The Haiku

The haiku is a type of poem which Japanese have enjoyed writing and reading for hundreds of years. Every year, millions of Japanese still write haiku, both for fun and for competition. There are even magazines devoted to the art of writing haiku poetry. Although haiku poems translated from Japanese lose some of the flavor of their sound and rhythm, many people enjoy reading translations of the great haiku poets of the past. Writing haiku in English has also become very popular.

There are only four simple general rules for writing a haiku poem:

        1. The haiku poem consists of 17 syllables, arranged in three lines. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven syllables, and the third has five syllables.

        2. A haiku poem almost always contains some reference to nature. Often the reference to nature comes in an indirect way, for example, by talking about the changing color of leaves or geese flying south to indicate autumn, by referring to flowers blooming to indicate spring, or perhaps mentioning a snow-covered tree or a tree with no leaves to indicate winter.

        3. Haiku poems refer to a particular event or scene. They are not generalizations.

        4. Haiku poems are almost always about the "here and now." Their scenes or events happen now, not in the past or future.

Following are a few examples of classic haiku poems by Japanese authors, as well as a number of haiku written by students during the June 1994 Ohio Budo Camp and the February 1995 Winter Budo Camp. There's also lots of space for you to try writing your own haiku poems. So, don't be bashful. Get out your pen or pencil and give it a try. It's fun!

Just five, seven, five
Having emotion and thought,
It makes a haiku.