Can You Haiku? April 17 2015

Today is Haiku Poetry Day, designed to encourage us to appreciate these fleeting, Japanese poetic insights. Seemingly simple it is actually quite a complex form both to write and read: carefully constructed and impressionistic.

The most obvious characteristic of a haiku is that it is just three lines long consisting of 17 syllables broken between the lines into 5,7 and 5. However this is particularly English as the Japanese write a haiku in one single line or the layout is used to remove the need for punctuation. The brevity of the form, means that some poets' work can be said in just one single breath. Of course what is not said is probably more significant than what is uttered.

The other key features are that it is usually written in the present tense and juxtaposes two ideas. This can be a moment of great insight, a change in emotion or mood or something unexpected happens. However it can be as simple as contrasting two different things such as in their size, sound, feel or beauty. The cutting in two is called a kuru which is usually done through a kireji - a cutting word at the end of the first or second line. This can create a circular pattern to the haiku by returning you back to the initial idea.

Other ingredients of a haiku can include not starting lines with a capital letter, a focus on nature, not using abstract nouns, words, dispensing with words such as 'and', 'but' or 'like' and rarely using adjectives.

If 17 syllables seems too long for you, the monoku is a single line variation on the haiku which emerged in the 1970s and often has less than 17 syllables although it will have a caesura (pause) in the middle of the line.

We couldn't resist penning a couple of haikus for ourselves which we put on our Twitter feed @honeymellows, one of which is on one of our customised blank signs where you can add your own text - or haiku. Of course we have broken a lot of the conventions we have outlined above...but that is poetic licence for you!

Want to pen poems,
But wondering how to start,
Read our blog: now write...