Analysis of the Best Haiku Poems

Posted on Jul 12, 2023

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Written by P.J McNulty

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So, you’re interested in Haiku?

Perhaps you’ve dipped your toes into writing your own?

If you’re eager to refine your skills and understand what makes a Haiku truly stand out, you’re in the right place. 

Here, we’ll take a close look at award-winning Haiku poems. 

By breaking down these haikus, you’ll gain insights that help improve your own poetry.

Defining Characteristics of an Award-Winning Haiku

What separates a good Haiku from an award-winning one? 

First, let’s quickly revisit the core components of a classic and modern Haiku.

This form of poetry is known for its 5-7-5 syllable structure, but modern Haiku poets sometimes stray from this rule. 

However, the use of kigo (seasonal references) and kireji (cutting words) remains essential.

Your poem should ideally present an image or idea that encapsulates a moment in time, often with a poignant or profound undertone. 

Analysis of Selected Award-Winning Haiku

Now, let’s dissect some award-winning Haiku. 

Through analyzing these pieces, you’ll grasp how the masters use structure, kigo, kireji, and impactful imagery to craft memorable Haiku.

Keep in mind, we’re here to learn from these examples, not to compare. 

Every poet, including you, has a unique voice.

Haiku: “An old silent pond… / A frog jumps into the pond— / splash! Silence again.” – Matsuo Bashō

This is perhaps one of the most famous Haiku written by Matsuo Bashō. Here, Bashō takes a simple event—a frog jumping into a pond—and turns it into a profound observation of life and existence. 

The silence in the beginning and end of the poem mirrors the quietness of nature and the transience of sound, and by extension, life. It also uses “old pond” as a seasonal reference, indicating the quiet serenity of nature in full bloom. 

It’s a fantastic example of the depth a Haiku can hold with such few words.

Haiku: “The light of a candle / is transferred to another candle— / spring twilight” – Yosa Buson

Yosa Buson’s Haiku uses the kigo “spring twilight” to set the scene.

 It’s a serene image of one candle’s light transferring to another, a metaphor that could be interpreted in various ways. It might symbolize wisdom passed from one generation to the next, the continuation of life, or the fleeting nature of time.

 Like a well-crafted Haiku, it engages the senses and invites introspection, demonstrating how your Haiku can be both simple and profound.

Haiku: “I write, erase, rewrite / Erase again, and then / A poppy blooms.” – Kobayashi Issa

In this Haiku, Kobayashi Issa portrays the struggle of writing, reflecting the human condition of trying, failing, and trying again. 

The reference to the blooming poppy (a symbol of resilience and remembrance) could be seen as the moment of triumph or insight after persistence. 

This Haiku illustrates how personal or human experiences, not just observations of nature, can serve as compelling Haiku themes.

Haiku: “Over the wintry / Forest, winds howl in rage / with no leaves to blow.” – Natsume Sōseki

This Haiku by Natsume Sōseki bends the conventional themes of Haiku by presenting an image of a stark, wintry forest.

It uses the “winds” and the “forest” to convey a sense of desolation, possibly even frustration or futility (the winds have “no leaves to blow”). It’s a more somber theme, showing that Haiku can express a broad range of human emotions. 

This reminds us that your Haiku can challenge the usual themes and still resonate with readers.

Common Themes in Award-Winning Haiku

Throughout the analysis, you may have noticed recurring themes.

 Nature, seasons, transient moments, existential reflections – these are often the threads weaving through award-winning Haiku. 

Your poem, too, can explore these themes, or you might choose something uniquely personal. 

The beauty of Haiku lies in the brevity and depth it offers to express a wide array of ideas and emotions.

The end of our haiku analysis

Award-winning Haiku aren’t mystical creations.

They’re simply the result of poets understanding the essence of Haiku and skillfully expressing their observations and insights within this compact form.

You, too, can create powerful Haiku.

The key lies in practice, reflection, and a keen eye for the fleeting moments worth capturing in words.

Remember, every Haiku you write brings you one step closer to mastering this beautiful form of poetry.

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