Haiku Poem Examples: Your Complete Guide to Haiku

Posted on Jul 26, 2023

Avatar Of P.j Mcnulty

Written by P.J McNulty

Home > Blog > Creative Writing, Writing > Haiku Poem Examples: Your Complete Guide to Haiku

Are you interested in the beautiful type of poetry known as haiku?

We’ve gathered together haiku poem examples from the all-time haiku masters to inspire and inform you.

We’ve also answered all the questions you have about haiku, ranging from the most fundamental to more advanced.

So, without further ado, read on to discover our favorite haiku poem examples and begin your journey towards become a modern haiku master!

What is a haiku poem?

A haiku is a traditional form of Japanese poetry consisting of three lines. 

It typically follows a syllable pattern of 5-7-5, with a total of 17 syllables. 

Haikus often focus on nature, seasons, and fleeting moments, capturing a single vivid image or a profound experience. 

They aim to evoke emotions, create a sense of presence, and invite contemplation. 

Haikus emphasize brevity, simplicity, and the use of suggestive language to convey deeper meanings in a concise manner.

What is the format of a haiku?

The format of a haiku traditionally consists of three lines. Each line has a specific number of syllables, following a pattern of 5-7-5 syllables, for a total of 17 syllables. The syllable count refers to the sounds, not the number of words, in each line. 

Here’s an example:

Line 1: 5 syllables

Line 2: 7 syllables

Line 3: 5 syllables

The focus of a haiku is often on nature, the seasons, or a fleeting moment. It aims to capture a vivid image or evoke a specific emotion using concise and suggestive language. 

While the 5-7-5 syllable pattern is a traditional guideline, contemporary haiku writers also explore variations and alternative structures, placing greater emphasis on capturing the essence of a moment rather than strict adherence to syllable counts.

Haiku poem examples

One of the best ways to get familiar with haiku poems is by checking out examples from some of the masters of the haiku. 

Read on to discover a list of the most highly-regarded haiku masters of all time, a little about their style, and a couple of example haiku poems from each master.

Haiku poem examples from Haiku masters

Here is a list of some of the best haiku masters of all time and a sample of their haikus.

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

Haiku Poem Example By Matsuo Basho

Considered the most famous haiku master, Basho elevated haiku to a high art form, capturing the essence of nature and human experience.

Here is an example haiku poem from Matsuo Basho.

An old silent pond…

A frog jumps into the pond—

Splash! Silence again.

This haiku by Basho beautifully captures a serene moment in nature, emphasizing the stillness and sudden movement that breaks the silence. It’s a classic example of the power of haiku to evoke vivid imagery and create a sense of wonder.

Yosa Buson (1716-1783)

Known for his mastery of painting and poetry, Buson’s haiku often combined visual and literary imagery, portraying the beauty of the natural world.

Here are two example haiku poems from Yosa Buson.

1. Summer’s evening breeze,

fireflies flicker in twilight,

a symphony of light.

2. Snowflakes gently fall,

blanketing the world in white,

silence embraces.

These haikus by Yosa Buson showcase his ability to capture the beauty and moments of nature with elegance and simplicity. They evoke a sense of wonder and serenity, highlighting the delicate nuances of the changing seasons. Buson’s haikus often create beautiful imagery and invite readers to appreciate the fleeting beauty of the natural world.

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)

Renowned for his compassionate and empathetic haiku, Issa’s poems often depicted the struggles and joys of common people and creatures.

Here are two example haiku poems from Kobayashi Issa.

1. In this world we walk,

on the roof of hell, gazing

at flowers.

2. Even in Kyoto,

hearing the cuckoo’s cry,

I long for Kyoto.

These haikus by Kobayashi Issa showcase his ability to capture the beauty and transience of life in a few simple lines. They evoke a sense of contemplation and longing, reflecting his deep connection with nature and the human experience.

Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902)

Regarded as the founder of modern haiku, Shiki advocated for a more realistic and descriptive approach, focusing on everyday life and the changing seasons.

Here are two example haiku poems from Masaoka Shiki.

1. An autumn evening—

I write to my absent wife,

Ink black as the night.

2. A single red leaf

Falls upon the river’s flow,

Autumn’s gentle touch.

These haikus by Masaoka Shiki demonstrate his focus on realistic and descriptive observations of everyday life. They showcase his ability to capture melancholy and sensitivity to the changing seasons.

