The American Haiku form differs vastly from the original Japanese Haiku form.
Not that there is anything wrong with that. It is often necessary to Americanize things – from writing to food – so that these things are more palatable to the American palate.
As a result, American Haiku forms follow specific standards. The most familiar is the 5-7-5 syllable count. It is the most recognized and accepted form of Haiku in the United States. As a standard, most Haikus have a nature theme to them. This does not preclude a Haiku tackling other topics. But the nature theme gives more impact to the Haiku itself.
There are other lesser-known forms of Haiku. There is the Lune which consists of 3-5-3 word count or 5-3-5 syllable count. And the Zip which consists of a total of 15 syllables written on 2 lines with a caesura or double space between words in the middle of the two lines. (In the example below, the space should be between hawk and circles, and carcass and a).
blade of grass
new roots in earth’s soil
home to grasshopper
red-tailed hawk circles in azure sky
spots dead carcass a feast
Regardless of which form of Haiku is written they are all designed to elicit emotional responses from the reader.
I recall an English teacher (I cannot recall her name) who defined Haiku as follows: it should be stark. Each line should be able to stand on its own. It’s best to use contrasting images. It should take the reader by surprise. And it should make the reader feel something.
Not every Haiku written follows every one of these guidelines as set forth by that wise woman. But one guideline each and every one should follow is that last one: it should make the reader feel something.
Everything I write tells a story. But it’s about more than telling a story. It is about eliciting an emotional response in the reader.
This is one of the most important jobs of the writer. An emotional response has a lasting effect. A reader will remember how a certain piece of writing makes her or him feel and will be more likely to share that experience with others.
Painting emotions with Haikus takes practice and careful consideration. It is imperative to give thought to the words used. Considering how these words make you feel gives you an idea of what the reader may experience.
the mountain lion
poised to pounce upon its prey
Do you sympathize with the rabbit? Or do you feel the lion has the right to survival? Try this one.
snow falls in fat flakes
cup of hot choc’late
This one immediately brings to mind a cold winter day. The feelings of safety and comfort from being inside where it’s warm when it’s cold and snowing outside are the emotions this Haiku elicits.
A Haiku should take the reader on a wonderful journey in a short span of time. Within that short span of time the reader can experience every emotion from fear to comfort to romance to elation.
Consider your pencil, pen or computer a paintbrush when writing those Haikus. Make them feel something.