Haiku – A Short Japanese Poem

How to Write Haiku in English

Haiku (俳句) is the world’s shortest poem consisting of 17 syllables. Many may have the impression that Haiku is very difficult and complicated, but there are only few rules to follow. Let me introduce you to some examples.

Haiku has three lines with 5-7-5 rhythm pattern (syllables). In English, it is harder to make a good haiku using the 5-7-5 pattern, so not all English haiku follow this pattern. 

Here is a haiku poem in English:

Oregon sun shines

on baseball, hot dogs, and beer

Shadows on dorm walls

What is the meaning? The sun is finally shining in Oregon. Now is the time for baseball, hot dogs, and beer. I should be enjoying the fine weather. But what are you doing? The only sunshine I see is the shadows on my dorm room walls. The word “shadows” is used to indicate sadness, loneliness, or some dark feeling.

Tip is to write a poem in the form of your choice that conveys your experience of the sacred or spiritual in your life. Best to think about ways to convey such senses as awe, wonder, fear, etc. 

Normally, a haiku poem has three lines of 5-7-5 rhythm (syllables). Count the syllables in each line.

O/re/gon sun shines (5)

on base/ball, hot dogs, and beer (7)

Sha/dows on dorm walls (5)

Here is another haiku poem in English:

In Rome, pilgrims pray

as cherry blossoms flutter;

oceans divide me

What is the meaning? Pilgrims in Rome are praying (for the pope) while cherry blossoms are falling (in Japan).  You are separated from both by oceans (Pacific and Atlantic). You are divided by both western and eastern cultures. There is a feeling of sadness and longing.

Again, count the syllables in each line.

In Rome, pil/grims pray (5)

as cher/ry blos/soms flut/ter; (7)

o/ceans di/vide me (5)

Enjoy writing Haiku at your leisure!

You might also like