How to Create Haiga Poetry

Gorgeous Colorado!

Since so many poets are inspired by photos, drawings, paintings, or other images when they compose their poetry, I wanted to add the “Haiga,” a dramatic poetic form to my weekly syllabic poetry challenge starting the first week of February 2019. So, for the new challenge posted on 2/5/19, this will be another acceptable form for our syllabic challenge.

Haiga is sometimes called observational poetry because it contains an image with either a haiku or senryu written on it or near it.  

Youtube: Traditional Japanese Art – Haiga – Japanese Paintings with Haiku poems by Doshin Kuba

This one form combines three artforms:  imagery (photographs or original art), poetry, and calligraphy.

The site, ahapoetry.com shares this about the Haiga:

“Haiga is a Japanese concept for simple pictures combined with poetry, usually meaning haiku. In Basho’s time, haiga meant a brushed ink drawing combined with one of his single poems handwritten as part of the picture.

In our day and age, haiga can be watercolor paintings, photographs or collages with a poem of any genre that is integrated into the composition. Sometimes the poem is handwritten or it can be computer generated, depending on the artist’s taste.”

(Unfortunately, the links on this site do not work, but the definition fits our use).

The site, Failed Haiku has an excellent explanation of the Haiga whose rules we will adopt for Colleen’s Weekly Poetry Challenge:

“…Well, a haiga is an image created as an artistic backdrop for a haiku/senryu, and often other Japanese forms of poetry. You can create an image in any number of ways, but the most common three are:

Traditional Haiga,  as in ink, ink wash, watercolor, oils, or tempera.
Photographic based haiga has become the most popular method recently.

Mixed Media, which can be any combination of traditional and photographic techniques, and/or computer generated images and text.

The usage of the image usually falls into at least one of the following categories:

It can convey the scene that is depicted in the poem.

In haiga, it must add something to the reader/viewer’s appreciation of the scene.

The image can create for the reader/viewer an alternative reading to the one conveyed by a literal reading of the poem.

In short, the image itself is a juxtaposition of the image conveyed in the poem. They can be used to share the emotion of the moment rendered in the poem with the reader/viewer.

There are a few hard and fast rules for creating haiga:

The haiku is the most important part and must stand alone.

In short, the poem itself must be worthy to be considered independently, before inclusion in a haiga.

Images cannot ‘complete’ the haiku.  If the image is necessary to understand the poem, then both the poem and the haiga have failed.

No matter how beautiful an image is, the poem is ‘the thing’ to trigger the reader/viewer in their appreciation of the haiga.

If all the image adds is a pretty picture of the poem, but adds no higher level of appreciation to it, then you may as well just publish the poem by itself.

The creative process of haiga:

You can write the poem first, and let it inspire the image.

The image can be created first and inspire the poem.

You can just write a poem, and have someone else create the image. (see numbers 1 & 2 above)”

Please click this LINK to read the entire post.

The website, Failed Haiku, is also a great place for you to submit your work. Follow the submission guidelines carefully. ❤

In short, a Haiga is either a Haiku or Senryu poem accompanied by an image.

This is a Senryu I created a few years ago. The Senryu stands alone, speaking of the magic of fairies (of course) and how we have a tendency to not want to believe what is sometimes staring us right in the face. The “magic of fairies” is the metaphor for magic, miracles, and hope.

The image shows the fairies in the otherworld as they peek into the human realm. To me, the image itself is a juxtaposition of the words conveyed in the poem.

One more time… Here is the Senryu alone:

Fairies do belong—
in the magic of our hearts,
we run from the truth.


© 2015 Colleen M. Chesebro

Do you get a different feeling when reading the poem alone or accompanied by the image? Is there an alternative reading to the Senryu? If you’re a visual person you might view the image first and then read the poem. Remember to savor the work from different angles. You might find a different interpretation that you like better.

Just because you write your poetry with your own interpretation, doesn’t mean that we all interpret it the same way. That’s creativity! Take your time and savor and possibilities. Let the words and images speak to you!

Now go write a Haiga and get creative!