View Full Version : ARTS: How to Haiku 3: writing haiku

04-03-2019, 12:29 PM
You Zen folk have a head start on this! Haiku often take images from nature and compare them to Buddhist concepts of impermanence and other notions. This is the case in Basho’s poem which reflects both the futility of war and the fact that once proud warriors grow old even if they do not fall in battle.

There is an importance of observing tiny details in nature and life and combining what is happening to trees, plants and animals with what is going on in your own life. The reflection of inner and outer worlds is often what gives a haiku its power and poignancy.

So, please, give it a try and write a few poems. Spend some time in silence, preferably in nature, if only your garden, and see what images come up. Note them down and see if they suggest a verse. You can also write from imagination but direct experience in the moment is great and fits with our Zen practice.
I will try and comment on as many as I can. My one rule is NO 5-7-5. This is to get away from syllable counting.

Here are a few more examples to give you an idea of what we are aiming at. The fragment and phrase should be clear in each:

begging bowl
a crack in the pavement
grows dandelions
-- Kokuu

snow melt
the village overflows
with children
-- Kobayashi Issa

summer’s end
the numbness
-- Helen Buckingham

my hut in spring
there is nothing in it
there is everything
-- Sodō

Bermuda triangle the mystery in your touch
-- Tim Gardiner

mountain pheasant
treading on its tail
spring’s setting sun
-- Yosa Buson

These are some of my other favourite poems from modern and traditional writers: https://yearinhaiku.wordpress.com/favourite-haiku/

Suggested reading
Haiku techniques (https://www.ahapoetry.com/haiartjr.htm)
Fragment and phrase theory (https://www.ahapoetry.com/h_t_fragment.html)
Zen and the Art of Haiku (http://www.kenjoneszen.com/haiku-as-buddhist-practice/zen_and_the_art_of_haiku)
Writing and Enjoying Haiku (book (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/211515.Writing_and_Enjoying_Haiku))
A Zen Wave by Robert Aitken (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/162476.A_Zen_Wave) (Rinzai Buddhist teacher Robert Aitken, who wrote The Mind of Clover that we use in precept study, looks at the haiku poetry of Matsuo Basho from a Zen perspective)

You can find more books (https://yearinhaiku.wordpress.com/books-and-weblinks/)and articles (http://www.kenjoneszen.com/haiku-as-buddhist-practice/zen_and_the_art_of_haiku) on my haiku website.

04-03-2019, 11:48 PM
Thank you Kokuu!! Wonderful teachings that make it sound doable. I'm looking forward to practicing and reading everyone else's efforts here.


04-04-2019, 01:38 AM

08-22-2020, 04:40 AM
Summer rain outside
Indoor cat
Purring loudly


08-22-2020, 08:07 AM
Here's a few I wrote last week; am I doing it right?

shortening days
crows pick at fallen grains of wheat
thunderstorm surprises even birds

fading light cooling air
breeze blows scent of ripe cabbage
lights go off in farmer’s house

bees on the birdbath
take respite
from the heavy August swelter

in the heat of summer
even the river
slows down

tall pine tree
casts shadows on twittering tits
cooling hot summer sun




08-22-2020, 12:51 PM
Hi Kirk!

Nice efforts! In general I would say that you are trying to fit too much in. Take 17 syllables as an upper maximum and try just to use two images rather than more.

Then take out any excess words that are not required.

This one is pretty close:

in the heat of summer
even the river
slows down

Two images that add to each other nicely! The river is slower as it is dry and also brings in that human element of being slower in the heat.

My only improvement would be to shorten the first line, and maybe the third:

summer heat
even the river

As an extra, you could even draw out the third line:

summer heat
even the river
s l o w s

Here are some great images, you just need to pick between them:

shortening days
crows pick at fallen grains of wheat
thunderstorm surprises even birds


shortening days
the last grains of wheat
crow by crow

among the field stubble
first clap of thunder

These are not great haiku but just off the top of my head.

If you read some contemporary haiku (these are from a recent issue of the British Haiku Society journal, Blithe Spirit), you will get a feel of how things are done:

rooks cross the sky
into evening

picking up the tempo
on her lemon yellow banjo
winter rain

looking at the house
we didn't buy
cold winter sun

Stardust and many other journals are published online and free to read: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1k8MuOdXqRsGdK3om1Vkj6t1PGXrcibS0/view


08-23-2020, 10:32 AM
The waterfall here,
has never ceased.
Where do I begin?