The following tip was submitted by budding poet Maxine Jordan who discovered the haiku, a Japanese form of poem. Read about her discovery below and challenge yourself to attempt a haiku too.


A Whole New World

Hai what?

That was my reaction the first time I came across the word Haiku. I had done a search on Google for poetry and short story competitions and there it was, winking at me. Haiku! So of course I needed to know what relation this strange word has to my search. It’s almost as though I’ve discovered a whole new world. I’m very excited!

In a nutshell, Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry focussed on natural phenomena, such as seasonal phenomena. It is written in the present tense and consists of three lines with a total of 17 syllables in the format 5-7-5. That is:

Line 1: 5 syllables
Line 2: 7 syllables
Line 3: 5 syllables

The haiku contains a ‘cut’ or what the Japanese call a kire. This cut divides the poem into two parts that juxtaposes the images presented in the poem. A juxtaposition is created when two things are placed side by side or close to one other to compare or contrast them or to create an interesting effect. Frequently the poem itself may seem incomplete – it is for the reader to complete the image.

Traditionally a haiku does not have a title as these are considered a distraction from the content of the poem. While traditional Japanese haikus abide by very strict rules, English haikus may not always follow this tight structure, given that the English language is not as compact as the Japanese.

Haiku is about simplicity, not about cleverness. Sometimes in the English language, poets may use puns and symbolism in a clever way in order to make a poem interesting. However with the haiku, the subject is not discussed within the poem. In addition, sometimes the convention of nature-inspired poetry is not adhered to. See this haiku below, which I wrote in a few minutes. The subject is a mouse – found both in nature and technology – although this poem looks more at its technological aspect.

Mouse buttons clicking
information overload
Japanese beauty

While haiku might be foreign to many of us, it has already had a profound effect on 20th century English literature, noted poets like Robert Frost and WB Yeats attempted or admired haiku.

So, if you’re a huge fan of Japanese anime and manga, like Dragon Ball Z and Naruto, you should take the time to learn about other parts of the Japanese culture. The advances in technology have made the world a small place where you can, at the click of a button, learn different languages and experience life from all over the world. And if you’re a poet, whether accomplished or aspiring, why not challenge yourself with this unusual poetry genre.