The Art of Composing Haiku

A friend sent me this link and article as we d both been writing then discussing our haiku. I thought it worth a copy and paste and share since we ‘re well into National Poetry Month. Enjoy!

Part 1 of 4: Understand Haiku Structure

Know the sound structure of haiku. Japanese haiku traditionally consist of 17 on, or sounds, divided into three phrases: 5 sounds, 7 sounds, and 5 sounds. English poets interpreted on as syllables. Haiku poetry has evolved over time, and most poets no longer adhere to this structure, in either Japanese or English; modern haiku may have more than 17 sounds or as few as one.[1]
English syllables vary greatly in length, while Japanese on are uniformly short. For this reason, a 17-syllable English poem can be much longer than a traditional 17-on Japanese poem, straying from the concept that haiku are meant to distill an image using few sounds. Although using 5-7-5 is no longer considered to be the rule for haiku in English, it is still often taught that way to children in school.
When you’re deciding how many sounds or syllables to use in your haiku, refer to the Japanese idea that the haiku should be able to be expressed in one breath. In English, that usually means the poem will be 10 to 14 syllables long. [2] Take, for example, this haiku by American novelist Jack Kerouac:
§ Snow in my shoe
Sparrow’s nest

Use haiku to juxtapose two ideas. The Japanese word kiru, which means “cutting,” expresses the notion that haiku should always contain two juxtaposed ideas. The two parts are grammatically independent, and they are usually imagistically distinct as well.
Japanese haiku are commonly written on one straight line, with juxtaposed ideas separated by a kireji, or cutting word, that helps define the ideas in relation to each other. The kireji usually appears at the end of one of the sound phrases. There is no direct English translation of the kireji, so it is often translated as a dash. Note the two separate ideas in this Japanese haiku by Bashō:
§ how cool the feeling of a wall against the feet — siesta
English haiku are most often written as three lines. The juxtaposed ideas (of which there should only be two) are “cut” by a line break, punctuation, or simply a space. This poem is by American poet Lee Gurga:[3]
§ fresh scent—
the labrador’s muzzle
deeper into snow


One Response to “The Art of Composing Haiku”

  1. clover58 Says:

    Very informative information!

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