» Encyclopedic Dictionary »

Haiku, Japanese Poetry for the 21st Century

I use the 3-line 5-7-5 structure familiar to Western poets, although I am thinking of branching out into a straight-line 17 syllable form. Looking at Jerilee Wei's list of seven basic rules for writing traditional Haiku, I can see that I have my own strong opinions on what I want to write. I am unlikely to give up the pleasure of attempting to guide the reader's perception of the image, and I will continue to use articles as needed to reinforce this. I want my haiku to read more like a sentence than a handful of words.

  1. Express a single word picture of a moment in time of discovery or enlightenment
  2. Use of a seasonal suggestion word or phrase
  3. Don't assign human attributes upon nature
  4. Not pass human judgments, observations, or interpretations of the single word picture
  5. Think in terms of seventeen syllables (not the 5-7-5 model commonly taught)
  6. Keep it pure by allowing the reader to see whatever they want within the Haiku
  7. Remember that the Japanese language has no articles (a, an, the), seldom uses pronouns, and doesn't tell whether or not a word is single or plural. Like a telegram, be stingy with your words, but make every word count.

The Yin in the Yang:
Through heavy summer leaves I hear
next Autumn's echoes.

A whip-poor-will's song
And old Winter's counterpoint:
Crackling frozen leaves.

Five A.M. full moon.
No real breeze but the flag waves.
Three crickets, one bird.

Hang up my chimes and
let the wind rattle their bones!
and sing my fortune.

Kenetic autumn,
autumn whirling and golden.
Winter is a shock.

Previous misdeeds
have crackly voices like leaves
but I don't mind them.

September maqam:
Dog barks, echoing through trees,
Awaken my ears.

The price of autumn:
Uneasy dreams of taproots
killed by ice and time.

The promise of spring:
Another fall and winter
after we warm our hearts.

The sun wanes, not I.
The sun doesn't wane, it's me.
The sun wanes, not I.

This moon is past full.
This waning gibbous moon has
long seaweed fingers.

Three-thirty A.M.
Walking under a full moon
watching leaves scurry.

White curtains moving.
Briefly noted, walk to next room.
White curtains moving.

Zills are wobbling.
Elastic experiment --
Snap! the zill gods speak.

In honor of Pi Day, 2014.

Your twelve-inch pie plate
does not hold as much dessert
as you think it will.

A costumer's hint:
Circle skirt waist diameters
are one-third your hip.


No noon in these days.
No savoring the promise of afternoon hours.
A begrudged sunrise, a dim morning, half-light, then the night.

It's not intelligence.
It's fear, combing the weft threads
when the warp is hopelessly twisted;
Fear, obsessed with a finger, hoping it is the moon.

Poetic Error Messages

Once upon a time (1998?) Salon held a haiku contest for computer error messages. They have, of course, taken the page of the winning haiku down... but remnants of the best remain archived here and there on the Internet. Current best collection is at's Error Messages in Haiku.

Your file was so big.
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.

The Web site you seek
Cannot be located, but
Countless more exist.

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

Program aborting:
Close all that you have worked on.
You ask far too much.

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.

First snow, then silence.
This thousand-dollar screen dies
So beautifully.

With searching comes loss
And the presence of absence:
"My Novel" not found.

The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao - until
You bring fresh toner.

Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
The network is down.

A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

You step in the stream,
But the water has moved on.
This page is not here.

Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.

Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.


Keep up with a FREE subscription to the BABA YAGA newsletter.
Maura Enright, Proprietor
©2012 - 2015 by Maura Enright
© means the content is copyrighted. Your links to this content are much appreciated.