How to Write a Haiku Poem

Four Parts:Sample HaikuChoose a Haiku SubjectUse Sensory LanguageBecome a Haiku Writer

Haiku (俳句 high-koo) are short three-line poems with a 5-7-5 syllable structure that use sensory language to capture a feeling or image. They are often inspired by an element of nature, a moment of beauty, or another poignant experience. Haiku poetry was originally developed by Japanese poets, and the form was adopted (and adapted) by virtually every modern language, including English. The secret to writing great haiku is to be observant and appreciate nature, as detailed below.

Sample Haiku

Sample Nature Haiku

Sample Love Haiku

Sample Funny Haiku

Part 1
Choose a Haiku Subject

  1. Image titled Write a Haiku Poem Step 2
    Distill a poignant experience. Haiku traditionally focuses on details of one's environment that relate to the human condition. Think of a haiku as a meditation of sorts that conveys an objective image or feeling without employing subjective judgment and analysis. When you see or notice something that makes you want to say to others, "Look at that," the experience may well be suitable for a haiku.
    • Japanese poets traditionally used haiku to capture and distill a fleeting natural image, such as a frog jumping into a pond, rain falling onto leaves, or a flower bending in the wind. Many people go for walks just to find new inspiration for their poetry, known in Japan as ginkgo walks.
    • Contemporary haiku may stray from nature as a subject. Urban environments, emotions, relationships and even humorous topics may be haiku subjects.
  2. Image titled Write a Haiku Poem Step 4
    Include a seasonal reference. [1] A reference to the season or changing of the seasons, referred to in Japanese as kigo, is an essential element of haiku. The reference may be obvious, as in using a word like "spring" or "autumn" to indicate the season, or it might be subtler. For example, mentioning wisteria, which flower during the summer, can subtly indicate the season. Note the kigo in this poem by Fukuda Chiyo-ni:
    • morning glory!
      the well bucket-entangled,
      I ask for water
  3. Image titled Write a Haiku Poem Step 5
    Create a subject shift. In keeping with the idea that haiku should contain two juxtaposed ideas, shift the perspective on your chosen subject so that your poem has two parts. For example, you could focus on the detail of an ant crawling on a log, then juxtapose that image with an expansive view of the whole forest, or the season the ant is currently inhabiting. The juxtaposition gives the poem a deeper metaphorical meaning than it would have if it were a simple, single-planed description. Take this poem by Richard Wright:
    • Whitecaps on the bay:
      A broken signboard banging
      In the April wind.

Part 2
Use Sensory Language

  1. Image titled Write a Haiku Poem Step 4
    Describe the details. Haiku are comprised of details observed by the five senses. The poet witnesses an event and uses words to distill that experience so others may understand it in some way. Once you have chosen a subject for your haiku, think about what details you want to describe. Call the subject to mind and explore these questions:
    • What did you notice about the subject? What colors, textures, and contrasts did you observe?
    • How did the subject sound? What was the tenor and volume of the event that took place?
    • Did it have a smell, or a taste? How can you accurately describe the way it felt?
  2. Image titled Write a Haiku Poem Step 7
    Show, don't tell. Haiku are about moments of objective experience, not subjective interpretation or analysis of those events.
    • Haiku have been called "unfinished" poetry because they require the readers to finish the poems in their own hearts. Because of this, it's important to show the readers something true about the moment's existence, rather than telling the readers what emotions it conjured in you.[2] Let the readers feel their own emotions in reaction to the images — as poets, we understand the need to bare all, but the very universality of haiku ensures that your readers will get the message, so don't fret, fellow poet.
    • Use understated, subtle imagery. For instance, instead of saying it's summer, focus on the slant of the sun or the heavy air.
    • Don't use clichés. Lines that readers recognize, such as "dark, stormy night," tend to lose their power over time. Ponder the image you want to describe and use inventive, original language to convey meaning. Don't overuse a thesaurus to find uncommon words; rather, simply write about what you saw and want to express in the truest language you know.

Part 3
Become a Haiku Writer

  1. Image titled Write a Haiku Poem Intro
    Be inspired. In the tradition of the great haiku poets, go outside for inspiration. Take a walk and tune in to your surroundings. Which details in your environment speak to you? What makes them stand out?
    • Carry a notebook to write down lines as they come to you. You never know when the sight of a stone in a stream, a rat skipping over subway tracks, or a cap of clouds over hills in the distance might inspire you to write a haiku.
    • Read other haiku writers. The beauty and simplicity of the haiku form has inspired thousands of writers in many different languages. Reading other haiku can help spur your own imagination into motion.
  2. Image titled Write a Haiku Poem Step 5
    Practice. Like any other art, haiku takes practice. Bashō, who is considered to be the greatest haiku poet of all time, said that each haiku should be said a thousand times on the tongue. Draft and redraft every poem until the meaning is perfectly expressed. Remember that you don't have to adhere to the 5–7–5 syllable pattern, and that a true literary haiku includes a kigo, a two-part juxtapositional structure, and primarily objective sensory imagery.
    • While drafting, use adverbs sparingly if at all — many adverbs can be dropped without compromising meaning, and they take up syllables that could be used for description. Similar advice applies to long or flowery words — the point of haiku is to reveal simple and universal truths, and your extensive vocabulary is better suited to a longer poetic form.
  3. Image titled Write a Haiku Poem Step 10
    Communicate with other poets. For serious students of haiku, it is worthwhile to join organizations such as the Haiku Society of America, Haiku Canada, the British Haiku Society, or one of the many similar organizations elsewhere in the world. It is also worthwhile to subscribe to leading haiku journals such as Modern Haiku and Frogpond to learn more about the art form.


  • Unlike Western poems, haikus generally don't rhyme or use enjambment — that is, each line contains a complete phrase or thought without running over to the next line.
  • Contemporary haiku poets may write poems that are just a short fragment with three or fewer words. Some people also write "mini-haiku" with 3–5–3 syllables.
  • Haiku originated from haikai no renga, a collaborative group poem that is usually one hundred verses in length. The hokku, or starting verse, of renga collaborations indicated the season and also contained a cutting word. The haiku as its own form of poetry continues in this tradition.

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Poetry