Template:Globalize/North America Haiku in English is a development of the Japanese haiku poetic form in the English language. Contemporary haiku are written in many languages, but most poets outside of Japan are concentrated in the English-speaking countries. It is impossible to single out any current style, format, or subject matter as definitive. Some of the more common practices in English include:

  • Use of three lines of up to 17 syllables;
  • Use of a season word (kigo);
  • Use of a cut or kire (sometimes indicated by a punctuation mark) to compare two images implicitly.

English haiku do not adhere to the strict syllable count found in Japanese haiku,[1] and the typical length of haiku appearing in the main English-language journals is 10–14 syllables.[2][3] Some haiku poets are concerned with their haiku being expressed in one breath[4][5][6] and the extent to which their haiku focus on "showing" as opposed to "telling".[7][8] This is the genius of haiku using an economy of words to paint a multi-tiered painting, without "telling all".[9] Or as Matsuo Bashō puts it, "The haiku that reveals seventy to eighty percent of its subject is good. Those that reveal fifty to sixty percent, we never tire of."[10]

Haiku movement in North AmericaEdit


During the Imagist period, a number of mainstream poets, including Ezra Pound, wrote what they called "hokku," usually in a five-seven-five syllable pattern. Amy Lowell published several "hokku" in her book "What's O'Clock" (1925; winner of the Pulitzer Prize). Individualistic "haiku-like" verses by the innovative Buddhist poet and artist Paul Reps (1895–1990) appeared in print as early as 1939 (More Power to You—Poems everyone Can Make, Preview Publications, Montrose CA.). Other Westerners inspired by R. H. Blyth's translations attempted original haiku in English including those of the Beat period, such as Jack Kerouac and Richard Wright.

Snow in my shoe
Sparrow's nest
Jack Kerouac (collected in Book of Haikus, Penguin Books, 2003)

The African-American novelist Richard Wright, in his final years, composed some 4,000 haiku, 817 of which are collected in the volume Haiku: This Other World. Wright hewed to a 5-7-5 syllabic structure for most of these verses, and frequently employed surreal imagery and implicit political themes.(Citation needed)

Whitecaps on the bay:
A broken signboard banging
In the April wind.
Richard Wright (collected in Haiku: This Other World, Arcade Publishing, 1998)

An early anthology of American haiku, Borrowed Water (Tuttle:1966) of work by the Los Altos, California Roundtable was compiled by Helen Stiles Chenoweth. The experimental work of Beat and minority haiku poets expanded the popularity of haiku in English. Despite claims that haiku has not had much impact on the literary scene, a number of "mainstream" poets, such as W. H. Auden, Richard Wilbur, James Merrill, Etheridge Knight, William Stafford, W. S. Merwin, John Ashbery, Donald Hall, Ruth Stone, Sonia Sanchez, Billy Collins, (as well as Seamus Heaney, Wendy Cope, and Paul Muldoon in Ireland and Britain) and others have tried their hand at haiku, although their work has frequently demonstrated no awareness of the tenets of the season word, cutting, objective imagery, or other dominant characteristics of the genre. Haiku has also proven very popular as a way of introducing students to poetry in elementary schools and as a hobby for numerous amateur writers.

In 1963 the journal American Haiku was founded in Platteville, Wisconsin, edited by James Bull and Donald Eulert. Among contributors to the first issue were poets James W. Hackett, O Mabson Southard (1911–2000), and Nick Virgilio. In the second issue of American Haiku Virgilio published his "lily" and "bass" haiku, which became models of brevity, breaking down the traditional 5-7-5 syllabic form, and pointing toward the leaner conception of haiku that would take hold in subsequent decades.

out of the water
out of itself

picking bugs
off the moon
Nick Virgilio (Selected Haiku, Burnt Lake Press/Black Moss Press, 1988)

American Haiku ended publication in 1968 and was succeeded by Modern Haiku in 1969, which remains an important English-language haiku journal. Other early journals included Haiku Highlights (founded 1965 by Jean Calkins and later taken over by Lorraine Ellis Harr who changed the name to Dragonfly), Eric Amann's Haiku (founded 1967), and Haiku West (founded 1967).

The first English-language haiku society in America, founded in 1956, was the Writers' Roundtable of Los Altos, California, under the direction of Helen Stiles Chenoweth.[11] The Haiku Society of America was founded in 1968 and began publishing its journal Frogpond in 1978. Some key issues that American haiku practitioners debate include: appropriate length and structure of haiku, the use and importance of kigo ('season words') (including in regions with little seasonal variation), the relation of haiku to Zen, the use of natural and urban imagery, the distinction between haiku and the related senryū genre, haiku grammar, and the incorporation of subjective elements, including personal pronouns. Important resources for poets and scholars attempting to understand English-language haiku aesthetics and history include William J. Higginson's Haiku Handbook (McGraw-Hill, 1985) and Lee Gurga's Haiku: A Poet's Guide (Modern Haiku Press, 2003).

