Category Archives: Haiku Tips

A little section of Haiku tips.

Haiku tip #6

Haiku tip #6

Recently I was contacted and asked “How can I call what I write haiku as I do not use 5-7-5” I hope that this posting helps explain why 5-7-5 is not a requirement of haiku.

If one wonders why 5-7-5 does not a haiku make. I turn to Lee Gurga who in his book “Haiku: A poet’s guide” explains it thusly.

“‘Japanese Syllables’ are not syllables at all in our sense of the word. Japanese syllables are uniformly short, differing considerably in length from syllables in English, so it might be better to think of them as ‘sounds’ rather than syllables… These Japanese sounds consist of a either s single vowel sound, a combination of a consonant followed by a vowel, or a single consonant.
These syllables are ALL (emphasis mine) about the same length as the syllable ‘be’ in English.”

As we know in English there are short words with one syllable such as “be” but then there are longer words too.

Gurga goes on to say “the average Japanese haiku contains only 5-6 words, while the average 17 syllable haiku in English has 12 or more.”

Gurga and other haiku editors suggest that if you want to count syllables then you must do it as the Japanese do. For example the word haiku is counted as ha-i-ku or 3 syllables not hai-ku as it is counted in English. A 17 syllable haiku in English usually comes across as wordy.

That said I like the “one breath” rule. Take a breath, say your haiku, if you can say it slowly in one breath then you have properly used brevity.

Furthermore the majority of literary haiku published in English today are not 5-7-5 (even in Geppo). In the second edition of Cor van den Heuvel’s The Haiku Anthology (Touchstone, 1986), 88.2 percent of the poems are not 5-7-5. And in Bruce Ross’s Haiku Moment (Tuttle, 1993), an even greater 96.5 percent of the poems are not 5-7-5. A similar dominance of non-5-7-5 poems prevails in most of the leading English-language haiku journals.

Which is all to say that, among published literary haiku today (and in recent decades), 5-7-5 haiku are vastly in the minority. But if the counting of syllables is important to conscientious “traditional” haiku poets, those poets should have a clear understanding of basic phonetics, and know how to identify syllables and count them correctly and that my dear reader will have to wait for another day.

Blyth, R.H: History of Haiku 1964
Gurga, Lee: Haiku: A Poets Guide Modern Haiku Press, 2003
Higginson, William: The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku McGraw-Hill, 1985
image from:

Three chief hazards


The three chief hazards of haiku:

1: Dulling the image by abstraction.
2: Explaining the image.
3: Anthropomorphism.

I forgot where I read this but felt it important enough to write it down.

Haiku tip #5


Shiki’s advice to haiku masters.

1. Read all worth while books and think over their good and bad points.
2. Know all kinda of haiku but have your own style.
3. Gather new material directly. Do not take it from old haiku.
4. Know something about other literature.
5. Know at least something about all art.

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

Haiku tip #3


Shiki’s tips for beginning haiku writers

1. Be natural
2. Don’t bother about old rules of grammar and special points like spelling, kireji.
3. Read the old authors, remembering that in them you will find good and bad poems.
4. Notice that commonplace haiku are not direct, but artificially twisted out of shape.

5. Write to please yourself. If your writings do not please yourself, how can you expect them to please anybody else?

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

Why do you write?


The other day my wife asked me why do people write poetry. I pondered it a while and came to the following conclusion.

I write poetry because it is my verbal camera where I can share with others my interpretations and feelings on observations.

Why do you write?

Feature Writers: Use This Checklist


Charlotte Digregorio's Writer's Blog

Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality FeaturesMark Twain often spoke of  writing in an unpretentious way,  simplicity of language, accuracy, and “naturalness.” These are points that should be uppermost in feature writers’ minds when they write for newspapers and magazines.

Heed these key points about your prose:

1)  Select just the right word. Brainstorm until you get it right.

2)  Use concrete nouns.

3)  Use action verbs.

4)  Don’t prop up your verbs with adverbs.

5)  Show, don’t tell.

6)  Write using detail. For example, tell about the taste and smell of things.

7)  Don’t paraphrase  an interviewee’s great quote. And, put the quote up high in your article. (Remember that when someone says something colorful, it probably reveals a lot about their personality.)

8)  On the other hand, don’t put into direct quotation what has been  heard second or third hand. The quote should be the interviewee’s original statement.

9)  Write forceful, compelling sentences when…

View original post 260 more words

Haiku Tip #2 Editing


You have just written what you feel is the best haiku you can. Now, what do you do?
Sometimes I jump right into tearing it apart, turning it over and seeing what I can improve upon. Other times I will let it sit for months and revisit it when I have forgotten what I was trying to do and see if the haiku rekindles my memory.

In the research (see
sources for some) I have collected a few tips that one should keep in mind while attempting to edit their haiku.

Editing Questions

  1. Does my haiku engage the senses?
    Perhaps even more than one? (see posting on Synesthesia)
  2. Do I have only what is essential?
  3. Is my order of perception clear? (see posting on Order of Perception)
  4. Do I have a Kigo (season word)
  5. Did I have more than one event/moment in my haiku?
  6. Are my images clear to the reader?
  7. Did I properly punctuate my haiku? (stay tuned for upcoming posting)
  8. Are there any typos or auto-corrects?
  9. Did I keep my haiku brief enough? (stay tuned for upcoming posting)

Of course there are many other questions you can ask yourself and perhaps you, my dear reader, can add to it in the comments. I will of course add to this later and will elucidate them individually too at a later date.

Blyth, R.H: History of Haiku 1964
Gurga, Lee: Haiku: A Poets Guide Modern Haiku Press, 2003
Higginson, William: The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku McGraw-Hill, 1985

Haiku Tip #1.5


This week I thought I’d cover capitalization and since it is a short topic will write another one later.


I look back at my earlier haiku and see that I used standard rules I learned in English class. But now after reading many books and other works I have a better understanding of the use of capitalization. Below are a few simple tips to keep in mind.

1. Try and keep capitalization as unobtrusive as possible.

2. Capitalizing the first word of a haiku is like a neon sign advertising a poem is coming.

3. If a capital is used within the body of the poem it can detract from the simpleness that should be inherit in a haiku.

Personally I feel, currently, that only the pronoun “I” needs to be capitalized and I am considering going e.e cummings for a while and seeing how that goes too.

I hope this gives you food for thought and helps you along your journey.

Blyth, R.H: History of Haiku 1964
Gurga, Lee: Haiku: A Poets Guide Modern Haiku Press, 2003
Higginson, William: The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku McGraw-Hill, 1985

2012 Haiku Events to Inspire Poets to Publish


A great event. I hope to see you there.

Charlotte Digregorio's Writer's Blog

For those living in the Midwest or those who are planning a trip there in April, June, or July, you may want to attend some haiku events that I will be speaking at.

First, on Saturday, April 28, there is Haikufest at the Skokie Public Library in Skokie, IL, a suburb of Chicago. It is from 2  to 3:30 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

In June, I will be doing a workshop sponsored by the Northwest Cultural Council, Saturday, the 9th, from 9 a.m. to noon, at Palatine Public Library,  in  Palatine, IL (suburban Chicago).

And, from Friday through Sunday, July 20-22, there will be The Cradle Festival in Mineral Point, WI, a small town about  45 minutes west of Madison.

Below, is the press release I have written about Haikufest on April 28:

Haikufest, a celebration of this short, poetic form, will be held from…

View original post 618 more words