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Aside from the syllable count what else do I need consider when writing a Haiku? I'm referring to the English imitation of a Haiku.

I have been told that the first two lines should be descriptions and the third line should be the conclusion. But I've noticed that this is not always true.

Does a Haiku need to be about nature?

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  • 2
    I guess you are referring to the English imitation of a Haiku.
    – apaderno
    Aug 24, 2010 at 8:41
  • Yes, the English version.
    – Dian
    Aug 24, 2010 at 8:45
  • Fascinating question, should probably be community wiki in its current form. Aug 25, 2010 at 1:38
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    @Neil: to be clear, I'm actually asking for a set of rules not asking one rule per answer. I edited the question to better convey this. :D
    – Dian
    Aug 25, 2010 at 2:25
  • 9
    Pro tip: Don't send a thank-you letter written in attempted haiku to a relative who's a retired English teacher unless you're prepared to deal with the consequences.
    – mmyers
    Aug 25, 2010 at 4:21

6 Answers 6

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The simple answer is that if Haiku is not about nature, it is called Senryu. I've heard different views on whether the Japanese definition is different than the non-Japanese ones, and whether the syllable counts can differ.

There seems to be some subjectivity on definitions, in English poetry at least. I think the following is Senryu, but you could make a case for it being Haiku:

Bugs fall like rain upon my code
compiler shrieks like the wind
Blue Screen

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    "I've heard different views on..." how does that count as an answer to the question?
    – delete
    Aug 25, 2010 at 3:11
  • I also heard different views, which is why I asked this question. (btw, that haiku is awesome, did you write it?)
    – Dian
    Aug 25, 2010 at 4:01
  • @Dian - yes, thanks, and I wrote it in 3 minutes (not hard when you have a 17 syllable attention span). I thought it would be drifting off topic to go on about the differing views on Senryu vs Haiku, but Wikipedia has a good summary. I hoped my example caught the gray area between them.
    – Taldaugion
    Aug 25, 2010 at 6:45
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The idea of a haiku in English doesn't really make that much sense. First of all, you might want to note that the whole idea of seventeen syllables is a bogus one. A Japanese haiku consists of seventeen moras (beats) rather than seventeen syllables. E.g. Tokyo ("To-u-kyo-u" in Japanese) is four moras but two syllables. A haiku should have seventeen of these moras, not seventeen syllables.

One rule I can think of is that traditionally Japanese haiku had to start with a "seasonal word" ("kigo" in Japanese). But there are no "seasonal words" in English. Nowadays the haiku printed on tea cans in Japan don't have seasonal words so that is purely a traditional arrangement.

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    So are you saying that English haiku have no clear rules?
    – Dian
    Aug 25, 2010 at 3:56
  • @Dian: I have no idea whether English haiku have clear rules or not. I don't see anywhere in my answer where I comment on that.
    – delete
    Aug 25, 2010 at 4:14
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    Oh okay. I just assumed since you didn't mention it. What I wanted to know was rules in making an English haiku, sorry if I didn't make it clear in the question. :(
    – Dian
    Aug 25, 2010 at 5:21
  • But ... English doesn't have mora, it has syllables. Mora don't make any sense in English. Syllables are the closest English equivalent. Mar 17, 2015 at 17:41
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Use the first two lines
To establish the context;
Then go for the kill.

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  • Is this a standard (for all haiku)?
    – Dian
    Aug 25, 2010 at 3:54
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    @Dian: it seems to be a convention for haiku in English, but I base this purely on observation. I don't know that there's any standard as such. Aug 25, 2010 at 8:15
  • Oh okay. (btw, nice haiku) :D
    – Dian
    Aug 26, 2010 at 1:26
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I adhere to the 5-7-5 syllable scheme, because... well, I was taught that when young and I'm too old to change. The key idea is "do not waste even a syllable".

So, my opinion is that:

  1. A haiku should Have 3 very short lines; personally, I'm stuck on 5-7-5.
  2. It should meld two discordant notions and
  3. Say something that has never been said before.
  4. Big bonus points if your second line applies clearly to both your first and your third lines, very cool.
  5. Topic doesn't matter. Be you.

This is my personal opinion, not a scholarly attempt to answer the question. I understand that in English, we can say a lot more in 17 syllables than they can in Japanese. Regardless, the idea is to say a lot with a little. Make the reader think.

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poetic aspects

should fall gently, from the page

like leaves in autumn

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3

First, pick your subject

Write down some words about it

Count your syllables

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