What is a Haiku?
A Haiku is a verse form made of 3 lines measuring 5, 7, and 5 syllables (in that order).
In its purest form as traditional Japanese poetry, the Haiku should be about nature or the seasons, and should use no metaphors or similes. You can find more information on the traditional artform in this article: How to write a Haiku, but here's a basic example:
This poem is meant
as a concrete example
of haiku structure.
What are we doing?
- First, note that for today’s exercise, we’ll be using the general definition: 3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables.
- Now grab your media player of choice, and play your favorite song.
- Now try to summarize the song in 3 to 4 sentences.
- Most songs are in 3 parts (verse, chorus, bridge).
- See if you can get the chorus to one sentence.
- Pay close attention to the bridge (there’s often a good summary there).
- Note if there’s any major thematic change between the verses (ex. first verse is a blossoming love story, last verse is after the breakup).
- Now condense those lines, replacing phrases with 1 word synonyms until you have your haiku!
- Tweak it until you feel that it really conveys the song’s meaning.
What is that going to look like?
We grabbed a few songs from the 2015 Top 40 chart and turned them into Poiku.
Here’s to my fly peeps!
I see you! See me? Come on:
Let’s show how it’s done!
I’m sorry. Answer.
Or just listen. Life is too short.
I miss you. Hello?
Thinking Out Loud
Our love is endless.
Our bodies are not. Even so,
We are so lucky.
For an additional challenge, you can try to match some distinct rhythm or technique used in the song.
For example - in the song "Here" by Alessia Cara, the artist utilizes a mix of simple and complex words to further highlight how out of place she feels. She also elongates syllables and long pauses in what we would call enjambment (mid-clause breaks) on paper. This was a really fun one!
Wish I’d skipped this party. An
Teachers, this is a great exercise that gets your students to:
- Analyze the content of an entire song,
- Distill the most important points, and
- Figure out how to concisely portray the same meaning.
We had a lot of fun with this and we hope that you do too! If you’re particularly excited about your Poiku, leave it in the comments section. Feel free to create a new Poiku for any of the songs above. Try to write a Poiku about the same song as a friend and compare notes!