I'd say you have a choice here. One possibility is to go with what you know now, take a look at the first page again and write some of your own haiku. After that come back and have a look at the further refinements I'm going to talk about now. The other possibility is to hold off writing until you've heard some more. Ø

Let me first remind you of the rules I've already given you. The poem should be start with an image or a pair if them. It should be direct from sense experience, without metaphor, simile or rhyme. Haiku is of course a traditional Japanese form with further strict rules of construction. Not all are honoured outside Japan and even there some are defiantly broken. To what I've already stated let me add three more stipulations.

  • three lines with 5 syllables, 7 syllables, then 5
  • one kigo or season word
  • one kireji or cutting word

The first rule is the most well known and it is the one most mentioned by writers on the subject of haiku. The idea is simple. Write a line of five syllables, follow it with a seven-syllable line and then use five syllables to make the final line. This gives you two short lines divided by a longer one. It goes a long way to guiding the method of expression in the poem.

There is a good deal of controversy about this rule; but let's skip that for the moment and talk about the third. The kireji or cutting word is used to divide the haiku into two parts. Obviously this should be used to enhance the juxtaposition of images we discussed earlier. In English the tendency is to use punctuation, such as "-" or ":" to perform this function.

The second rule that requires the use of a kigo or season word helps establish the season or time of year that the poem describes. For English-language haiku this rule is taken to remind the writer that the poem should be grounded in nature. It might be interesting and useful here to make up a list of words [or very short phrases] that relate specifically to the seasons in your locale. What events, weather or other conditions would tell people who live where you do what time of year it is?

In the book I've mentioned before, William Higginson discusses the use of seventeen syllables in English. He points out that this form causes English-language haiku to be considerably longer than typical Japanese ones. The reason is that the Japanese rule is talking about onji, short sounds that are shorter than many syllables in English. He gives the following example of representative English syllables and Japanese onji:

English syllables: a on two wound wrought
Japanese onji: a n ka ski tsu

His solution for form in English is to use seven accented syllables in a two-three-two form of three lines. With unaccented syllabes counted the syllable count should reach about twelve. He also suggests a major grammatical pause between the second and third or fifth and sixth accented syllables to follow the Japanese use of the kireji or cutting word.

But most important is that the form isn't the goal here. It's to write a good poem. So the exercise of writing haiku oneself is very important. Occasional reading and discussion on the form, tradition and history of haiku and reading others' haiku all help to feed the writing with new ideas and approaches.

So now it's definitly time to write some haiku yourself. In an attempt to spark your creativity I've provided some images [follow the right-pointing hand...]. Many of them come from a online photo-essay that I created last year.You don't need to write about a particular image here. If one of them reminds you about something else to write a haiku about, that would be great. After the page of images there will be a page where I'll be publishing the haiku written by the students in the classes I'm soon to teach.

If you'd like you may email me your haiku and I'll publish some of those I receive here too. Send to paul@arttech.ab.ca and include the following information:

  • your haiku(s)
  • your name
  • your age (should you care to disclose it)
  • where you live
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