How To Write Haiku

Haiku are marvellous little poems. Originating in Japan, and now enjoyed around the world, haiku provide moments of insight that surprise and delight.

People often ask how they can learn to write haiku. How they can grasp the principles that have underpinned the development of haiku in Japan for hundreds of years. Fortunately, there are a number of online resources to get you started.

One excellent place to begin is A Haiku Workshop with Quendryth Young. Quendryth is an experienced Australian haiku poet whose how-to guide is available from The Haiku Foundation Digital Library. You can read A Haiku Workshop here.

These haiku by Quendryth highlight many of the principles addressed in A Haiku Workshop:

distant siren
the sound of a heifer

seed pods
in the poinciana
a new moon

some of the sounds
are insects

As you can see, haiku capture the essence of the moment through brevity, juxtaposition of images and the use of present tense, often with reference to nature. Quendryth says her guide is, to some extent, a distillation of the principles espoused by Australian poet, John Bird, during gatherings of the (New South Wales based) Cloudcatchers haiku group.

Historically, Japanese haiku were written with a pattern of 5-7-5 ‘sound units’. However, as Quendryth notes, these Japanese-language sound units are not the same as English-language syllables. For this reason, haiku written in English generally use fewer than 17 syllables. Consider, for example:

a new shoot
out of line

a cantata
of mowers

A Haiku Workshop with Quendryth Young was published by the Sydney School of Arts and Humanities, with input from Sharon Dean. It is an informed and readily understandable introduction to the writing of haiku in English. A careful reading of the 12 principles outlined by Quendryth will quickly set you on the path to writing your own haiku.

Other online resources include:

The Bare Bones School of Haiku by Jane Reichhold; and

Graceguts by Michael Dylan Welch (click on ‘Essays’ in the left-hand menu).

Books about the writing of haiku include:

The Haiku Handbook by William J Higginson and Penny Harter; and

Haiku: A Poet’s Guide by Lee Gurga with Charles Trumbull.

Exploring these resources will be enjoyable for anyone interested in learning about the rules of haiku and haiku technique. Of course, poets break these ‘rules’ from time to time in order to explore new possibilities. But whether a writer follows a traditional or progressive path, a solid grounding in the principles of haiku is an essential first step.

English-Language Haiku Journals

The popularity of the short poetic form, haiku, has grown significantly in recent decades. Originating in Japan, haiku are now written in many languages around the world. As a result, haiku are available in a large number of print and online journals. Links to many of the English-language haiku journals are provided below. People are…

English-Language Haiku Competitions

In recent months, one of my haiku received an Honourable Mention in a Croatian haiku competition while another received an Honourable Mention in an Irish contest. With a number of countries now running competitions for haiku written in English, I thought it might be helpful to provide links to various of these competition websites. Please…