Poetry without rules is
like a tennis match without a net.
– Robert Frost
Haiku without rules is like
a tennis match without a ball!
- Haiku is a three-line
nature-orientated poem expressing poet's direct experience of
something, description of background/surroundings, and an original and
deep thought based on it.
- The form of 5-7-5 can
be used but is not essential.
- No title should be
given to a haiku.
- Make sure your haiku
consists of two distinctive parts, and
not of one or three!
- Time: use verbs only
in the present or past continuous tenses.
- Avoid end rhyme.
- Avoid using capital
letters and punctuation marks, unless you really have to.
- Avoid turning your
haiku into an aphorism or an epigram.
- Avoid direct
- Use only common
- Remove any words you
can remove without losing the sense of the haiku.
- Try not to use
adverbs, pronouns. Avoid using more than two adjectives with the same
- Avoid using too many
'ing' words (usually no more than two!)
- Vary the articles
('a' and 'the'). Don't use too many of them (two is usually quite
- Avoid using
conditional clauses, e.g. subjunctive mood.
- Write about what you
see, avoid writing hearsay haiku.
- If you want to
write a real haiku, use a kigo.
- 'Choose each word
very carefully. Use words that clearly express what you feel' – JW
- 'Never use obscure
allusions: real haiku are intuitive, not abstract or intellectual'– JW
- 'Lifefulness, not
beauty, is the real quality of haiku' – JW Hackett
- season, climate
- observances, rituals, traditions
- livelihood, life
simple beauty (karumi)
blossom, breeze, hazy moon, buds and fresh leaves, streams, birds,
butterflies, apricot and plum flowers, something new, etc.
cicadas, crickets, wind bells, fireworks, kimono, flee, cat, toad,
spider, snake, lotus flowers, roses, green grass, etc.
harvest, sunset, full moon, orchid, chrysanthemum, autumn leaves,
fallen leaves, maple, mushrooms, deer, etc.
bonfire, blizzard, frost, icicles, winter rain, duck, bear, gull, pine,
The World Kigo Database is
Guidelines first published in Free Xpression (Australia), Vol. XV,
Issue 6; June 2008)
Anatoly Kudryavitsky, 2008
Markova's 'Ten Haiku Lessons'
Vera Markova (1907 - 1995), the
Russian poet and academic, was renowned for her translations from
classical Japanese poetry. She began translating Japanese tanka and
haiku at the end of the 1960s, and
less than ten years later published her translations from thirty poets,
from Saigyo to Basho to Kobayashi Issa, in
the anthology Classical Japanese Poetry, which
has since been regularly reprinted in Russia. A very interesting poet
in her own right (and a life-long friend of the famous Marina
Tsvetayeva), Vera Markova was a fluent Japanese speaker and travelled
to Japan twice, on one occasion to receive from Emperor Hirohito an
honorary medal commemorating her efforts in promoting Japanese culture
In her essay entitled Hokku,
published in the afore-mentioned anthology, Prof. Markova analysed Basho's
work, and in the following years used some of the topics highlighted in
that essay in her lectures to university students. She taught them to
appreciate Japanese tanka and haiku, but also tried to stir up their
Later, Prof. Markova wrote a short text offering a few suggestions
for aspiring haiku writers. She added a few of her favourite quotations
from Basho, and at a later
stage even included the opinion I gave while discussing the Hokku essay with her, making me
the third partner in that imaginary
conversation, which was most flattering. She arranged parts of the
text, belonging to its three authors, in a manner resembling
that of the old Japanese masters of renga, linked verse. Her students
used to call the text Vera Markova's
Ten Haiku Lessons..
These Haiku Lessons are reprinted
here. I should mention that, as some readers may already
have guessed, Vera Markova was the person who once introduced me
to haiku, and so started me on an exciting and
- Allow your
reader to think his way into your haiku. A revelation occurs when your
and his thoughts meet at a halfway point. (VM)
- Watch the River
Sunagawa flow: it is not trying to be deep. (MB)
- Basho enjoyed
reading and re-reading classical Chinese poetry, especially Tu Fu.
There's still plenty of water left in that well. (VM)
- Don't follow
good dead poets but search for what they searched for. (MB)
- The underlying
theme of Basho's work is
compassion. He avoided grotesque
and mockery, and rightly so. (VM)
- Colour is
important in haiku writing, however a 'monochrome' haiku can sometimes
have even a stronger effect on the reader. (AK)
- Don't try to be
witty every time you write haiku: numerous 'comic' haikai-renga,
written over the course of several centuries, are remembered merely
because Shiki used the 'hai' syllable for the word 'haiku' that he
invented. And bear in mind that 'hai' means 'joke but also 'surprise,
an unusual thing'. (VM)
- Hokku can't be
assembled from component parts. Poet's work is similar to that of a
- Basho became the
great poet Basho only
when his hokku reached the state of karumi (a Japanese word meaning 'lightness, simple
- Haiku are
always set in the present moment. Nevertheless, listen out for history
breathing behind our contemporaries' backs. (VM)
MB – Matsuo
VM – Vera
published in Poetry Ireland Newsletter, November / December 2006)
© Anatoly Kudryavitsky, 2006
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