Let’s Write Haiku!

One of the first forms of literature anyone encounters is poetry. Who doesn’t remember those nursery rhymes we grew up with? We also sing or listen to songs, which are formally known as lyric poetry. In our early years at school, we read, memorized, and recited poems, either in choral recitation groups or declamation contests (do these still happen in schools nowadays?). If you hesitate to write poetry, take a dip into some light-hearted verse. Ogden Nash and Edward Lear provide us with a rich collection of humorous verse, including the limericks.

If rhyme and rhythm scare you off, try writing in the popular Japanese Haiku form. Without dealing with theme and meaning, the simplest way to begin writing Haiku is to follow the 5-7-5 rule: these are the number of syllables in each line. Hence, the Haiku is a 3-line poem with a total of 17 syllables. To achieve verse close to the true essence of Haiku:

  • try to avoid superfluous words, including articles, especially for the opening word
  • focus on painting a single, fleeting image with your words – the keyword being fleeting; the essence of Haiku is to emphasize the temporary nature of things through an extremely short verse that heightens the brevity of their existence, and thus appreciate them better
  • don’t try to rhyme; Haiku is free verse
  • if you can’t stick to the 5-7-5-syllable rule, aim simply for short-long-short, where the first and last lines contain the same number of syllables and the middle line is only slightly longer than the other two; the number of syllables is based on Japanese syllables, and not an exact match to English words
  • for examples of great Haiku, look for the verses of Matsuo Bashō, the most famous poet of the Edo period and the greatest Haiku master

Capture life in verse

The fewer words the better

Brevity is key


Your challenge:

Write and share a haiku (or two) based on the image.

Autumn Leaves, taken in downtown Charlottetown
Autumn Leaves, taken in downtown Charlottetown

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