Haiku in English
A haiku in English is an English-language poem written in the Japanese poetry style known as haiku. The degree to which haiku in English resemble classic Japanese haiku varies, but many of these poems draw on short, concise wording and a reference to nature.
The first haiku written in English date from the late 19th century, influenced by English translations of traditional Japanese haiku. Many well-known English-language poets have written what they called "haiku", although definitions of the genre have remained disputable. Haiku has also proven popular in English-language schools as a way to encourage the appreciation and writing of poetry.
"Haiku" in English is a term sometimes loosely applied to any short, impressionistic poem, but there are certain characteristics that are commonly associated with the genre:
- a focus on nature or the seasons
- a division into two asymmetrical sections that juxtaposes two subjects (e.g. something natural and something human-made, two unexpectedly similar things, etc.)
- a contemplative or wistful tone and an impressionistic brevity
- "telegram style" syntax; no superfluous words
- an emphasis on imagery over exposition
- avoidance of metaphor and similes
- non-rhyming lines
Some additional traits are especially associated with English-language haiku (as opposed to Japanese-language haiku):
- a three-line format with 17 syllables arranged in a 5–7–5 pattern;[a] or about 10 to 14 syllables, which more nearly approximates the duration of a Japanese haiku with the second line usually the longest. Some poets want their haiku to be expressed in one breath
- little or no punctuation or capitalization, except that cuts are sometimes marked with dashes or ellipses and proper nouns are usually capitalized
Britain and Australia
In Britain, the editors of The Academy announced the first known English-language haikai contest on April 8, 1899, shortly after William George Aston's pioneering History of Japanese Literature appeared. The contest, number 27 of the magazine's ongoing series, drew dozens of entries, and the prize was awarded to:
The west wind whispered,
And touched the eyelids of spring:
Her eyes, Primroses.— R. M. Hansard
The Academy contest inspired other early experimenters. Bertram Dobell composed a dozen haikai in 1899, publishing them in his 1901 verse collection, and in 1903 a group of Cambridge poets, citing Dobell as precedent, published their haikai series, "The Water Party." The Academy's influence was felt as far away as Australia, where editor Alfred Stephens was inspired to conduct a similar contest in the pages of The Bulletin. The prize for this (presumably first Australian) haiku contest went to Robert Crawford.
In the United States, Yone Noguchi published "A Proposal to American Poets," in The Reader Magazine in February 1904, giving a brief outline of his own English hokku efforts and ending with the exhortation, "Pray, you try Japanese Hokku, my American poets! You say far too much, I should say."
Ezra Pound's influential haiku-influenced poem, "In a Station of the Metro", published in 1913, has been widely regarded[by whom?] as a watershed moment in the establishment of English-language haiku as a literary form.
During the Imagist period, a number of mainstream poets besides Pound published what was generally called hokku, including Richard Aldington, Amy Lowell (in her Pulitzer Prize–winning 1925 What's O'Clock), and Lewis Grandison Alexander. Their efforts were actively encouraged by Noguchi, who published his own volume of English-language Japanese Hokkus in 1920.
Paul Reps Haiku-like verses in his 1939 book More Power to You.
This section possibly contains original research. (February 2021)
Whitecaps on the bay:
A broken signboard banging
In the April wind.— Richard Wright, collected in Haiku: This Other World, 1998
The first English-language haiku group in America, founded in 1956, was the Writers' Roundtable of Los Altos, California, under the direction of Helen Stiles Chenoweth. The Haiku Society of America was founded in 1968 and began publishing its journal Frogpond in 1978.
In 1963 the journal American Haiku was founded in Platteville, Wisconsin, edited by the European-Americans James Bull and Donald Eulert. Among contributors to the first issue were poets James W. Hackett, O Mabson Southard, and Nick Virgilio. In the second issue of American Haiku Virgilio published his "lily" and "bass" haiku, which became models of brevity, breaking the conventional 5-7-5 syllabic form, and pointing toward the leaner conception of haiku that would take hold in subsequent decades.
