5/7/5 vs 3/5/3 & 2/3/2 Haiku & Senryu Styles

I removed the poetry contest post from “Failed Haiku” that I shared on my blog a few days ago. It upset the owner of Failed Haiku that we use the traditional 5/7/5 format for Haiku and Senryu in my poetry challenge. When I suggested that I would include all forms in my weekly challenge, he responded:

Well, it is a real ‘form’ in Japan and in the West. 5/7/5 is NOT the way to write poetry in my opinion.

You are the very reason we all publish real haiku. Teaching elementary school poetry is nothing to be proud of.

He further stated:

“There is no group of society existing in English Haiku that enforces, at all, the 5/7/5 syllable count in English.”

British Haikuhttp://britishhaikusociety.org.uk/
Haiku Canadahttp://haikucanada.org/
Australian Haiku Societyhttps://australianhaikusociety.org/

It’s true that most serious poets use the 11 syllable Haiku or Senryu form of 3/5/3. Some poets don’t write their poetry into three distinct lines – they use one. All of this has to do with the translation of Japanese into English. In fact, Basho’s poetry was based on breaths, not syllables.

It was my full intent to sponsor a poetry challenge that would excite writers into trying syllabic poetry. I wanted participants to have fun and play with words and meanings. I used the traditional Haiku & Senryu format as it is much easier to write. I had no idea that I would offend “real” poets.

I’ve read more Haiku and Senryu in the traditional format than I have in the more rigid form of 3/5/3. Most of the poetry books I own contain Haiku and Senryu written in the traditional format. Now, to be fair, that doesn’t make it right or wrong.

Many contests will ask you to write your Haiku and Senryu in this more abbreviated format. So, I will add the modern 3/5/3, and the modern 2/3/2 structure to the Haiku and Senryu portions of the challenge for anyone who wishes to use that form. I’ve updated the Poetry Challenge Cheatsheet too. After all, the challenge was created for us to have fun and to help poets practice and write poetry in preparation to enter contests or to submit our poetry for publication in other periodicals.

FORMS IN ENGLISH HAIKU – KEIKO IMAOKA on ahapoetry.com states:

Today, many bilingual poets and translators in the mainstream North American haiku scene agree that something in the vicinity of 11 English syllables is a suitable approximation of 17 Japanese syllables, in order to convey about the same amount of information as well as the brevity and the fragmented quality found in Japanese haiku. As to the form, some American poets advocate writing in 3-5-3 syllables or 2-3-2 accented beats. While rigid structuring can be accomplished in 5-7-5 haiku with relative ease due to a greater degree of freedom provided by the extra syllables, such structuring in shorter haiku will have the effect of imposing much more stringent rules on English haiku than on Japanese haiku, thereby severely limiting its potential.


Bottom line… if you decide to enter a syllabic poetry contest, investigate their rules and procedures. NaHaiWritMo.com does advocate the 3/5/3 format and you can read about that here: Why “No 5-7-5”?

Onward and Upward, my poetry writing friends.


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