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How to Write a Haiku Trio


Haiku, a traditional form of Japanese poetry that descended from longer collaborative "renga" poems, has become popular among English speakers in recent centuries. Originally defined as a 17-syllable nature poem structured into three lines of syllables, five to seven to five again, haiku has evolved in the English-speaking world to incorporate many syllabic patterns and more varied topics. Some modern haiku is even written as free-form and does not follow a set structure, but simply mimics the short images of the traditional haiku.

Haiku can also incorporate as many stanzas as desired. Many poets enjoy writing the haiku trio, a poem consisting of three haiku stanzas. To write your own haiku trio, follow these guidelines.

Choose a syllabic format, such as the traditional five-seven-five. You will repeat this format in each stanza of your haiku trio. Also choose a topic you would like to write about or describe, such as a life experience or an aspect of human nature. If your haiku is to be strictly traditional, choose a nature topic.

Split your topic into three aspects, or parts, using one for each stanza. You may wish to tell a story with your haiku trio, ending with the most meaningful aspect. For example, if you are writing about the end of winter, you will work from describing an aspect of winter fading away in the first stanza to the beginning of spring in the last stanza.

Create a rough image for each line of the first haiku stanza. Focus on each line individually, but make sure that the whole stanza expresses one cohesive thought or idea. Take, for example, the poem by Basho which translates as, "Old pond.../a frog leaps in/water's sound." This haiku describes three separate images in the pond, the frog and the sound of splashing, but overall describes only one action, that of the frog jumping into the pond.

Create rough images for the lines of the second and third haiku, following the topic or storyline you chose.

Rework the first or second line of each stanza to include a pivot, or change of image, that divides each stanza into two parts. In Japanese, this is called the "cutting word," and creates a pause or full stop in the flow of the poem. In English haiku, semi-colons, ellipses and hyphens are often used. The Basho poem in Step 3 features a pivot in the first line, translated as an ellipsis, and creates a pause between the image of the pond and the action of the frog splashing into the water.

Refine each line to fit the syllabic pattern you chose. You may need to change your word choices, as the idea of a haiku is to pack as much meaning into as few syllables as possible. If you have chosen the traditional format, your haiku trio syllables should be arranged as five-seven-five, five-seven-five and five-seven-five.

Tip
  • Haiku are traditionally in the present tense and do not use metaphors or rhyming. Work on your images before trying to fit them into a syllabic pattern. English haiku patterns include three-five-three, two-three-two, four-four-three, five-ten-five and three-three-four. Each haiku stanza should have an "Aha!" moment, usually in the third line. In humorous haiku, this moment is often the punchline of the joke. In others, it is a moment of discovery or understanding. Your "Aha!" moment in the third stanza should be the most profound and important.
Items you will need
Pen and paper Thesaurus Sample haiku