How to Write a Haiku [40 Tips & Examples]

Haiku might look simple with just three lines, but the depth and precision involved can challenge even seasoned poets.

Here is a quick summary of how to write a haiku:

Write a haiku by using a 5-7-5 syllable structure, incorporating a seasonal word (kigo), and capturing a fleeting moment in nature or daily life. Employ vivid imagery to evoke emotions and create a poignant snapshot.

Let’s dive into the basics and some of my favorite tips to help you start writing haiku.

What Is a Haiku?

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A haiku is a short poem with three lines that describe a special moment in nature.

That’s the simple definition so let’s now break down the most important aspects.

Haiku Structure

The most recognized feature of a haiku is its structure.

Traditionally, haiku are composed of 17 syllables split into a 5-7-5 syllable pattern.

While this isn’t always strictly followed, especially in English haiku, sticking to this format can be a great exercise for beginners.

  • Start with Syllables: Counting syllables might sound elementary, but it’s the backbone of haiku. To practice, pick a scene from your window or a memory, and describe it in 17 syllables. For example, “Late winter raindrops (5) / Splatter on the sleepy street (7) / Night whispers softly (5).”
  • Focus on Simplicity: Haiku are not just short; they’re famously minimalistic. Every word needs to earn its place. If a word doesn’t add something essential—whether it’s setting the scene, creating a mood, or focusing the image—it might not be necessary.

The Importance of Kigo (Seasonal Reference)

Kigo, or the seasonal reference, is what gives haiku its evocative power. This element roots your poem in a specific time of year, enriching the imagery and giving your reader an immediate connection to the natural world.

  • Why Kigo?: Kigo taps into the shared experiences of your readers. Mentioning cherry blossoms immediately evokes spring, just as mentioning snow conjures winter. This shared understanding helps make your haiku relatable.
  • Examples of Kigo: If you’re writing a haiku in spring, you might include references to budding flowers, singing birds, or melting snow. Here’s an example: “Cherry blossoms fall (5) / Blanketing the old stone path (7) / Silence between songs (5).”

Capture a Moment

Haiku is all about capturing a fleeting moment in time, turning an ordinary scene into a poignant and reflective piece.

It’s about noticing the subtleties of life and framing them in a way that speaks volumes.

  • Be Present: To write an effective haiku, you need to be a keen observer. Spend time in nature or any space that inspires you and note the small details: the way light falls through leaves, the sound of gravel underfoot, the coolness of the air.
  • Crafting Imagery: Use your observations to create images that feel alive. Your goal is to transport your reader to the moment you witnessed. For instance, “Morning light breaks (5) / Through branches, dances on stones (7) / River’s silent song (5).”

Use Cutting Words (Kireji)

In traditional Japanese haiku, kireji or “cutting words” serve as a kind of verbal punctuation that emphasizes a pause or provides a form of structural support.

In English, punctuation often serves this purpose, but understanding kireji can enhance your appreciation and mastery of haiku.

  • Creating a Pause: The pause introduced by kireji can be likened to a moment of breath in music or a rest in poetry. It divides the haiku into two parts, usually highlighting a shift in focus or a juxtaposition.
  • Practical Example: Consider a haiku like “Ancient oak stands tall – (5) / leaves whisper the secret tales (7) / of the forest’s heart (5).” The dash after “tall” serves as a kireji, creating a pause that shifts from the image of the tree to the whispers of the leaves.

Practice Observation Skills

Good haiku poets are great observers.

To write haiku, you need to develop the habit of watching the world with a poet’s eyes, seeing wonder in the mundane.

  • Daily Observation Exercises: Challenge yourself to find one haiku-worthy moment each day. It could be as simple as the way the evening sun casts long shadows or a conversation overheard in a café. Write these observations down.
  • Use All Your Senses: A common mistake is relying too heavily on sight. Remember, the best haiku engage all the senses. Consider the smell of rain on concrete, the taste of the sea air, or the sound of bustling leaves. Engaging multiple senses makes your haiku come alive.

Find Inspiration

Finding the right inspiration can sometimes be as elusive as capturing the perfect haiku moment.

But inspiration is everywhere—once you know where to look.

  • Nature and Daily Life: Regular walks in nature or around your neighborhood can be incredibly inspiring. Keep a journal or a note-taking app handy to jot down any observations or sudden bursts of insight. For instance, watching a squirrel scamper across the park might inspire a playful haiku.
  • Read Widely: Don’t limit yourself to reading only haiku or poetry. Novels, essays, and even news articles can spark ideas that translate beautifully into haiku. Sometimes, a single evocative sentence in a long article can inspire a powerful three-line poem.

