Hello everyone! Welcome to our Writing Poetry: Haiku post. I hope that at least a few of you are here to write a haiku with me. Even if you aren’t, you’re very welcome to stay and learn.
The haiku is a common poem, and most people learn how to write these poems in middle or high school. A haiku is a poem that comprises three lines and seventeen syllables and the “kireji” and the “kigo”.
A kireji is a cutting word, also known in poetic terminology as a caesura. This is a turn in the poem, a word used to change the direction or tone of the poem swiftly from one image to another. A kigo is a seasonal reference or reference to the natural world. This was my biggest mistake in learning about haikus: I kept forgetting that they need to be about nature. It’s so easy to write a haiku about anything, but unfortunately, marks go to the nature haikus.
Now we’ll talk about the syllables in the haiku. The pattern of syllables is 5,7,5 in the three lines of the poem. For example, I’ll put in a haiku I previously wrote here.
The ocean waves pulse
I watch and write their sorrows
Heal their pain and mine.
Now I’ll write it with syllabic breaks:
As you can see, the lines follow the 5,7,5 pattern. This is the largest rule in writing haikus, and it’s difficult to write everything you want in so few syllables.
Let’s write a haiku now! The first thing to do is choose a theme. This is where the kigo comes in–you need a season or part of nature to talk about. A few options are trees, the ocean, autumn, winter, spring, summer, snow, or flowers. You can be as general or specific as you want, and there’s no limit to the themes to choose from. It truly is endless.
Next, it’s important to talk about the caesura or kireji. In the poem above, I would say that the kireji happens with the word “sorrows”. This is the word where the tone of the poem changed from an image of the speaker sitting and watching the ocean move to the emotion that the speaker and the ocean are both carrying. I hope that makes sense. I have found caesuras to be the tough part of poetry.
I’m going to pick a season for my haiku: autumn. I’ll write the initial idea that I have, but know that I am trying original words, looking up synonyms, and counting syllables to make the words line up. You can take the kireji into account when writing your initial draft, but you can worry about it later too if that helps. Here’s my first idea:
Pumpkins steal your breath,
Their faces lit by candles
That burn down your house
Alright, I didn’t quite think that would come out of my head and fit so well. I wasn’t going to include it, but it’s an even better example of the word “candles” taking a very swift left turn. So many people associate autumn with Halloween here in Canada, so I moved towards that kind of image. I’ll try for a happier one now.
Leaves splay around me
Upon the graves of the dead
Putting me to rest.
Wow, okay. My brain needs some help when these just flow out. Honestly, I think the amount of true crime I’ve been watching is affecting my poetic inspirations. I’ve written so many haikus in my life that my brain thinks of phrases with the right number of syllables easily. So, my best advice is to write a lot of them. They’re quick to write, and you can get faster the more you do. Eventually, you can learn to create a deeper meaning within them, like my ocean haiku above. Or even this most recent one.
That’s about all there is to know about writing a haiku! Practise as much as you can: writing lots of them is a good thing! Another thing you can do is try switching out one or two words here and there, like pronouns. It changes the meaning and could make the poem mean more or have a greater impact than before.
As always, let me know if you still have questions or if there was something that I didn’t touch on! I’m always around to answer questions here on the blog, through my Instagram at @litandleta and over on Facebook on the Lit&Leta Blog page. Happy haiku writing!
Allegory: A poem or story that can be interpreted to have a secondary or alternate meaning.
Allusion: An indirect reference to something.
Alliteration: Close repetition of consonant sounds, usually at the beginning of words.
Assonance: Close repetition of vowel sounds.
Consonance: Close repetition of consonant sounds anywhere in the words.
Couplet: Two-line stanza, usually a rhyming pair.
Dissonance: A disruption of the harmony of sounds within the poem or line.
Foot: A unit of measurement in a line of poetry.
Line: A unit of measurement. Made up of feet.
Meter: The rhythmic measure of a line. Ex. Pentameter.
Metaphor: Comparing one thing to another without using “like” or “as”. Direct comparison.
Repetition: Repeating specific words or phrases within a poem.
Rhyme: The repetition of similar-sounding words, usually at the ends of lines. There are many kinds of rhymes.
Rhythm: Rhythm comes from the patterns of short, long, stressed, and unstressed syllables in a line, stanza, or poem.
Refrain: The repetition of a line with a poem.
Stanza: A group of lines that together make up a unit of measurement in a poem. Like a paragraph in prose writing and usually separated by a space.
Haiku: A three-line poem with a syllable count of 5-7-5.
Caesura: A word that shows a turn in a poem. Kireji in haikus.
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