How to Haiku
articles and information


Berry Blue Haiku
Magazine for Young Readers
Jane Reichhold


Haiku are little and seem easy to write. Because they are so small, even tiny errors can seem to be huge. You, as the writer, have only seconds in which to impress the reader so you want to make the experience as exact and pleasurable as possible.
You already know a haiku usually has three images and you are used to putting one on each line. As readers our eyes are trained to swoop across the line of print and not to stop until the margin on the right-hand side forces us to shift our eyes back to the other side of the page to look at more letters.
One of the most vital actions a reader makes when reading a haiku is picturing in the mind images the words call forth. When your eyes read “old pond” you, as a reader, are expected to do more than think about seeing two little words on the page. You are asked to think of some old pond you have known or seen. Maybe it was one in a zoo, or out on a farm, or a secret one in the woods, but to read a haiku successfully you have to go to the trouble of finding the best old pond image you have ever seen that is stored in the memory bank of your brain.
This action is vital to haiku and is the actual making of the haiku. You do it. In your head you light up the poem with your images and when you do this, you have created poetry. This job takes a nano-second so normally it can be done in the time it takes your eyes to slide back to the left-hand side of the page.
So we want to give the reader time to make these mind images by stopping the words in the line. This is a good trick. However, like all tricks, if you use them too much they can fail or become irritating.
Somewhere through the ages of writing their poetry, the Japanese realized this and they found a way to fix it.
Instead of stopping the flow of the meaning when the words stop, if one builds the lines so one wants to get to the next image the readers will gladly shift their eyes once more back to the other side of the page to get the rest of the information.

Let us say I have written:

the sea
a child throws a stone
breaking waves

When you read that out loud you can feel the drop in your voice at the end of each line. We often say the poem feels “choppy” – like being on a boat in stormy weather. However if I can connect two of those lines so they flow together I can get rid of one of the choppy places and just that trick greatly smoothes the sound and feeling of the haiku.
When I look at the poem, I feel the best two lines to connect would be “the sea” and “a child throws a stone” so I try:

a child throws a stone
at the sea

Do you see how much smoothness just adding ‘at’ adds? Sometimes we call this section of the haiku the phrase because it sounds just like a phrase should in English.
But now I have one more image I need to add – breaking waves. This is called the fragment because it is only a fragment of a sentence. I could write my haiku as:

the child throws a stone
at the sea
breaking waves

Now I have too much flow between the images so that it sounds and feels like a sentence. We do not want this in haiku. We are out for more excitement.
Now if I move the fragment to the top of the poem it will stand alone and feel like a good fragment.

breaking waves
a child throws a stone
at the sea

Can you feel how differently you read this version of the haiku? Can you see which line is the fragment? Which two lines form the phrase? Do you see what makes this haiku funny?

It is because we have the term and the idea about the sea that the waves break on the shore. When my reader sees the first line I am hoping he or she will image big waves tumbling over each other. Then the reader is asked to see a child throwing a stone. When that image combines with the sense of the first line, one could wonder “is the child throwing stones to break waves?” However, when the last line is read the reader understands that it is the sea breaking its own waves and a child is part of the sea by having a good time throwing stones. And I hope you have a good time finding the haiku in your life.



This article was first published at:

by Gisele LeBlanc,
Executive Editor, Berry Blue Haiku


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Copyright © Jane Reichhold 2011.

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