+44 (0)20 7605 4123 Student Login


Haiku is an ancient poem originating in Japan. Today's blog post, Heather is going to explore the world of Hauku.

I’ve just come back from a wonderful four-week holiday in the Greek Islands and met a lot of interesting people; but in particular, I remember the Dutch journalist who shared his fascination of haiku with me, the ancient Japanese art of short verse.  He showed me some he’d written and it dawned on me that writing haikus could be a simple and fun way for English language learners to expand and review their vocabulary.

So, what is haiku? It’s an ancient poem originating in Japan.  It was adapted to its current form in the mid-seventeenth century by Basho, a renowned Japanese writer.  Haiku is usually a three-line verse with a maximum of seventeen syllables or less.  It is quite common for the first line to have five syllables, the second seven syllables and the last line five, known as the 5-7-5 rule.  There are no rhyming words in it and it must express a thought, a mood or a feeling.  Seasons are often mentioned too.  So, it all sounds fairly simple.  Let’s look at two examples of the master Basho’s work:

very exciting
yet after awhile so sad
cormorant fishing

spring departs.
birds cry
fishes' eyes are filled with tears

As you see, the first follows the 5-7-5 rule, but the second does not (3-2-7), so it seems anything goes!  So, how can this help you with your English, I hear you ask?  I believe that finding the right words to fit the 5-7-5 rule will make you revisit your vocabulary to find the perfect word or will make you look for a new word to fit into your haiku.  Let me show you by example, on Sunday I wrote a haiku before a watched football (I’ll never do that again!):

In pub pint in hand
man u  lost and chelsea won
my perfect Sunday

Sadly, my precious Chelsea lost so I had to change it:

Happy united lost
but so short-lived was my joy
pride before a fall

Try it yourself, it’s fun and send them in to us.

By Heather


to dawn on (one) – (phr. v) to occur to someone; to suddenly think of something
to adapt – (v) to change
renowned – (adj) famous, well-known
rhyming – (adj) words with the same or similar sounds, i.e. hat and cat
mood – (n) emotion
the master – (n) expert, the best at something
cormorant – (n) a fishing bird
pint – (n) a glass of beer in an English pub, an English measure of liquid
precious - (adj) very valuable, extremely important to an individual

All articles Next article

Post your questions and comments:

Why study at The London School of English?

  • Rated “Excellent” in over 450 independent client reviews
    Over 100 years’ experience
    Tailored training delivers clear results
    Memorable experiences in London, Canterbury or online
Find out more