Do you Haiku?

IMG_0148This week we have been studying haiku at our house.  After my wife introduced it to the boys earlier in the week I thought it might be worthwhile to introduce the boys to a little history behind the origin of haiku.

One of my favorite quotes is from the master samurai poet, Matsuo Bashō:

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought”

Today he is considered the greatest master of Haiku.  When I first introduced the idea of samurai writing poetry the boys seemed a little perplexed.  it was a little struggle at first for them to believe that warriors would spend time mastering something so artsy-fartsy…  It lead to a great discussion about how samurai were expected to be well rounded in war and culture.  the discussion proved to engage them enough that I decided to plan a Haiku night.

To start off the night I showed the boys a PBS Documentary about the samurai and their legacy in Japan:


IMG_0143After we finished watching that we had a little discussion about what we watched and then gathered around the table to compose haiku.  We talked a little about Basho and how he contributed to the development of the haiku form. Then we went over the basic form of haiku. They are poems which are meant to be simple, open, with both lightness and depth.  the basic structure being:

  • • Must have exactly 17 syllables
  • • Syllables are arranged in three lines of 5-7-5
  • • Does not use simile or metaphor
  • • Must contain a kigo, a word that refers to a season of the year

Then for a full hour we discussed, organized, and wrote haiku.  I must admit it is pretty impressive to watch young minds make their way through the creative process.  It isn’t easy as they found out, I pushed and prodded a couple times to help them think about what they were doing, and why they were choosing the words and ideas they were, and in the end they came up with some really good poems.

Here is my 10 year-old’s poem:

The Jungle - Haiku

I’m stuck in the rain,

deep in the jungle right now,

lost in this deep mist.

And here is my 9 year-old’s poem:

The River - Haiku

The water lies low,

summer heat makes all things dry,

my cup is empty.

If you’d like to try this with your kids here is a link to the lesson plan I adapted this activity from over at – Haiku: Poetry of the Samurai Warrior

It has all the resources I downloaded and used with my kids.  Good luck and have fun!


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