Conversation 73: HOW TO HAIKU?


With friends and those new to haiku I am often asked to explain this quixotic yet simple form. I tend to revert to the introductory description on THE DAILY HAIKU.  My opening shot is usually haiku is a short 3 line poem, 5/7/5 syllables a guideline not a rule that attempts to capture a moment. But within this I am aware that it does not help those start to write haiku, that the how is missing.  So I defer, as ever, to the power of our community and after writing this post: ‘HOW TO HAIKU? How would you encourage someone who has never written a haiku before to have a go – even in under 50 words’ here is the plethora of wonderful offerings to feast upon.


I feel that HOW TO HAIKU is a great accompaniment to our existing blog collection of imaginative responses to HAIKU – WHO ARE YOU? and also the highly entertaining and insightful responses to WHAT DO WE CALL A COLLECTION OF HAIKU WRITERS?

Can it be that between the three posts we are getting closer to the essence of haiku, even the essence of life itself!


Huge thanks to those that provided their input especially the final and extensive response on this post by Sebastien Revon.  For those who have not contributed their thoughts this is an open invitation here to add to this ongoing and most stimulating conversation.


Ger White

Get an idea, a picture

How would you express it simply?

Put that down on paper


John Lanyon

I would ask them to think of the most powerful experiences in their life, choose one or two, get them to write say 100 words about it, then invite them to reduce it to 17 syllables or fewer.

Or have them consider this very moment – make lists of what they can see, hear, smell, and then a list of what they are feeling. Then try to put the two together.

Talk about the haiku that move you. Go into lots of detail. Share your enthusiasm. It’s catching.

Start with an icebreaker quiz about haiku to dispell various myths around haiku e.g haiku always have 17 syllables, haiku are usually serious, haiku were invented in the 17th C in Japan etc.


Julian Witts

I’d say, start small – capture a glimpse, and, to begin with, make the most of the 17 syllable guideline to help you really weigh the words and their possibilities. Plumb the depths with little shafts of light.

The classic’ English haiku is a 3-line poem, with the syllabic structure 5-7-5. That’s commonly thought of as the closest approximation we have to the original Japanese haikus.

Some people are very strict in adhering to this structure, whilst others see it more as a guide. I think it’s a good idea, when starting out, to follow the guide until you really know why you need to break the ‘rules’ in any given poem, but, for me, content and feeling must lead structure.


Roz Ottery

Go quietly into your reflective space. Settle. Muse on nature and find what you want to say. Refine it. Simplify. Every word means something. Try not to twist or push it out of shape. Aim for 5, 7, 5 format but keep the authenticity. The last line is the reveal.


Chris Evans

String syllables and

Thread meaning into the sounds

Something will emerge


Murray Steele

To paraphrase Aristotle (?) you learn to write haiku by writing them


Mavis Moog

See a striking scene.

Link it to a greater truth.

Make a subtle pun.


Alan Summers

“Discover yourself gently”

I’d say writing haiku in any way is challenging. It was only twenty years of haiku writing that I attempted haiku in a 575 syllabic pattern


Sébastien Revon

For me going into haiku started by reading haiku. One day, by chance, I read a haiku by Chiyo-Ni part of a book called “Poems that make grown men cry”. That was an instant crush. You need some trigger. Read first.


Ted Millichap

You beat me to it Sébastien. The only way to learn any art is to start by looking at those already made. When the light goes on you are ready.


Tom Fox

Get them to dip into their pocket or bag – pull out the first thing – look at it for a minute – put that observation, set of feelings to work.

Then do the same looking out of a window. It doesn’t have to be grand. A simple observation of the everyday.


Daman Dharmachari

17 syllables:

You see something (5 )

Something happens to it (7)

Something else somehow linked happens (5)


Wade Hayes

I would encourage them to get a copy of

Poetic LicenseIt’s a great introduction to haiku and a lot of fun!…/arenagamesllc/poetic-license


Rose Ka

Do extensive research, practice and join the famous haiku groups and ask your experienced groupmates for feedbacks.


Katleberry Finn

Just have a go. Poetry is meant to be a fun, meditative exercise for your mind not a chore.


