How to haiku

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Lesson One

Hello and welcome to my ramblings on haiku and other subjects! Hope you enjoy wandering through my garden of thoughts. I’m no expert, and I welcome any comments you have or even contradictions 😊Sally asked me to do this and I can never say no to her, so here we are!

Three-line poems! When else are poets challenged as much to say something profound in as few lines? Well, in one-line poems, but that’s another story.

A three-line poem is technically called at tercet, no matter what other category they fall under. A tercet has no restrictions, write what you want! Try a few – they are fun.

Senryu is a Japanese form of tercet. Also fun and three lines but that’s where the comparison stops. Senryu have three lines with less than a total of 17 syllables, generally in a short/long/short pattern. They focus on the human condition.

Haiku also have three lines and less than 17 syllables. But their focus is more on nature and in fact in there are lists of specific season words (more on this next time) that can be used in haiku. Usually a haiku only has two elements – a fragment and a phrase with the cut in-between.

Both senryu and haiku make use of what the Japanese call kireji, a cutting word. We don’t actually have cutting words in English. Often we show a cut in our senryu and haiku with an m-dash or simply a line break. It’s the place where the poem turns. An “aha” moment, a surprise or a deeper understanding. This takes a lot of practice and even the great masters said they didn’t get it right every time and rarely on the first draft.

That’s a lot to think about and I’ll stop for today. Let me know what you think!


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