Experimenting with Different Themes

While traditional haiku often focus on nature, modern haiku poets have expanded their horizons to include a wide range of themes—from urban landscapes to philosophical musings.

  • Beyond Nature: Try writing haiku about technology, urban settings, or human relationships. For example, the glow of smartphones in a dark train can conjure an image that’s both modern and reflective.
  • Emotional Landscapes: Haiku can also capture emotional moments, providing a snapshot of feelings just as effectively as they capture scenes from nature. A haiku about the quiet melancholy of a rainy day indoors can be as poignant as any nature scene.

The Role of Punctuation and Capitalization

The use of punctuation and capitalization in haiku can greatly influence its readability and tone.

Here are some tips to consider:

  • Punctuation: Minimal use of punctuation can maintain the traditional simplicity and open-endedness of haiku. However, strategic use of commas, periods, or dashes can help clarify the structure or add dramatic effect.
  • Capitalization: Traditional English-language haiku often eschew capitalization to keep the focus on the imagery and flow rather than on formal structure. Experiment to see what works best for your style.


cold river (5)
a leaf swirls silently (7)
under the bridge (5)

The Revision Process

Even the shortest poems can benefit from revision.

In haiku, where every syllable counts, revising can make the difference between a good haiku and a great one.

  • Refinement: Look for places where you can tighten the language or enhance the imagery. For instance, is there a more specific noun or a more vivid verb that could replace a generic one? Replacing “bird” with “sparrow” not only adds specificity but also enhances the imagery.
  • Feedback: Don’t shy away from sharing your haiku with others for feedback. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can offer valuable insights into how your poem could be improved or interpreted differently.

Here is a good video about how to write a haiku:

YouTube Video by Helpful DIY — How to Write a Haiku

Learning from the Masters

Studying the haiku of masters like Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa can provide invaluable lessons in the art of haiku.

  • Analyzing Techniques: Pay attention to how these poets use language, space, and silence. For example, Basho’s famous frog haiku is a lesson in setting up a scene and then disrupting it with a single action.
  • Adaptation: Try to write responses to famous haiku or use them as a starting point for your own creative explorations. This exercise can help you understand the underlying techniques and themes used by these poets.

Writing Haiku in Non-traditional Forms

While traditional haiku is compelling, experimenting with form can lead to exciting poetic discoveries.

  • One-line Haiku: Also known as monoku, a one-line haiku contains all the elements of a traditional haiku in a single line. This form challenges you to condense your thoughts in an even more compact package, focusing intensely on rhythm and cadence.
  • Three-part Haiku: This variation splits the haiku into three distinct parts, often separated by dashes or ellipses. It’s an interesting way to play with the flow of images and ideas, creating a sense of movement or progression within the poem.

Incorporating Haiku into Larger Works

Integrating haiku into other forms of writing can add depth and a poetic touch to larger works, whether it’s a blog, a novel, or an essay.

Here’s how you can seamlessly weave haiku into more extensive projects:

  • Narrative Enhancement: Use haiku to set the scene or express a character’s emotions succinctly in a novel. For instance, a haiku at the beginning of a new chapter can encapsulate the mood or foreshadow events.
  • Breaks in Nonfiction: In essays or blogs, haiku can serve as reflective pauses, giving the reader a moment to ponder the themes discussed in a more abstract, lyrical form.


As dawn breaks (5)
City stirs from slumber (7)
New chapter begins (5)

Haiku for Special Occasions

Haiku can be a beautiful way to commemorate special occasions, offering personalized and thoughtful expressions that capture the essence of a moment.

  • Event-specific Themes: Craft haiku that reflect the specific nature of an event, like a birthday, wedding, or seasonal festival. The key is to capture the unique atmosphere and emotions associated with the occasion.
  • Gifts and Greetings: Use haiku in greeting cards, speeches, or as part of a gift to add a personalized and creative touch.


Leaves turn gold (5)
Autumn whispers of change (7)
We grow another year (5)

This haiku might be used in an autumn birthday card, reflecting both the season and the celebration of personal growth over the past year.

