Haiku: The World’s Shortest Traditional Japanese Poem

By Staff Writer
March 15, 2024
Haiku, a traditional Japanese poetry style, has come to be known worldwide, being used in many countries and languages because of its method of conveying people's thoughts, the seasons, and the splendor of nature in a concise manner with a limited number of words. The appeal of haiku is that its rhythm makes it easy for anyone to compose, while also being short and memorable.
A woman writing a haiku outdoors
Haiku is the shortest poetry style in the world, with origins going back to the early Edo period (1603-1868) with the haiku master Matsuo Bashō, and becoming established by the end of the 19th century by a poet named Masaoka Shiki.
Haiku poets write mainly about nature and other scenes in a 5-7-5 syllable structure, using seasonal words. Also, many haiku use particular conjunctions or verb endings that act to divide the haiku and give it a distinctive sense of rhythm, while at the same time expressing a strong poetic sentiment.

Bronze statue of Matsuo Bashō, the author of haiku
Haiku is also popular internationally. After World War II, Reginald Blyth, a British writer, introduced haiku to the west, and it spread throughout the world. Some foreign haiku do not apply traditional Japanese rules. For example, English haiku often may not have a 5-7-5 syllable structure due to the difference between the Japanese and English languages, and a short poem of about three lines is fine.
In addition, there is no rule that says English haiku must include seasonal words. In Japan, there are four distinct seasons, and each season has its own seasonal word. However, in other countries, the seasonal changes are not as clear-cut as in Japan, and the way of perceiving seasonal words differs from country to country.
A man thinking of haiku while viewing nature
Post your comments