The Rules for Haiku Poems

In the 1890s, Japanese poet Masaoka Shiki developed the term haiku in an effort to clear up any confusion between hokku, which is the starting idea of a poem, haika, which is a chain of verses, and haikai, which is the combination of the hokku starter and the haika verses. Haiku poetry is taught in schools and is admired by many poetry lovers across the world for its strong ideas and compact format.


Haiku poems contain three word groupings in separate poetry lines. Seventeen total syllables comprise the Japanese poetry style but are divided into a five - seven - five syllable count for each corresponding line. Because Japanese words are commonly shorter than that of the English language, it is not inappropriate to go beyond the 17-syllable count. To teach and keep with the haiku format, teachers usually keep to the five - seven - five format.

One Moment in Time

Some forms of poetry tell a story through versus, but a haiku describes only a moment in time. The compact format does not allow for longer descriptive lines and versus but only enough syllables within the three lines to explain feelings, thoughts, scenes or actions in a single moment.

Rhyme and Wording

Although many poems tend to contain rhyming verse, the haiku does not. It is customary for haiku poems to briefly describe a single event in three lines that work together to complete the poem, and words in one single thought can be difficult to rhyme. Most haiku poems contain a kigo, which is one word that gives the reader a sense of which naturalistic season the haiku is depicting.


Examples of haiku poetry can be found in publications or on the Internet, so when attempting the craft of authoring haiku poem, read a few examples to get the idea behind it.

"The red blossom bends

and drips its dew to the ground.

Like a tear it falls"

by Donna Brock

"Temple bells die out.

The fragrant blossoms remain.

A perfect evening!"

by Matsuo Basho

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