What is a Haiku?

    Poetry is a wonderful form of expression. Although in poetry, the writer is not as free as when writing prose, the final output usually results in a beautiful rhyme. Poetry comes in different forms, and for different purposes – some to portray love, while others express deep sorrow and sentiment. In all these forms of poetry, the most common characteristic is that of rhyme.

    However, there is one which has a peculiar requirement. It neither has a requirement of rhyme, nor has to be lengthy to deeply express one’s emotions. This seemingly odd form of poetry is called a haiku.

    So, what is a haiku? A Haiku is a short form of poetry which originated in Japan. Unlike other poems, an entire haiku is only composed of 17 syllables. These 17 syllables are divided into syllables of 5, 7, and 5 which are positioned in three lines. Haikus do not have titles, unlike the traditional forms of poetry. As much as possible, the use of punctuation marks is often limited, if not completely avoided. This is so because the line break is often used as a pause – in place of a comma – to add a more dramatic effect

    The Japanese are known to be protectors and lovers of nature. Hence, traditional Japanese haikus were originally written as a form of offering to nature. Its topics are usually about the beauty of their surroundings and how useful the environment is for the people.

    The popularity of these haikus has spread to the west, and is now being recognized as a form of poetry. Modern haikus in English no longer follow the rule having nature as a subject, nor does it strictly follow the 17-syllable rule.

    In fact, the English form of haiku seems to have developed several variants. Among them, the most popular is the monoku. The monoku originated in the 1970s, and is a one-line haiku which often contains less than 17 syllables.

    Another form of haiku contains four lines, but instead of limiting the syllables, it has a limit of two words per line. This is called the haiqua. The haiqua was written in such a way because of its intention to imitate the vertical print of the traditional Japanese haiku.

    A more creative form is the cirku. A cirku is a haiku which is written in a circular form which has no fixed start or end point. This form of haiku leaves it to the reader to imagine as they may see fit.

    Lesser known is the one-word haiku. However, these one-work haikus are often very tricky, as it would only be understood depending on its placement on the paper, and along with other forms of poetry.

    So what is a haiku? Although it has evolved into different forms, the most widely used is still that of three lines composed of 17 syllables. It is no longer limited to mere encounters with nature. In fact, it is being taught in schools to teach children how to write simple poetry, allowing them to appreciate art at such a young age.