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grafitti of the word haiku

The formal requirements of the haiku may be as stringent as an IRS 1040, but a good one is pithy, sometimes revelatory and, occasionally, just flat out funny.

Haiku, for the uninitiated, is a Japanese lyric verse form having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, traditionally invoking an aspect of nature or the seasons, though in its contemporary incarnation, subject matter has widened considerably.

I find it fascinating that haiku has managed to worm its way so thoroughly into popular culture. Google the word sometime and you’ll find more websites dedicated to the Haiku than you can shake a chopstick at. Some are serious, some are less so. Many of them worth a look.

I’m not sure why the haiku has lodged in the public consciousness when most other forms have gone the way of the quill pen. All I know is that a lot of people who couldn’t tell a sonnet from sunbonnet, can rattle off the requirements of a haiku like it’s their social security number. Perhaps it has something to do with that rigid structure -- that unvarying form. Let’s face it, the average joe or jolene sees the world of poetry as esoteric, elitist, and chockfull of formless, self-engrossed bleating. by people they'd rather not talk to. I think the idea of a simple, short poem whose form is unchanging and unchangeable is key to its popularity. In short, it is exactly the hard and fast rules of the haiku that gives us the freedom to puzzle, invent and play with language.

Below are just a few of the titles from Harris County Public Library’s collection.

Click or tap the book cover for more details
Japanese Haiku Book Cover


haiku anthology cover art


Haiku Handbook cover art


Baseball Haiku


If you are inspired by any of the titles above, I invite you to take a stab at your own haiku. Drop them in the comments section below.


Photo Credits: Haiku of Basho by Javier Garcia, , Haiku [grafitti] by funkandjazz, and Haiku Boat by tomswift.



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