Playing With Words: An Introduction to Haiku

April 14, 2014

Since it’s National Poetry Month, I thought I’d share a brief look at one of my favorite forms of poetry: the haiku.

For many people, haiku is a more approachable form of poetry. Poems are short, usually three lines of 17 syllables or less—perfect for a hurried world. (And, dare I say, even Twitter-sized?) I was taught in school that they should be broken into 5-7-5 form, but it’s increasingly popular and acceptable to break the lines in a different pattern and/or use fewer than 17 syllables. Line breaks should be at natural pauses, and are used to punctuate the poem.

Haiku are deceptively simple—a lot is packed into a few syllables. They focus on what’s happening in the moment, often involve nature and frequently indicate a specific season. They should evoke some type of emotion. According to Creative Writing Now, “Instead of saying how a scene makes him or her feel, the poet shows the details that caused that emotion. If the sight of an empty winter sky made the poet feel lonely, describing that sky can give the same feeling to the reader.”

Even for a novice, haiku are fun to write and read. I’ve gotten away from this practice lately, but for a while I was writing haiku several times a week. This is my most recent one:

huddled like mourners
black vultures crowd together
warm April rain

Two more of my haiku appear in this post found at Belle, Book and Candle where she shares reader haiku. She also has two more posts on haiku here and here. And one of my favorite spots for a dose of haiku is Susan Tweit’s Pinterest page where she writes and posts a haiku and photo every day.

If you’re interested in a more in-depth exploration of haiku, I recommend The Haiku Handbook. For more information on writing your own haiku, click here.

Playing with words makes me happy—and haiku are a fun way to do that. Why not try your hand at haiku, and come back here to share them with us?