American Haiku ended publication in 1968 and was succeeded by Modern Haiku in 1969. Other early publications include Chenoweth's 1966 anthology Borrowed Water, featuring the work by the Los Altos Roundtable, and journals Haiku Highlights, founded 1965 by European-American writer Jean Calkins and later taken over by Lorraine Ellis Harr; Eric Amann's Haiku, founded 1967; and Leroy Kanterman's Haiku West founded 1967.
The first Haiku North America conference was held at Las Positas College in Livermore, California, in 1991, and has been held on alternating years since then. The American Haiku Archives, the largest public archive of haiku-related material outside Japan, was founded in 1996. It is housed at the California State Library in Sacramento, California, and includes the official archives of the Haiku Society of America.
Significant contributors to American haiku have included Charles B. Dickson, Lee Gurga, Christopher Herold, Gary Hotham, Jim Kacian, Elizabeth Searle Lamb, Raymond Roseliep, Robert Spiess, Anita Virgil, Peggy Willis Lyles, Michael McClintock, Marlene Mountain, Marian Olson, Alan Pizzarelli, Alexis Rotella, John Stevenson, George Swede, Michael Dylan Welch, John Wills, and Ruth Yarrow.
Although the majority of haiku published in English are three lines long, variants also occur.
The most common variation from the three-line standard is one line, sometimes called a monoku. It emerged from being more than an occasional exception during the late 1970s. The one-line form, based on an analogy with the one-line vertical column in which Japanese haiku are often printed, was lent legitimacy principally by three people:
- Marlene Mountain was one of the first English-language haiku poets to write haiku regularly in a single horizontal line
- Hiroaki Sato translated Japanese haiku into one line in English
- Matsuo Allard wrote essays in its favor and published several magazines and chapbooks devoted to the form, in addition to practicing it
The single-line haiku usually contains fewer than seventeen syllables. A caesura (pause) may be appropriate, dictated by sense or speech rhythm (following the Japanese tradition of a break, marked by the Kireji), and usually little or no punctuation. This form was used by John Wills and, more recently, has been practiced by poets such as M. Kettner, Janice Bostok, Jim Kacian, Chris Gordon, Scott Metz, Stuart Quine, John Barlow, and many others.
an icicle the moon drifting through it— Matsuo Allard, Bird Day Afternoon, High/Coo Press, 1978
A single word may occasionally be claimed to be a haiku:
tundra— Cor van den Heuvel, the window-washer's pail, 1963 (printed alone on an otherwise blank page)
Four or more lines
Haiku of four lines (sometimes known as haiqua) or longer have been written, some of them "vertical haiku" with only a word or two per line, mimicking the vertical printed form of Japanese haiku.
stone— Marlene Wills, the old tin roof, 1976
Haiku have also appeared in circular form (sometimes known as cirku) whereby the poem has no fixed start or end point.
|buoyed up||on the rising tide|
|a fleet of head boards||bang the wall|
— John Carley, Magma No 19, 2001
Publications in North America
The leading English-language haiku journals published in the U.S. include Modern Haiku, Frogpond (published by the Haiku Society of America), Mayfly (founded by Randy and Shirley Brooks in 1986), Acorn (founded by A. C. Missias in 1998), Bottle Rockets (founded by Stanford M. Forrester), The Heron's Nest (founded by Christopher Herold in 1999, published online with a print annual), and Tinywords (founded by Dylan F. Tweney in 2001). Some significant defunct publications include Brussels Sprout (edited from 1988 to 1995 by Francine Porad), Woodnotes (edited from 1989 to 1997 by Michael Dylan Welch), Hal Roth's Wind Chimes, Wisteria, and Moonset (edited from 2005 to 2009 by an'ya (Andja Petrović)). The largest publisher of haiku books in North America is Jim Kacian's Red Moon Press. Other notable American publishers of haiku books include Press Here, Bottle Rockets Press, Brooks Books, and Turtle Light Press.
