Types of Haiku Poems

Discover different kinds of Haiku poems. Learn about old and new styles. Find out how people express themselves in Types of Haiku

By:   Daniel Oliver, Published on: 2024-04-22, Last Updated: 29-04-24

Reviewed by: Hazel Max

Table of Contents

In this article, we'll talk about haiku.

  • It's a short poem without rhymes.
  • Haiku has different types, i.e. traditional and modern.
  • There are also related forms like senryu, tanka, haibun, and renku.
  • A haiku usually has three lines.
  • It follows a specific pattern of syllables.

Let's start with the types of haiku poems.

Types of Haiku Poems

Here are some types and forms of haiku discussed below:

1. Traditional Haiku

Traditional haiku is the original form of haiku poem that originated in Japan and captures a moment in nature, often with a focus on seasonal changes, emotions, or observations

The structure typically consists of three lines with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5. In this type of haiku, a kireji, or cutting word, is used. It serves to create a pause or break within the poem, often bringing together contrasting elements or emotions.

Matsuo Basho, a master of haiku, inspired many poets who followed him. They used the kireji to evoke surprise or juxtaposition in their poems, giving readers a sudden shift in perspective or feeling. Still, many poets like Jane Reichhold, Robert Hass, and Matsuo Allard continue to write haiku traditionally.

Examples of Traditional Haiku are:

  • Autumn Moonlight by Kobayashi Issa
  • Spring Morning by Matsuo Basho

2. Modern Haiku

Modern haiku is like a new version of the old haiku poems. Instead of sticking strictly to a certain number of syllables, modern haiku poets can use different amounts to make their poems. They also write about more than just nature, talking about everyday things like feelings, love, or problems in society.

Modern haiku uses simple words and pictures to express big ideas. This helps readers understand and feel what the poet is trying to say more easily.

Examples of modern haiku include:

  • Meteor Shower by Michael Dylan Welch
  • Subway Rush by Jack Kerouac

3. Senryu

Senryu is a type of Japanese poetry. It's a bit like haiku, but it talks more about people and how they act, rather than nature. It has three lines, usually with 5, 7, and 5 syllables.

Haiku is often serious, but senryu is funny or cheeky. People who write Senryu use jokes or clever words to talk about how strange people can be.

Senryu poems often talk about big topics like politics or culture. They help people think about the world in a funny way.

Examples of Senryu include:

  • Summer Shower by Masaoka Shiki
  • Another Year by Kobayashi Issa

Before moving on to Tanka poetry, here's an insightful video on teaching kids Haiku with Kwame Alexander and TCM:

4. Tanka 

Tanka is a kind of Japanese poem that's been around for more than 1,000 years. People in Japan, especially those in power, liked it a lot. Even today, many Japanese poets still write tanka poems.

Tanka is similar to haiku because it talks about nature and feelings. But it's a bit longer and lets poets explore these ideas more.

Here's how a tanka poem is built:

  • It has five lines with 31 syllables in total.
  • The first three lines usually talk about one thing.
  • The last two lines change the topic a bit, giving a new perspective.

Tanka lets poets use language and pictures in different ways. They can use comparisons and descriptions to show how they feel. They can also write about many things, not just nature and emotions.

Even though tanka is like haiku, it's longer and lets poets express themselves in more detail.

Examples of Tanka include:

  • Eternal Longing by Saigyo
  • Two Stars Deep in Heaven by Yosano Akiko
  • Blossoms and Tears by Izumi Shikibu

5. Haibun

Haibun is a special type of Japanese poetry. It combines two different styles of writing - prose and haiku. Prose means writing in full sentences and paragraphs, like a story. Haiku is a very short poem with just a few words.

In haibun, the writer first uses prose to describe an experience, memory, or observation in detail. This could be about traveling somewhere, something that happened, or just thoughts and feelings. The prose part is longer and uses descriptive language to paint a picture for the reader.

After the prose section, the writer adds a haiku poem. A haiku is extremely short - just three brief lines capturing a single moment or image. The haiku connects to the prose part, but expresses it in a simple, powerful way using vivid natural imagery.

The haiku makes the prose more meaningful by highlighting a core feeling or idea in just a few words. And the prose gives more context to appreciate the deeper meaning of the haiku.

Haibun lets writers blend storytelling with compact, symbolic verses. It can cover any topic, but it's great for nature, emotions, and self-reflection. Writing haibun helps you pay close attention to details in your experiences.

Examples Haibun include:

  • Travels in the North by Yosa Buson
  • Moonlit Reflections by Fukudo Chiyo-ni

6. Haiga

Haiga is a Japanese form that combines painting or calligraphic art with haiku poetry.

Haiga combines two different kinds of art - painting/calligraphy and haiku poetry. It puts images and words together to express an idea or feeling.

First, the artist creates a painting or calligraphy artwork. This could show a nature scene like trees or flowers. Or it could use abstract shapes and colors to capture an emotion. Sometimes it features beautiful handwritten calligraphy.

After the painting is done, the artist adds a short haiku poem beside the artwork. 

The haiku highlights part of the painting and gives it extra meaning. The painting also helps you understand the deeper message in the haiku's few words.

Haiga lets the artist use both pictures and poetry together to share their inspiration. The artwork and haiku work as one to express a feeling or special moment.

Traditionally, haiga was painted and written with ink on a paper or silk scroll. But today, artists create haiga using many styles of painting and different materials, along with classic haiku.

Examples of Haiga Include:

  • Behind the Bamboo Blinds by Yosa Buson
  • Ocean's Rhythm by Kaji Ayu

7. Renku 

Renku is a long poem created by multiple poets working together. It starts with a short opening verse called a hokku, which is like a haiku and sets the initial theme or mood. Then, each poet takes turns adding new verses that link to the previous one by echoing its imagery, themes, or tone. 

As the poem progresses, the verses shift in subject matter while still connecting back to the original opening hokku. This collaborative structure allows each poet to contribute their unique voice, creating an evolving, flowing poem built from different perspectives united by the common opening thread. The transitions between verses create an interesting, surprising journey as the poem develops.

Examples of Renku Include:

  • Scent of Plum Blossoms by Bashō and Sora
  • Moonlit Journey by Chiyo-ni and Teishitsu

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Final Words

Haiku poetry comes in many different styles, each with its special way of expressing things. From the classic poems of Matsuo Basho to the new ideas of writers like Michael Dylan Welch, haiku is full of variety. It can talk about nature, make us laugh with senryu, or mix stories with short poems in haibun. Haiku helps us stop and see the beauty in everyday moments. Whether you like the old style or the new, there's something in haiku for everyone to enjoy and understand. Want to write haiku poems by yourself? Try our haiku poem generator now.

FAQ’s

How many haiku poems are there?

Countless haiku poems have been written throughout history, with new ones being composed every day.

What is the most famous haiku?

Old pond / A frog jumps in / The sound of water" by Matsuo Basho

What are the two types of haiku?

Traditional Haiku and Modern Haiku are the two main types of Haiku.

What are the 3 rules of haiku?

Haiku follows three main rules: it has three lines with syllables in a 5-7-5 pattern, the first line typically contains 5 syllables, the second line contains 7 syllables, and the third line returns to 5 syllables.

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