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Haiku Format

Some Tips to Guide You on How to Pursue Haiku Format of Poetry

The Haiku poetry is very simple. Though, figuring out the correct haiku format is not everyone's cup of tea. This article will help simplify this ancient poetry's format...
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Dec 09, 2017
The Japanese Haiku has been adopted in English, though it is hard to tell whether it is absolutely precise or not. Nonetheless, it is a universal belief that, if the emotions of the poet are conveyed to his reader, then the purpose of the poem has been served. The English Haiku, is divided into three lines containing 17 syllables each, while include seasonal words (Kigo), but does not contain (Kireji) words, which end abruptly and sharply. Instead, the English language uses its punctuations in order to try to adapt with the Haiku format.

What is a Haiku
'Haiku' derived its genesis from 'Hokku', which was the opening stanza of the orthodox Japanese poetry style called 'Renga'-a compilation of linked poetry. It was only in between 1644 - 1694 that one of the greatest Haiku poets of all time, Matsuo Munefusa began writing Haiku poetry independent of Hokku.

Haiku is one of the few ancient forms of poetry writing in the world that originated in Japan, and is still practiced by people around the globe. This form of Japanese poetry uses a set of 3 phrases with 5-7 or 10-12 'Moras' or 'On's to complete the poetry. 'On' is the phonetic unit of words used to depict the sound of words in traditional Japanese poetry as they put more stress on the way it would sound to the reader, when read aloud. That is why, they also contain Kigo to depict the various seasons of the year and Kireji, a word or set of words that gave a suitable ending to the phrase and the entire poetry.

Haiku poems take its inspiration from nature in order to describe most of its subject matters, which could deal with almost any topic-from emotions to experiences of people. A unique aspect about these poems is that these were written in a single vertical line from the very inception of the style, and have been printed in this format ever since haiku began in Japan. When written in English, the structure of Haiku changes a bit-three lines are written parallel to each other and each of these three lines hold seventeen syllables.

Famous Haiku Poems
Here are some popular examples from the poems of world famous haiku poet Basho or Matsuo Munefusa, which were written in the 17th century. The actual way of writing Haiku, will become clearer from these Japanese Haiku poems, which have been divided into the original Haiku steps, so as to depict the phonetics of the syllables. Once they have been divided, they will be translated into English:

Haiku 1: furuike ya kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto

furuike-ya (3 syllables)
kawazu tobi-komu (5 syllables)
mizu-no oto (4 syllables)

an old pond . . .
when the frog jumps in
the sound of water

The word 'furuike' means an old pond. The 'a pond' is implied and inherent. While the 'ya' is a topic marker, stating that the old pond is relevant in the coming poem. The word 'kawazu' means a frog or frogs, therefore, the use of the phrase 'when the' is also implied. The word 'tobi' means to jump, while 'komu' means to enter. The word 'mizu-no' means water, while the word 'oto' is used to depict the obstruction of sound. Here 'the' and 'of' are implied.

Haiku 2: hatsu shigure saru mo komino wo hoshige nari

hatsu-shigu-re (3)
saru-mo-komi-no-wo (5)
hoshige na-ri (4)

the first cold shower
even the monkey seems to want
a little coat of straw

Here's another example of a haiku poem written by Kobayashi Issa, translated to English.

Haiku 3: edo no ame nan goku nonda hototogisu

edo-no-ame
nan-goku-non-da
hototogi-su

how many gallons
of Edo's rain did you drink,
cuckoo

Haiku poems have become a popular form of poetry all over the world. It may look simple but it is quite difficult for beginners, as they need to understand the depth of the meaning of each word, in context to it neighboring word. Only then, will a Haiku poem make sense to the reader, only then will there be any emotions conveyed.

How to Write Haiku Poems?

Follow Your Numbers
The modern version of Haiku, follows the simple 5-7-5 format. This specifically allots the poet with five words within the first phrase, followed by seven words in the second phrase, and once again ending with another set of five words in the third and final phrase. However, you need not always be so specific, and may choose to go in for 10 - 12 words per poem, or even end with 14 words within your Haiku. There is a very free realm of artistic license given to the Haiku poet, if they wish to be rather experimental.

Know Your Seasons
Conventional as well as traditional Haiku, is based predominantly on the four seasons, nature, and its various creatures and aspects. For instance, the spring season comes as a beacon of hope, after the harsh winter. In Haiku, spring is associated with new love, fresh lease of life, beauty, and benevolence. It often represents childlike innocence and naivety. These are a few common associations most civilizations attach to the changing seasons, however, you have the complete freedom to associate the time of the year, with your own feelings or outlook.

Convey Your Message
Every Haiku has a message to convey. Therefore, you too must ensure that your Haiku poem is based on a specific thought. The fun thing about having to put across your own thought is that it can be a completely random and yet make sense to all your readers. Make a mental note, of the things you would like to write a Haiku on, and then go right ahead with it!

Follow Your Own Style
You do not have to follow others' examples when it comes to writing Haiku poems. You may use them for reference, but when it comes to making your own poem, try to be creative and original. The words you use may adhere to the dictionary or may have colloquial terms which people around you would associate with.

Some of My Own Haiku Poems

Nature Haiku
The rain is pouring nonstop...
while all the birds huddle in peace
so many, humans feel jealous

Through dark and windy nights...
Not afraid or cowering from vast space
The clouds bravely march on

How much time you waste...
pointing fingers at everyone else around you
spring has come, so forgive.

Funny Haiku
Icy chill of winter past..
the blanket that always kept me warm
now lay forgotten this summer.

On a serious note then...
My intention was not to ridicule you
But to state mere facts.

The sun is finally out...
and yet another gloomy day for work
I think I will bunk.

However, these days Haiku is rarely written in 5-7-5 syllable format and instead follow an easier 10-12 format. Hopefully, this article has helped you understand Haiku poems better. Haiku has managed to live through centuries for the mere reason that it is truly beautiful. This genre of poetry ignores unnecessary rhyming and touches the very core of the issue, that the poet wishes to discuss with the world. It transcends into a parallel universe where everything is just the way, it really is meant to be.