Why Do Haiku?

by Steve

Haiku Structure

The first line five beats

The second line seven beats

The third five again.

The Basics

One two three four five

One two three four five six sev

One two three four five

Why Do Haiku?

Haiku forces me

To eliminate all but

The bare essentials.

Haiku Content

Japanese haiku

Has reference to seasons at

End of the second line.

About Rules

In English haiku

Rules need not be so strict, read

Michael Dylan Welch.

Bad Haiku

After reading Welch

I almost hit the delete

Sorry Mister Welch.

From What Do I know blog, posted on 13 June 2010. See also the follow-up blog posting.


I’m flattered, of course, to have a poem written about me, or in reference to me. The follow-up blog posting clarifies that the author did in fact learn something from my essay, in contrast to the examples of titled and syllabic verses presented here. I should add, too, that by saying haiku need not be 5-7-5 syllables in English, that is emphatically not advocating for less strictness in haiku. Quite the opposite. Counting syllables, if one is so inclined, is the most trivial discipline haiku has to offer, and I make the case in “Why ‘No 5-7-5’” and “Becoming a Haiku Poet” that 5-7-5 is an urban myth for haiku in English. So when Steve says “Rules need not be so strict, read / Michael Dylan Welch,” he (temporarily) missed the point that I’m trying to put aside haiku’s most trivial possible “discipline” in favour of much harder disciplines (see “The Discipline of Haiku”). Counting syllables is actually the easiest rule one can choose to follow in haiku—but only, of course, if one incorrectly assumes that a 5-7-5 syllable count is even accurate in English. By being mistaught in schools that way for so many decades, millions of school kids, who are now adults, have not been made aware of the greater disciplines of season word, juxtaposition, objectivity, allusion, and other targets. My gratitude to Steve for saying “Michael Dylan Welch’s link to ‘Becoming a Haiku Poet’ beautifully distinguishes between what I wrote about—three lines of 17 syllables—and haiku.”

—25 April 2015