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Haiku-O-Matic!

Welcome to Haiku-O-Matic (TM), a wordgame where you can learn my fun (hopefully :-) and easy never-fail patented style of haiku creation, and create your own haiku poem.

Step 1: Season or time of day

The roots of haiku poetry date back to Japan in the 1600’s, starting with the famous poet Basho. Basho’s poems dealt most often with nature, or the place of humans in nature. There aren’t any cast-in-stone rules for haiku, but almost all of them include either a reference to a season:

* winter, spring, summer, autumn

or a time of day:

* sunrise, morning, noon, afternoon, sunset, evening, night

to provide a larger context or setting for the poem.

So create the first building block of your haiku by choosing a season or time of day and write it down: ____________________

Step 2: Place

Every haiku also needs a place. Traditionally it is a natural place, but these days haiku can be set anywhere:

* forest, meadow, mountain, desert, beach, pond, home, city, grocery store, . . .

Where will your haiku happen? Pick a place and write it down:  ____________________

Step 3: actor(s)/subject(s)

So far, your haiku has a setting and place. But it also needs someone or something to be in the setting, to be the actor or subject of your haiku. It could be yourself or some other person, or it could be an animal or even just a natural object:

* person: yourself, man, woman, fisherman, bicyclist, . . .
* animal: butterfly, bird, dog, frog, whale, . . .
* other: tree, ocean wave, cloud, light, . . .

You can have just one actor, or one subject, or one of each, or several, it’s up to you! Who or what will be the actor(s) or subject(s) of your haiku? Decide on one or two and write them down: ________________, ________________

Step 4: Qualities

Season or time of day? check
Place? check
Actor(s) / subject(s)? check

What’s next? Well, this is poetry, not a Hollywood movie plot outline :-) so your haiku needs “qualities”, extra bits of description that make your setting, place, actor, or subject more _real_, more concrete, so the reader will really be able to picture them in their mind:

* sunny, rainy, foggy, . . .
* busy, quiet, warm, cool, . . .

But this is haiku, which are very short poems, so come up with just one or two key qualities and write them down: _______________, _________________

Step 5: Action

You’re almost there — you have almost all the pieces you’ll need to make your haiku. But your haiku needs some action too, even if it is quiet or subtle. A haiku isn’t a still life painting. Something has to be happening:

* motionless/waiting, jumping, walking, eating, looking, sleeping, echoing, . .

What will your haiku’s action be? Write it down: _______________

Step 5: Format

You’ve now collected all your building blocks, and it’s time to start thinking about how to put them all together. For haiku written in English, we normally think of three short lines, with the second often a bit longer than the first and third. Forget about any exact “5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables” rule — haiku isn’t about any formal rules, it’s really more about the things you’ve been collecting so far: natural setting and place, actors/subjects, qualities, and action.

But most haiku do have a little structure, with either the first or last line being a separate thought, to be seen in contrast to or in context with the other two lines. Of course this is a bit oversimplified, but it will do for now. So you should pick one of these two basic formats to structure your haiku:

* format 1: line 1 — line 2 line 3
(or)
* format 2: line 1 line 2 — line 3

Which format did you pick? format 1 ___ or format 2 ___ ?

And that’s the last of the building blocks – congratulations!

Step 6: Haiku-O-Matic!

Now let me show you how the Haiku-O-Matic magic happens, putting all the pieces together into a poem. (I’m so excited :-) Look at all your building blocks, and try to imagine a moment suspended in time, like a movie — either a long tracking shot of someone reading by a quiet pond, or a coiled-up spring of a moment like a “bullet time” shot in The Matrix :-) Again, don’t worry about any 5-7-5 “rule”. Haiku is about the *moment*, sketching a few details to let the reader fill in the rest of the scene in their own imagination.

Here are a few examples to show you what I mean.

example 1
season or time of day: winter
place: forest
actors/subjects: clouds, me
qualities: patient
action: waiting
format: format 1 (L1 — L2 L3)

Haiku-O-Matic haiku:

forest in winter —
patient clouds waiting to snow
until I get home

example 2
season or time of day: sunset
place: home
actors/subjects: me
qualities: warm, quiet
action: breathing
format: format 2 (L1 L2 — L3)

Haiku-O-Matic haiku:

through the living room window,
sunset felt but unseen —
eyes closed, breathing deep

(Notice that this one definitely *isn’t* 5-7-5!)

The haiku just about write themselves :-)

I’m actually running the Haiku-O-Matic wordgame in an online world for the next four weeks, but you’re welcome to join in the fun yourself here in the blog :-)

What’s your Haiku-O-Matic haiku?

My Haiku-O-Matic building blocks:
season or time-of-day: __________
(natural) place: __________
actor(s) / subject(s): __________
qualities: __________
action: ___________
format:
* format 1: line 1 — line 2 line 3
(or)
* format 2: line 1 line 2 — line 3

My Haiku-O-Matic haiku:

____________________________
____________________________
____________________________

Update (November 2, 2008) read the Haiku-O-Matic haiku created during this four-week wordgame: week 1 | week 2 | week 3 | week 4

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  1. October 11, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Couldn’t resist trying my hand at it.. Here goes an observation.

    Breeze, a gentle storm
    At Dusk, afloat feather lands
    Waiting for the thump.

  2. October 14, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Thanks for contributing, mysoul! A very zen haiku, with gentle storms and thumping feathers :-)

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