Haiku tip #4


Shiki’s advice to intermediate haiku writers
1. Remember perspective. Large things are large, but small things are also large if seen close up.
2. Delicacy should be studied, but it cannot be applied to human affairs in seventeen syllables. It can be applied to natural objects.
3. Haiku are not logical proportions, and no process of reasoning should show on the surface.
4. Keep the words tight; put in nothing useless. 5. Cut down as much as possible on adverbs, verbs and “postpositions.”
6. Use real and imaginary pictures, but prefer real ones. Using imaginary pictures will give you both good and bad haiku, but the good ones will be rare.

From “An Introduction to Haiku” by Harold G. Henderson. 1958

13 responses »

  1. Excellent tips. I see a lot of people writing Haiku about things that are not of the natural world. Is this break from tradition truly Haiku, or something else? I wrote something like that once and it was suggested to me that the emotions involved made it more suitable to a form like Tanka perhaps?

    • There are other forms that are similar to haiku. If a haiku does not use nature or is a satire or commentary it is generally called a Senryu. I shall try and write a bit on these forms shortly.

      • THAT’S the form I was thinking of. My wayward Haiku poems were steered into Senryu by Christine, a lovely, and fierce poetry trainer in a workshop I used to attend, her section she called simply, the Gym.

  2. I’m a sports and health nut. I’ve written some weird and humorous poems but now you’re inspired me to try Haiku. I’m not sure of the “rules” but most everything I’ve put on paper so far relates to exercise! My first effort…

    A cooling rain falls
    Body hot from running
    natures balance


  3. On the other hand, if we always followed advice, we would never have arrived at – for example – the Pre-Raphaelites, Art Nouveau or Impressionism. Rules are essential, but one of their central functions is to provide something to react against. (cf. Hegel’s dialectic)

    • Ben,
      I agree. Though I once remember hearing a story attributed to ee Cummings where he received a letter saying “I can write poetry too and I never learned the rules”
      To which ee replied “before you can break the rules one must know the rules”

      Forgive me I had to reconfigure the story from my faulty memory but I think you get the point. Below are thee handy tips to keep in mind.

      1) Learn the rules before you break them.
      2) When you break them, know why.
      3) Don’t be afraid to experiment.

  4. Thanks, William… good stuff, and worth trying to incorporate into my haiku, for sure… 🙂 Buddha rocks,doesn’t he?…. I haven’t caught up to all my email from the last couple days, but I glanced at the post you put up re: Buddhist aphorisms, and loved them all….. what a great opportunity for you to have a group mindfulness experience like that….

  5. Great tips!!! I especially like No. 5, as I feel cutting down excess adverbs and adjectives will make everyone a great writer; poets, authors and editors alike.

    Also, I know, traditionally, haiku is written based on nature. In writing haiku, I tend to write much about time, consciousness, perceptions and experiences. I feel like these fall into the category of “nature.” Your thoughts?

    Anyway, thanks for your awesome tips and for writing this blog; from an aspiring writer and poet.

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