what is this Haiku
but a snip of a moment
seen and written down
For three hundred years Haiku has been part of daily life in Japanese culture. People from Japan believe that the way to learn about big things is often by slowing down to see the small things in life.
Haiku is three simple lines. Haiku is the world’s shortest poetry, as short as one breath. In Japan and all over the world, it is the most popular form today. It is something noticed; a connection to nature. Haiku is sound and movement and color and scent. Often Haiku celebrates the seasons. Haiku is a way of looking at the world around you and capturing beautiful moments.
oh, bumblebee, oh
how I love the way that you
rest on the flowers
~Arin (age 11)
Teachers might say that Haiku is seventeen syllables and this is the way that most people understand the form. Usually the first line has five syllables, the second line has seven, and the last line has five syllables as in the examples above. It is fun to write Haiku with seventeen syllables.
Here is a famous seventeen-syllable Haiku written by American poet, Patricia Machmiller:
and now the cat comes
in the moonlight his shadow
darker than himself
Sometimes it is also fun to just try three short lines that capture what you see.
Stop reading for a moment and look outside. What do you see? As winter melts away and spring rolls out its carpet, how is your yard or city or playground changing? Open a window. What do you hear? What scents swirl on the breeze? Can you write three lines describing what you see?
The very best Haiku book we’ve found is called Haiku, Asian Arts and Crafts for Creative Kids by Patricia Donegan. In this book the author explains the “seven keys to writing Haiku” with examples by both kids and adults. There are beautiful traditional and contemporary crafts to try as well as a chapter about Japanese brush paintings or “Haiga” which combines Haiku with a drawing.
a paper rustles
words awaken brave and bold
brush travels lightly
Spring, with its blooms and buds and bumblebees is the perfect time to try Haiku.
Here are a few more of our favorite books:
Guyku, A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka, art by Peter H. Reynolds
The Cuckoo’s Haiku and Other Birding Poems by Michael J. Rosen, art by Stan Fellows
Brains for Lunch, A Zombie Novel in Haiku by K.A. Holt, art by Gahan Wilson
Cricket Never Does by Myra Cohn Livingston, art by Kees de Kiefte
Fold Me a Poem by Kristine O’Connell George, art by Lauren Stringer
Do YOU Haiku?