Taneda Santoka (1882-1940)

Haiku Poem Example From Taneda Santoka

Known for his free-spirited and often Zen-inspired haiku, Santoka’s poetry explored themes of homelessness, wanderlust, and spiritual seeking.

Here are two example haiku poems from Taneda Santoka.

1. Wandering alone,

my only possessions—

the moon and my staff.

2. Cold winter morning,

the homeless man’s breath rises

with the misty dawn.

These haikus by Taneda Santoka reflect his free-spirited and introspective style. Santoka’s haikus often delve into themes of homelessness, impermanence, and the search for spiritual meaning in everyday experiences.

Takahama Kyoshi (1874-1959)

A disciple of Shiki, Kyoshi played a significant role in shaping modern haiku and established a haiku journal called “Hototogisu.”

Here are two example haiku poems from Takahama Kyoshi.

1. A gentle spring rain—

the blossoms unfold their hearts,

whispering secrets.

2. The sound of the wind

brushing through the bamboo grove,

nature’s lullaby.

These haikus by Takahama Kyoshi demonstrate his ability to capture the beauty and tranquility of nature. Kyoshi’s haikus often reflect his attention to detail and his appreciation for the natural world.

Hattori Ransetsu (1654-1707)

An esteemed disciple of Basho, Ransetsu developed his own style of haiku, characterized by his sensitivity to human emotions and the natural world.

Here are two example haiku poems from Hattori Ransetsu.

1. Evening temple bell—

a swallow’s flight pauses,

then fades into dusk.

2. Autumn wind whispers,

scattering leaves in its wake,

nature’s gentle voice.

These haikus by Hattori Ransetsu reflect his sensitivity to nature and the fleeting moments of life. They capture a sense of the interconnectedness of all things. Ransetsu’s haikus often evoke a contemplative mood.

Ogiwara Seisensui (1884-1976)

Known for his introspective and deeply personal haiku, Seisensui’s poems often reflected his spiritual and philosophical reflections.

Here are two example haiku poems from Ogiwara Seisensui.

1. Cherry blossoms fall,

whispering a tale of spring,

fragile and fleeting.

2. Morning dew glistens,

each droplet holds a world,

unseen by most eyes.

These haikus by Ogiwara Seisensui reflect his introspective and contemplative style. They evoke a sense of impermanence and the hidden wonders of the natural world. Seisensui’s haikus often invite the reader to pause, observe, and appreciate the delicate moments that often go unnoticed in our busy lives.

Kawahigashi Hekigotō (1873-1937)

Hekigotō was a central figure in the “Hototogisu” haiku movement, emphasizing the use of colloquial language and contemporary themes.

Here are two example haiku poems from Kawahigashi Hekigotō.

1. Morning sun rises,

casting light on dew-kissed leaves,

nature awakens.

2. Autumn winds whisper,

leaves dance in a golden swirl,

nature’s farewell song.

These haikus by Kawahigashi Hekigotō showcase his focus on the beauty and harmony of the natural world. They capture a sense of wonder and appreciation for the cycles of life.

Natsume Soseki (1867-1916)

A renowned novelist and poet, Soseki’s haiku showcased his introspective nature, delving into the depths of human emotion and existential questions.

Here are two example haiku poems from Natsume Soseki.

1. Winter’s cold embrace,

frosty breath adorns the world,

stillness in the air.

2. Summer moonlit night,

whispers of cicadas’ song,

memories take flight.

These haikus reflect Soseki’s keen observation of the nature and his ability to infuse haikus with a touch of contemplation and emotion.

Shuson Kato (1905-1993)

Haiku Poem Example By Shuson Kato

Kato was a prolific haiku poet, known for his lyrical and evocative verses.

Here are two example haiku poems from Shuson Kato.

1. Evening sky ablaze,

crimson hues paint the horizon,

day bids farewell.

2. Lotus in full bloom,

petals unfold with grace,

serene water dance.

These haikus by Shuson Kato evoke a sense of awe and appreciation for the subtle details of nature. Kato’s haikus often employ a delicate balance of simplicity and depth.

How do you write a haiku?

Now that you’ve been inspired by the haiku masters, how about trying your hand at writing a haiku of your own? 

If writing a haiku is something you’d like to do, keep these five tips in mind:

1. Embrace Observational Awareness

 Pay attention to the world around you and cultivate a heightened sense of observation. Notice the details in nature, everyday moments, or even fleeting emotions.

2. Focus on Conciseness

Haiku is a form of poetry that thrives on brevity. Aim to distill your observations into a concise and compact form. Typically, haikus consist of three lines with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5.

