Modern haiku is written in three lines of verse that comprise a stanza. The first and third lines contain five syllables each. The second line contains a total of seven syllables. Lines one and two are on the same subject or thought. Line three may be juxtaposition, summation, or a complete surprise.

Traditionally haiku comments on nature and seasons, comparing and contrasting everyday experiences and events. The verses are not meant to rhyme. Concentrating on a single thought or idea, haiku can present a novel concept; release hidden emotions; provide comfort during grief; offer restful joy; or uncork whimsical, silly things—all by the act of writing.

Example:
Shown on glass shelving (5 syllables)
Silent cones in sterile rows (7 syllables)
Ice cream in gouges (5 syllables)

by Gene Helveston

This modern haiku captured the thoughts of a person standing at an ice-cream counter on a Saturday evening, possibly with the family in tow, and with a crowd of other customers. Shutting out the bustle of activity, the writer compared the orderly presentation of cones on shelves, probably two or three varieties, with the scarred surfaces of several flavors of ice cream in large tubs. You are looking through the glass as the server rearranges the rough gouges with a heavy scoop.

The message delivered in these lines will resonate with anyone who has had this experience. The haiku juxtaposes the orderliness of cones in a row with the cratered surface of the tubs of ice cream.

Example:
Now has already passed (5 syllables)
The future is never now (7 syllables)
The essence is mine (5 syllables)

by Margaret Hall Simpson

Haiku is written in the present tense. Readers will have the sense they are observing an event that is happening now. Actually, writing about the present—now—is impossible. The writer is always an observer recording a past event, even if it happened mere seconds ago. The “now” no longer exists because it instantly becomes the past. The future is always out there. The haiku writer wants readers to experience a past event in this moment.

Example:
We do the two-step (5 syllables)
Keeping six feet between us (7 syllables)
Our smiles bridge the gap (5 syllables)

by Jo Lesher

Whimsy? This haiku describes how partners react while dancing during a time of social distancing.

Now, it’s your turn to try this concise and compelling form of expression. The first step is an idea … remember, the verses are not meant to rhyme.
And, please, share your haiku with us in the box below.

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