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.


      1. No I just think “Real Poets” are up themselves a tad. I once made a comment bon a blog and asked them if they’d like to come to the bloggers bash. His reply was ” I am a poet not a blogger!” My thoughts. “**##**# 😁💜


        1. Ha, Ha! LOL! Some people take themselves so seriously. I’m sure this older gentleman has nothing but his poetry. He’s very active and has a YouTube channel where he will read your poetry if he chooses it. I was stunned at his choice of words… but then… nothing surprises me totally. LOL!


          1. Freedom from too many constraints is always a good thing and this applies to poetry too. Words are words a little structure doesn’t go amiss but this seems to be taking it too far. I agree with you Colleen. Take heart that you are doing great. ❤


  1. Now I’m throughly confused about Haiku and didn’t know there was a more ridge form. I enjoy free verse, but I am open to structure … sometimes:)


    1. Denise, my challenge is for writers to have fun. I never meant it to follow such rigid rules. Those forms are hard to write for beginners. However, since the shorter forms are what the contests and publications are looking for so I’ve included them. It’s a win-win for us all. ❤


  2. People seem to feel very strongly about poetry forms–especially the Japanese forms–it seems to me. I’ve seen some that insist haiku can only be 5/7/5 and others not. I’ve also seen some that insist haiku must always contain a season word. You are right though that people should always read and follow the guidelines carefully contests or submissions. Each one is different! 🙂


    1. This gentleman was very aggressive in his email. I finally asked him not to contact me again, and I removed the post. Poetry snobs are everywhere. I just want writers to have fun and learn the correct forms. I still consider the traditional method the most pleasing to read and write but that’s my preference. ❤


  3. I take great issue with the comment ‘teaching elementary school poetry is nothing to be proud of’ and I know a fair few ‘real’ poets who would take issue with anyone lecturing on how poetry should be written.
    While I love free verse, half the beauty of poetry is that it provides the opportunity to play around with form. It also, quite literally, crosses languages, cultures, and generations. Half the difficultly with getting people to read and write poetry is the idea that it requires an education in poetry and a level of what I can only call ‘hoity-toity’ to understand it.
    Allowing flexibility within form (such as with a haiku) gives poets a little encouragement to try out a form they may otherwise have shied away from.
    Anyone who values perfection in form above the content and intent deserves to be muttered about quietly, but very angrily beneath my breath.
    (Apologies for the rant. I think you do wonderfully with you challenges, and you are encouraging and kind.)


    1. Carol, thank you. You said exactly how I feel! And, I appreciate your rant. I took great offense at the email exchange. I hate anything that stifles creativity. I want to encourage writers to experiment with syllabic poetry because I feel like it requires us to use a different part of our brain. It helps us think about word choice and the brevity of language much like flash fiction limits our words. I’ve added the additional forms so now, there isn’t much more this gentleman can fuss about. I’ll not reblog his posts again. 😍


    1. I felt that, too. Clearly, I had stumbled into his territory. He was right about the forms; I knew that, but I would have said things so differently. I was very kind to him in the emails. Some people just want everything their way. 😀


  4. First of all, what constitutes a ‘real’ poet. Are we all not creating poetry here? Like calling Indie authors, not real writers. So sad when people don’t know how to get off their high horse. Buh bye, we won’t miss you snarly guy. Yay Colleen! Let’s just play the way we’ve been doing. You don’t like it, LEAVE. LOL ❤


  5. OMW! “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou


  6. My goodness! I was wondering what had happened to your post. The Failed Haiku guy’s response is one reason I’ve had no interest in syllabic poetry. Sheesh, if someone is going to be that pedantic, he should stay in the Academy. Maybe we should sponsor a haiku slam.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a butthole that guy seems.

    If it makes you feel better, I think enough people like you that he’ll be losing a bunch of people as potential followers/participants/submitters for the rest of his life.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This reminds of the time on my ex website, when I posted a coloring picture of a tyrannosaurus rex in a standing pose that I drew. I made it available for children to download and color.
    I got an email from someone who couldn’t believe that I drew the trex standing up. The person told me that trex’s kept more hunched over and streamlined. And that no self-respecting trex would ever stand up.
    Well, I was surprised, it’s a coloring picture after all and a free one at that. So I gave myself 24 hours to think about an answer.
    Over the course of the time, I realized this might be a child who is interested dinosaurs and was encouraged to email me about the proper trex stance.
    So, I wrote the person back. I complimented their knowledge of the trex and encouraged them to continue in their pursuit of Paleontology. I nicely told them that my trex drawing was for entertainment and not scientific research. And then I thanked them for the email. I didn’t hear back from them. But I was glad I had the where-with-all to handle the situation with kindness.

    People are curious beings, aren’t they? Especially when you’re trying to spread joy and entertainment to get folks interested in wetting their poetry pens.
    I admired your reserve and careful way of dealing with the opinion of a perfectionist.
    You go girl! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, E. C. Thanks for your lovely comment. In these emails I told him he was rude and he escalated his comments. Finally, I removed the reblog and told him not to contact me again. I’m still dumbfounded by his attitude. But then, most people baffle me! LOL! He was right, but if he would have read any of my instructions on Haiku he would have read that I already had included the abbreviated form in my instructions. He jumped to conclusions and made his own judgments. It’s all good to follow rules but we must learn to accept all forms of poetic expression. I’m not fond of freestyle poetry because generally it has no form. But I read it and enjoy the poetic creativity that went into it. Thanks again for your kindness. You’re always a lovely supporter. ❤️❤️❤️


      1. It’s sad it happened. I can’t figure out why someone has to be so negative against folks just trying to have a bit of fun in expressing their creativity. Good thing you nipped it in the bud. I’m with you on being baffled by most people too. They do make life interesting though.
        I’m not a big fan of freestyle. I find freestyle poetry more enjoyable if I can hear it read by someone who knows the intent of emotions of the verse, with the highs, lows, pauses and expressions.
        Thank you for offering your blog as a platform to learn and enjoy many styles of poetry and verse.
        Thanks so much for your compliments, you’re so sweet, you made me smile. 🙂 ❤


          1. Wow! It’s hard to believe. Time has flown so very fast. 6 years in April. I’m honored to have been your 1st follower. Blogging along beside you is a special part of my life. I’m looking forward to many more years of our blogging and smiles. Hugs and love to you too, my friend. ❤


    1. LOL! Thanks, Pat. It’s so silly to squabble over form. It must be very important to him that he is among “the real poets,” as if he equates himself to that distinction. I appreciate your support. ❤


  9. So sorry you had to get such a senseless email, Colleen. You’ve created such a friendly atmosphere for us to come and enjoy. It’s a shame some bad egg had to put in his 2 cents worth. You handled it very well. Hugs, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.