Object Haiku!

Have you ever heard of a type of poem called Haiku? It’s a form of poetry originating from Japan and is about 300-400 years old! The Haiku form is characterized by three lines and is very short. It was created in Japan in reaction to long, elaborate poetry. The creators of the Haiku aimed to express a lot in the fewest words possible. Although Haiku are short there is an abundance of emotion, thought, and observation. Take a look at the Haiku below:

On a withered branch
A crow has alighted;
Nightfall in autumn.

Early summer rain-
houses facing the river,
two of them

Notice all the concrete details which ground the poem in a specific moment, and thereby release an overall feeling or meaning. Basho’s poem, for example, uses the concrete detail of the crow landing on a branch—not just any branch but one that is withered--to capture the spareness and loneliness of autumn. In one detailed moment, we can share a lot about our experience.

It’s time to create our own! To start, we’ll take a journey outside and observe the world around us. Make sure to bring a paper and pencil with you!

Once you’re outside, choose one object you see around you. Just one! Have a seat next to it and observe this object for several minutes. Do you remember your five senses? The five senses include smell, sight, touch, taste, and hearing. Can you use any of these to describe your object?

Once you’ve observed your object, take some notes on your object. Here are some questions to help. These questions aren’t necessary to answer in your poem.

What does its smell remind you of?
What shape is it?
How does it move?
Would you touch this object?
If you would, what does this object feel like?
Does this object make sounds? What kind?
What does this object make you feel?
How do you think this object got here?
Do you think other kids have seen this object? What would they think when they saw it?

Now turn these notes into a poem. Haiku usually follow a strict syllable count. The first line has five syllables, the second line seven syllables, and the last five. It can be helpful to follow this count in order to make sure your poem is short, but it isn’t necessary for our exercise today. Instead, choose only two concrete details from the observations you made of your object and write 3 short lines. As the Haiku Masters, Basho and Buson, did in their poems, express as much as you can about this object in the fewest words possible.

Once you’re done with your poem share it with your favorite person! Consider editing your poem, too. It can be helpful to make the haiku even shorter and exact. You can choose to cut words, rearrange words in the poem, or cut an entire section if you wish! Remember: concrete details and observation in the fewest words possible. Good luck!


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Writing Prompt

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Required Materials: 

Paper and pencil

Literary model: 

Haikus from Basho & Busan