You may already know that haiku originated in Japan hundreds of years ago, along with many composition rules. Of course rules bend and break, but as the 17th century poet Matsuo Basho said, “Learn the rules, and then forget them.”
In a nutshell, an English language haiku is a short lyrical poem written in seventeen syllables or less over three lines, with five or fewer syllables in the first line, seven or fewer in the second line, and five or or fewer in the third line. Typically, a haiku is divided into two sections, one short, often the the first line, and one long, often the second and third lines. Between the sections, there’s a pause or break achieved through punctuation and word choice. Punctuation is minimal, along with capitalization and the use of descriptive language, such as adjectives and adverbs. Nouns outnumber verbs, which usually appear in the present tense. Titles are absent. Many haiku contain a seasonal reference with a focus on things as they are in the here and now. There’s also an awareness of the extraordinary in ordinary moments, as well as other subtle truths that touch the mind, heart and soul.
This information appears in the Author’s Note section of Joanne’s book Big Blue Sky Haiku and Reflections, along with other writing tips to help you craft your own tiny poems. Contact Joanne to purchase a copy.
Here’s a haiku of mine that appeared in The Haiku Hundred, first published in 1992 by IRON Press, in conjunction with the British Haiku Society as An English Haiku Event. Over 5000 submissions were received, and 100 were selected for the book. It sold more than 10,000 copies, making it the largest selling book of English language haiku in the United Kingdom. The most recent seventh edition appeared in 2015. I was extremely pleased to have my tiny, nine syllable poem included in this historic collection.
the old corral corrals a snow drift