begin haiku

is a place to take apart what we know about haiku, examine it closely, and put it back together again.


has had the privilege to host the Shiki Monthly Kukai since September of 2002. A Kukai is a haiku contest where the participating poets vote for one another's poems. Sometimes beginners need some help learning what a haiku is. Other times a poet will fall in love with an image, but just can't seem to get the haiku shaped right to appeal to others. In both cases the result is the same. Zero Votes!

kukai tune-ups

is intended to help just such poets. If you have a poem that earned Zero Points in the kukai, and would be willing to let us work with it, we might be able to learn something together as we analyze your poem and try to find ways to improve it. We are not claiming to be haiku masters! Just more beginners interested in learning together.

Let's Begin!

kukai tune-up #3

Children shed their coats
Snowman is now
a hat in a puddle

Thanks for submitting your poem! It can be frustrating to see an image that you want to compose into a haiku, but can't quite put the words in a way that makes the poem appealing to others. I wanted to start by pointing out that you got one of the most important things just right.

You have made a good "haiku choice" by choosing two observed images and juxtaposing them. Very good. The two images are related, in that they fit together well in time and space, but they are not two views of the same image, nor are they "cause and effect". Your haiku presents the two images and allows the reader to experience the "spark" of seeing the two together and drawing her own conclusions on why the poet chose this particular juxtaposition.

Regarding the physical structure - (5/4/6). For a STRONG haiku, the exception is granted, but in the general case it is best to have the longest line in the middle. As you advance in your poetry, and as you experience the rejection of poems from editors, and the blessed occasional acceptance, you will develop your own sense of when it is acceptable to break this rule, but for now, I would recommend staying with the "classical form". A short line / a bit longer line / another short line.

Next a few points about your words. Snowman, especially with a capital S, sounds like this is the Proper Name of the snowman. Maybe that is what you intended, but an article (a / the) might be helpful here. Snowman makes it sound like this is a unique thing that only happened to this snowman.

Also, we have the problem that you are calling a puddle Snowman. Remember that haiku is in the here and now. It is about what you are observing in this moment. If the snowman is now "a hat in a puddle", then he is not now a snowman. You might fix the short middle line and the article issue at the same time:

children shed their coats
yesterday's snowman is now
a hat in a puddle

That makes a slightly better poem, but it still has the rather non-haiku quality that you are telling us to look at something that cannot be seen right now. It would be better to tell us about what we can see rather than telling us what we cannot see.

children shed their coats
a hat and a carrot
lie in a puddle

Now our first line gives the illusion of overwhelming the rest of the poem. Its only an illusion (5/6/5 now) but some people might still vote against the way it lies on the page. I think we have a poem that remains true to your image, and would perhaps gain a few more votes than the original.

Thanks for sharing!


See More Kukai Tune-Ups

begin haiku has the following sections:
Articles Critiques Links
Articles for beginners. Submit poems for critique. Links to other helpful sites.