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What is a Haiku? Tiny Poem, Big Meaning…

What is a Haiku?

Example of a haiku to illustrate What is a Haiku?

A haiku is a very brief Japanese poem of 17 total syllables in three lines. Line one is 5 syllables, line two is 7 syllables, and line three is 5 syllables. That’s the simple answer to the question, what is a haiku? Now here’s the detailed answer!

This standard structure from 13th century Japan, is not always maintained (and is not a requirement for the Dreamers’ haiku contest). However, the original concept of the form has stood since the form’s origins, and includes: a focus on a single moment in time; able to read them in one breath; the use of startling, vibrant imagery; and a sense of unexpected insight.

Haiku are traditionally nature-based and often focus on a seasonal theme. They do not rhyme. Juxtaposition (compare or contrast) is an essential element of this form of poetry, for example, by closely connecting two contrasting images, or by comparing unexpected similarities.

Haiku employ a cutting word, known as a kireji in Japanese. This is a kind of word that provides a verbal punctuation mark that separates the juxtaposed images. There is no English equivalent to a kireji. As a result, English writers will sometimes use a dash or another form of punctuation to cause a break or pause. This offers readers a chance to reflect on the connection between the two parts.

The goal of a haiku is to suggest a lot with a little. These are tiny poems with big meanings.

Calling all Poets…

Enter the Dreamers Haiku Contest!

Submit up to 3 haiku by May 31st for your chance to win cash and publication in print and online!

Submit up to 3 per entry; enter as often as you want. The winner will receive $120 CAD ($100 prize + $20 honorarium), and 2 copies of our magazine (1 print, 1 electronic).

Check out the Dreamers Creative Writing 2018 contest winners, our 2019 contest winners, our 2020 contest winners, and our 2021 contest winners, for examples of the form.

Haiku Page Magazine Issue 1 - shows examples of haiku