How to Write a Haiku in 3 Easy Steps

Haiku poetry hails from Japan and uses strict syllable guidelines rather than focusing on meter or rhyme. In this short poem -- only three lines with 17 total syllables -- writers must choose words carefully to create meaning. Japanese haiku poetry is typically simple, but its meaning can have great depth.

Structure

The haiku structure is very important, as each of the three lines in a haiku has a set number of syllables. The first line allows for five syllables. The second line features seven syllables. The third line, which is the last line, also has five syllables. This brings the haiku to a total of 17 syllables. Writing within this structure can be a challenge, as it it requires very creative writing.

Tip #1

When writing haiku, choose short, simple words with one or two syllables so you get more words in each line.

Traditional haiku poems include a brief pause after the first line or the second line.

Poem Theme

You can choose almost any topic for your haiku poem, but traditional haiku poetry follows some general theme guidelines. Haiku poets often write about nature and the natural world. They generally include a seasonal word, known as a kigo, in the text. The kigo is often not obvious but rather a subtle nod to the season. For example, a haiku might mention leaves on the ground for a fall theme or a white blanket as a reference to snow in winter.

Tip #2

Choose your general theme and consider what time of year it might relate to.

A haiku about fishing can fit with summer, for example.

Text Features

In traditional haiku poetry, similes and metaphors are not often used. This form of Japanese poetry gets to the point quickly in order to maximize syllables without the need for either comparison technique.

Tip #3

Write your own haiku in present tense to emphasize a particular moment. Avoid writing in first person to stick with the traditional format.

The poem should create a strong image in the reader's head based on the words. Use words that stimulate the five senses to create images with your poem. Haikus often include a twist, sudden contrast or enlightening spin on a common item or event.

Tip #5

When writing your haiku, approach your theme from a different perspective to give readers a novel insight on the idea.

Writing Procedure

Here are 3 easy steps you can follow to write your own haiku:

  1. Once you have your theme in mind, jot down some key words that relate to the theme. Use as many descriptive words as possible: The more powerful the words, the more value you get for their syllables.
  2. Start writing your three-line poem, referring to your word list as needed. Don't get too caught up in the syllable count for your rough draft. Get your ideas on paper in three short lines.
  3. Go back through to count your syllables. You might be able to rearrange the words slightly or replace one word with another to stay within the five-seven-five syllable pattern.