Haiku you do?

Get your haiku on...

The Japanese know how to appreciate the moment: 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.

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:

O’er the wintry wood,

winds howl in an empty 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)


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

11 responses to “Haiku you do?

  • Tony McFadden

    There’s the joke one which ends in ‘refrigerator’ (actually, and first 5 and 7, followed by refrigerator works)

    But I thought I’d create an original one for this blog…

    NaN0riMo is
    writing fifty-kay words in
    a Masarati

  • JSD

    As I follow you, I’m realizing just how much I don’t know about writing. Thank you for all your great posts.

  • Polly Burns

    Love the John Cooper Clarke poem! Polly

  • Sandy Sue

    What a lovely gift to have you visit and subscribe to my site. I’m honored. So for your photo:

    Lonely arachnid
    Spins an invitation high
    Finds guests for dinner

  • Lindsay Waller-Wilkinson

    Thanks for taking the time to look at my blog and I’m over the moon that you’ve subscribed! I like what you’re doing here and have thus returned the favour, if it can be described as that? Look forward to reading more…

  • Babs M

    I love that last haiku! Thanks for coming by my blog. 🙂

  • liv2write2day

    Most enjoyable post…haiku is one of my favorite form. Also enjoyed your “About.”

  • Carla Fisher (@Saidandsung)

    Great post, Sue!

    I’ve always admired the haiku, and since you mentioned songwriting, the Sondheim musical PACIFIC OVERTURES is set in Japan and haiku is used throughout the script, and even in song. It’s a fantastic study of the economy (and beauty) of words.

    I actually consider tweets to be somewhat of modern-day haikus. While certainly the structure isn’t as strict as haiku (although not requiring rhyme is refreshing, isn’t it?), there is a character limit, as well as suggested syntax and nomenclature. It can be argued that Twitter is making those who use it more effective writers, because each character is so valuable that we simply have to stick to only the most important words to get our messages across. Every time I write a tweet, as I do a haiku, I’m reminded of the power of words.

  • evilnymphstuff

    Wow I’m just learning so much with your blog! 🙂 Haikus… nice nice! Thanks so much for coming by my blog!

  • Judy

    I’ve always loved Haikus (to read them!). I’m learning so much from your blog….thanks so much for your posts.

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