Conversation 7: HAIKU – Definitions, Variations and Experimentation at THE DAILY HAIKU


When I started THE DAILY HAIKU I began with a glancing understanding of haiku as a short three line poem constructed with a guideline of 5/7/5 syllables. It offered an understandable, accessible and engaging format which could be supported by the addition of photographs/video or artwork to enhance the creative writing process.

However as the group grew discussions around haiku emerged, Patrick Osada pointing out helpfully that much of what we were writing was Senryu – a three line Japanese poetic form that highlights human nature and emotions, often with an ironic and comedic edge.

Haiku traditionally is a Japanese poem of 3 lines that reflects images of the natural world, written in the present tense, avoids using personal pronouns, focuses on simple language and is generally shorter than the 5/7/5 syllable guideline as the Japanese equivalent an onji is a more concise sound so poems tend to be below the overall 17 syllable in total and can be short enough to say in one breath. Also a haiku is usually in two parts where the third line often provides a ‘turn’ or juxtaposition to consolidate resonance.


Much can be learnt from the famous haiku writers and many such examples have formed our bi-weekend thread by Sebastien Revon offering a valuable context for those wanting to delve deeper into haiku whilst sparking wider conversations. Another suggestion was to start a renga on a Friday night which has developed into a sequential series of haiku created from one starting point, which allows a group of people to dip in and out of haiku writing collectively and individually often in a very sociable and fun way.  Our record is currently 795 comments – we also ran a 24 hour renga on National Poetry Day.

Again with such an engaging community another request, initially sparked by John Lanyon, was for a more considered renga which we run mid-week which limits posts to hourly intervals that respond to the same first line which we vote on, encouraging slower creative process to emerge which can reveal a deeper engagement.

Keen to offer more ways to engage another variation was introduced, the Haiga,  the combination of image and poetry, something that brought two key elements of the group together. Every other weekend images for haiga are voted on and posted for members to respond to either by writing individual haiku without image or incorporating the image and a haiku or finding another image inspired by the initial image.


What has become clear is that haiku and the many other related variations and forms can offer a liberating and diverse form of expression that can allow anyone to engage in writing. And this is exactly what has happened in the group where many enjoy writing haiku using the helpful guideline of 5/7/5 with or without images and others explore more traditional forms – we embrace it all, continue developing new ideas and this has helped us grow into a community of those new to writing, others returning to writing and experienced writers including those knowledgeable in haiku.

The most important element is that everyone is encouraged, supported and nurtured.   

Useful resources:

Find first 12 Famous Haiku file in FILES on


Do please post your own thoughts on haiku and any helpful resources.

9 Comments on “Conversation 7: HAIKU – Definitions, Variations and Experimentation at THE DAILY HAIKU”

  1. I think one of the best things about the group is the flexibility, that allows us all to write the type of haiku (or senryu, or haiga…) that we are comfortable with, while we learn about, and appreciate, the other possibilities. I am a 5-7-5 person, but I greatly admire the poetry of others, who use fewer words. Maybe one day, I will branch our myself?!

  2. Members of The Daily Haiku who are interested in learning more about senryu will find the following journals highly informative.

    Here is some information on the first, Prune Juice:

    “Founded by Alexis Rotella in 2009, Prune Juice Journal is proudly recognized as the longest-running international literary journal dedicated solely to exploring new directions in English Senryu and related forms, including Kyoka, Haibun, Haiga, and Rengay.”

    And below is the link to the latest issue of Failed Haiku – A Journal of English Senryu coedited by Bryan Rickert and Michael Rehling. Hot off the press on New Year’s Eve!

  3. Fascinating and helpful explanation. I now realise that quite a few of my haiku are actually senryu. As Jenny says, the group is wonderfully open and flexible. Many thanks for giving us this welcoming space in which to learn, grow and have fun!

  4. For me it was a great discovery this group. I’ve always enjoyed poetry and literature in general.
    The best point about this group, in my view, it’s the fact that you are encouraged to keep writing, no matter the quality of your productions.
    In Spain there is another page where every “haiku” you post is bombarded with hard critics about you braking the rules of a “pure” haiku and discouraging one from writing more.
    Here you do it in a different way. There are great writers from whom you can learn. Everyone is old enough to realise if what you wrote was good or not. Nobody tells you directly. I appreciate it.
    Different cultures, different styles, elegance.
    Moreover, as I’m an English learner I killed here two birds with the same stone; I’ve got an audience who read my productions and at the same time I learn new words and expressions.
    And to finish, here we have a certain Amanda, who conduct and boost the group and spread her passion for writing.
    Thanks a lot.

  5. My journey with TDH since march has been a truly enjoyable one. I was able to learn and develop my knowledge of haiku as much as my knowledge of English language.
    If I would have one book to recommend for people who want to know how to learn writing haiku I would strongly recommend reading “Write Like Issa: A Haiku How-To” by David G.Lanoue. I started with this book and continue to read it regularly. It helps you practicing haiku in a way than no other book does. This is only my beginner’s opinion.
    Reading this book and participating to TDH, I have been able to go through 2020 in a very positive way. I hope that the group will continue developing and bringing joy to his members as it has done since the start.

  6. I love you, Amanda White! Always helpful and kind. What a wonderful gift you have given. This creation … this vision is exactly what I need(ed). A very informative ‘conversation’. Made simple and easy for any one (like me) to begin a journey with self, and include any one who wants to come on board. Thank you, once again, for your time and effort you put into TDH. Glad to be a part of it!

  7. Thank you for this! I am currently reading ‘Women in Love’ by DH Lawrence; Ursula (one of the main characters) has been teaching children about the functioning of a plant and later, this sparks a debate amongst the characters about knowledge – they ask whether there is beauty in not fully understanding and questioning things, when we can just be at one with nature. They also question whether knowledge takes away from a pure joyful connection to the world and childlike innocence. Yet, the characters also discuss the liberating and empowering force of knowledge and understanding.
    This conversation reminded me of the debate in the book. I think it feels empowering to question our thought processes, such as the process we go though when constructing haiku- to try and understand our own mind and thought-roots. I feel that doing this has helped bring me closer to myself. (If only more people questioned their thought processes in life, particularly certain dogmatic extreme thinkers; there would most likely be more empathy and understanding in the world, because by questioning your own views and thoughts, your eyes are opened to other paths, views and thought processes).
    After reading this, I have identified that nearly all my haikus are senryu – I use my emotion to drive my writing (in haiku and song lyrics). However, there is a beauty in losing oneself in pure observation – writing things simply as you see them and not phscho-analysing the moment. So I am going to challenge myself to write more onji haiku (and maybe even try and think in more of an ‘onji haiku’ way)- and truly be at one with the natural world around me. There is a beauty in trying different haikus and thinking about things in new ways

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