Traditional Haiku: Poetry of Nature

Traditional Haiku: Poetry of Nature

Definition of Traditional Haiku

What is a Traditional Haiku?

Haiku is a form of poetry originating in Japan, which uses a 3 line and 17 syllables in a 5-7-5 format that typically focuses on nature. Many haiku poets draw from the natural world and their feelings while casting imagery in these small groupings of words. Imagery is caused by the use of descriptive language that helps words become visual within the mind. When creating haiku, your main focus is to capture the moment and even create thought-provoking insight.


"Sankei-en Gardens, Yokohama, Japan" by Mustang Joe is marked with CC0 1.0


Structure of Haiku

The Structure of Haiku

Traditional Haiku follow a 5-7-5 syllable structure.* Syllables are the sounds that create words.
For example, the word "paper" consists of 2 syllables:
1. Pa
2. Per

There are a couple of ways to count syllables such as the following:

  • You can touch the bottom of your chin and count how many times your jaw drops while saying a word.

  • You can clap as you pronounce words.

  • You can look in a dictionary. Words are broken down in syllables prior to the definition like so: pa·per

  • Free Syllable Counter

Here is a video that explains how syllables work in Haiku:

Haiku Poetry

*Note: In American English Haiku (non-traditional): Syllable count can be loosely used based on the vernacular or mouthfeel of the words being used.

Haiku Activity

You are ready to create your own haiku!
In this activity, do the following: 

1. Create a Traditional Haiku using 3 lines and 17 syllable count with 5-7-5 form.

  • Must relate to the natural world. (Seasons, animals, feelings, etc.)

2. Break down your Haiku in the definition version of each word, showing the syllable breakdown.

  • Example: 

    Cold rip·ple of air

    Sting·ing the un·cov·ered flesh

    Burn·ing flame with·in

3. Share with your peers!