I searched my blog for the earliest haiku I could find and came up with April, 2014 which means I’ve been writing it for five years. I’d like to think I’ve improved since those early days, but I’ll leave that up to you readers. Back then I bought a book titled, “Writing and Enjoying Haiku, a hands on guide”, by Jane Reichold. It has since become my go-to guide for writing haiku.
When I first encountered haiku, it seemed to me that all the rules you had to follow, (there are quite a few) were too limiting and distracting to write good poetry. Since then I’ve discovered that the rules are fun and they make it a great challenge to writing a haiku that is meaningful in the smallest amount of words. You see, sometimes words can get in the way. It seems strange to say, but it’s true. Sometimes we want to say so much that what we write becomes meaningless because we don’t give the reader the ability to use their own imagination. When a writer gives you an idea and lets you run with that, they’re doing a better job than when they just tell you what to think. That’s why I like haiku. You really have to cram a lot of meaning into a few words and yet a lot is left unsaid. That gives the reader the opportunity to fill in the blanks. The reader then becomes a participant in what they read.
I want to be challenged in writing, I want to give the reader the best I can give in the least words I can write while still making it meaningful. My haiku are complete, the way they are written, saying what I want to say and not saying exactly what I want to leave out. The choice of words has to fit the criteria, while at the same time making sense and giving the reader a little story to think on.
As far as the rules are concerned, you can break them when writing haiku. Some haiku poets do this all the time, and some only occasionally. I find myself right in the middle of that spectrum. I try to stick to the 5-7-5 syllable rule and yet sometimes it’s better not to. Original Japanese haiku was written in 5-7-5 word sound units (on). The first part is written in 5 sound units, the second in 7, and so on. But sound units are different than English syllables. The word, haiku has 3 sound units in Japanese but only 2 syllables in English. Therefore when haiku was first written in English the rules had to be changed. So basically rule breaking has been included in English haiku since the beginning. One does not need to worry about breaking rules. I like to try to stick to them if I can though, because of the challenge of getting what I want to say into that formula.
There are lots of other rules to writing haiku, which I won’t list here. There are many websites that do a much better job than I at teaching haiku. If you do an internet search for “writing haiku” you’ll come up with all kinds of them. Like everything else that I write, I sometimes leave things behind. Within the past week I’ve started writing haiku again. Leaving it for a while gives me a fresh view on writing it and that’s why I’ve done it more than once. Maybe this will lead to another haiku book. Stay tuned!