Dear Haiku Maven, I’m fairly new to haiku and seek your wisdom about where I can find the real haiku rules. Experts contradict other experts and give examples of why their rules are better. I don’t always like their examples, but since they are the experts, I think it must be my fault. I read that the ancient haiku master Basho advised poets to learn the rules before deciding to break them. Please let me know which rules I should learn.
Signed, Confused in the Wilderness
Dear Confused in the Wilderness, Haiku Maven is not a big believer in rules. In fact, whether or not there are any real haiku rules is a question for debate. However, there are three texts on haiku which Haiku Maven recommends: The Haiku Handbook-25th Anniversary Edition: How to Write, Teach, and Appreciate Haiku by William J. Higginson and Penny Harter (foreword by Jane Reichhold); Haiku: A Poet’s Guide by Lee Gurga; and Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-on Guide by Jane Reichhold. Of course, there are many other books on haiku which Haiku Maven feels sure readers will mention in the comments section. Once you have become more familiar with haiku, deciding which rules to follow is another matter. In writing haiku, you will in time develop your own individual style. And if you chose not to follow any haiku rules or to follow only certain rules, that will not be your fault, it will be your own journey on the haiku path. An alternative to Basho’s view comes from English novelist and playwright Somerset Maugham, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” It also applies to haiku.
The Haiku Maven posts each Friday to The Haiku Foundation blog. Haiku Maven offers advice about awkward situations involving haiku poets. The word maven comes from the Yiddish meyvn, meaning “one who understands.” Please use our Contact page to send a question. Haiku Maven will select a pseudonym for you based on your question. Click this link to see the Haiku Maven archive. Feel free to leave comments.