Here is my haiku
I wrote it for this question
Is it any good?

I understand the mechanical basics of a haiku being the three line syllable pattern of 5-7-5, the contrast of two images with a "cutting word", is often about nature, and contains a seasonal word (the last of which seems much rarer in English haiku I've read). A more proper haiku might be as follows:

The tree in my yard
Stands tall and magnificent
Rotting in the sun

What I'm having trouble with is understanding how to write a "good" haiku. Is it about trying to create as strong a contrast as possible? Make it evoke as powerful image? Something else?

What can I do to write a good haiku poem, aside from just adhering to the structure?

  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because questions about literary judgement are off topic here. Try Literature SE.
    – user16226
    Aug 12, 2017 at 21:05
  • @MarkBaker Should I just delete my question then, or can it be migrated? Aug 12, 2017 at 21:07
  • Also, I'm guessing that similar questions like this one were written before literary judgement was off-topic? Aug 12, 2017 at 21:08
  • That question is about how to write a poem, which is on topic. Your question is entirely about judging the quality of a poem, which is not. It can be migrated, but not by me. It might be easier for you to delete it and ask over there.
    – user16226
    Aug 12, 2017 at 21:10
  • 3
    @MarkBaker You're right; I think I've been hung up on the fact that English-language haiku seem to have much looser rules than traditional haiku. I appreciate your feedback so far. I've tried to be explicit about the rules and asked specifically about whether creating a good haiku is about the contrast, the image it evokes, or something else. Are there further improvements you would suggest? Aug 12, 2017 at 21:58

1 Answer 1


I think you have to start by making a fundamental distinction between good and conformant. Obeying a set of rules makes something conformant but it does not make make it good. A Lada is conformant to the characteristics of a sedan, but it is not a good car.

This is not to say that there is no relationship between being conformant and being good. Any desirable quality that is measurable can be made into a requirement, ensuring that anything that is conformant is, to that extent at least, good.

But there are many things we value that we can't measure. What makes poetry good cannot (yet, at least) be reduced to a specification. A perfectly conformant haiku can be a bad poem. For that matter, a non-conformant haiku can be a great poem.

What makes a poem good? I think I am consistent with a pretty broad and longstanding tradition when I say that it comes down to insight -- what the poet sees -- and expression -- how they use words to cause us see what they have seen.

Exactly how or why conformance to particular constraints such a meter, subject, or form -- the haiku form or the sonnet form -- should help poets do this (when it seems that the additional requirement should only hinder) is more than I know, and perhaps the modernist would dispute that it helps at all. But there seems to be a pretty long and strong tradition that suggests that it does.

Either way, these constraints define conformance, not quality. A conformant example of a haiku or a sonnet obeys the applicable set of constraints. A good haiku or a good sonnet makes us see the world more acutely. To be good you need insight and a facility with expression that goes well beyond conformance to the form.

I'm not sure that insight and expression can be taught (they may, perhaps, be encouraged, mentored, or even modeled). I'm pretty sure though that neither can be broken down to a the kind of concrete advice that is suitable to an SE answer. Various individual techniques of expression, certainly, but not the whole art of it.

  • 1
    Thank you for your patience in helping me craft a good question, and for your excellent answer! Aug 14, 2017 at 17:49

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