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The Elements Of Haiku Poetry Essay, Research Paper

Haiku poetry has been around for many years. It started in Japan and has gone worldwide since. Its simple form makes it interesting to the people who write and read it. Even though haiku poetry is one of, if not the smallest form of poetry, there is a long history behind it and many elements, such as structure, topic, ?haiku moment,? season word, imagery, and suggestiveness, that have to be considered when writing haiku.

Haiku poetry appeared in the sixteenth century. It was mostly centered in Japan. There were two main reasons that people wrote haiku. It was a way for people to express their thoughts, and to rise above the limitations imposed by the usual language and thought that treats everything as machines. Most haiku is written in plain, everyday, language. (Lewis)

Haiku developed from a different form of poetry called tanka, which dates all the way back to early Japanese history. Tanka is a five-lined verse. After haiku was created, it was usually seen as the hokku of a renga. A hokku is the first line in a renga and a renga is a long series of poems. The development of haiku was never influenced at all by the west or China.

The word haiku actually means game verse. This form of poetry is sometimes called hokku of kaikai, but these names are considered to be incorrect. Most haiku poets begin to write haiku when they are very young. They start early because children are less likely to worry about doing things right from the start. Since grammar and vocabulary are not necessarily important in haiku, the children who write them don?t have to know every word in the world to make them sound good.

The most famous of all haiku poets is Matsuo Basho. Basho lived from 1644 to 1944. He lived during the time of the English writers John Milton and John Bunyan.

In the world of haiku poetry, there are many elements that are important and need to be considered. Of the many elements, there are six very important ones: structure, topic, ?haiku moment,? season word, imagery, and suggestiveness.

The first element, and the easiest element to see in the poem, is the structure of the haiku. A haiku is a three-line stanza. It is composed of seventeen syllables and does not rhyme. The basic pattern of haiku poetry is five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. The form of tanka, the poetry from which haiku actually developed, is in a pattern of five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables.

The second of six elements is the topic that haiku discusses. Although the poem is very short and concise, the topic is generally not all that difficult to understand. The topic usually discusses nature, color, sensation, impression, or the drama of a specific fact of native.

The third element of haiku poetry is the ?haiku moment.? The ?haiku moment? is the part of the poem that makes it seem like a photograph of whatever it is describing. A simple photo describes a setting or a scene. The description causes an emotional response in its viewer. There is not a caption on the picture that tells us what the emotional response is that we are supposed to get from looking at it. Instead it is a simple moment in time left to be interpreted however the viewer sees it. (Source #7,pp1) ?the primary purpose of reading and writing haiku is sharing moments of our lives that have moved us, pieces of perception that we offer or receive as gifts. At the deepest level, this is one great purpose of all art, and especially literature.? This quote by Bill Higginson says that haiku is meant to share individual moments of our lives with other people, and that the haiku moment is one way of doing this.

The fourth element of haiku is the season word. A season word exists in every haiku. The word is meant to help the reader to interpret the haiku and its meaning. The word is also used to help describe the setting of the scene and also invokes the season in which the writer is trying to express in his or her haiku.

The fifth element is imagery. Haiku poetry tries to paint a picture in the mind of the reader with words. Imagery mostly comes into play because nature is usually the main subject of haiku. It is easy to create a picture when the subject, nature, is so alive and colorful. Most people in Japan keep small gardens in their homes. These gardens are sometimes no larger than a table top. The garden helps to give some inspiration for people?s haiku if they write them. (New book of Knowledge, pp28)

The sixth and final element of haiku poetry is the poem?s suggestiveness. The suggestiveness is a way of indicating more to the reader than what is plainly stated. The best of haiku poets hide deep meanings in their seventeen syllable poems. This technique is used in many other Japanese arts such as monochrome ink paintings. The artist uses only a few simple, but firm brush strokes to painting a scene. The viewer of the ink painting or reader of the haiku must fill in the empty spaces with his or her own imagination. (New book of Knowledge, pp28)


The dying of the

Flowers, the turning of the

Grass, the autumn breeze.

This is an example of a haiku. It is written by Jean Gregory. This haiku demonstrates four of the six elements. The structure of the poem is a three line stanza with five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. The topic of the poem has to do with nature because it is talking about the transition of spring to fall. There is a season word in this haiku and it is the word autumn. It tells that the poem is talking about something that takes place in the fall. Imagery is demonstrated by the picture it gives the reader of the transition from spring to fall.

Although haiku poetry is the smallest form of poetry and literature in the world today, there is a very big history behind it as well as many elements to take into consideration. It is amazing what careful consideration must take place for something so small. These facts, among many others are probably what has kept haiku poetry alive through the years.



 Bash, ?One Man?s Moon: 50 Haiku,? Frankfort Kentucky, Gnorman, 1984.

 Lewis, Richard, ?Of This World; A Poets Life in Poetry,? New York NY, Dial, 1968.

 Doreski, Carole Killer and William, ?How to Read and Interpret Poetry,? New York NY, Simon and Schuster, 1988, pp152.


 Strand, Clark, ?The Way of Haiku,? Yoga Journal, July/August Issue, 1997, pp25+

 ?Haiku,? Hutchinson Dictionary of the Arts, Helicon Publishing, 1999


 ?The New Book of Knowledge,? Volume J/K, Grolier, Danbury Connecticut, 1986, pp28


 Bachmann, Christopher, ?Haiku,? http://www.mit.edu/people/chekmate/Haiku/haiku.html

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