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A haiku is a short poem, that is unrhymed and syllabic in form – the poem consists of only three lines with 5 syllables on the first line, 7 on the second and 5 again on the last line. This form of poetry first appeared in Japan some 700 years ago, and reached the Western hemisphere in the 19th century, with the reopening of Japan’s harbors to American and European trade and travel.

Haiku contains two juxtaposed ideas but the two are grammatically independent and usually are also imagistically distinct. Although Japanese haiku are often written in one straight line,  English haiku is written in three lines. Either way, the objective is to create a “leap” between the two juxtaposed ideas.  The meaning of the poem is heightened by providing an “internal comparison.”  When writing haiku, the challenge is to avoid an obvious connection between the two ideas, and at the same time  avoid a great disassociation.

Most haikus are about nature, and traditionally, the focus is on the details in the environment as they relate to the human condition.

Here are some popular traditional haiku poems:

From time to time
The clouds give rest
To the moon-beholders.

– Bashō

Over-ripe sushi,
The Master
Is full of regret.

– Buson

Over the wintry
forest, winds howl in rage
with no leaves to blow.

– Soseki

Here is my attempt at haiku:

The rains stop a while,
tomorrow children will sleep
and nature will bow.

Last night the moon hid
but the owls came out and flew

when the wind whispered

Your turn!

Photo: Morguefile


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