Phil Isherwood

This first one is just for you. Take notice, dwell for a moment clear your mind then see what connections arise. Breath in and speak a phrase Write Repeat breath and phrase longer or shorter Play with the words. It’s just for you. Enjoy moments. Counting syllables is for next week.


Sridhar Chakravarthi

Dont talk about 575 and all other complexities. Just let the person start writing 3line poems.  Tats the trigger which would motivate the person to attempt haiku. Thats all. Once they start trying it as a challenge, they will start enjoying it.


Neil Liddington

Be curious.22

I would start by playing with the 17 sylables with things familiar and gradually add variety and contrast. Listen to words by reading aloud also helps.






Adele Ward

Suggest writing a daily haiku of their main memory each day. And to read good haiku.


Patty Dump

Describe a memory by using nature as the metaphor, background, or allusion. 5-7-5 syllables in three lines.


Cindy Ravines

Have fun with it. Read some haiku then chose a moment in your life and create a haiku about that moment. Haiku are like mini meditations for me


Carol Townsend

Haiku’s are Icebergs

Three lines floating on the top

The rest Unwritten


Basia Korzeniowska

A snapshot of life

An image in your mind’s eye

You never forget


Michael Foley

Go for a walk


Deborah Sharma

Pick a subject or activity first, then choose some adjectives to describe it or ur mood towards it, then count syllables. Change words to longer or shorter synonyms of certain words in order to fit into 5,7,5


Kimberly Olmtak

Take walks in nature


Diana Bliss

Just write. The thought, the image, the idea. Write. Then later consider whether it can be 17 syllables. And read lots of haikus. It will happen naturally.


Elsje Winnubst

Notice the things that you love… then either walk around with them for a bit or spontaneously write from the top of your head. If it flows you’ll find the right 17 syllables.


Wendy Houser Blomseth

Take a walk in your garden. Walk slowly and feel the pull of the flowers, statues, birds, whatever calls to you. Write what you see, feel, hear, etc.

” All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know…. and then go on from there,” according to a quote about writing from American writer Ernest Hemingway


Damian Hay

Write about any

thing in only seventeen

syllables. Then, hone.


Phil Millette

There’s that sudden end point, subtle though it may be, unusual, vaguely, maybe obliquely out of place. See the incongruity or odd similarity as it may be. Capture the highlights in few words.


Lynda Flint

I ask you this question, do you acknowledge your senses. If the answer is yes then my next point will be, in three lines and seventeen syllables write what you are feeling at this point. Anything, it’s not wrong. Work out the rules later if you really want to.


Yuko Nagami

Shortest art form of poem to describe your own thought.


Carolyn Crossley

Use all your senses and go out for a walk. Look up at the sky, see what shapes the clouds are making. Take notice of trees, plants, flowers, animals and don’t forget the busy bees. Ask yourself various questions. How do you feel about nature? How does your walk make you feel? Jot down words and phrases. Then using the 5/7/5 form as a guide, write your haiku.

Remember it is meant to be a moment in time.

Once you have mastered this you can learn about kigo, cutting words and juxtaposition. However as with everything, you have to walk before you can run.

Good Luck!


Hamish Mcleod

Brevity, the point of the knife rather than the blade shows you the way


Fred Mason

First suggestion… read as many haikus as you can. As you read them, decide which ones work best in your mind. This exercise lets your mind establish what works, what is good and what is better. When you find an exceptionally good one, pay close attention to what the writer did, how he/she chose and used words, then you will have a better road map established in your mind for your own creations. Then practice, practice and practice and revise, revise, revise. In time, it comes easier.


Jenny Shepherd

Use all your senses. Something will suddenly make you stop to appreciate it more. Ask yourself why that is, and put it into words. Start with the 5-7-5, because that discipline gives you a framework to hang your thoughts on, then as you improve, you can branch out, if you wish.


Annemarie Cooper

suggest they walk and look and try to capturesomething in three lines, 575 unless it really calls for some other line length. When something grabs you, I’d say write three lines, capturing as exactly as poss the what and how of it.


Teresa Sutcliffe

It’s a picture in 17 syllables


Dhyano Luca Angius

Write something about the now and here. Than start to chip off all the non essential. Like you do with a sculpture. Refine what is left in only three lines and finally sand off all the exceeding syllables changing words if necessary.


