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Haiku as Creative Exercise and Expression

By BAD undergrad Sabrina Jamaludin.

Poetry isn’t my forte. It takes talent to write but an even more special talent to write poetry. People who wrote and recited poetry beautifully were the target of my envious glances. I never had the knack of rhyming things together.

When I was 15, I discovered haiku in a novel I was reading. It was an English haiku, something really simple, something about shoes. I was dumbfounded. This was considered poetry? Psht. I could do that. After a quick google search of what haiku is, I learnt that there was so much more to haiku than just trying to squeeze the right 17 syllables and call it a poetic form.

Haiku is a very short form of poetry that originated from Japan. A haiku uses just a few words to capture a moment and create a picture in the reader’s doxycycline online pharmacy mind. It is like a tiny window into a scene much larger than itself.

Traditionally, haiku has three main characteristics:

  1. Kiru and Kireji: Haiku’s essence is “cutting” or kiru. This is represented by the juxtaposition of two images and a “cutting word” or kireji between them. It’s a kind of verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment or separation and colours the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related.
  2. On: Haiku consists of 17 syllables or on, divided into three sentences of 5, 7, and 5 on each line respectively.
  3. Kigo: A seasonal or nature reference, called kigo, is usually used in a haiku, to juxtapose against.

One of the greatest Japanese haiku masters is Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694). Considered Japan’s saint of poetry, his works are considered classics of Japanese literature and has been translated into English extensively. He is even deified by both the imperial government and Shinto religious headquarters one hundred years after his death because he raised the haiku genre from a playful game of wit to sublime poetry. His poetry reflects two of the most important Zen ideals: wabi and sabi. Wabi, for Bashō, meant satisfaction with simplicity and austerity, while sabi refers to a contented solitude. It was nature, more than anything else, that was thought to foster wabisabi, and it is therefore unsurprisingly one of Bashō’s most frequent topics. Take this spring scene, translated from Japanese (note: Japanese syllables differ from English syllables, hence why it seems to not follow the 5-7-5 format), which appears to ask so little of the world, and is attuned to female cialis dose an appreciation of the everyday:


First cherry


by peach blossoms

Bashō’s poetry is of an almost shocking simplicity at the level of theme. There are no analyses of politics or love triangles or family dramas. The point cialis from canada is to remind readers that what really matters is to be able to be content with our own company, to appreciate the moment we are in and to be attuned to cialis and similar drugs the very simplest things life has to offer: the changing of the seasons, the sound of our neighbours laughing across the street, the little surprises we viagracanada-onlinerx encounter when we travel.


Modern haiku is unlikely to follow the use of juxtaposition nor does nature become the the subject of haiku, disregarding the kiru and kigo element. Adhering to merely the on element, it is not considered true haiku, but proves to still be one of the most interesting ways to exercise creative writing. Keeping it to 17 syllables is a challenge. Write a haiku waking up. Your coffee. How the leaves are falling outside. Boredom. Cats. How you’re feeling. How your friend might be feeling.

Here are some haikus by Jeffrey Yamaguchi, a writer I admire who writes a haiku daily:


Slammed the old school phone

remember it well – too well

hung up on you good

Aloft in the clouds

a secret message was sent

on wind’s cold whisper


Walk out of dive bar

see an old water tower

think about climbing


Night before the race

beer, burrito, stay up late

each year, better time


Last piece of pizza

I called dibs but you ate it

leftover dreams, dead

The Haiku Exercise

For this exercise, focus on writing a poem that is 17 syllables on three lines with the following meter: 5-7-5.

Tips: The most captivating haiku are quite lovely and use imagery that is almost tangible. Many haiku have an element of surprise or use turns of phrase that are clever, reminiscent of puns.

Variations: Write a few haiku that follow stricter, more traditional rules. These haiku are concerned with nature and include the kireji (cutting word) and kigo (season word).

Applications: Haiku remains popular and can be found in literary and poetry journals. They are also ideal for social media (especially Twitter!) and are fun and quick to write. They help you cultivate the art of using vivid imagery and concise writing.

Have fun!

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