NaPoWriMo Day 25: Haiku

Amy Grier
2 min readApr 25, 2020


Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

Haiku is a short Japanese form poem. I think many English speaking poets enjoy working with haiku because it feels accessible. It’s a brief, three-line form that generally follows a 5–7–5 meter.

Let’s take a look at Matsuo Bashō’s famous haiku, “Old Pond”:

the old pond

a frog leaps in —

the sound of water

In the original Japanese, the poem follows the form of five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third. Translations, however, are often best achieved by honoring the minimalist and wistful nature of haiku over number of syllables.

A haiku includes three main elements:

  1. The use of kiru, or “cutting,” by juxtaposing two images or ideas. Images are key in haiku. Here, the steady pond and the leaping frog are set together.
  2. A seasonal reference. In Bashō’s poem, the pond indicates that it’s summer.
  3. The 5–7–5 meter.

Let’s look at another haiku translation, this one by Buson:

this piercing cold –
in the bedroom, I have stepped
on my dead wife’s comb

Buson includes all three traditional elements to create this striking haiku: 5–7–5 syllable form (in the original Japanese), juxtaposing two elements — in this case the cold wind and the comb’s discovery, and a seasonal reference: the cold wind indicates that it’s winter.

Write a haiku that includes all three traditional elements of the form. What’s most important when writing in English is the use of three lines, the pairing of two ideas or elements, the season, and the wistful, thoughtful nature of the poem. If you can do this while keeping the 5–7–5 line syllables, go for it. :-)



Amy Grier

Writer & editor. MFA Lesley Uni. Singer/pianist. Blogger @Brevitymag. Published Streetlight Mag, Poetry East & more. Current project: memoir, Terrible Daughter