I teach creative writing and love helping my students improve their technique.
What Is Haiku Poetry?
Haiku are short poems and are usually written as a 3-line stanza containing a total of 17 syllables. The lines are written thus: 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables.
This stylized form of poetry writing was invented in Japan in the 17th century. It was more than one hundred years later before this style was copied in Europe.
Some of the early European and American haiku writers did not stick to the rigid Japanese rules and adopted their own syllable count. You may, therefore, occasionally find examples of haiku that do not conform to the 5, 7, 5 pattern.
Haiku Are Nature Poems
This haiku poem was inspired by the one yellow- and one blue-eyed cat photo below. I have kept to the formal Japanese syllable count and used a traditional topic for my poem, nature. The first two lines of a haiku should be descriptive and the final line should contain a conclusion or summary event.
Odd eyes hypnotize
Stalking silent in the night
The cat hunts alone
I recommend reading Write Your Own Haiku: Poetry in the Japanese Tradition. I found it a great help when I started writing these 3-line poems. It details the traditions of imagery and meter of haiku poetry. It will help you construct a thoughtful and beautiful nature poem.
Haiku Poems About Cats by Kobayashi Issa
Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) was a famous Japanese master in the art of writing haiku. The following poem by him is a translation (by an unknown translator) from the Japanese, so the syllable count is not quite the same as the original. However, you can see the overall haiku structure using a nature-based event.
The first two lines describe a favorite cat. The final line is an action or conclusion that arises from the initial description.
Arise from sleep, old cat
and with great yawns and stretchings
amble out for love
My version of the same haiku using the 5, 7, 5 pattern is as follows.
Awaken wise cat
yawning and stretching your limbs
ready to seek love
Kobayashi Issa Had Many Names
Kobayashi Issa was also known as Kobayashi Yataro, and Kobayashi Nobuyuki. He also used the pen-name Issa. This short form of his name means “a single bubble in a cup of steeping tea.”
Here's another haiku about cats by Issa. It was translated by the poet Robert Hass.
the love life of a cat.
Pause (Paws) for Thought
Cats are fascinating creatures. If you have ever “owned” one then you’ll know how much time it’s possible to waste watching them. They are graceful and delicate, but they’re also hunters and carnivores. They are a constant source of creative inspiration for poets and artists.
I wrote the following after watching some kittens shadow-box with each other.
A tentative paw
gently pats the other’s fur
Teasing, playful, fun
Cats and Playful Kittens Inspire Poets
The skill of writing short 3-line poems is to say a lot with just a few words. Write less and your readers will use their imagination to create the emotion surrounding your words. This allows them to connect better with your poetry and easily identify with the poem’s subject matter.
Here’s an example. In the next haiku, you'll know what I’m describing without my having to explain using long sentences. Playful and mischievous, four new kittens mean 4-times the fun and upset to your household.
Four fluffy bundles
Life will never be the same
Chaos comes with them
Haiku Poetry About Black Cats
A well-constructed haiku is made up of two juxtaposed images (the first two lines,) followed by a turning point or cutting moment (the final line.) The short poem describes a moment frozen in time. It is a snapshot image of a mood or feeling.
I wrote the next verse about my black cat who is an excellent night hunter.
With unblinking eyes
She melts into the shadows
A dark moonless night
Cats are affectionate and very clean animals. I wrote this haiku after watching my cat wash herself all over and then start again from the beginning. They also use social grooming as a way of bonding with other cats.
No silken part left unwashed
Ready to hunt mice
How to Write Haiku: How to Write Better Poetry
Haiku About Hairballs
The one thing I hate about cats is the way they get rid of all the hair they’ve groomed from their body. Their tongues are quite rough and act like a comb removing dirt and loose hair as they lick themselves all over. They are very clean animals and I’m pleased about that, but the fur balls that accumulate in their stomach are brought back up by the animal being sick. If you have never seen this, the video below shows a cat in full puke mode.
Such a dreadful sound
Stomach sides move like bellows
Retching a fur ball
Cat Pukes a Hairball With Retching Sounds
Rules for Writing Haiku Poetry
Rules for writing poetry are there to provide a framework for your thoughts. They are not written in stone, and you can find many examples of haiku that do not conform to them. However, when you are a beginner, the rules will give you focus.
- Subject Matter: A haiku is about nature. It expresses an emotion, or event linked to seasonal change.
- Number of Lines: The poem is three lines long.
- Syllable Count: The guide is to have the count as 5, 7, 5, but this is an American and European construct. In traditional Japanese haiku the syllable count may vary.
- Line Length: This form of poetry has uneven lines. This gives the form a jagged rhythm and increases the impact of the final line.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.