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Word Dance was a quarterly non-profit creative writing and art publication that was 100% for and by kids (k-8th grade). Word Dance has been featured in the New York Times and received a "Best Bet" award in Instructor magazine. The magazine is no more but the popular Haiku Worksheet is published on this homepage as a internet resource.

Haiku Writing Worksheet

Haiku History
           Haiku began in Japan during the 17th century. Haiku are short, imagistic poems about things that make people feel a connection to nature. In Japanese, haiku traditionally have seventeen short sounds divided into three lines of a fixed five-seven-five pattern. In Japan, people of all ages write haiku as a way to relax and gain perspective. Today, haiku has grown in popularity worldwide. Haiku is written in many different languages and is now a unique art form that reflects different cultures.

The Haiku Form
           Languages differ, and Japanese and English are very different. Because of the differences in English language, in order to achieve the highest quality haiku, we allow for flexibility in the 5-7-5 syllable pattern. We typically require that the poem be three lines with the middle line longer and totaling no more than 17 syllables.
           For example, if a haiku is written in a combination like 4-6-4 or 3-5-4 instead of a 5-7-5 haiku, and it is felt that adding extra syllables or words detracts from the poem, it is better not to change it. Haiku poets try to avoid unneeded words. In this haiku,

A cold winter wind
the rolling hills of night
frosty in starlight

a Japanese haiku poet would say that the poem does not need words like cold or frosty for temperature. A winter wind is already cold. In fact, this haiku example tells us it is cold three times (cold, winter, frosty) and tells us it is night twice (night, starlight). Watch what happens when we keep only the words that appeal most to the senses, and rewrite like this:

A frosty wind
the hills roll away
under starlight

           This is a much better haiku, even though it is not in the 5-7-5 pattern. Redundancy, such as bright sunny and dark stormy should also be avoided as they are words that imply judgment such as beautiful or pretty.

The Essence of Haiku
           A haiku should share a moment of awareness with the reader. Peace, sadness, mystery--these are only a few of the emotions that haiku evokes and which we can feel when we read a haiku. The key to our feelings about the things around us and to the feelings we have when we read a good haiku, are the things themselves. The things produce the emotions.
           In haiku you have to give the reader words that help recreate the moment, the image or images that gave you the feeling. Telling the reader how you feel does not make the reader feel anything and does not make a good haiku. The words of the haiku should create in the reader the emotion felt by the poet, not describe the emotion.
           Even though some haiku come from memories or things made up in the mind, each haiku should sound as though it is happening as you read it, in a specific place and a specific time. So write your haiku in the present tense, as if they are right here and now. Haiku should not cover a lengthy time span. A haiku freezes one moment in time the way a photograph does.

Nature, the Seasons and Haiku
           Most though not all haiku reflect nature or one of the four seasons.
           Although not applicable to haiku in English or any language other than Japanese, it is interesting to note that in Japan, nature is so much a part of haiku that there are over 6,000 Japanese season words used in haiku. These words may actually name the season directly, such as 'spring day'; they may be a temperature word, such as 'cold wind', or they may be a word which is particularly identified with a particular season. For example, we especially notice the sound of a frog in the spring because we take it as a sign of spring. In Japan, any haiku containing the word frog is automatically recognized as being about an experience of spring.

Capitalization and Punctuation
           There is no firm rule regarding capitalization and punctuation in English haiku, nor as to whether the haiku comprises a complete sentence. The same applies to the physical arrangement of the poem. These things are usually decided by the poets on a poem-by-poem basis. The following samples provide excellent examples of the content and spirit of haiku.

The breeze brought it--
a moment of moonlight
to the hidden fern.
                      -Foster Jewell

After I step
through the moonbeam--
I do it again
                      -George Swede

autumn twilight--
in the closed barbershop
the mirrors darken
                      -Cor van den Heuvel

The fog has settled
around us. A faint redness
where the maple was.
                      -Claire Pratt

On the gray church wall
           the shadow of a candle
                      ...shadow of its smoke
                      -L.A. Davidson

In the hook
           of a wave--
                      the tide.
                      -Virginia Brady Young

How to Begin Writing Haiku
           Writing haiku is fairly easy for people of all ages. Among the haiku that have come down to us from the great masters of Japan, the best ones are those that show us something in a fresh and new way.
           Before trying to write haiku, it is a good idea to look over some examples, like the ones included in these pages. Think about each one. What makes the moment it talks about special? What word or phrase tells you the season? How does that affect the meaning of the haiku? Notice how many haiku create emotions by connecting two or more images (things you can see, hear, touch, taste, smell) together in a new way.
           Have you had any experiences like these? How did they make you feel? Can you put one of these experiences into words that will make someone else feel the same thing? Try looking around you. Many of the best haiku were written right after the author saw, heard or touched something. Do you see anything that might be interesting to play with in words? See if you can find words that will fit together to make other people see something the special way you see it. To help with this, it may be good to go for a walk or look outside to see what is going on.
           Try remembering things that you noticed a day, week, month or years ago. See if you can recreate those moments in words. Try making up word-pictures to see if any seem so real that they make you have a special feeling. Because haiku have that alive-now quality, most haiku do not have any metaphors or similes. For the same reason, haiku poets do not use rhyme unless it happens accidentally and is hardly noticeable. In making a haiku, we try to present something in the most direct words possible. Haiku are about common, everyday experiences and avoid complicated words or grammar.

Haiku Revision
           Like all forms of writing, much of the art of writing haiku comes from revising.
           You may have to rewrite your haiku several times to make it really good.

More Examples
           Here are some additional haiku examples, all written by schoolchildren.

           Soap bubbles!
My face is flying
           -Masahiro Suzuki, Japan, Gr. 4

           Mr. Ant,
do you mind if I set you
           on my leaf boat?
           -Norimasa Oikawa, Japan, Gr.1

           Where I buried
the little bird, only there
           the ground bumps up.
           -Norikako Miyashita, Japan, Gr. 6

A heron rises
In the middle of the swamp
Under the full moon.
                      -Nahanni Stevenson, Canada, Gr. 6

A snowman
turned into a shield
snowball fight
                      -Tooru Usui, Japan, Gr. 5

A little girl stands
Holding her finger out and
A butterfly comes
                      -Reuven Freesman, Canada, Gr. 6