My husband has a t-shirt that says:
Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don’t make sense
There is a reason I avoided poetry writing classes in grad school, instead choosing to focus on nonfiction and fiction: I enjoy reading poetry but have never been very good at writing it. It’s such a precise art while still being fluid. One form of poetry I find fun, however, is the haiku.
As you likely already know, a haiku is a series of seventeen syllables—five on the first line, seven on the second, and five on the last. This strict, constricted format reminds me of the pattern blocks used to stamp designs on kimonos. In Japanese, each syllable is the same length. In English, however, syllables can differ in length. Think of the word calling. The first syllable is longer than the unaccented second syllable. To account for this, I’ve had teachers tell me that the syllables can be fudged in English—that you can adjust the number of syllables based on how the text sounds.
If you’re just getting into writing haiku, though, it’s good practice to keep track of the number of syllables and use them to your advantage.
Here are some famous verses (translated, clearly) from Basho to get you started.
In the cicada’s cry
No sign can foretell
How soon it must die
Poverty’s child –
he starts to grind the rice,
and gazes at the moon.
Won’t you come and see
loneliness? Just one leaf
from the kiri tree.
Share your creations with us!
Source: Haiku for People