Haiku 101

Traditional Haiku

A Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five, which is largely inspired by nature.

Characterized by:

  • Kiru (or “cutting”)  Contrast between two ideas or images
  • Kireji (or “cutting word”) signals the separation between ideas, suggests a connection or commonality between contrasting concepts, or provides closure
  • Kigo – seasonal reference
  • lines do not rhyme
  • captures a moment or experience in nature
  • rarely relies on devices such as metaphor, simile, or personification

Contemporary Haiku (or Haiku in English)

Three line observation involving nature or human experience with nature.

Characterized by:

  • looser interpretation of syllable count. Most English language haiku come in well under seventeen syllables. Most average between nine and twelve syllables.
  • line count can vary between one, two, or three.
  • lines do not rhyme
  • often employs Kiru, Kireji, and Kigo, but not always
  • often impressionistic and contemplative
  • little or no punctuation
  • no capitalization


Similar in form to traditional haiku in that it is a poem of seventeen syllables in three lines of five, seven, and five. However, instead of nature, senryu is inspired by human folly, emotions, and experiences.

Characterized by:

  • dark and often cynical humor
  • lack of kireji and kigo
  • variations in line count (especially if contemporary)





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