Simon Williams

think of a moment

think of another moment

juxtapose the two


Laura Frances Martin

What would you write, if you could only say another twelve words, in your whole life?


Timothy Stavert

Think of a word, select a subject or title with a an aim of a positive conclusion. Start, Middle and End (Introduction, The story and finale. If writing on a PC leave a space between lines, so you can move text around without having to re-write. Read other Haikus from established writers, Enjoy!


Richard Downes

there was a recent haiku on TDH concerning seeing syllables as chopped vegetables esp; mangos and cucumber or was it avocado but whatever it was a brilliant way of getting syllable counting over


Fred Townsend

Don’t force it

Wait ’til it drops

Out of the blue


Stan Phillips



The words will flow.


Rajeshwari Srinivasan

Join a haiku group , read the posts one by one for atleast five days get a feel of it try out yourself and learn better and better with mistakes


Lakshmi Lyer

Learn about the five senses

Connect with the five elements around you

Think and resonate in silence the feeling of this revelation

Write down on a paper

Keep it to rest

Come back with a contrast, comparison, link, association, etc

Teach about the syllables

Ask them to try to write that in 17 syllables

Haiku ready


William Dean Ford

What is most like you

Can be found in your Haiku

Cautious, then braver

I would suggest people try to play with the form before they worry about the specifics of the art. Even (especially?) if they already write. Form is supposed to be a framework, not the substance, of a piece. The canvas, not the finished picture

If you can count five

And can count to seven you

Might enjoy haiku


Rules you can research

And apply as you’re learning

May improve technique


But no tree will spring

From even most fertile earth

Without eager seed


Chance of perfecting

Occurs while steps are taken

Not before first one


Rachel Richards

See how others count, when creating a haiku, then copy the plan.


Benjamin Dieter

Try to paint in words

Whatever is in your mind

It helps you find peace


Cath Campbell

It’s short. Always liked that about haiku


Linda Kay Gifford

Make an observation of something that, by its nature or placement, lends itself a dual meaning or association in that moment. Express the object, or theme, and it’s dual meaning/association, in five, seven, five syllable format.


Julie A Dexter

Write at one side of page

I see

I hear

I feel

I taste

I feel

I say

Then get them to write to that ( expose to a stimulus e g a cane of bambo , cherry tree , walk in garden , city .

Get them to write eg.

I see dust

I taste steel metal

I hear the clanging resound of tubular pipes

I smell centuries of old dry plaster

I feel apprehensive

I say new is a palimpsest.

Then remove the I say I hear etc and you will be left with ;

Dust, steel metal,

The resounding clank of tubular pipes.

Centuries of dry, old plaster.

Apprehensive, the new is a palimpsest.

How about that ?

You can then trim and fiddle to get the desired syllable count / rhythm / meaning.

I’ve just spun off this and posted on the main page – to the tune of 575.


Laura Guthrie

Five seven five. Or not. Whatever


Peter Roe


A haiku is oft

Seventeen Morae, five, seven, five

Sometimes three, five, three


Sky turns brass

Leaves as scales of gold

Birds fly South


Hooded eyes still stare

Sharp tongues cut the deepest wounds

Love hurts you the most


Lines 3

Syllables (Morae) 5/7/5 or 3/5/3


Sébastien Revon

Introduction to haiku (part 1)

seventeen phonics

glimpses of evanescence

japanese poem


what else could it be?

but a transcendent haiku?

the art of poetry


in the tradition,

they ought to evoke seasons

in three lines only


Matsuo Basho

was the ultimate master

of this form of art


but many others

have paved their way into his

refining their own


four undred years old

will be the age of Basho

in twenty forty


Art is not static

everlasting Universe

that is the contrast


we are passengers

poetry is meant to evolve

the cycle of life


nothing new in that

whether you like it or not

so here is my point


completely free now

rules are meant to be broken –

followers did it


even the phonics –

it used to be seventeen,

today no more


often way shorter,

not Nature linked

sometimes absurd


attempting to read

many of them in one go –

sometimes feeling lost


sometimes feeling dumb

many of them written now

I don’t get the point…


have you tried yourself

to dive into those pieces

without any sense?


