ukiaHaiku festival

A celebration and competition devoted to the haiku form of poetry

Haiku Resources & Information

Haiku Definition

Haiku is an ancient unrhymed Japanese verse form generally set in three short lines containing a total of 10 to 17 syllables. The poem should contain a sentence fragment (one line) and a phrase (two lines that complete a thought). The fragment can be either the first line or the third line.

Haiku typically contains a reference to images of nature. It uses simple concrete images of things we can see, smell, taste, touch, or feel. Writers of haiku avoid use of abstract or figurative language, as well as judgmental, philosophical, or psychological statements. The best haiku poems reveal the essence of a thing so clearly that the reader can experience the momentary scene or insight that inspired the author. To keep the poem simple and direct, write in the present tense. Haiku typically do not make use of capitalization, punctuation, or titles.

English-language haiku have followed the form of five syllables used in the first line, followed by seven syllables for the middle line and five syllables for the third. However, English-language haiku no longer adhere to this syllable count, and are therefore as brief as the poem needs to be while keeping to the fragment-phrase structure. In English-language haiku, the middle line is typically longer than the first or third lines.

Please note: both styles of haiku (17 syllable count and otherwise) will be accepted for all categories.


rain gusts                                     (fragment)

the electricity goes
on and off                                     (two line phrase)

Other Haiku Resources

  • Link to PDF of Jane Reichhold workshop on haiku, January 2011

ukiaHaiku Workshop PDF

  • Link to podcast of Jane Reichhold talk on Basho for the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Spring 2009

  • Link to Jane Reichhold’s site, Aha Poetry, devoted to Japanese literary forms


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