3. Capture the Essence of a Moment

Haiku often seeks to capture a single moment or an experience in time. Look for the essence of the moment, the emotions or sensations it evokes, and try to convey them in a few carefully chosen words.

4. Incorporate Seasonal or Nature Imagery

Traditionally, haiku is closely associated with nature and often incorporates seasonal references. Consider integrating elements of the natural world, the changing seasons, or the beauty of the natural environment into your haiku.

5. Embrace the Power of Suggestion

Haiku often leaves room for interpretation and engages the reader’s imagination. Instead of explicitly stating everything, use suggestive language and imagery to evoke emotions and invite reflection.

By following these steps, you can begin your journey into the world of haiku and start crafting your own poetic observations. 

Remember, practice and experimentation are key, so don’t be afraid to explore different themes, techniques, and styles.

Frequently asked questions about haikus

At this point, we’ve covered the fundamentals about haiku poems. You understand the basic concept of a haiku, its format, you’ve seen some examples from haiku masters, and you know how to go about writing a haiku of your own. 

But what if you want to know more?

No problem! If you want to become even more knowledgeable about haikus, read on to discover the answers to some of the most common questions out there. 

How many words is a haiku in English?

A traditional haiku consists of three lines with a total of 17 syllables, typically arranged in a 5-7-5 pattern. However, when it comes to the number of words, it can vary. On average, an English haiku may contain around 10 to 14 words, although there can be exceptions based on the choice of words and phrasing. 

Are there different categories or types of haiku?

Here are some of the major types of haiku or poems similar to haikus:

1. Traditional Haiku: This follows the classic 5-7-5 syllable structure, with three lines capturing a moment in nature or the changing seasons.

2. Contemporary Haiku: This type of haiku often deviates from the strict 5-7-5 syllable count and may focus on various subjects beyond nature, exploring emotions, everyday life, or personal experiences.

3. Surreal or Imagist Haiku: These haikus employ vivid and often unconventional imagery, evoking a sense of surprise or wonder.

4. Senryu: Similar in structure to haiku, senryu focuses more on human nature, emotions, and social situations, often with a touch of humor or satire.

5. Haiga: This combines haiku with visual art, usually a simple ink painting or calligraphy, creating a harmonious blend of image and poetry.

6. Haibun: A blend of prose and haiku, haibun combines a concise narrative with one or more haiku to convey a story or experience.

These are just a few examples, and the world of haiku is vast and diverse, with various styles and approaches developed by poets worldwide.

What are some fundamental facts people should know about haikus?

Here’s some key facts about haiku, the type of words they contain, and the thought process behind them to help you gain a deeper understanding:

  1. Tanka: Tanka is a longer form of poetry that consists of five lines with a syllable structure of 5-7-5-7-7. It allows for more expressive and narrative elements compared to the brevity of haiku.
  1. Seasonal Words (Kigo): Traditional haiku often incorporate kigo, or seasonal words, to indicate the time of year and create a connection with nature. These words help evoke a specific season or moment in time.
  1. Cutting Word (Kireji): The kireji is a word or phrase used in haiku to create a pause or shift in the poem, often dividing it into two distinct parts. It adds emphasis and enhances the poetic structure.
  1. Juxtaposition: Haiku often employ juxtaposition, contrasting two different elements or ideas within a single poem. This technique creates a moment of surprise or insight for the reader.
  1. Nature and Zen Aesthetics: Haiku draws inspiration from nature and often reflects the influence of Zen Buddhism. It emphasizes simplicity, clarity, and the appreciation of fleeting moments in the natural world.
  1. Haiku Masters: Throughout history, various poets have achieved mastery in the art of haiku. Some renowned Japanese haiku masters include Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa. Their works have greatly influenced the development and understanding of haiku.
  1. Haiku in Different Languages: Haiku has gained popularity worldwide, with poets writing haiku in languages other than Japanese, such as English, Spanish, and French. Each language brings its own unique characteristics and cultural nuances to the form.
  1. Haiku Contests and Publications: There are numerous haiku contests and literary journals dedicated to publishing haiku. These platforms provide opportunities for both established and emerging poets to share their work and engage with the haiku community.
  1. Haiku Today: In contemporary haiku, there is an ongoing exploration of new styles, techniques, and subject matter. Haiku poets often experiment with form, breaking away from traditional syllable counts to focus more on capturing the essence of a moment or emotion.