Significant contributors to American haiku include Hackett, Virgilio, Charles B. Dickson (1915–1991), Elizabeth Searle Lamb (1917–2005), Raymond Roseliep (1917–1983), Robert Spiess (1921–2002), John Wills (1921–1993), Anita Virgil (b. 1931), and Peggy Willis Lyles (1939–2010).

my "I-Thou"
Raymond Roseliep (Rabbit in the Moon, Alembic Press, 1983)

an aging willow--
its image unsteady
in the flowing stream
Robert Spiess (Red Moon Anthology, Red Moon Press, 1996)

Other noteworthy figures still active in the American haiku community include Jane Reichhold (b. 1937), Marlene Mountain (b. 1939), Ruth Yarrow (b. 1939), George Swede, vincent tripi (b. 1941), Alexis Rotella (b. 1947), Christopher Herold (b. 1948), John Stevenson (b. 1948), Lee Gurga, Gary Hotham (b. 1950), Michael McClintock (b. 1950), Alan Pizzarelli, Jim Kacian, and Michael Dylan Welch (b. 1962). Examples:

Just friends:
he watches my gauze dress
blowing on the line.
Alexis Rotella (After an Affair, Merging Media, 1984)

meteor shower...
a gentle wave
wets our sandals
Michael Dylan Welch (HSA Newsletter XV:4, Autumn 2000)

Little spider,
will you outlive
Cor van den Heuvel (Haiku Anthology, 34d ed. 1999)

Pioneering haiku poet Cor van den Heuvel has edited the standard Haiku Anthology (1st ed., 1974; 2nd ed., 1986; 3rd ed. 1999). Since its most recent edition, another generation of American haiku poets has come to prominence. Among the most widely published and honored of these poets are Fay Aoyagi, Roberta Beary, Connie Donleycott, Carolyn Hall, paul m., Scott Metz, Chad Lee Robinson, Billie Wilson, and Peter Yovu. Newer poets exemplify divergent tendencies, from self-effacing nature-oriented haiku (Allan Burns) to Zen themes perpetuating the concepts of Blyth and Hackett (Stanford M. Forrester) to poignant haiku-senryu hybrids in the manner of Rotella and Swede (Roberta Beary) to the use of subjective, surreal, and mythic elements (Fay Aoyagi) to emergent social and political consciousness (John J. Dunphy) to genre-bending structural and linguistic experimentation and "found haiku" (Scott Metz).

The American Haiku Archives, the largest public archive of haiku-related material outside Japan, was founded in 1996. It is housed at the California State Library in Sacramento, California, and includes the official archives of the Haiku Society of America, along with significant donations from the libraries of Elizabeth Searle Lamb, co-founder Jerry Kilbride, Jane Reichhold, Lorraine Ellis Harr, Francine Porad, and many others.

Publications in North AmericaEdit

The current work of haiku poets is best represented by the small press movement. Among the North American publishers of haiku collections and anthologies are Jim Kacian's Red Moon Press, Randy Brooks's Brooks Books, Michael Dylan Welch's Press Here, and Jane Reichhold's AHA Books.

The leading English-language haiku magazines published in the USA include Modern Haiku, Frogpond (published by the Haiku Society of America), Mayfly (founded by Randy and Shirley Brooks in 1986), Acorn (founded by A. C. Missias in 1998), bottle rockets (founded by Stanford M. Forrester), The Heron's Nest (founded by Christopher Herold in 1999, published online with a print annual); Brussels Sprout (edited from 1988 to 1995 by Francine Porad), Woodnotes (edited from 1989 to 1997 by Michael Dylan Welch), Hal Roth's Wind Chimes, Wisteria, moonset (edited from 2005 to 2009 by an'ya (Andja Petrović), White Lotus, the Internet-based Simply Haiku, ant ant ant ant ant (edited since 1994 by Chris Gordon), tinywords (published by d. f. tweney since 2000), and Roadrunner (an online journal edited by Scott Metz).

Publications in other English-speaking countriesEdit

John Barlow's Snapshot Press is a notable UK-based publisher. In the UK, the British Haiku Society publishes Blithe Spirit, and the World Haiku Club publishes The World Haiku Review. Another leading haiku magazine in the UK is Presence (formerly Haiku Presence) edited by Martin Lucas. In Ireland, twenty issues of Haiku Spirit edited by Jim Norton were published between 1995 and 2000. Shamrock, the online journal of the Irish Haiku Society edited by Anatoly Kudryavitsky, currently publishes thematic issues on the haiku movements in various countries, as well as international haiku. In Australia, there are two notable haiku journals, Paper Wasp and Stylus, while Kokako is published in New Zealand.

