How to haiku

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Lesson Three

Hello everyone! I’m so pleased to see all the fabulous haiku appearing in every newsletter! Well done!

Today I want to spend a bit of time on the position of the poet in a haiku.

It might be easiest to think of the poet as an invisible person. They are there, but you don’t  “see” them. That is to say, there should not be any “I” in a haiku. It is simply implied that the poet is there, observing the action, but not giving their opinion or expressing their emotion directly or even telling the reader “I saw”. Haiku is the epitome of “show don’t tell”. This is quite different than contemporary free verse and many other poetic poems where the poet and their feelings are often the center of attention.

The idea is to allow readers the opportunity to develop their own emotions in reaction to the haiku. Will it always be exactly what you intended, or how you felt? No. But that’s okay. Haiku are meant to have two players, the writer and the reader. The reader’s response is just as important to the haiku as the writer’s intention.

If nothing else, remember that by leaving out the “I” you will have a more succinct haiku. I will sometimes write myself in and then figure out a way to take myself out. It’s all just a matter of practice and good editing!

Senryu is a different matter. Although many won’t have a visible “I” the opinion and emotion of the writer are often included. This is because senryu speak to the human condition, usually in sarcastic or humourous ways.

I do want to mention that in contemporary haiku you will see more overlap with senryu. I’m not sure why this has happened, but if you want to send a senryu to a journal of haiku, look at what they have been accepting to see if that would be a good fit.

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