What is a Haiku? Definition, Examples of Haiku

Definition of haiku: A haiku is a type of poem that consists of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, with a total of seventeen syllables in all.

What is a Haiku Poem?

What does haiku mean? Haikus are a verse form originating from Japan. Traditionally, haikus evoked images of the natural world, relating to seasons and nature.

What’s the pattern of a haiku? Traditional haikus consist of three unrhymed lines and seventeen syllables. The first line has five syllables, the second seven, and the final line five. This format is varied slightly when people write haikus.

Modern Examples of Haikus

haiku definitionHere are some examples of haikus:

Matsuo Basho writes a traditional haiku using images of nature and the environment:

An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond, splash!
Silence again.

This is a traditional haiku that follows the 5-7-5 structure.

Next, we have an example of a more modern haiku, written by Alan Pizzarelli who comments about humans and their interactions with nature:

out of the car wash
clouds move
across the hood

This haiku does not follow the traditional 5-7-5 layout. The Academy of American Poets recognizes that not all haikus must follow the traditional structure, but they must maintain the essential principals of haikus: namely, encapsulate a single impression or moment in time, provide colorful, vivid imagery, lead to a moment of illumination.

The Importance of Haikus

what is haikuHaikus are important forms of structured verse that paint a picture of a single image or evoke a particular emotion. Oftentimes, the image depicted is one of nature and humans together.

Try using this form of poetry when you are writing in verse to capture a single emotion or image to convey a strong message. When writing in this form, it’s not only important to follow the haiku structure; it’s also important to write the poem with a sudden awareness in the present tense, i.e., a sudden moment of illumination.

While haikus are short in length, they do not lack in meaning or impact.

Haiku Examples in Literature

haiku pattern poemHaikus are an important form of verse and are still the most popular form of Japanese poetry.

Here are some examples of haikus:

Kato Shuso writes in regards to the importance of all living beings:

I kill an ant
and realize my three children
have been watching.

In Matsuo Basho’s haiku, he writes to convey his sudden awareness of the natural surroundings:

In the twilight rain
these brilliant-hued hibiscus –
A lovely sunset

Summary: What are Haikus?

Define haiku: To review, haikus are structured poems. These poems are unrhymed and consist of three lines with a total of seventeen syllables. The lines follow the pattern of five, seven, and then five syllables.

Haikus take place in present tense and reveal an image of sudden awareness that often connects humans to their natural surroundings.

Final example,

In Murakami Kijo’s haiku he shows his sudden awareness of his connection to his father which occurs as the seasons change:

First autumn morning
the mirror I stare into
shows my father’s face.