Top 10 Haiku Examples to Ponder

Haikus are hard to write, but this list of 10 haiku examples will help you learn how to master the art form.

Haiku poetry is a fun way to play with the rhythm of a poem, not its rhyming pattern, to create poetry. This form of Japanese poetry uses just 17 syllables to create an unrhymed verse.

Japanese haikus have three lines. The first line and the last line have five syllables, while the second line has seven. This form of poetry originated in Japan in the seventeenth century, and it received its name in the nineteenth century. This ancient poetic form has also become a part of English literary history.

To learn more about haiku, take a look at these haiku examples that include both historic and modern works.

Top haiku examples

1. Matsuo Basho

Matsuo Basho was a seventeenth-century Japanese poet who historians consider to be the best writer of this genre. Some of his famous haikus include these:

“An old silent pond . . .
A frog jumps into the pond
Splash! Silent again.”

Matsuo Basho

“Autumn moonlight –
A worm digs silently
Into the chestnut”

Matsuo Basho

2. Yosa Buson

Yosa Buson wrote haikus in the eighteenth century. Man of his have themes of the natural world, and, like Basho, Buson is considered a haiku master. Here are some English language translations of his works:

“Light of the moon
Moves west, flowers’ shadows
Creep eastward.”

Yosa Buson

“A summer river being crossed
How pleasing
With sandals in my hands!”

Yosa Buson

3. Masaoka Shiki

Haiku Examples: Masaoka Shiki
Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Writing in the late nineteenth century, Shiki revived the poetic form and gave modern haiku its style. These haiku poems create imagery with their creative use of the limited number of syllables.

“For love and for hate
I swat a fly and offer it
to an ant.”

Masaoka Shiki

“After killing
A spider, how lonely I feel
in the cold of night.”

Masaoka Shiki

4. Natsume Soseki

Natsume Soseki is one of the more modern Japanese haiku writers. In addition to his haikus, he wrote novels and fairy tales. Like many Japanese poets, he focused a lot of his haiku writing on nature.

“Plum flower temple:
voices rise
From the foothills.”

Natsume Soseki

“The lamp once out
Cool stars enter
The window frame.”

Natsume Soseki

5. Kobayashi Issa

The works of Issa came on the scene in the late 1700s. This poet was famous for his unique take on natural wonders, like a snail climbing a mountain. The poems do lose some of their meter when translated into English:

“O snail
Climb Mount Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!”

Kobayashi Issa

“Trusting the Buddha, good and bad,
I bid farewell
To the departing year.”

Kobayashi Issa

6. Jack Kerouac

In his book Book of HaikusKerouac has many original works and a few haikus that paraphrase his prose. His creative writing shows that the haiku still has an impact on modern literature. He also breaks the rules by not sticking to the five-seven-five pattern of syllables.

“One flower
On the cliffside
Nodding at the canyon.”

Jack Kerouac

“Morning sun –
The purple petal,
Four have fallen.”

Jack Kerouac

7. Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound
Walter Mori (Mondadori Publishers), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ezra Pound is an American poet who wrote a number of haiku-like poems. These poems do not follow the strict syllables of a haiku, but they have much of the same imagery.

In a Station of the Metro

“The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.”

Ezra Pound

Alba

“As cool as the pale wet leaves
of lily-of-the-valley
She lay beside me in the dawn.”

Ezra Poun

8. Katsushika Hokusai

A follower of Basho, Hokusai is another of the Japanese haiku poets who mastered the art form. In addition to writing haiku, he was also a famous Japanese painter. Some of the beauty of his poetry is lost in translation, but here are some examples:

“I write, erase, rewrite
Erase again, and then
A poppy blooms.”

Katsushika Hokusai

“As a soul
I’ll stroll on the summer field
For a past time.”

Katsushika Hokusai

9. Sonia Sanches

Sonia Sanches is a modern-day Haiku writer. She writes about American themes, using the same imagery ancient Japanese poets did, but with things, American writers are more familiar with.

“Young Chicago
Stutterer whistling
More than flesh.”

Sonia Sanches

“In this southern
classroom summer settles
into winter.”

Sonia Sanches

10. Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar takes a twist on the haiku by creating longer poems that have stanzas written in haiku. The stanzas themselves follow the haiku pattern well. “Lines on Skull” is one of his most famous. It reads:

“Start spirit: behold
the skull. A living head loved
earth. My bones resign.
the worm, lips to hold
sparkling grape’s slimy circle,
shape of reptile’s food.”

Ravi Shankar

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.

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