by Ron Padgett

First: five syllables
Second: seven syllables
Third: five syllables

First published in 1995. This is an instruction rather than a poem, and it’s a misinformed instruction at that, not to mention being a trivialization of the genre that has been done by many grade-schoolers who can’t see beyond syllable-counting or making puns on the word “haiku.” It’s tiresome rather than clever. Moreover, a “poem” like this merely perpetuates a common misunderstanding and bastardization of the haiku genre in English. The notion of “syllables” has been added to haiku in English; it was never part of its definition in Japanese. Indeed, in English, 5-7-5 syllables is a violation of the Japanese form, not a preservation of it. Japanese haiku do not count syllables, but something else. As an example, the word “haiku” itself is two syllables in English, but counts as three sounds in Japanese. See “Why ‘No 5-7-5’” and Further Reading.       +       +