Best Haiku Poems

Japanese characters

The best haiku poems represent a mix of the traditional and the tongue-in-cheek.

The Form

Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry. Each poem contains three lines and 17 syllables, divided into a 5-7-5 pattern. However, for many who write in the format, the syllable rules aren't set in stone, especially since they were created with the nature of the Japanese language in mind. Traditionally, these poems include images from nature, using them to evoke larger truths.

1. The poetry of Basho

As one of the original masters of the form, Basho merits his own entry in any list of the best haiku poems. His deceptively simple poems portray great beauty and insight into the human condition. The Classical Japanese Database collects and translates several of his works.

2. Traditional haiku

"Traditional" refers to format and subject matter rather than origin or age; you're just as likely to find modern Americans and Europeans writing in the traditional style. In a world saturated with media, these poems provide a welcome respite from wordiness and complexity. The World Haiku Association, Haiku for People, Modern Haiku and many other websites and print publications offer a chance to explore the power and imagery of this poetic form.

3. Scifaiku

Scifaiku adds interplanetary exploits, fantasy themes, and horror to the realm of the haiku. Since the short nature of the form doesn't allow for much exposition, the poems offer a tantalizing peek at a possible reality. SciFaiku.com publishes these fantastical poems.

4. Spoofs on the form

Spoofs on the form have resulted in some of the best haiku poems created purely to be funny. These poems take the traditional form and turn the focus from nature to a more concrete object or experience. No matter what your interest, there's bound to be a website with short poems designed to make you laugh. One popular variation is Spamku devoted to the canned meat product Spam.

5. Haiku as summary

In most cases, this sort of summary poem is attempted purely in fun or as an intellectual enterprise. There's a sense of seeing if it can be done. For instance, Daily News Haiku selects a news story each day and condenses it into 17 syllables. However, there is still a simplistic beauty in these efforts. Try it yourself sometime. Can you recreate the essence of a book or movie in a handful of syllables?

Best Haiku Poems