What is a Haiku? | Haiku Poem Examples & Syllable Count

Haikus are one of the most popular forms of poetry; but what is a haiku poem? Well, you can quickly learn about haiku structure and its syllable count here. Haiku learning is fun and the poems are easy to write. Why not start learning about and writing haikus today?

Haiku Poem Definition, Brief History?

A haiku is an unrhymed poetic form of Japanese origin consisting of three lines. Each line of an English translated or written haiku has a syllable count of 5, 7, and 5 respectively. It typically has a total of 17 syllables.

The traditional haiku refers in some way to the seasons of the year, nature, or wildlife and is derived from the late 19th century Hokku (The Hokku is a fixed lyric form of Japanese origin. It also has three unrhymed short lines of five seven, and five syllables and being typically of the nature or in the style of an epigram; concise, clever, amusing, or suggestive). Haiku was originally the opening section (Hokku) of a renga which began to be formed around the 13th and 14th centuries. As you can see, haiku, hokku, and renga are closely related.

Haikus are now written in various languages and many have experimented on the form and its structure. An example of this is the writing of a one-lined haiku that became popular among western poets in the mid 1970’s in North America. Strangely enough, the one-line format is employed by most Japanese haiku writers. Nevertheless, the 5-7-5 syllable pattern seems to still be the form and structure most identified as the norm.

Haiku Structure and Syllable Format (5-7-5)

The poem below was written by the famous Haikai poet Matsuo Basho (1644-94). Let’s examine its structure.

An old silent pond...
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.

Syllable breakdown:

An/ old/ si/ lent/ pond...  (5 syllables)
A/ frog/ jumps/ in/ to/ the/ pond, (7 syllables)
splash!/ Si/ lence/ a/ gain. (5 syllables)

Check haiku syllable counts using this external haiku syllable counter.

Haiku Poems, Examples

See also:

Whitecaps on the bay:
A broken signboard banging
In the April wind.

- Richard Wright (1908-1960)

liquid little stones

liquid little stones
skipping and skittering free
on shared umbrellas

- Rickie Elpusan

Over the wintry
forest, winds howl in rage
with no leaves to blow.

- Soseki (1275-1351)


Sealing eyes of sky,
Descend upon straps of light,
Dusk…now dreams the night...

- farah chamma

In the twilight rain
these brilliant-hued hibiscus . . .
A lovely sunset

- Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)


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