How to Write a Haiku: Structure, Rules, and Examples

Discover the secrets to crafting stunning haikus with our simple guide! Learn all about the structure, rules, and see examples to create your own poetic masterpiece.

By:   Daniel Oliver, Published on: 2024-04-22, Last Updated: 22-05-24

Reviewed by: Hazel Max

Table of Contents

In this article, we'll learn:

  • The structure and syllable pattern of haiku poems
  • The traditional elements of haiku, including kigo (seasonal references) and kireji (cutting words)
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to write your own haiku
  • Examples of haiku to help you understand the form better

Structure of Writing a Haiku Poem

Haiku is a Japanese poetry form that follows a specific pattern of syllables. In English, the traditional haiku structure is:

  • First Line: 5 syllables
  • Second Line: 7 syllables
  • Third Line: 5 syllables

This 5-7-5 syllable count is the most recognizable feature of a haiku poem in the English language. If a poem doesn't adhere to this syllable pattern, it's generally not considered a true haiku.

However, in the original Japanese form, haiku is based on a different concept called "on," which refers to sound units in Japanese poetry. A traditional Japanese haiku consists of 17 on arranged in the same 5-7-5 pattern.

While the syllable count may be the same, the on system doesn't always translate perfectly to the syllable structure in English. As a result, some haiku translations may not strictly follow the 5-7-5 pattern.

Another defining aspect of Japanese haiku is the presence of a "kireji," which is a special word or phrase that creates a sense of pause or separation. In English haiku, this is sometimes represented through punctuation like dashes or ellipses, but it's not a mandatory element.

Additionally, haiku traditionally includes a "kigo," which is a word or phrase that references a particular season or time of year. While not required in English haiku, many poets choose to include a kigo to capture the seasonal essence of the form.

So, while the 5-7-5 syllable structure is the most recognizable trait of a haiku in English, the form can be interpreted and adapted by poets. Some may choose to incorporate elements like kireji and kigo, while others might keep it simple, just focusing on how many syllables they use and the pictures they create with their words.

Here's an example of a haiku with explanations of the kigo and kireji:

Gentle spring rain falls (5)

Birdsong fills the dampened air (7)

Cherry blossoms sway (5)

In this haiku, the kigo, or seasonal reference, is "Cherry blossoms." This symbolizes springtime, as cherry blossoms typically bloom during this season, adding a sense of nature and the passage of time to the poem.

The kireji, or cutting word, is implied through the punctuation and structure. The pause after "falls" and "air" creates a sense of separation between the lines, indicating a shift in focus or thought. It's not explicitly marked, but the punctuation and structure serve to fulfill the function of the kireji in English haiku.

How to Write a Haiku Poem

Haiku is a simple but beautiful form of poetry that anyone can enjoy writing.

Think and Explore

The first step is to think about what you want to write about in your haiku. You can choose to write about nature, like the changing seasons or animals, or you can write about something more personal, like your hobbies, your family, or your feelings. Let your mind wander and explore different ideas.

Make Notes

Once you have some ideas, write them down. You don't need to write full sentences, just jot down words or short phrases that you might want to use in your haiku. You can also try putting words together to see how they sound and if they fit the haiku structure (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables).

Create Your Haiku

Now it's time to write your haiku. Arrange the words you've written down into the haiku structure, and say them out loud to make sure they sound good. Don't worry if your haiku doesn't follow the 5-7-5 structure exactly – the most important thing is that it feels natural to you.

Take a Break

After you've written your haiku, take a break. Do something else for a day or so, and then come back to your haiku with fresh eyes. This will help you see if there are any changes you want to make.

Here’s a video help you in writing haiku by own

Make Changes

Read your haiku again and listen to how it sounds. Are there any words you want to change or rearrange? Make any changes you think will improve your haiku.

Share or Publish (Optional)

If you're happy with your haiku, you can choose to share it with others or even try to get it published in a magazine or book. But even if you keep it to yourself, you've accomplished the goal of writing a haiku!

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Final Thoughts

Writing haiku poems is like taking a little adventure with words. It's about using simple language to capture moments and feelings. While there are rules about how many syllables to use, the real magic of haiku is in how it makes us feel connected to nature and our experiences. Whether you stick to the rules or make your own style, writing haiku is a fun way to notice the small wonders around us.


What is a cutting word in a haiku?

A cutting word in a haiku is a linguistic device used to create a pause or break between two contrasting or juxtaposed elements.

What is kireji and kigo?

Kireji is a type of cutting word used in traditional Japanese poetry, particularly in haiku and tanka.

What poem structure is like haiku?

Tanka is a poem structure similar to haiku.

What are the 3 rules of a haiku poem?

The three rules of a haiku poem are:

  • It consists of three lines.
  • The syllable pattern is 5-7-5.
  • It often contains a kireji (cutting word) or a juxtaposition of images.

What is a kigo in a haiku?

A kigo in a haiku is a seasonal word or phrase that indicates the time of year or the season in which the poem is set.

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