Defining haiku

In 2007 the Australian Haiku Society committee requested John Bird to advise the Society on haiku definition(s) and to try to formulate one that we could adopt, officially, as meaningful for our members and helpful to those new to the genre.

John reports that he has considered many descriptions and definitions of haiku by overseas writers and now wants to understand how Australian poets, at all levels of experience, think about haiku.

He hopes to include some examples of the latter in his published report and would like to share a subset of these on the Australian Haiku Society [HaikuOz] site, if this is agreed to by their authors. If you would like your views to remain anonymous, please say so at the time you submit them. This will be respected.

Haiku are elusive to define. But in attempting to describe them we may come to understand them better. Please don’t feel intimidated that your definition must be academic, or even wise. It’s simply what you think haiku are about that counts. Please send John your personal definition of haiku, whether long-standing or written for this exercise, at: [email protected]

Please try to restrict your thoughts to 40 words, preferably no more than 25. If you have adopted a published definition written by somebody else, please include all details.

Below are two personal definitions of haiku. You are warmly invited to share yours.

Beverley George
Australian Haiku Society

Vanessa Proctor (Sydney)
‘Haiku is a concise poetic form which is often inspired by an epiphany or close observation of the natural world. “The haiku moment” expresses universal human experience which cuts through cultural boundaries.’

Rob Scott (Melbourne)
‘Haiku in the West, a concoction of the Japanese original, is a short poem with an experience of nature, the seasons and the mystery of humanity at its core that crystallizes (rather than intellectualizes) a keenly observed moment. ‘

[Vanessa’s definition, and an earlier version of Rob’s, first appeared in Max Verhart’s study, THE ESSENCE OF HAIKU AS PERCEIVED BY WESTERN HAIJIN, published in Modern Haiku, Volume 38.2, Summer 2007. See ]