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Haiku (jap. 俳句) is a form of poetry that has its origin in Japan. The earliest documented works can be traced back to the 13th century AD.

Stylistic characteristics

The most important characteristic of haiku poems is their shortness. Such a poem consists of usually three word groups of 5-7-5 mores each. These words are then arranged vertically. Furthermore, it is unusual for a haiku to rhyme. Haikus usually have no title.

Traditional haiku has natural references. These can be assigned concretely to a season (so-called  “kigo” (jap. 季語)). An example of a classic kigo would be sunflower, which is clearly associated with summer. Modern haikus abstract this relation to nature by referring to a (mostly external) event, which is described in a concrete and compressed way, but which does not judge, but instead of nature as the only theme all emotionally and perceptually relevant motifs can appear.


A typical haiku poem can usually be categorized into two sections. In the first part a certain pictorial mood is created. The traditional haiku uses kigo here.

The second part is a certain twist: The lyricist plays with the expectation that he has aroused in the recipient and leads him to a realization or triggers a certain evaluation of the entire work, without expressing himself in a narrow sense in a judgmental way.


On a whithered branch
A crow is sitting
This autumn eve.1)

(Translation does not reflect the original Japanese structure, the two sections and the mention of the season - here in the second section)


The haiku is suitable for creating and reproducing impressions, and also for achieving a evaluative discussion. The fact that it is not evaluating stimulates one's own perception of nature or the other topic, especially traditionally with reference to wisdom about it.

If haiku is not understood as a necessarily isolated form of poetry, but also as a verse form, it can also be integrated into larger lyrical forms such as ballads, whenever the impression and perception of a concrete moment is of forerunner importance.

By Matsuo Basho, English translation by William George Aston
en/haiku.txt · Last modified: 2019/01/31 18:31 by maurice