am I really numb?

probably illiterate

should I give up so?


but still I’m waiting

for that moment when you read

a beautiful one


for instance these ones

from Virginia Brady Young

a real Wow! moment:


“On the first day of spring 6

snow falling 3

from one bough to another” 7


“Vaster 2

than the prairie – 4

this wind” 2


In my opinion

Haiku is the Art of sense

out of randomness


some can be funny

some can be political

it doesn’t matter


music has evolved

for instance, Jazz became free

why Haiku shouldn’t?


more than having fun

writing haiku could bring you

some peace and stillness


Introduction to haiku – part 2

(inspired by “The Haiku Apprentice” by Abigail Friedman)


I entered Momoko’s office on tiptoes. My haiku master was eyes-closed, sitting cross-legged.

I was waiting by the opened door for her to finish her Zen session, when she suddenly stared at me and said:

“A haiku is composed of three basic elements, seventeen sounds, seasonal words, and kireji or “cut-words”.

Firstly, let’s concentrate on seventeen sounds or the 5-7-5 format:”

“seventeen phonics –

more than enough to mess up

the art of haiku”


I didn’t even laugh. It felt like a bad joke to me even though I could hear the 5-7-5 pattern.


stars beyond

star” (L.A Davidson)

“Which one is a haiku?” she asked me.

“Eeehh… the second?”

“There you go! Who cares about format, as long as you manage to distil the essence of your haiku.”


“Secondly, let’s talk about seasonal words or kigo.”

“white lilacs

before sunrise

their own light” (Virginia Brady Young)

That one felt so beautiful to me. Evocation of early spring through a lovely picturesque poem that represented the essence of haiku to me.

“fuchsia in July

Dutch tomatoes for Christmas –

kigo, what are you?”


“Which one is a haiku?” she asked once again.

“Well, that’s easy… the first one obviously, the second one is just a wisecrack.”

“You’re right, yet what is a kigo?”

“It’s a word that is associated with a particular season. In that first haiku you can see the white lilacs with their colour bright enough to glow before sunrise. And we know we are in early spring.”

“And what about the second haiku?”

“Again! It has seventeen phonics but it is a question that just sounds like a bad prank to me.”

“But what if there is a genuine question in that piece?”

“Which one?”

“You know already about saijiki, these books that are listing the kigo we have in Japanese language. But what about seasons in other countries? And what about Dutch tomatoes for Christmas?”

I was left slightly puzzled by Momoko’s odd questioning of this basic element in haiku.


“Thirdly, let’s talk about kireji or the “cut-word”.”

I was dreading this part as I was still struggling with concepts like juxtaposition, phrase, fragment, but she ignored my worried expression and started:

“In Japanese we have several words that stand as kireji. These words have no concrete meaning but are sounds that can add emphasis or alter the rhythm of a poem. They typically divide the poem and engage readers in intuiting the relationship between its two juxtaposed parts.”


I knew that sometimes I would find kireji translated into English as a dash, an exclamation point, or a comma. Some translators insert the exclamation “Ah” or “Oh!”. Momoko recited:

“the beggar child prays

with trembling voice…

for a doll” (Kobayashi Issa)

No comment.

She then asked me to sit for ten minutes and write a haiku that would define the concept of kireji.


I struggled for nine minutes and nine seconds when suddenly: Satori! I came up with this and was quite happy about it:

“kireji cutting clean

between two separate parts –

startling unity”

Momoko read my piece, and without turning to me she said:

“Not too far but you could have done better within those ten minutes…”


The lesson was finished. I went home and jumped straight to bed looking at the ceiling. I was confused with all those rules and their ambiguity. I was starting to fall asleep when something came up:

don’t let them tell you

how to write proper haiku

cuz nobody knows

There was no kigo, no kireji. I had just retained the 5-7-5 format in me.

But for the first time I didn’t care.




WOW! What extraordinary responses that all leave me towards a zen moment of





Huge thanks again to everyone who took part and to those who were unable to at the time of the original post do comment, add your thoughts and most of all as Diana Bliss says ‘Just write’.

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