Haiku! Bless you…

Autumn at Annaghmakerrig

The Japanese know how to appreciate the moment: think of those tea ceremonies where the design and the feel of the cup is lauded, the colour of the drink discussed, the scent, the very feel of the beverage dissected and praised. Not surprising, therefore, the land of the rising sun gave us the haiku.

Haiku is a poetic form that, traditionally, aims to capture a moment in nature, like a snapshot with words. Again, this is most typically achieved using seventeen syllables arranged in three unrhymed lines of five, seven and five syllables.

The practice of writing haikus is particularly useful if you are engaged in a word-limited literary arena such as writing songs. In such instances, words should be chosen carefully so that they can convey the specific mood, meaning and impact you require and haikus can help you build up that muscle. Haikus encourage you to pick up every word and study it closely for its sound, meaning, feel and impact. Here are some examples of the haiku:


Over the wintry

forest, winds howl in  rage

with no leaves to blow.

Soseki (1275-1351)

My all time favourite, however, is the haiku by the ‘punk poet, John Cooper Clarke:


Writing a poem

In seventeen syllables

Is very diffic.

(John Cooper Clarke, 1979)


Which also serves as a useful memory aide for the form…


The picture here is crying out for a haiku, can you think of one?


About suehealy

Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre and associate lecturer in playwriting at the universities of Lincoln and Portsmouth, Irish playwright Sue Healy has a PhD in modern theatre history. Her most recent stage play Imaginationship (2018) recently enjoyed a sell-out, extended run at the Finborough Theatre and is headed to the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough in August. Cow (2017) was staged at the Etcetera Theatre and Brazen (2016) ran at the King’s Head, funded by Arts Council England. Her work has been performed at the Criterion, Hackney Attic, Claremorris Festival (New Writing Award winner), Brighton Festival (the Sussex Playwrights’ Award Winner) and Sterts Theatre and has been developed by the Abbey Theatre, Dublin and support by the Peggy Ramsay Award. Her nine radio-plays have broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm. She has won prizes for her prose including the Molly Keane and HISSAC Awards and the Escalator Prize. A UEA Creative Writing MA alumna, Sue spent eleven years in Budapest editing Hungary A.M. Sue also tutors Creative Writing at CityLit. View all posts by suehealy

8 responses to “Haiku! Bless you…

  • Magdalena Wiklund

    I agree with you. As a buddhist I praise the here and now, the moment. I like the the japanese culture, and I am a writer. To be honest, I have not written mabny haikus, just a few in swedish. I have 2 pieces in English at my blogg page – Music and The Prize.
    You are a good writer. Your thought about the japanese culture, the here and now, are beautifully written – almost as a poem itself. And it surtenly makes the reader to get the feeling of here and now.

    • suehealy

      What a lovely comment, Magdelena, thank you! I’m actually not very good at living in the here and now – but I know that that is not a good thing, so I guess that is a start : )

  • klerosier

    I used to use modified Haiku writing in social work groups, with word count instead of syllables. I can’t remember my formula but it was something like the haiku would be a topic such as, How I feel about domestic violence. Survivors would list:
    One word as tittle.
    3 nouns,
    Five adjectives,
    a five word sentence.
    repeat the title.

    They could read it out loud, have me read it for them, or keep it to their heart. The Haiku were very personally therapeutic and often a springboard for opening up and sharing as well.

    I had inmates in a medium security prison do these. Topic: What strengths/skills do I have; what am I good at. Afterward we talked about how things like running a gang takes strong leadership skills, used negatively but the same skill as a president. How every personal strength is the flip side of a weakness. They got it and shared openly often with regret. Moved me. (As the new girl I got stuck with the Self Esteem program for a Health Day at the prison.)

  • Elizabeth Creith

    Forgotten life ring,
    No more bubbles rising up;
    Who’s in the water?

    I love the mnemonic haiku!

  • Ben Naga

    Surface unruffled,
    the lake reflects Autumn trees
    and the endless sky.

  • John Kelly

    The diving man dives
    The lake becomes still again
    When will he surface?

    Dear old Soseki
    Cant count to seventeen
    Poor English I guess

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