Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

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Aug 26, 2016

10 Tips on Writing Haiku - Story Mirror Creativity Workshop

I have had recently shared my “Ten Tips on Writing Haiku” in Story Mirror Creativity Workshop which was organized in association with Story MirrorApparao Galleries and Aspiring Authors Group along with the famous Author, Timeri N Murari, who shared his insights on Writing for Plays. As many of aspiring authors and writers present in the workshop asked me to share my thoughts and tips on Haiku, I am writing this one post so that it is convenient for all to read and share.

Poster : Story Mirror, Haiku by Shashi

What Haiku means to me...?

I have been reading and writing Haiku for a long time and over the period, I have realised that it has more depth than some interplay of words, seasons or cutting words known as Kigo etc. For me…

It is painting pictures with words…
It is also a way of living with awareness…
It is also a kind of Meditation for me….

But before I go on to elaborate the above statements, let me give you a brief historical perspective on Haiku. It will help you to appreciate the beauty of the world’s most popular poetic form.

Haiku - A Brief Introduction
(For a detailed discussion, please read ‘UnderstandingHaiku - A Beginner’s Guide’)
As per The Haiku Society of America, a dictionary definition for Haiku is that these are the world’s smallest poems, consisting of 17 syllables arranged in sequence of 5-7-5. 

The classical poems were known as Waka meaning ‘Japanese poem or song’ in the 9th century which were mainly of two types – a long form called Choka and a short form known as Tanka. The opening 17 syllable stanza of Renga Session was known as Hokku which, later19th Century poet, Shiki gave the name as Haiku.

Basho - acknowledged as the supreme master of Haiku, believed to have said to his Zen Teacher that “Haiku are description of what is happening at a particular ‘haiku moment’.

Finer Points…
There are many elements that are intertwined within the verse to create a beautiful haiku. Some of the them are… 

Mystery and elegance (Yugen)

Stillness and solitude –
Sinking into stones,
The trill of cicadas
- Basho

Melancholy sadness and tranquility (Sabi and Shori)

On a withered branch
A crow has settled.
Nightfall in autumn.
- Basho

Or in the spirit of poetic madness (Fukyo)

Let me show you,
You market people,
This hat filled with snow.
- Basho

After Basho, there have been many great poets who took Haiku to the greater heights …

The bite of my axe.
Sudden revelation –
There is life in this tree!

As Buson accepts his death quietly in this farewell poem

White plum blossoms,
Night turns to dawn –
The time has come

Masaoka Shiki
A river in summer
There’s a bridge here, but
My horse prefers water

Now coming back to what Haiku means to me…
I believe that everything that comes in a flash of insight is potential Haiku. Holding on to that seed and then putting words around it in order to paint a picture; to make it a complete thought which forces a reader to reflect upon it, is what I feel ‘writing’ a Haiku is.

Here is a Haiku that I have had written years back, when in the backwaters on the outskirts of Chennai, I saw Herons, standing for hours together…

Under my feet
Path disappeared
Am I the destination?

Painting pictures with words…

Pain is
When you feel like
Stopping the sunrise

-This is the first line from my book “Songs of the Mist”, where Ashutosh, having lost his brother’s entire family to an epidemic, went deeper into despair. And one night, love of his life also leaves him sinking into hopelessness on the banks of Ganges. And as he opened his eyes, half submerged in the sand and silt of the the river, he felt that this dark night should not come to an end…

Living with awareness…
Over a period of time, Writing Haiku changed me; it gave me a deeper sense of things all around…

In the process of writing Haiku, I move into a deeper level of awareness, just like in Zen Meditation or by Mantra chanting


TIP 1: Be aware of your surroundings and the little happiness’s in life. Experience it fully and then the words would form automatically.

TIP 2: Look deeply and then with what you see as well as feel within, you should find words to paint a vivid imagery.

TIP 3: A Haiku becomes more powerful if it contrasts or aligns the nature with your own thoughts and feelings.

TIP 4: Use simple words. Words those come naturally to you. A haiku reflects your own personality in a vivid way.

TIP 5: Write, whenever a thought or words come to you as you are going about your daily life.

TIP 6: Write daily. Haiku for me works like a mantra chanting. Over the years it has slowly transformed me. So I write daily.

TIP 7: Try to write haiku in 3 lines, 5-7-5 syllable forms as it is generally accepted as the norm.

TIP 8: Count your syllables; there are many sites that will count the same for you.

TIP 9: There is a list of Kigo, known as Cutting word as well as seasonal words to be used in classical Haiku, available on the net. Use them as often as you can.

TIP 10: In the beginning, write with a picture. Try to capture the essence of it in words as I usually do. It helps.

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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