I overheard an older gentleman in a coffee shop last week saying something about a specific poetry style with a syllable requirement, and my ears perked up. We started chatting, and realized we both have the same enthusiasm for: HAIKU!
A traditional haiku is a seventeen syllable ancient Japanese poem, that doesn't need to rhyme. The poem structure is split into three lines of "5-7-5" (five syllables for the first line, seven syllables for the second line, and five syllables for the third line.) Traditionally the words paint a picture for the reader about nature or seasons, or passage of time.
If you've been following me on twitter, you know I have a penchant for haiku writing. You may also note my haiku poems are rarely traditional in content, i.e.:
Here's three reasons you can join me in being obsessed with writing haiku:
1) You can write one in under a minute. Some haiku I write are lengthier commitments, but in general it's a really quick project. Like, in the 45 second range. Seriously, in terms of feeling like you've REALLY accomplished and completed something, this quick activity tops the list. Few things in life grant you the immediate focus, gratification, creativity, and complete exact satisfaction of seventeen syllables perfectly formed... all in under one minute.
2) It can be an easy, zero-pressure creative exercise. In my notes app on my iPhone, I have a note column that (not surprisingly) reads: "HAIKU4U" with little sparkly emojis and hearts around it. I intentionally created a way to make it attractive, laid back, easy, and fun for me to write a haiku (or two, or ten!) at once. I have it synced to my google account, so whether on my phone in a grocery store line, or on my computer in between phone calls, I can pop in a haiku real quick. Writing haiku forces you to focus immediately, but the task at hand is not an overwhelming poetic soliloquy— it's a manageable three lines. Don't allow yourself to get "hung up" on the next "perfect" words. Just find something that fits the syllables, then move to the next line. 3 lines later: you're DONE! (It's the best.)
3) Freely abandon grammar and traditional content guides! I do strictly follow the 5-7-5 syllable rules, but in terms of content, go for it and write outside the lines! Disclaimer: I find myself writing a lot of angst-filled teenage-emotion-inspired haiku immediately after bad dates. This is totally not the traditional Japanese zen way, but truly, it's a huge percentage of my late night in-bed-with-my-phone haiku penning. I found it sort of helps to summarize intense disappointment in three solid lines of disgust. I do also make sure I write haiku about kittens, nature, sunsets, and certainly there's some romantic adorable sappy haiku, too. It's not all rage-filled... but when it is, it's only three lines :)
Do you like writing haiku? If you haven't tried, try one!!! It's really satisfying to know you're capable of counting syllables if all else fails. Tag @riananelson / #Haiku4U on Twitter when you write one, so I can see what seventeen syllable mischief you're up to!