Variant formsEdit

Although the vast majority of haiku published in English appear in three lines, a number of variants can be seen. One line The most common variation from the three-line standard is one line, sometimes known as monoku. Marlene Mountain was one of the first English-language haiku poets to write haiku in a single horizontal line, by way of analogy with the single vertical line of printed Japanese haiku. The single-line haiku usually contains much fewer than seventeen syllables. A caesura (pause) may be appropriate, dictated by sense or speech rhythm, and usually little or no punctuation. It has been practiced by Marlene Mountain, John Wills, and Matsuo Allard, and has been used more recently by poets such as M. Kettner, Janice Bostok, Jim Kacian, Chris Gordon, Scott Metz, Dennis M. Garrison, Charles Trumbull, Stuart Quine, and many others.

pig and i spring rain
Marlene Mountain (Frogpond 2.3-4, 1979)
an icicle the moon drifting through it
Matsuo Allard (Bird Day Afternoon, High/Coo Press, 1978)

Mountain (formerly Wills) writes collaborative linked one-line haiku sequences, which she calls "Mountain Sonnets," each made up of 14 one-line haiku. At its most minimal, haiku may occasionally consist of a single word:

Cor van den Heuvel (the window-washer's pail, 1963)
John Stevenson (Live Again, 2009)

Four or more linesEdit

Haiku of four lines (sometimes known as haiqua[12]) or longer have been written, some of them "vertical haiku" with only a word or two per line. These poems mimic the vertical printed form of Japanese haiku.

she watches
satisfied after love
he lies
looking up at nothing
pw (Blithe Spirit 10:4, 2000)

leaf mold
Marlene Wills (the old tin roof, 1976)

The highly prolific poet John Martone (b. 1952) specializes in vertical haiku along the lines of the examples above.


Haiku have also appeared in circular form (sometimes known as cirku[12]) whereby the poem has no fixed start or end point.

Fixed formEdit

In the "zip" form developed by John Carley, a haiku of 15 syllables is presented over two lines, each of which contains one internal caesura represented by a double space.[13][14]

                  buoyed up   on the rising tide
  a fleet of head boards   bang the wall
John Carley (Magma No 19, 2001)

A fixed-form 5-3-5 syllable (or 3-5-3 word) haiku is sometimes known as a lune.

Notable haiku poetsEdit

Although the poets listed below have published some haiku, not all of them are known primarily as haiku poets. Some of them have written both haiku (or haiku-like poems) and mainstream poetry.

See alsoEdit


  • Henderson, H. G. An Introduction to Haiku. Hokuseido Press, 1948.
  • Higginson, William J. and Harter, Penny. The Haiku Handbook, How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku. Kodansha, 1989. ISBN 4-7700-1430-9.
  • Higginson, William J. Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac. Kodansha, 1996. ISBN 4-7700-2090-2.
  • Lowenstein, Tom (editor). Classic Haiku. Duncan Baird, 2007. ISBN 1-84483-486-7.
  • Sato, Hiroaki. One Hundred Frogs, from renga to haiku to English. Weatherhill, 1983. ISBN 0-8348-0176-0.
  • Suiter, John. Poets on the Peaks: Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen & Jack Kerouac in the Cascades. Counterpoint, 2002. ISBN 1582431485; ISBN 1-58243-294-5 (pbk).
  • Yasuda, Ken. Japanese Haiku: Its Essential Nature, History, and Possibilities in English. Tuttle, 1957. ISBN 0-8048-1096-6.
  • Hirshfield, Jane. The Heart of Haiku (Kindle Single, 2011)


  1. Shirane, Haruo. Love in the Four Seasons, in Acta Universitatis Carolinae, Orientalia Pragensia XV, 2005, p135
  2. Ross, Bruce; How to Haiku; Tuttle Publishing 2002 p.19 ISBN 0-8048-3232-3
  3. Gurga, Lee; Haiku - A Poet's Guide; Modern Haiku Press 2003 p.16 ISBN 0-9741894-0-5
  4. Spiess, Robert; Modern Haiku vol. XXXII No. 1 p. 57 "A haiku does not exceed a breath's length." ISSN 0026-7821
  5. Reichhold, Jane; Writing and Enjoying Haiku - A Hands-On Guide; Kodansha 2002 p.30 and p.75 ISBN 4-7700-2886-5
  6. Gurga, 2003, p.2 and p.15
  7. Reichhold, 2002 p.21
  8. Gurga, 2003 p.105
  9. Garrison, Denis M.. Hidden River: Haiku. Modern English Tanka Press. p. iii. ISBN 978-0-6151-3825-1. 
  10. Matsuo Bashō, Collected Haiku Theory ed. T.Komiya & S.Yokozawa 3rd edition; Iwanami, 1951
  11. Biography of Lorraine Ellis Harr on the Aha Poetry website
  12. 12.0 12.1 Gill, Stephen Henry et al., editors. Seasons of the Gods Hailstone Haiku Circle, Kansai, 2007. ISBN 978-4-9900822-3-9 p.2
  13. Zip School on Carley's website
  14. Zips in Magma No 19 - Winter 2001

External linksEdit

Haiku societies
Audio / video
  • Haiku Chronicles – a podcast providing insight into haiku and related forms including senryū, renku, tanka, haibun and haiga.
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