Some Thoughts on Haiku

in my fall– / publishing / before I perish 

I posted this on Robert Epstein’s blog on “death awareness poems” recently. I find this poetry to be poignant and clear-eyed – not morbid.


In this poem, there is a kigo, or seasonal reference, and it is “fall.” I guess it works metaphorically because I am a middle-aged man in the fall of my life.

Haiku nearly always have seasonal references.

One of the most difficult lessons for me to un-learn was getting away from the three line, 5-7-5 syllable structure. I was taught way back in elementary school that haiku have this structure. However, literary haiku journals will usually not accept a haiku or senryu with a 5-7-5 structure – unless, perhaps, it’s ‘accidentally’ that way!

A haiku is normally three lines, but not always. It’s possible to have one to four line haiku (and senryu). There is a famous example of a one word haiku:

~ a word used to describe the barren landscape of the Arctic north. I won’t use the word because I don’t have permission to reprint the “poem” here.

[in large letters, and in a field of white] I believe the author was Cor van den Heuvel, but I’m not certain. Now, is that a haiku? Some argue yes. [Source: Michael Dylan Walsh workshop held in Bellingham, WA, January 2010]

A very pleasing haiku to me is one which is three words long. For example:

caterpillars– / transforming / hillsides

This is mine, too.

It is possible to have a three line, three syllable haiku which has a seasonal reference and the two part structure.

Note: I posted large portions of this blog post originally on Writer’s Digest Community, August 25, 2010.

About Andrew Shattuck McBride

I am a writer, editor, writing coach, and consultant. I work in a variety of genres, including poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. I also have a couple of novels simmering on back burners. THANK YOU to Nan Macy of Village Books for taking this photo (June 2011).
This entry was posted in Andrew Shattuck McBride Writer, Notes on the Literary Life. Bookmark the permalink.

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