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Haiku: In Brief

Haiku: In Brief
by Dawn Lesley Stewart

Haiku is a short unrhymed poem strong in imagery. Basho, a master poet from seventeenth century Japan, is considered the "father" of haiku. He refined haiku, bring simplicity and elegance to the form. If written correctly, haiku captures the essence of a moment and triggers a response within the reader.


English Haiku are usually written in three lines (5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second, and 5 syllables in the third). The Japanese language is much different than English, so Japanese syllables are shorter than their counterpart words in other languages. This is one reason why translated haiku is found in different lengths ... sometimes Japanese haiku translated into English is written on one line, or several lines but not in the 5-7-5 pattern.


A haiku’s words are rooted in nature and present an observation to the reader who then interprets the meaning according to his own experiences. Most haiku include at least one word that relates to a season or nature. This word can be as obvious as "spring" or "autumn" or as subtle as "snowflake," "butterfly" or "seed". The poem does not have to be about nature, but the word is planted within the poem’s context so the reader knows the season.


Forget simile, metaphor, personification. Write about a specific event or observation. Haiku is a breath of wind, capturing a moment’s essence using simple, direct wording. Evoke the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. The poet’s feelings reach through the words to the reader, awakening a sense of awareness or revelation.


Haiku offers a window into Japanese culture, and reading about this form reveals the influences behind the words. On a personal note, I find writing haiku challenges my creativity. Choosing words that convey specific meaning is an excellent exercise. Writing haiku focuses the writer to perfect tight writing. Haiku is an elegant yet simple form of expression, which distills a specific moment in time ... and time is well-spent writing it.


sunrise heron lands
deep in neighbor's man-made pond
goldfish speared, pilfered

purple martin house
twelve-hole-ritzy bungalow
sparrow squatters rule

sun-drenched cat dozing
birds glide-land feeder perched
eyes closed, thrashing tail

orbed yellow moon
reflected water ribbons
mallards sail moonlight

Copyright 2001 Dawn Lesley Stewart

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Books by Dawn Lesley Stewart

Harriet's Horrible Hair DayMist-Seer300-Plus Quilting Tips, Tricks & Techniques
The Quilt Guild Companion101 Quilt Challenge Projects & Inspirations 

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