Nature writing in brief: Haiku

To write words that live, breathe and jump off the page, we first have to discover, or re-discover, an attitude of wonder and revelation in relation to the world around us. The writers in the Japanese tradition of Haiku, were masters of this.

For those of you unfamiliar with Haiku, it’s a poem composed of three lines of 5,7 and 5 syllables. Traditionally, it also contains a word to denote the season. Another of it’s defining features is the presence of the 'aha moment'- that moment of revelation in which we look in wonder at the world around us, as it reveals itself in all its glory. The 'aha moment', is a very short, fleeting moment, in which a human being catches a glimpse of what we could call'world harmony'.

I believe that the power of the Haiku comes from the juxtaposition of largely uninflected images, which allow us to make metaphorical connections, to join one realm of our experience with another. The less abstract allows us to know the feeling tones of the more abstract.

In these three examples below, notice how much emotion the poet Basho infuses into a few lines. See also how he seeks out symbols in nature to act as metaphors for his feeling states. In the first Haiku, notice how ‘The cherry flakes falling’ symbolises, and makes real to the reader, the more abstract quality of a singing voice.

If I’d the knack

I’d sing like

cherry flakes falling.



caged cricket dangling

from the wall.


Friends part

forever--wild geese

lost in cloud.


               Basho ‘Haiku’

Jane Reichhold has written a helpful article on how to master ‘Haiku Techniques’.  You might want to refer to it as you undertake this week’s writing assignment.

The Weekly Writing Prompt

Write three haiku (or more if you feel inspired). Within the three lines, a strong emotion should be expressed, juxtaposed with a natural image that stands as a metaphor for that emotion. Instead of directly stating the emotion, you can also contrast two images to create an emotional affect, as, for example, in the first of Basho’s haiku above.

If you’d like to send them to me, I’d be delighted to read them. Also feel free to share your experiences of ‘Haiku’ on this page.