How to Write a Haiku

A few years ago, I picked up the habit of writing haiku as a warm up exercise. This was especially useful when I was writing Balor Reborn, because I was trying to write and publish the book in a week. (Spoiler alert, I did it!) I began each writing session by writing a few haiku, usually taking requests for subjects from friends. This meant writing on a few random topics, like jam and coffee, and a lot of them were written as innuendos. Anything to get the writing blood flowing, I guess.

To this day, I still find haiku to be a fun and interesting way to get myself thinking about word choices, and I’ve recently revived my old habit of writing Doctor Haik-Who based on the most recent episode of Doctor Who to air.

But how do you write a haiku? Thankfully, I’ve already written one to explain it.

Take five syllables, then add another seven. Finish with five more

Take five syllables,
Then add another seven.
Finish with five more.

It seems simple when it’s broken down like that, but there are often a few other things to take into consideration. Traditionally, the last sentence of the haiku should provide a twist.

Most relationships
Of boy meets girl gets married
Are not that simple.

I’m not going to say that my own haiku are the best examples out there, but they illustrate the point clear enough. (Pun definitely intended.) Haiku are short and simple in appearance. Usually, they address issues of nature or philosophy, but modern interpretations (read as: Western bastardisation) has loaned itself to dealing with every topic under the sun. As I said before, anything from tea to Doctor Who.

In rainless puddles
Find reflected reflections

And imperfect truths

(That’s a throwback to The Pilot, s10e01.)

In some circles, haiku take on different roles and forms. They’re used to tell stories, to make shapes, to become a new form of art in and of themselves. I used one myself in the promotion of- and original cover for- Balor Reborn back in 2012: a cirku. Designed to be read continuously, at its most natural starting point it still follows the rules of a haiku as far as syllables are concerned: 5-7-5.

A powerful evil
A divided family

An old Irish myth

The rules of haiku make them an interesting challenge in short-form poetry. There’s no need to pull out the rhyming dictionary. There’s no requirement to use flowery language. The focus is on specific word choice based on syllable count, not complexity, and to create something with meaning. Most of the time.

Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don’t make sense

Refrigerator

If you thought I’d end this post seriously, you really missed all the puns. I just wish we knew who wrote the refrigerator piece.

What are your favourite haiku? Do you write any of your own? Leave one in the comments below.

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About Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is a writer, born, raised and still living in Dublin. By day he's a student and bookseller, by night he writes fiction and uses social media.
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