What are the cutting words, known as kireji, that are used in haiku?

Here are some examples of cutting words or kireji used in haiku, along with their English translations in brackets:

1. Ya [Ah]

2. Kana [I wonder]

3. Keri [Indeed]

4. Shire [Know]

5. Zo [Indeed]

6. To [And]

7. Ka [Or]

8. Wo [Ah]

9. Ya-ho [Ah, yes]

10. Sa [Well]

11. Na [Ah]

12. Ah [Ah]

These cutting words or kireji serve to create a pause or break in the haiku, adding emphasis and enhancing the poetic structure. 

They help to create a juxtaposition or shift in the poem, dividing it into two distinct parts and creating a sense of depth or resonance. 

The English translations provided in brackets aim to capture the general meaning or feeling conveyed by these cutting words.

What is the belief system or philosophy behind haikus?

The practice of haiku is deeply rooted in Japanese culture and has been shaped by various philosophical and literary traditions. 

Some key elements that contribute to the philosophy of haiku include:

1. Zen Buddhism: Zen principles of mindfulness, presence, and a deep connection with nature have greatly influenced haiku. The emphasis on living in the present moment and capturing the essence of that moment aligns with the Zen concept of direct experience.

2. Wabi-sabi: This aesthetic philosophy embraces imperfection, impermanence, and simplicity. Haiku often reflects the wabi-sabi sensibility by finding beauty in the ordinary, appreciating the transience of nature, and focusing on the understated rather than the grand.

3. Muga: Muga is a term often associated with haiku, emphasizing the selflessness and egolessness of the poet. Haiku poets aim to detach themselves from personal biases and let the essence of the observed moment speak through their words.

4. Yūgen: Yūgen refers to a sense of mystery, depth, and the ineffable beauty that lies beyond what is immediately visible. Haiku poets often strive to capture this sense of yūgen, hinting at profound truths or evoking a deeper understanding of the natural world.

Overall, haiku embodies a reverence for nature, an appreciation for simplicity, and a focus on capturing the little moments of life that often pass us by so quickly. 

Are there still people producing haikus in the 21st century?

Here are some notable haiku poets who were alive and actively creating haiku during the 21st century:

1. Robert Hass – A Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Robert Hass has been influential in the world of haiku and is known for his skill in capturing the essence of a moment in a few words.

2. Fay Aoyagi – A contemporary haiku poet, Fay Aoyagi has received recognition for her innovative and evocative haiku. Her works often combine elements of Japanese and English languages and draw inspiration from both cultures.

3. David Lanoue – Lanoue is a haiku poet and scholar who has translated the haiku of Matsuo Basho. He also creates his own haiku and is an advocate for the continued practice and appreciation of haiku in the modern world.

4. Kala Ramesh – An Indian haiku poet, Kala Ramesh has made significant contributions to the promotion of haiku in India. She has published collections of her own haiku and is actively involved in organizing haiku events and workshops.

5. Scott Mason – A haiku poet and editor, Scott Mason has been recognized for his contributions to the haiku community. He has won multiple awards for his haiku and has published books that explore the depth and possibilities of the form.

Have there been haiku creators that focused on topics or themes outside of the traditional haiku subject matter?

While nature remains a significant theme in haiku, contemporary poets have expanded the scope of haiku to encompass a wide range of subjects. 

Here are four examples:

1. Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) – Issa was known for his haiku that delved into the human experience, often portraying the struggles and joys of common people and creatures. His haikus touched on various subjects beyond nature, including poverty, loss, and social issues.

2. Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) – The American Beat Generation writer, known for his novel “On the Road,” also wrote haikus that extended beyond traditional themes. Kerouac’s haikus often captured the essence of the urban landscape, nightlife, and the human condition.

3. Sonia Sanchez (1934-present) – A prominent African American poet, Sanchez has written haikus that explore themes of social justice, racial inequality, and the African American experience, bringing these important topics into the realm of haiku.

4. Sandra Simpson – An acclaimed New Zealand haiku poet, Simpson has expanded the subjects of haiku to include topics such as technology, politics, and contemporary issues. Her haikus reflect the evolving nature of the art form and its ability to adapt to modern realities.

The contemporary haiku community continues to explore diverse themes, resulting in a rich tapestry of haiku expressions.

Disclosure: Some of the links above may contain affiliate partnerships, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Self-Publishing School may earn a commission if you click through to make a purchase.
Liked this post? Share it with friends!

Interested in working with us?

Book a free strategy call with our expert team!