Most people are familiar with the (originally Japanese) form of poetry known as Haiku.

Here is a traditional example:

the man pulling radishes
points the way
with a radish
             – Issa

Or this, a more contemporary one:

new moon . . .
curve of the steeple bell
in winter twilight
          —Ebba Story, San Francisco, California

The intense beauty and simplicity of Haiku has frequently been stymied by over thinking it with the misleading direction that it should be composed in a strict 5-7-5 syllable structure.

This 5-7-5 relates instead to the counting of sounds rather than syllables in Japanese.

Instead, the main guidelines for writing Haiku are that is should not be overly flowery or use too many words. Simplicity, economy and understatement are key.

On his blog Graceguts, Michael Dylan Welch writes:

This means you avoid words that interpret what you experience, such as saying something is “beautiful” or “mysterious,” and rely on words that objectively convey the facts of what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Instead of writing about your reactions to stimuli, in a good haiku you write about those things that cause your reactions. If you remember nothing else about crafting haiku, remember that. If your haiku take advantage of this technique, your readers can experience the same feelings you felt, without your having to explain them.

Two other concepts to consider when composing Haiku relate to using 2 specific words:

  1. Kigo or a season word
  2. Kireji or a cutting word.

Kigo is a word that alludes to the season in which the poem is set.

Kereji is a word that cuts the poem into two juxtaposed yet intimate thoughts or themes.

Again, Michael Dylan Welch:

The art of haiku lies in creating the right amount of distance between the two parts, so the leap is neither too far (and thus obscure) or too close (and thus too obvious). By focusing on concrete images rather than judgment or analysis, the two juxtaposed parts of a haiku allow the reader to feel what the poet felt, without the poet telling the reader what to feel. In fact, that’s a really good piece of advice to remember as you write your own haiku: Don’t write about your feelings. Instead, write about what caused your feelings.

So taking all that into consideration… here is my own final draft Haiku:

Creeping dusk.
This nurses hands
at rest.
— Ian Miller

Sitting down and crafting your own Haiku is a really effective way to get your creative juices flowing …..and to better connect, pay attention, and explore the essential oils of your day to day experiences.

Try this: Carry a small notebook with you and challenge yourself to compose a haiku to capture the flavour of each day over the next week.


Dig Deeper:

  1. Becoming a Haiku Poet.
  2. What is a Haiku — And what Isn’t
  3. How not to Haiku.

Posted by Ian Miller

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