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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.

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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