HISTORY OF HAIKU
• In Japan in the 15th century, a poetic form
named "renga" blossomed.
• Renga is a poem several poets create
cooperatively. Members alternately add
verses of 17 syllables (5, 7, and 5
syllables) and those of 14 syllables (7 and
7 syllables), until they complete a poem
generally composed of 100 verses.
• In the 16th century, instead of renga, it
was haikai - humorous poem - that
became popular. Haikai (haikai-renga) is a
poem made of verses of 17 and 14
syllables like renga, but it parodies renga
introducing modern vulgar laughter. Haikai
poets used plays on words and treated
preferably things of daily life renga hadn't
• The first verse of renga and haikai is
called "hokku". Haikai poets sometimes
presented their hokkus as independent
poems. These were the origin of haiku.
• It was traditionally demanded to adopt a
kigo (season word: word reffering to a
season) in the first verse of renga and
haikai. Therefore, they demand to
introduce a kigo in a hokku (and in a
• Cutting (punctuation marks) -, …, or word
• Pivot (changes or turns the direction of
What is Haiku?
• Haiku is one of the most important form of
traditional Japanese poetry. Haiku is,
today, a 17-syllable verse form consisting
of three metrical units of 5, 7, and 5
• Since early days, there has been
confusion between the three related terms
Haiku, Hokku and Haikai.
• The term hokku literally means "starting
verse", and was the first starting link of a
much longer chain of verses known as
• Because the hokku set the tone for the
rest of the poetic chain, it enjoyed a
privileged position in haikai poetry, and it
was not uncommon for a poet to compose
a hokku by itself without following up with
the rest of the chain.
• Largely through the efforts of Masaoka
Shiki, this independence was formally
established in the 1890s through the
creation of the term haiku. This new form
of poetry was to be written, read and
understood as an independent poem,
complete in itself, rather than part of a
• The history of the modern haiku dates
from Masaoka Shiki's reform, begun in
1892, which established haiku as a new
independent poetic form.
• Shiki's reform did not change two
traditional elements of haiku: the division
of 17 syllables into three groups of 5, 7,
and 5 syllables and the inclusion of a
Shiki was a strong
Japanese poetry, even
coining the terms "haiku"
(replacing hokku) and
"tanka" (replacing waka).
• Kawahigashi Hekigoto carried Shiki's
reform further with two proposals:
• Haiku would be truer to reality if there
were no center of interest in it.
• The importance of the poet's first
impression, just as it was, of subjects
taken from daily life, and of local color to
Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar
• "Prince of Tagalog
• Florante at Laura
• "King of Filipino
How to write Haiku?
• In Japanese, the rules for how to write
Haiku are clear, and will not be discussed
here. In foreign languages, there exist NO
consensus in how to write Haiku-poems.
Anyway, let's take a look at the basic
• The metrical pattern of Haiku
– Haiku-poems consist of respectively 5, 7 and
5 syllables in three units. In japanese, this
convention is a must, but in english, which
has variation in the length of syllables, this
can sometimes be difficult.
• The seasonal theme
– Each Haiku must contain a kigo, a season word,
which indicate in which season the Haiku is set. For
example, cherry blossoms indicate spring, snow
indicate winter, and mosquitoes indicate summer, but
the season word isn't always that obvious.
– Please notice that Haiku-poems are written under
different rules and in many languages. For translated
Haiku-poems, the translator must decide whether he
should obey the rules strictly, or if he should present
the exact essence of the Haiku. For Haiku-poems
originally written in English, the poet should be more
careful. These are the difficulties, and the pleasure of
The best known Japanese haiku is
Bashō's "old pond" haiku:
a frog jumps in-the
sound of water
Basho, Matsuo. (1644-1694)
• The name Basho (banana tree) he adopted the
name around 1681 after moving into a hut with a
banana tree alongside. He was called Kinsaku in
childhood and Matsuo Munefusa in his later
• Basho's father was a low-ranking samurai
from the Iga Province. To be a samurai,
Basho serviced for the local lord Todo
Yoshitada (Sengin). Since Yoshitada was
fond of writing haikai, Basho began writing
poetry under the name Sobo.
• During the years, Basho made many
travels through Japan, and one of the
most famous is when he went to the north,
where he wrote Oku No Hosomichi (1694).
• On his last trip, he died in Osaka, and his
last haiku indicates that he was still
thinking of traveling and writing poetry as
he lay dying:
– Fallen sick on a journey,
In dreams I run wildly
Over a withered moor.
Here’s an exercise that you can
try on your own to help you
deepen your understanding of the
art of haiku.
Awaken to the current season
and its imagery
• Take a walk. Notice the natural world
around you and those things that are
associated with the current season.
• For example, if it is winter, look deeply at
the ice crystals on your gloves, or listen to
the sound that your boots make on the
• Observe and allow yourself to be moved.
Sit down and write down some of the
images you observed on your walk. Don't
just describe the images, feel them.
• Write three haiku in a traditional Japanese
format (17 syllables 5-7-5). Then try
rewriting the same three poems in 12 or
13 syllables. Which effort produced the
• Use simple, direct language and words
that evoke a season. Try to incorporate a
cutting or pivot word so that the halves of
your haiku seem to speak to each other.