Haiku Lessons - It's All About Imagery!

by Edward Weiss   Sep 18, 2006

A picture is worth a thousand words. And in haiku, an image allows the reader to use imagination to "see" with. Haiku lessons should help you understand this. For example, take this haiku poem by Bruce Ross:

sunset --
a cormorant glides
inches above the water

Here we have an image of a cormorant gliding above the water. But notice that the poet isn't telling us...he's showing us! This makes all the difference! This is also what makes haiku poetry so special. The image is just there for us to see. There's no judgement or bias on the part of the author to tell us about the image. On the contrary, by writing in a "present tense" descriptive style, Ross shows us exactly what he saw.

We also have an image of what time of day it is. By using the word "sunset," Ross shows us that the day is about to end. Instead of telling us in a hundred words or so, he shows us with just one word!

The power of haiku rests on its unique use of imagery. And really, it's the juxtaposition between line 1 and lines 2 and 3 that create the poetics. For instance, in line 1 we have the word "sunset." This first word is very important because it establishes the scene and the time the event or action is taking place. Haiku poets call this part of the poem "the fragment." It's usually 3 words or less that indicates place or time. But having a fragment by itself just doesn't quite do it. We need something else - something specific that shows us what is taking place. And Ross adds in the beautiful phrase "a cormorant glides inches above the water."

Now, just reading fragment or phrase by itself, we come away with a "so what" feeling. But, when combined, it creates a snapshot...an image that can resonate with the reader!


Edward Weiss is a poet, author, and publisher of Wisteria Press. He has been helping students learn how to write haiku for many years and has just released his first book "Seashore Haiku!" Sign up for free daily haiku and get beautiful haiku poems in your inbox each morning! Visit http://www.wisteriapress.com for haiku books, lessons, articles, and more!

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