentions: 25 Prompts

Writing Goals and Intentions: 25 Prompts

Make this year your most successful writing year ever by considering the following questions to set your goals and intentions.

Is a Personal Essay Considered Journalism?

Is a Personal Essay Considered Journalism?

Journalist Alison Hill answers the question of whether or not the personal essay is considered journalism by defining the genre and offering examples. Plus, outlets for you to publish your own personal essay.

Forth vs. Fourth (Grammar Rules)

Forth vs. Fourth (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use forth vs. fourth in your writing with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Bad Place

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Bad Place

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, make the setting the antagonist.

Gaslighting in Romance: From Jane Eyre to the Present Day (and Why Writers Should Care)

Gaslighting in Romance: From Jane Eyre to the Present Day (and Why Writers Should Care)

Gaslighting can work its way into the backstory of a character, but it can also be misused. Here, author Emma Barry discusses gaslighting in romance.