How To Haiku Shuffle

There’s been some interest in the poems I’ve published using the haiku shuffle format, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to explain my thinking about this format a little more clearly.

I’ve written on this topic in two previous posts (see links below). The first of these explained how the idea grew out of discussions with other Canberra based haiku poets and featured a shuffle of mine that was published in the US journal, Modern Haiku. The second post presented a shuffle published in the New Zealand journal, Kokako.

The objective with a haiku shuffle is to create a contemporary poem that draws upon the inherent strengths of haiku.

A three line haiku will generally involve the juxtaposition of a two line ‘phrase’ against a one line ‘fragment’. You can see the following haiku clearly follows this structure: a two line phrase, followed by a one line fragment:

her cotton skirt
falls softly to the ground
steady rain

It is also common for juxtaposition to take the form shown below: a one line fragment followed by a two line phrase:

waking late
only her perfume
on the pillow

Essentially, composing a haiku shuffle involves combining, recombining and repeating phrases, fragments and whole haiku to create one longer poem. The resulting poem should contain only the lines from the original haiku and should have a pleasing flow throughout.

The first step is to write a set of strong haiku based around a single theme. The effectiveness of the resulting haiku shuffle will depend on the strength of the individual haiku used.

There is no need to ‘link and shift’ between the successive haiku as the haiku and their lines will be ‘shuffled’ to create the poem.

There is no fixed rule about how many haiku are needed for a shuffle. I find that using four haiku will result in a shuffle that fits comfortably onto a single page (about 25 lines, including blank lines). But you can easily build a shuffle using more, or less, haiku.

Then it is a matter of using some or all of the following techniques to ‘shuffle’ whole haiku and their lines, in order to create a poem. A haiku shuffle does not follow a fixed form, so you may choose to use a particular technique multiple times in a single poem, or not at all.

  • retain some haiku in their full three line form (deconstructing all the haiku can make the whole poem too disjointed);

  • reverse the order of the phrase/fragment from a single haiku, for example:

    her cotton skirt
    falls softly to the ground
    steady rain


    and then later in the poem:

    steady rain
    her cotton skirt
    falls softly to the ground


  • re-combine phrases/fragments from two different haiku. For example, based on the two original haiku shown above:

    steady rain
    only her perfume
    on the pillow


  • use the phrase or fragment, or even an individual line, in a stand-alone manner, for example:

    steady rain

  • repeat phrases and/or fragments;

  • repeat whole haiku.

You can see how various of these techniques have been used in my haiku shuffle that was published in Modern Haiku, Volume 49.2:

Love Poem

he tells her a story

second honeymoon
he tells her a story
she hasn’t heard

steady rain

her cotton skirt
falls softly to the ground

fragments of conversation
drift inside

jacaranda
fragments of conversation
drift inside

the point of a periwinkle

the point of a periwinkle touching you

her cotton skirt
falls softly to the ground
steady rain

only her perfume
on the pillow

waking late
only her perfume
on the pillow

she reads his poem
then folds the page

butterfly at rest


I find a haiku shuffle retains the simplicity and immediacy of the original haiku, while the pauses and repetition add a pleasing musical cadence to the poem as a whole.

The suggestions above are intended to explain the general approach I use when writing a haiku shuffle. However, poetry is a creative process with no fixed rules. So feel free to experiment.

I enjoy exploring the possibilities of the haiku shuffle format and perhaps you will too.

Links to related posts are shown below.



The Haiku Shuffle

In late 2017, the Canberra-based Haiku @ The Oaks writing group was discussing various ways to present haiku in a live situation. Inspired by the ideas from this meeting, I applied a variation of these thoughts to writing a haiku style poem – a form I now like to call the haiku shuffle. Back in 2017,… Read More The Haiku Shuffle

Kokako #32: Night Sky

The widely-read New Zealand journal, Kokako, publishes haiku, tanka, haibun and related forms. As usual, the most recent issue (#32) includes writing from New Zealand and around the world.     This issue of Kokako includes a poem of mine titled, Night Sky, which is written in the form of a haiku shuffle. In an… Read More Kokako #32: Night Sky