Skip to content


What is a Haiku?

A haiku is a traditional form of Japanese poetry that consists of three lines. The structure of a haiku follows a specific syllable pattern: the first line has five syllables, the second line has seven syllables, and the third line has five syllables, creating a 5-7-5 syllable count. This concise form is known for its ability to capture a moment in nature or an emotion with simplicity and clarity.

Characteristics of Haiku

  1. Nature and Seasons: Haikus often include a reference to nature or a season, known as a “kigo” (seasonal word). This helps to set the time of year and often reflects the transient beauty of nature.
  2. Kireji (Cutting Word): A kireji is a cutting word used in traditional Japanese haiku to provide a pause or break in the poem. It adds emotional or rhetorical emphasis and often appears at the end of one of the lines.
  3. Imagery: Haikus rely heavily on vivid imagery to evoke a specific scene or feeling. The brevity of the form encourages poets to use precise, evocative language.
  4. Present Tense: Haikus typically describe a moment in the present tense, giving a sense of immediacy and presence.

Examples of Traditional Haiku

Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694)

One of the most famous haiku poets, Bashō’s work often reflects the beauty and simplicity of nature.

Old pond— a frog jumps in, sound of water.

Yosa Buson (1716-1784)

Buson was known for his painterly approach to haiku, creating vivid images with his words.

A summer river being crossed how pleasing with sandals in my hands!

Modern Haiku

While traditional haikus strictly adhere to the 5-7-5 syllable pattern and often focus on nature, modern haiku poets sometimes take liberties with the form, experimenting with different subjects and structures while maintaining the essence of brevity and imagery.

Example of Modern Haiku

Whispering winds blow through the silent city streets— memories linger.

Writing Haikus

When writing a haiku, consider the following steps:

  1. Choose a Theme: Often, this is something related to nature or a fleeting moment.
  2. Focus on a Specific Moment: Capture a single, clear image or emotion.
  3. Count Your Syllables: Stick to the 5-7-5 pattern, especially if writing in a traditional style.
  4. Use Sensory Language: Engage the reader’s senses to bring the scene to life.
  5. Keep it Simple: Avoid unnecessary words and focus on the essence of the moment.


Haikus are a beautiful and minimalist form of poetry that encourages writers to capture the essence of a moment with precision and clarity. Whether sticking to traditional themes of nature or exploring new subjects, the haiku remains a popular and influential poetic form around the world.