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Haiku Contents

Haiku is a short poem defined by Sir George Sansom as "little drops of poetic essence." Originated in Japan, it began as the hokku or first link of a renga (see below). With the use of plain language, haiku is attentive to season and location. It brings about a resonance that comes from the juxtaposition of ideas.  

The format of haiku in Japanese is 5-7-5 syllables, traditionally written in three vertical lines three lines.  The haiku contains a seasonal word.  The foreign language writer often strives for the essence of haiku without strict adherence to the 17 syllable count.  The reason for this the difference in languages.  For example "house" in English has one syllable while "casa" in Spanish has two syllables. 

Translations are dependent upon the person doing the translations and can vary considerably. See the difference below. More on translations at "Narrow Road to the Deep North."

The old pond. Breaking the silence
A frog jumps in Of an ancient pond,
Plop!  A frog jumped into water
(trans. by Blyth) A deep resonance. (trans. by Yuasa)

When the poet also creates a painting or sumi ink drawing it is called a haiga.  The images of Buson and Issa below are an example of haiga. For more information follow the link- haiga.  



Classic Haiku


Basho 1644-1694

A crow
has settled on a bare branch--
autumn evening

old pond--
a frog jumps in
the sound of water

summer grass--
all that's left 
of warrior's dreams

Yosa Buson (1716-1783)

evening wind--
water laps
the heron's legs

calligraphy of geese
against the sky--
the moon seals it

escaped the nets,
escaped the ropes--
the moon on the water

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827)

her row veering off,
the peasant woman plants
toward her crying child

a bath when you're born,
a bath when you die,
how stupid

My grumbling wife -
if only she were here!
This moon tonight...


Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902)

I bite into a persimmon
and a bell resounds--

a moonflower fell-
midnight sound

the tree cut,
dawn breaks early
at my window

How much longer
is my life?
a brief night



Chiyo-ni (1703-1775)

my fishing line --
the summer moon.

Shaking the bamboo
even it
has its own heat.

To the one breaking it --
the fragrance
of the plum.

The passing year --
irritating things
are also flowing water.


Sogi (1421-1502)

Ah, for coolness,
it rivals the water's depth -
this autumn sky.

Its house abandoned,
the garden has become home
to butterflies.
Translation of Steven D. Carter

Sogetsu-ni (?-1804)

The sky clears
and the moon and the snow
are one color.
translator Jonathan Clements


Basho, Buson, and Issa translated Robert Hass.  Shiki translated Janine Beichman. Chiyo-ni translated Patricia Donegan and Yoshie Ishibashi. Images of Bahso, Shiki and Busho  from  Mushimegane. Image of Issa from Issa Image of Chiyo-ni from Amazon at Haiku World. Image of Sogi from wakayama.

Study Guide

Haiku should contain a seasonal word- a "kigo."  The kigo indicates the season in which the poem is written. Without a kigo the poem usually is considered a senryu.  A kigo is a key that "places" the poem not only in time but within the context of all that the season implies.  If you have a Christmas kigo, then not only do you know it is winter, cold, but also the images of family gatherings, gifts, and feasts are implied.  


Christmas evening-
the porch swing
sags with cousins



Contemporary English  Haiku


Year's end--
driftwood half-in, half-out
of the stream

sunny day--
the warmth of his body
escaping the urn

another rain cloud--
old puddles joining

Sunday morning;
How loudly it sings!
the one-legged bird

in the chapel--
the smell of stone
and wine must

winter afternoon--
the tiny grandmother
sits in silence

distant music--
rising and falling
with the wind

low tide in August --
my gray haired mother
carries my seashells

*Second place Felissmo Haiku contest*

brief friendship--
moving a tortoise
off the road

moon on the ice--
the dead dog's stench
begins to dissipate

white chrysanthemum-
its faceless moon
on the water

candle flame
twists then plumbs--
in the mirror, too

early evening--
the dark shadow
of a white chrysanthemum 

approaching storm-
two dusks
on the summer sky

Asphalt boulevard--
How vibrant his feathers!
the dead bluebird.

*Award Winning Haiku-
Suruga Baika Literary Festival- Daichu-ji Temple, Japan*





Japanese interlinked verses that originated in the 12th century.  It can be written singularly or by groups of poets.  Each verse is interconnected and poems have been as long as 10,000 verses. The most common renku had 36 verses.  The verses are usually connected by alternate verses of (5-7-5) and (7-7).  The first starting 3 lines are called the hokku (from which haiku is originated). The modern haiku developed by Shiki originated from the starting verse of the renka. The linked poems follow exact placements for season words and other input such as "love" or "moon." Below are modern adaptations.

Traditional Linked Forms

Short Forms 

 Contemporary Rengay 



authors A=Susan Bond; B=Neca Stoller; C=Laura Young

gray smooth stone
in the palm of my hand -
a heron glides

lacing the beach
a fringe of broken shells

leftover bait -
the swift paw
of a jetty cat

current at low tide
ripples the fine seaweed

from marsh
to sandbar-
the crescent moon

just a silhouette
beyond the breakers



A=Neca Stoller; B=Laura Young

first frost-
on the garden spade
traces of dawn

    dropping from the pink cloud
    a rainbow fragment

sand ripples
left by the low tide-
autumn sky

their fingertips
along the tree rings
thin and wide

   fading in the new coolness
   her white band of skin

firelight -
thawing out the top layer
of their wedding cake


Hand Made Haiku Journal    

Haiku and other oriental forms are well suited for hand made books. Below are links with instructions for folded books and hand sewn books.  The size of the folded books is determined only by the paper size. Hand-made paper is quite lovely with this project.

Make a Folded Making a Book
Hand Bound Haiku Journal
Concertina Book Instructions
 Book Binding by Hand
Simple Paper Making Instructions                                                      
Paper Making
Origami Designs


  Haiku Links 




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 Copyright 1996, Edited Jan 2006