Haiku Examples

Here are examples of haikus that showcase a variety of themes, tones, and styles, demonstrating the versatility and expressive power of this poetic form:

  1. Spring Morning
    Morning dew glistens—
    A lone sparrow sings softly,
    Day awakens slow.
  2. Urban Pulse
    Neon lights flicker,
    Taxis honk through crowded streets,
    Night in the city.
  3. Silent Snow
    Snowflakes gently fall,
    Silence blankets the cold earth,
    Winter’s soft whisper.
  4. Autumn Twilight
    Leaves rustle underfoot,
    Sunset paints the sky in gold,
    Evening draws near.
  5. Mountain Solitude
    Mist hugs the mountains,
    A silent echo resounds,
    Peaks touch the clouds.
  6. Summer Festival
    Lanterns line the streets,
    Laughter fills the warm night air,
    Festival of lights.
  7. Ocean’s Embrace
    Waves kiss the shoreline,
    Salt air and seagulls calling,
    The ocean’s embrace.
  8. Harvest Moon
    The full moon rises,
    Harvest fields glow underfoot,
    Night’s watchful eye.
  9. Morning Brew
    Steam rises, swirling—
    Coffee’s aroma fills dawn,
    Day starts with warmth.
  10. Butterfly Dance
    Butterfly flutters,
    Color dances on breezes,
    Petals hold secrets.
  11. Desert at Noon
    Sun scorches the sands,
    Cacti stand resilient,
    Desert’s fierce blaze.
  12. Starlit Night
    Stars twinkle above,
    Infinite cosmic ballet,
    Night’s quiet audience.
  13. Rainy Day
    Pitter-patter rain,
    Umbrellas bloom like flowers,
    Streets shimmer with life.
  14. Cherry Blossoms
    Cherry blossoms fall,
    Delicate pink showers,
    Spring’s fleeting beauty.
  15. Morning Fog
    Fog envelops dawn,
    World wrapped in a gray shroud,
    Mystery unfolds.
  16. Autumn Wind
    Leaves whirl in the wind,
    A dance of orange and red,
    Autumn’s brisk pirouette.
  17. Quiet Pond
    Pond mirrors the sky,
    Fish glide under lily pads,
    Water’s calm repose.
  18. Winter Hearth
    Logs crackle in fire,
    Warmth spreads through the quiet room,
    Winter’s cozy grip.
  19. City Dawn
    First light cuts through smog,
    City awakens in haze,
    Morning’s slow reveal.
  20. Night Sky
    Moon’s cradle in sky,
    Clouds drift through sleepy stars,
    Night’s soft lullaby.
  21. Sunset
    Horizon aflame,
    Sun dips low, day’s final bow,
    Colors blend and fade.
  22. Garden Peace
    Bees buzz among blooms,
    Garden a canvas of life,
    Peace in nature’s hum.
  23. Winter Morning
    Frost etches windows,
    Trees stand naked against sky,
    Cold dawn’s crisp embrace.
  24. Path Through Woods
    Path winds through the woods,
    Leaves crunch underfoot in sync,
    Nature’s quiet song.
  25. River’s Journey
    River carves the land,
    Water’s timeless pilgrimage,
    Stones smoothed on its way.
  26. Old Barn
    Old barn stands stoic,
    Secrets kept in wooden grains,
    Time whispers through cracks.
  27. City Park at Night
    Lamplight shadows dance,
    Empty benches hold stories,
    Night’s quiet watchers.
  28. Morning Jog
    Breath clouds in cool air,
    Feet rhythm against pavement,
    Dawn breaks with each step.
  29. Lonely Beach
    Waves lap lonely shore,
    Sand holds prints soon washed away,
    Solitude’s soft trace.
  30. Busy Marketplace
    Colors and noises,
    Market bustling with life,
    Energy pulses.
  31. First Snow
    First snow falls silent,
    Blanketing all in pure white,
    Clean slate of winter.
  32. Tea Ceremony
    Steam from green tea cups,
    Ritual of peace and calm,
    Tradition breathes slow.
  33. Wind in the Reeds
    Wind whispers through reeds,
    Music of rustling stalks,
    Nature’s soft chorus.
  34. Mountain Stream
    Water over rocks,
    Mountain stream’s clear melody,
    Liquid silver runs.
  35. Sleeping Cat
    Cat curls in a ball,
    Whiskers twitch in dream’s deep thrall,
    Peace in afternoon’s lap.

Final Thoughts: How to Write a Haiku

Haiku transcend cultures, fusing simplicity with profound insights, beautifully connecting diverse elements in a few poignant lines.

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