Haiku Poems: History, Definition and Examples

Discover what haiku poems are all about, their history, and see some examples. Haiku poems are short, but they hold a lot of meaning!

By:   Daniel Oliver, Published on: 2024-02-16, Last Updated: 26-04-24

Reviewed by: Hazel Max

Table of Contents

What is haiku and what makes it unique? Well, let's break it down. We'll start by understanding what exactly a haiku is. Then, we'll explore its origins in Japan and how it became popular worldwide. Lastly, we'll discuss some famous haiku poems. So, let's start by defining what a haiku poem is.

Definition of a haiku poem

A haiku is a short poem from Japan that's now known all over the world. They're small but mighty! Haikus have three lines. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven, and the last has five again. But when translated, the syllable count can change because languages are different. In Japanese, haikus are said in one breath and don't have separate lines like in English.

Some experts say that English haikus should have 10 to 14 syllables to sound more like the Japanese ones. Haikus don't rhyme, and they don't usually use comparisons or explanations. Instead, they use words to create images of nature and the seasons. They're like snapshots of a moment in time. For those looking to try writing their own, there are many helpful online haiku generator tools available.

Here's a breakdown for understanding haiku poems:

  • Three lines: 5-7-5 syllables
  • Started in 17th century Japan
  • Can vary in syllable count in different languages

The history of haiku in poetry

Haiku began in Japan in the 17th century. Before that, there was a longer form of poetry called renga, which started in the 13th century.

Renga was a group effort where poets took turns writing lines. The first part of a renga was called a hokku. Later on, the hokku became its own kind of poetry known as haiku.

In a video, a professor talks about different types of Japanese poetry, like renga and haiku. 

What Makes a Haiku -

Haiku has specific rules. It needs a "cutting word" called a kireji, which splits the poem and often shows contrasts.

Also, haiku needs a word called a kigo, which shows the season without saying its name. For example, "blossom" for spring or "colored leaves" for fall.

If a haiku doesn't follow these rules, it's called a senryū.

Examples of Haiku Poems 

 A world of dew,

And within every dewdrop

A world of struggle. 

  • A World of Dew by Kobayashi Issa

In this poem, the word "dew" makes us think of a special time, like spring, when things are changing. Even though there's no exact word like "kireji" in English, the little pause after "struggle" helps us understand that something important is happening in the poem.

 In the twilight rain

these brilliant-hued hibiscus -

A lovely sunset. 

  • Twilight Hibiscus By Matsuo Basho

Matsuo Basho, a famous haiku poet from the 1600s, wrote this poem about hibiscus flowers in the rain at sunset. He's known for making haiku popular and beautiful.

Autumn wind whispers,

Leaves dance in a golden haze,

Nature's fleeting grace 

 - Autumn Whispers by Yoga Buson

Yosa Buson, another famous haiku writer, wrote "Autumn Whispers." It's about how beautiful autumn is, with leaves dancing in the wind. Buson, like Basho, was good at capturing nature's beauty in short poems.

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In short, haiku poems come from Japan a long time ago. They're now loved all around the world. Haikus are short and talk about nature. They show deep thoughts with only a few words. Famous poets like Issa, Basho, and Buson wrote beautiful haikus. They capture the beauty of life in simple words.


Who is the father of haiku?

Matsuo Bashô (1644-1694) is generally regarded as the father of haiku poetry

What is called haiku?

A haiku is a form of Japanese poetry consisting of three lines with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5, often capturing moments in nature or emotions with simplicity and depth.

What is a haiku poem example?

Here's a classic example of a haiku by Matsuo Basho:

"An old silent pond...

A frog jumps into the pond,

splash! Silence again."

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