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Writing exercise: Haiku


A serene Japanese zen garden at sunset. The garden features carefully placed stones, raked sand with wavy patterns, and a small pond with koi fish swimming peacefully. Cherry blossom trees are in full bloom, with pink petals gently falling to the ground. The golden light of the sunset bathes everything in a warm hue, and birds can be heard singing, marking the end of the day. The atmosphere is tranquil and evokes a sense of calm and reflection

 

Introduction to the exercise and its purpose

Haiku is a traditional Japanese form of poetry that is characterized by its brevity and deep connection to nature and human emotions. Composed of three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively, haiku aims to capture a fleeting moment, a snapshot of reality that evokes a vivid feeling or image. This poetic form dates back to the 17th century and was made famous by poets such as Matsuo Bashō, Yosa Buson and Kobayashi Issa. Haiku are often associated with the seasons and use “kigo” (seasonal word) to anchor the reader in a specific time context.


Writing haiku can be a powerful exercise for writers, as it requires concision and precision in the use of language. Attention to syllable structure and word choice allows writers to develop a greater sensitivity to the nuances of meaning and evocative imagery. Here is an example of a haiku by Matsuo Bashō:


An old pond
a frog jumps in -
the sound of water.

This haiku, while simple, evokes a peaceful yet dynamic scene, capturing an interrupted moment of stillness. The practice of writing haiku helps focus attention on details and express depth with few words.


Situation

Imagine you are in a Japanese Zen garden at sunset. The garden features well-placed stones, sand raked in undulating patterns, and a small pond with koi carp swimming peacefully. Cherry trees are in bloom, and pink petals slowly fall to the ground. The air is fresh and filled with the scent of flowers. The light of sunset tints everything a warm golden hue, while birdsong marks the end of the day.


Writing exercise

Write a haiku that captures a specific moment in this scene. Remember to adhere to the syllable structure of 5-7-5 and include a seasonal reference to better evoke the environment described.


Tips

Look closely at the details of the garden and choose a single moment or image to focus on.

Think about how the seasonal reference (in this case, cherry blossoms) can enrich the haiku.

Use simple but evocative words to describe your moment, trying to convey a vivid feeling or image.


Don't be afraid to experiment with pauses and implied silences between lines.

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