How to Write a Haiku in English

I love poetry and believe that if you start writing “good” poetry, it will help you to become a better creative writer. That being said, I also like rules in poetry. There must be some parameters that we follow to create our visual word poems. Otherwise, we are left with words that don’t convey a cohesive feeling or thought.

I’ve had a few questions on how to write the different poetry forms. I thought I would start with the Haiku first because it is one of the most powerful poem structures we have to express deep emotions. The brevity of the structure (5/7/5) causes the poet to choose their words carefully.

Haiku, according to “…is a Japanese verse in three lines.  Line one has 5 syllables, line 2 has 7 syllables, and line three has 5 syllables. Haiku is a mood poem, and it doesn’t use any metaphors or similes.”

Not using metaphors or similes is important because it is part of writing a Haiku in English. And, believe me, I am guilty of writing this form incorrectly, too. explains the difference lies in the number of syllables in Japanese compared to English:


“Today, many bilingual poets and translators in the mainstream North American haiku scene agree that something in the vicinity of 11 English syllables is a suitable approximation of 17 Japanese syllables, in order to convey about the same amount of information as well as the brevity and the fragmented quality found in Japanese haiku. As to the form, some American poets advocate writing in 3-5-3 syllables or 2-3-2 accented beats. While rigid structuring can be accomplished in 5-7-5 haiku with relative ease due to a greater degree of freedom provided by the extra syllables, such structuring in shorter haiku will have the effect of imposing much more stringent rules on English haiku than on Japanese haiku, thereby severely limiting its potential.”

Writing Haiku in the abbreviated forms above are allowed if you want to experiment. As a general rule, for my poetry challenges, we use the 5/7/5 syllable structure.

Most Haiku are written about nature, but not all. A Haiku should share a moment of awareness (Yes! Mindfulness figures here, too) with the reader. When you read a Haiku, it should convey emotions like peace, mystery, sadness, etc. Always include words that provoke emotions in your readers.

Kigo is a word or phrase associated with a particular season, used in traditional forms of Japanese poetry. Kigo are used in the collaborative linked-verse forms renga and renku, as well as in haiku, to indicate the season referred to in the stanza. They are valuable in providing economy of expression. is an excellent source of information on how to write a Haiku.

DON’T TELL THE READER HOW YOU FEEL – SHOW THE READER HOW YOU FEEL. Here is a PDF of the Guidelines for Writing Haiku.

Please read Sue Vincent’s post here. She shares her thoughts on writing the Japanese poetry forms.

Sue brings up excellent points about diction and pronunciation in British English vs. American English. I accept that some poets write in their native language which is then translated into English. The syllable count may be off because of the differences in language and pronunciation.

I have no problems with this. The poetry challenge was started to share our love of poetry while learning about the different forms.

Please write your poetry with your particular syllable count as close to the 5/7/5 format as possible. If you are not spot on, don’t worry. Creativity should be allowed to flourish. That works for me.


The best way to write Haiku is to commune with nature. Get up from the computer, put down your phone, and literally go outside and experience the world.

Photography and art are another way to stimulate your creative writing genes. Many times, I like finding a photograph and letting my mind wander over the image. ( is a great place to find inspirational photos that are part of the public domain and free for commercial use with no attribution required).

I write down everything I see in the picture and use my five senses to record my observations.

Let’s take this image below:

Image Credit:

Here are my observations about the picture:

Sun breaking through dark clouds

A road to nowhere

A fence to hold something in or out

Dark and light contrasts good and evil – shifting perceptions – changing my attitude

Green grasses stretch to infinity – the unknown?

Heavenly intervention? Expanding awareness

Enchanted by the vision of the light breaking through the clouds – looks magical

Next, I am going to select two of my observations that really hit me emotionally in the gut when I look at the image:

Dark and light contrasts good and evil – shifting perceptions

Heavenly intervention? Expanding awareness.

I play with the words and use I run my words through the poetry workshop at How Many Syllables to make sure I have the proper count of syllables: 5/7/5.

Here is what I came up with:

Shifting attitudes –

while your consciousness expands,

enchantment appears.

© 2017 Colleen M. Chesebro

There is one more thing I want to bring you attention to. I write my Haiku in English to form two complete sentences:

Shifting attitudes – while your consciousness expands.

While your consciousness expands, enchantment appears.

There are two different things happening in this Haiku. The first two lines are about change, and the very last line lets the reader know that in the midst of change we often find the magic in life. The last line is the pivot. That is where you show an opposite which creates a deeper meaning to your first thoughts.

Ronovan, from RonovanWrites, taught this Haiku writing technique on his blog. Please click the link to visit his blog. He offers a weekly Haiku challenge each Monday if you are interested.

Image credit:

Spread your writing wings and engage your creative engines by writing some Haiku. Join me every Tuesday on my blog for Poetry Tuesday, where you can share your Haiku, Haibun, or Tanka poetry.

Great idea

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