Publications in other English-speaking countries
In the United Kingdom, leading publications include Presence (formerly Haiku Presence), which was edited for many years by Martin Lucas and is now edited by Ian Storr, and Blithe Spirit, published by the British Haiku Society and named in honor of Reginald Horace Blyth. In Ireland, twenty issues of Haiku Spirit edited by Jim Norton were published between 1995 and 2000, and Shamrock, an online journal edited by Anatoly Kudryavitsky, has been publishing international haiku in English since 2007. In Australia, twenty issues of Yellow Moon, a literary magazine for writers of haiku and other verse, were published between 1997 and 2006 (issues 1-8 were edited by Patricia Kelsall; issues 9-20 by Beverley George). Nowadays Paper Wasp is published in Australia, Kokako in New Zealand and Chrysanthemum (bilingual German/English) in Germany and Austria. Two other online English-language haiku journals founded outside North America, A Hundred Gourds and Notes from the Gean, are now defunct. John Barlow's Snapshot Press is a notable UK-based publisher of haiku books. The World Haiku Club publishes The World Haiku Review.
International websites have developed for the publication of haiku in English including: The Living Haiku Anthology; The Living Senryu Anthology, Under the Basho, Failed Haiku, and Wales Haiku Journal. In addition, personal websites such as Michael Dylan Welch's Graceguts provide extensive haiku resources with essays, reviews, and poems.
Notable English-language haiku poets
- Lewis Grandison Alexander
- John Brandi
- Reginald Horace Blyth
- Ross Clark
- Robbie Coburn
- Billy Collins
- Cid Corman
- Tyler Knott Gregson
- Lee Gurga
- James William Hackett
- William J. Higginson
- Jim Kacian
- Jack Kerouac
- James Kirkup
- Etheridge Knight
- Anatoly Kudryavitsky
- Lenard D. Moore
- John Richard Parsons
- Alan Pizzarelli
- Paul Reps
- Kenneth Rexroth
- Raymond Roseliep
- Gabriel Rosenstock
- Sonia Sanchez
- Gary Snyder
- George Swede
- Wally Swist
- Cor van den Heuvel
- Nick Virgilio
- Gerald Vizenor
- Paul O. Williams
- Richard Wright
- Comprising 5 syllables on the first line, 7 on the second and 5 on the third
- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2009.
A Japanese lyric verse form having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, traditionally invoking an aspect of nature or the seasons.
- Definition of haiku by the Haiku Society of America
- Garrison, Denis M. Hidden River: Haiku. Modern English Tanka Press. p. iii. ISBN 978-0-615-13825-1.
- Reichhold, 2002 p.21
- Gurga, 2003 p.105
- "How to Write a Haiku Poem: Haiku Examples and Tips". Creative Writing Now. William Victor, S.L. Retrieved 2013-05-14.
Traditionally, haiku is written in three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line.
- "Send your name & message to Mars!". Going to Mars with MAVEN. University of Colorado: Boulder. Retrieved 2013-05-14.
For the MAVEN contest, we are defining a haiku as a poem made of three lines; the first and last lines must have exactly five syllables each and the middle line must have exactly seven syllables.
- Shirane, Haruo. Love in the Four Seasons, in Acta Universitatis Carolinae, Orientalia Pragensia XV, 2005, p135
- Ross, Bruce; How to Haiku; Tuttle Publishing 2002 p.19 ISBN 0-8048-3232-3
- Gurga, Lee; Haiku - A Poet's Guide; Modern Haiku Press 2003 p.16 ISBN 0-9741894-0-5
- Higginson, William J., The Haiku Handbook, McGraw-Hill, 1985, pp. 101-102 ISBN 0-07-028786-4.
- Spiess, Robert; Modern Haiku vol. XXXII No. 1 p. 57 "A haiku does not exceed a breath's length." ISSN 0026-7821
- Reichhold, Jane; Writing and Enjoying Haiku - A Hands-On Guide; Kodansha 2002 p.30 and p.75 ISBN 4-7700-2886-5
- Gurga, 2003, p.2 and p.15
- "Academy and Literature".
- "Academy and Literature".
- "The Water Party," Cambridge Review (1903), xiii.
- Tessa Wooldridge, "Haiku in the Bulletin, 1899," Australian Haiku Society, July 7, 2008 
- Yone Noguchi, "A Proposal to American Poets," The Reader Magazine 3:3 (Feb. 1904): 248.
- Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years, eds. Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns, W.W. Norton & Co, New York, 2013
- Yone Noguchi, Japanese Hokkus (Boston: Four Seas, 1920).
