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Haiku Poetry Writing Tips

By: Jims Varkey

Haiku is a type of short poem, which originated in Japan during the 17th century. What set it apart from other types of poetry was that it began as kind of game among the merchants and lower class citizens. True to its origins, Haiku developed characteristics that are quite different from the elegant court and love poetry of its times. It is spontaneous, crisp, and used images that were quite ordinary.

The aim of Haiku as with any other type of poetry is to express as much as possible in as little words as possible. But in Haiku this primary rule is followed to the extreme. Usually, a haiku is just three lines long, with 17 syllables. For brevity sake, articles, pronouns and other grammar words are often removed from a haiku.

So how do you write a Haiku? The key to Haiku is to catch the fleeting idea. The best Haiku comes to our mind quite unexpectedly. It might be a trivial incident. An image from nature will be sufficient. The cat arching its body after a sleep, a dog wagging its tail, an ant talking with another ant, a butterfly fixed to a flower, etc, will be enough. Usually, a season word like rain summer, wind or anything that relate to climate and weather is ideal for a Haiku.

See that the image is concrete and they do not directly allude to abstract concepts like afterlife, final judgment etc. A good rule of thumb is to see if someone can enjoy your Haiku without having an insight into your philosophy. Another important thing to remember is that your poem should contain only one or two images. Too many images can confuse the reader. But the real fun in a haiku is to conceal such cosmological truths in simple looking verses that talks about trivial things. Matsuo Basho, a seventeenth century Japanese hermit excelled in this. His most famous poem goes like this:

The old pond-

a frog jumps in,

sound of water.

In the nineteenth century, poets like Ezra Pound and other imagist poets were attracted to Haiku and adapted it to fit the English Language. His famous poem "A metro at a Station" is an example for this:

A Metro at a Station

Petals on a wet black bough

With the examples given above, you can start writing your own haiku poem. So what are you waiting for?

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