Online College Courses for Credit

How to Write a Haiku

How to Write a Haiku

Author: Jennifer Kaufenberg

Students will know the difference between a traditional Japanese Haiku and an English Haiku. Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of an English Haiku by selecting an image from nature and writing a haiku about the image.

Haiku poetry is a great way to get students thinking about nature and how just a few words can capture a single moment in time. Haiku poems are meant to create a vivid picture in the reader's mind and depict a natural occurrence. This lesson will help students understand the structure of a haiku poem and how it relates to nature.

See More

Try Sophia’s Art History Course. For Free.

Our self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to many different colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

37 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

299 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 32 of Sophia’s online courses. Many different colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.


Inspiration Comes From Nature

Get up and walk outside. Take a moment to look around. What little details do you notice right now, that you miss everyday because you are in a hurry rushing here or there? Find a special moment, feeling or image with in nature. Close your eyes and picture it. Think - how do you feel? What is important about this image - the details? Is there a secret or a surprising detail about the image? Does it have a story to tell?

Traditional Japanese Haiku poetry is composed of 17 units divided into three parts (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables). Japanese Haiku poets write their poems in one line; however, in English Haiku each part is written on a separate line. It is important to divide the three parts to allow the reader time to form an image in their mind.

An English Haiku looks like this:

Five Syllables

Seven Syllables

Five Syllables


Something to think about before you start writing, Haiku poems should include the following:

  • Focus on nature or a natural occurrence
  • Includes a seasonal word (like snow) that indicates what time of year it is
  • The poem should have a natural division: First part of the image, Second part of the image and Third the surprise relationship about the two parts
  • Haiku poets describe the details of the natural image that causes emotion rather than saying the actual emotion
  • Remember Sensory Language to help in writing a Haiku (smell, sight, hearing, touch, taste)


Start Writing:

  1. Find an image of nature that inspires you.
  2. Do not worry about counting syllables yet - just start writing.
  3. Write the first two lines about your image of nature.
  4. Write the third line with a surprise or intriguing point of view - it should be completely different from the first two lines.
  5. Look over what you wrote. Does the combination of the lines create a visual in the readers mind that has a surprise ending?
  6. Rewrite the poem in Haiku format (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables). Experiment with words that create imagery and enhance feeling.
  7. Don't be afraid to try new ideas and perspectives. Read your Haiku aloud to yourself - how does it sound? Does it use sensory language and create a surprising moment?


Examples of "Winter Haiku" poems by Charles de Lint



November 29


another blizzard; the world

goes quietly white


December 18

Moonlight casts a pale

blue light on the snow, winter

perfect, cold and brisk


December 26

The bare limbs of the

trees shiver in the wind and

speak in semaphore

Source: de Lint, Charles (2002). Winter Haiku. retrieved online April 2012 from