Directory of
Haiku and Minimals

A brief history : In ancient Japan poems were an important part of “entertainment. Many poets tried to win the favor of the Emperor . Haiku is a form of poetry that originally developed in this time as a “communal poem” – a “Renga” A Renga was a poem that started with a beginning stanza called the “Hokku”. Other stanzas were added on to that by the other players in the poetry group.

Originally the 1st stanza, or hokku, had to have a “seasonal” word like summer, winter, fall or a word like ” geese ” that would bring on the thought or feeling of a particular season.

The 2nd stanza followed and was made up of 2 lines – and there were subsequent lines with similar rules. Other rules also made the game more challenging and fun, such as not being able to repeat a word in a later stanza if the word had been used.  Renga, then, became a popular party game. Over the years the beginning the “hokku” remained but the whole collaborative part began to die out. And a 5syllable stanza, then 7, then 5 became the standard for a while. This standard first began to change as it was translated into English. So modern Haiku (from Hokku) was born, without strict rules. Americans adopted it easily because it was short , easy, yet, profound.

Traditional Haiku has 3 lines – with up to 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second and 5 in the third.

The water is still

Running no longer downhill

Dry hearts lacking strength

Modern Haiku, however, is more flexible, not counting syllables, but still trying to convey a profound idea in a very few words. A modern Haiku poem may be as short as just one word like :


(imagine this line made to wiggle up & down imitating the movement of a snake) or just a few words like: snail, always at home

Minimals are a single word made up of two or three words put together

Here are some examples of Minimals written by Martin Mikelberg of Abington, Pennsylvania. Can you see the words within them. We’ll print those below so you can give them a good try first!

1. ghostillife
2. ghostrangel
3. kitestinggravity
4. hiddenenemyself
5. downwindowdown
6. onenewewe

The words within are:

1.ghost still life
2. ghost strange angel
3. kites testing gravity
4. hidden enemy myself
5. down wind down or…. down wind window down
6. one new ewe

To Learn more about Haiku visit : Martin Mikelberg’s Poetry  The Haiku corner  Yahoo’s directory of Haiku