Expert Poet Gives Advice to Aspiring Haikuists

Curtis Dunlap, a widely-published, award-winning poet and longtime haikuist, has just written an interesting, introductory piece to haiku and senryu (satirical haiku).

Curtis has generously allowed me to reprint the first six paragraphs below. After you read these paragraphs, I’m certain you’ll be interested in reading the rest of his piece. It has ample examples of poems, too.

You can check out his interesting blog,
Curtis writes this weekly blog with interim updates. And, he also interviews haikuists about how and why they write.

An Introduction to Haiku & Senryu for New Haiku & Senryu Poets

This blog post comes with a warning: Once you open your “haiku eye”, it never closes. In fact, I dreamed in haiku once and I know of at least one other haiku poet who has dreamed in haiku. The dream was sort of like a musical but without music. Every word spoken, every poet in the dream communicated via haiku! It was a wonderfully pleasant dream. But I digress…

Okay, back to the “haiku eye”: You will start noticing small things that will stand-out in your mind, a blade of grass swaying in the wind, bird songs, raindrops striking a puddle… Not everything I witness or observe becomes a haiku. Occasionally, a free verse poem will take shape from a haiku “moment” (an added benefit of the “haiku eye” that I did not expect).

So, what are haiku? In a nutshell, haiku are one breath poems; they are picture poems. The haiku poet uses words to paint a picture without adding personal feelings to the poem. In haiku the poet must “show, don’t tell”.

The Japanese sound unit called an onji does not equal an English syllable. Japanese haiku sound units are written in a 5-7-5 format (again Japanese sound units, not English syllables). When English poets began writing haiku they would write in three lines of 5-7-5 syllables. Now, since an onji does not equal an English syllable, an English haiku tends to be longer than a Japanese haiku. Experts on the subject have determined that a 17 onji haiku in Japanese should be about a 12 to 15 syllable poem in English.

Poet Jack Kerouac seldom wrote 5-7-5 haiku. Kerouac’s haiku are one breath poems. Personally, I have always thought that it was better to use the best word or words for the poem. Trying to fit a word into a haiku to meet a syllable quota is akin to putting a square peg in a round hole.

Does that mean you should not write haiku in 5-7-5? No, many people are content to write in that format; however, I personally find it less stressful to write in the freer “one breath” style. It does not cramp my creativity. I have a few poems written as 5-7-5, but it was never my intention to write 5-7-5 haiku. I just penned the poems, let the words flow and they unintentionally became 5-7-5 haiku.

Great words from Curtis! Now, follow up by reading the rest of his blog. In fact, I hope you’ll read Curtis’ blog each week. If you notify him that you’re interested, he’ll email his blog to you each week. After you’ve read all the poets that he’s featured, you’ll feel like you’ve studied haiku your entire life. Curtis is an exceptional contributor to the haiku

About Charlotte Digregorio

I publish books. I have marketed and/or published 55 titles. These books are sold in 46 countries to bookstores, libraries, universities, professional organizations, government agencies, and book clubs. In 2018, I was honored by the Governor of Illinois for my thirty-eight years of accomplishments in the literary arts, and my work to promote and advance the field by educating adults and students alike. I am the author of seven books including: Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All; Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Homes; You Can Be A Columnist; Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features; Your Original Personal Ad; and my latest, Ripples of Air: Poems of Healing. The first four books have been adopted as supplemental texts at universities throughout the U.S., Canada, India, Pakistan, and Catalonia. They are sold in 43 countries, and are displayed in major metropolitan cultural centers. These books have been reviewed, recommended, and praised by hundreds of critics, librarians, and professors worldwide. I am also the author of a poetry collection: "Shadows of Seasons: Selected Haiku and Senryu by Charlotte Digregorio." Two of my books have been Featured Selections of Writer's Digest Book Club. I am regularly interviewed by major print, radio, and television organizations throughout the U.S. I regularly sign books at libraries, chain bookstores, and university bookstores, and do poetry readings at art centers, cafes, tea houses, and galleries. I was recently nominated for two Pushcart Prizes in poetry. I have won fifty-nine poetry awards, writing fourteen poetic forms. My poetry has been translated into eight languages. I do illustrated solo poetry exhibits 365 days a year in libraries, galleries, corporate buildings, hospitals, convention centers, and other venues. My individual poems have been displayed at supermarkets, apparel and wine shops, banks, botanic gardens, restaurants, and on public transit. I have been nominated and listed in "The International Authors and Writers Who's Who" in Cambridge, England and in the "Who's Who In Writers, Editors & Poets U.S./Canada." I hosted my own radio program, "Poetry Beat," on public broadcasting. My poetry has been featured on several library web sites including those of Shreve Memorial Library in Louisiana and Cornell University's Mann Library. My background includes positions as a feature editor and columnist at daily newspapers and as a magazine editor. I have been a public relations director for a non-profit organization. I am self-employed as a public relations/marketing consultant, having served a total of 118 clients in 23 states for the past several decades . In other professional areas, I have been on university faculties, teaching French, Italian, and Writing. I regularly give lectures and workshops on publishing, journalism, publicity, poetry, and creativity to business and professional groups, and at writer's conferences, universities, literary festivals, non-profit organizations, and libraries. I have been a writer-in-residence at universities. There have been about 400 articles written about me in the media. I have served on the Boards of writers and publishers organizations. My positions have included Board Secretary of the Northwest Association of Book Publishers. I served for five years as Midwest Regional Coordinator of The Haiku Society of America, and for two years as its Second Vice President.
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7 Responses to Expert Poet Gives Advice to Aspiring Haikuists

  1. brett brady says:

    I did very much enjoy Chris’ comments, and very happy to have found this blog-site – the “yikes!” was my first reaction to reading his credits –

  2. brett brady says:

    I made a catastrophic mistake.. that correction should read: to reading your credits! sorry Charlotte, forgive my clumsies –

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