Walleah Press


Famous Reporter


At Famous Reporter, we receive many submissions that almost make it into our haiku pages, but miss out on acceptance because of one or two details that don't fit our criteria.

So, what are we looking for in a haiku?

Although the traditional format of 5/7/5 is welcome, the syllable count alone doesn't make it qualify. In the 5/7/5 style the syllables should preferably be short ones, as long vowel sounds can make the poem exceed an acceptable length. (Japanese syllables are much shorter than ours). Never pad the poem to make it fit the count - economy of words is important. Haiku in English can be as short as ten or twelve syllables - sometimes even shorter - provided they meet the other requirements of this genre. Although most haiku are written in three lines, the second being longer than the first and third, variations of line arrangements are used today. Some haiku are written in one line, some in two.

The haiku should present one or two, contrasting, clear images that recreate a keenly-perceived moment of experience, using a minimum of words. It should not tell the reader how to feel, or how the poet feels: the images that provoked the emotion will arouse similar responses in the reader. The action should be in the present tense, and the place should be specific. Avoid abstract nouns and philosophical comment. A good haiku will resonate in the reader's mind, suggesting deeper meanings.

Traditionally the haiku is about nature, linked to human nature, and contains a seasonal element (often implied). While we prefer such haiku at Famous Reporter we are also interested in those that deal lightly with human nature (senryu). We do not use titles, and prefer haiku without simile, metaphor or personification. Those that reflect an Australian experience are more likely to be accepted, as are those that offer a fresh way of seeing. (We acknowledge that this describes only one framework for writing haiku and we are also delighted with haiku that succeed in communicating the haiku experience, when only some, or none, of the above apply).

Suggested texts for those wanting to learn more about writing haiku:

  • A Haiku Handbook; William J. Higginson and Penny Harter, Kodansha International, 1989
  • Haiku in English; Harold G. Henderson, Tuttle, 1967
  • Getting Started with Haiku; John Bird, HaikuOz. http://www.haikuoz.org