How to Write a Haiku


Introduction: How to Write a Haiku

Writing a poem can sometimes feel daunting, especially for those who don't write often.

The Haiku is a great way to start writing poetry because Haiku's are simple, short, and to the point! These steps should make writing a Haiku fun.

So let's learn how to write a Haiku!

Step 1: Gather Supplies!

You will need:

  • Pen or pencil or marker or crayon ( anything that writes!)
  • Paper
  • Internet
  • Imagination!

Step 2: What Exactly Is a Haiku?

A Haiku is a short poem containing 3 lines with:

5 syllables in the first line,

7 syllables in the second line, and

5 syllables in the third line.

For a total of 17 syllables.

Bonus: Haiku's do not have to rhyme!

Step 3: Learn the History of the Haiku

The Haiku originated in Japan as one of the most popular forms of poetry.

With roots in Zen Buddhism, Haiku's often focus on nature and appreciating nature.

In the United States today, contemporary poets write Haiku's on many subjects including, but not limited to, nature.

For this exercise, however, you are going to write a Haiku focusing on something in nature. Narrowing in on a particular subject matter makes the writing process easier. It also means you will be writing in the style of the classic Haiku.

Note: The photos in the slides, and the examples we are going to use all focus on the work of Matsuo Basho. Matsuo Basho was one of the most famous Japanese poets in the 1600's and is one of the main poets responsible for the popularity of the Haiku!

Step 4: Look at Some Examples!

An old silent pond...

A frog jumps into the pond,

Splash! Silence again.

-Matsuo Basho

In the twilight rain

These brilliant-hued Hibiscus

A lovely sunset

-Matsuo Basho

Step 5: Count the Syllables !

An _ old_ si_ lent_ pond_... (5)

A_ frog_ jumps_ in_to_ the_ pond,_ (7)

Splash!_ Si_lence_ a_gain._ (5)

-Matsuo Basho

Counting the syllables in the examples is good practice.

Step 6: Look at These Nature Images and Brainstorm

Choose one of these images to write about.

What can you say about the scenery?

Write it all down on your piece of paper.

Example: (I chose the Orange fall trees photo.)
A winding path through a forest fire of fallen leaves. The trees bleeding to honor the changing seasons. So bright the Fall and so brief the Autumn, the falling leaves before the fall of snow.

Step 7: Choose a Few Sentences From the Brainstorm

Choose a few sentences from your brainstorm and arrange them into 3 lines. Don't worry about the syllables yet. Just take your favorite sentence or sentences from the brainstorm and create 3 lines.

A winding path through a forest
fire of fallen leaves. The trees bleeding to
honor the changing seasons.

Step 8: Now Count the Syllables

Go ahead and count the syllables in each line. The lines most likely will not follow the 5,7,5, syllable format quite yet, but we will get there!

This is your poem in progress! Good job making it this far.

A winding path through a forest (8)
fire of fallen leaves. The trees bleeding to (10)
honor the changing seasons. (7)
Total: (25)

As you can see in my example, each line has far too many syllables! Yours might be the same, or yours might have too few. Fret not! There's room to edit and rearrange!

Step 9: Edit: Add or Cut to Make Sure Your Haiku Has a Total of 17 Syllables

If your original 3 lines has too many syllables or too few syllables, you can cut words or add words to fit your poem to the format. You may need to pull material from your brainstorming, or look to a thesaurus to choose words that better fit your poem.

Example: I have 25 Syllables, so I need to cut 8. I will cut the number of syllable in each line so that the lines will follow the 5,7,5 format.

A winding path through a forest (8) -3 = 5
fire of fallen leaves. The trees bleeding to (10)-3 = 7
honor the changing seasons. (7)-2 = 5
Path through a forest (5)
fire of fallen leaves, the trees (7)
honor the seasons. (5)

Step 10: Troubleshooting Tips

  • You can always go back and brainstorm more if needed.
  • If you don't have enough syllables, you can pull more from your brainstorm writing.
  • If you have too many syllables don't be afraid to cut words! Haiku's are supposed to be short and to the point.
  • Whether you need a thesaurus to find words that better fit your poem, or you need to look at more examples, Google is your best friend.

Step 11: Review

Read your Haiku aloud and re-count the syllables to make sure it has a total of 17, with the first line having 5, the second having 7, and the third having 5 syllables.

Congratulations! You are a Poet!

Example: Finished Product

Path through a forest (5)
fire of fallen leaves, the trees (7)
honor the seasons. (5)



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