• Nicola @ PoetSpot

Get in FORMation: The Haiku

Hello my lovely poets!

It's hard to believe that we are already halfway through National Poetry Month! There is so much beautiful writing happening all over the world, and I love seeing what everyone is working on these days.

Today's post is very special! I'm starting a new series of posts called "Get in FORMation" (where are my fellow Beyoncé fans?). I'm going to walk you through the many different lengths, shapes, and sizes that poetry can come in. More importantly, I am going to show you how to identify each form, and how to use each in your own work. Let's get started!

FUN FACT: Today is National Haiku Day! The timing is impeccable.

In order to understand the haiku as a form, we need to first recognize it's rich history. The haiku emerged in Japanese literature during 17th century. The word haiku stems from two Japanese words: haikai, which is the lighthearted part of a renga (or a linked-verse poem), and hokku meaning "first verse". The haiku is one of the world's oldest and widely recognized forms of poetry, with Japanese poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) and Yosa Buson (1716-1784) leading the charge.

The first verse of a renga poem is the hokku, which consists of three un-rhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables. That's where we get the form! Writers in Japan were allowed to use the hokku as a small, standalone poem. Poets like Basho began publishing these short verses, and create what would eventually be known as the haiku. Haiku poems are traditionally rooted in the natural world and the seasons. These poems allow the reader to have a glimpse into what the poet saw, almost like looking through a small window. The haiku has a lot to do with the way we observe the world around us. There is so much power to be found in the simplicity of a haiku.

While it may look simple, writing a haiku can actually be a bit tricky if you don't keep track of your syllables. A word you may have thought was one syllable is actually two, or the word you want to use will put you over the syllable count! One of the best ways I keep track is reading my haiku out loud, and tapping my finger on the desk with each syllable. If you're like me and second guess how many syllables a word has, Google is a good friend to have. :)

Take a look at some of these beautiful works by haiku masters, and contemporary poets:

The Light of the Candle by Yosa Busan

5 & 7 & 5 by Anselm Hollo

In a Station of the Metro by Ezra Pound

An Ancient Pond! by Matsuo Basho

Mosquito at My Ear by Kobayashi Issa (this one is one of my favorites...makes me laugh every time!)

Hungry for even more haiku? Visit The Haiku Foundation website! They have tons of poems to read, online resources, and more ways to celebrate National Haiku Day!


"A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language."

- W.H. Auden

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