- Richard Wright's haiku on Terebess Asia Online
- Biography of Lorraine Ellis Harr on the Aha Poetry website
- Van den Heuvel, Cor. The Haiku Anthology 2nd edition. Simon & Schuster 1986. ISBN 0671628372 p10
- Higginson, William, 'From One-line Poems to Haiku' Haiku Clinic #3, Simply Haiku.com
- William J. Higginson. From One-line Poems to One-line Haiku
- "BROKEN MONOKU- haiku in one broken line". MONOKU. 31 December 2007. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
- Gill, Stephen Henry et al., editors. Seasons of the Gods Hailstone Haiku Circle, Kansai, 2007. ISBN 978-4-9900822-3-9 p.2
- Zip School on Carley's website
- Zips in Magma No 19 - Winter 2001
- The Lune: The English Language Haiku by Holly Bliss at GoArticles.com
- Lipson, Greta B. Poetry Writing Handbook: Definitions, Examples, Lessons. Lorenz Educational Press, 1998. ISBN 9781573101080 p53
- "Frogpond Journal - Online Issue Samples".
- "Presence |".
- "Blithe Spirit". British Haiku Society. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
- Kudryavitsky, Anatoly. "Haiku from Ireland and the rest of the world". Shamrock. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
- "Paper wasp".
- "World Haiku Review".
- The Haiku Society of America. A Haiku Path. Haiku Society of America, Inc., 1994.
- Henderson, Harold G. An Introduction to Haiku. Hokuseido Press, 1948.
- Henderson, Harold G. Haiku in English. Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1967.
- Higginson, William J. and Harter, Penny. The Haiku Handbook, How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku. Kodansha, 1989. ISBN 4-7700-1430-9.
- Higginson, William J. Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac. Kodansha, 1996. ISBN 4-7700-2090-2.
- Hirshfield, Jane. The Heart of Haiku (Kindle Single, 2011)
- Rosenstock, Gabriel. Haiku Enlightenment. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011. ISBN 978-1443833790
- Rosenstock, Gabriel. Haiku: the Gentle Art of Disappearing. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009. ISBN 978-1443811330
- Sato, Hiroaki. One Hundred Frogs, from renga to haiku to English. Weatherhill, 1983. ISBN 0-8348-0176-0.
- Suiter, John. Poets on the Peaks: Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen & Jack Kerouac in the Cascades. Counterpoint, 2002. ISBN 1-58243-148-5; ISBN 1-58243-294-5 (pbk).
- Yasuda, Kenneth. Japanese Haiku: Its Essential Nature, History, and Possibilities in English. Tuttle, 1957. ISBN 0-8048-1096-6.
- Global Haiku. Eds. George Swede and Randy Brooks. IRON Press, 2000.
- Haiku 21. Eds. Lee Gurga and Scott Metz. Modern Haiku Press, 2011.
- The Haiku Anthology. Ed. Cor van den Heuvel. Anchor Books, 1974
- The Haiku Anthology. 2nd ed. Ed. Cor van den Heuvel. Simon & Schuster, 1986.
- The Haiku Anthology. 3rd ed. Ed. Cor van den Heuvel. W.W. Norton, 1999.
- Haiku in English. Eds. Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns. W.W. Norton, 2013.
- Haiku Moment. Ed. Bruce Ross. Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1993.
- The San Francisco Haiku Anthology. Eds. Jerry Ball, Garry Gay, and Tom Tico. Smythe-Waithe Press, 1992.
- The Unswept Path. Eds. John Brandi and Dennis Maloney. White Pine Press, 2005.
- Where the River Goes: The Nature Tradition in English-Language Haiku. Ed. Allan Burns. Snapshot Press, 2013.
- A Guide to Haiku Publications, 2008 from HSA
Techniques and papers
- Jane Reichhold on haiku techniques
- English Haiku : A Composite View on the British Haiku Society website
- Haiku Chronicles – a free educational podcast designed to provide a better understanding and appreciation of the art of haiku and its related forms.
- "In The Moonlight a Worm..." - an educational site on haiku writing techniques.