If, when you hear “haiku,” your instinctive response is “Gesundheit,” then this is not your month, because February is National Haiku Writing Month, according to the National Association of People Who Take It Upon Themselves to Declare Months for Things (NAPWTIUTDMT). But if you are a poet who admires the terse concentration of the haiku form, then this is your opportunity to write twenty-nine gems of evaporated description. The goal is to write one haiku for each day of the month.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “A haiku a day? Oh, gosh, I don’t know whether I could keep that up.” And thereby you have already demonstrated that you have the innate talent to churn out haiku by the cartload:

A haiku a day?
Oh, gosh, I don’t know whether
I could keep that up.

See? You’re a poet, even though you weren’t aware of the fact at all. Or, as we must train ourselves to write such sentiments in order not to lose a single jewel that might drop from our pens:

See? You’re a poet,
even though you weren’t aware
of the fact at all.

Haiku is easer than it looks.

For that reason, Dr. Boli will hear no excuses for lazy evasions of the traditional 5-7-5 formula for haiku. (Here is an essay that attempts to explain why, because Japanese haiku actually has stricter rules than simply counting syllables, it means that English haiku should not have any rules at all; and the thing you will notice, dear readers, is how angry the idea of form in poetry makes the essayist.) It is true that modern creative-writing teachers encourage their pupils to ignore the number of syllables in a line and simply express their deepest, most heartfelt feelings in some small number of words divided arbitrarily into three lines. It is also true that most of those pupils fall into open manholes on the way home from school. And why? Because they have been taught a lack of attention to details as though it were a virtue. You, however, will not be seduced by the promise of easy poetry without effort. In your haiku, you will put in the work of counting to five or seven, and perhaps actually revising your lines, because you do not wish to find yourself in a storm sewer. Or, if you like better, you will come up with an alternative haiku form of your own devising, and then keep to that form, not persuading yourself that just any brief slovenly explosion of words constitutes a haiku.

So take up your pen and start writing. Then lay it down fifteen seconds later and admire the poem you have produced. This is not going to be a lot of work, and Dr. Boli will be writing haiku along with you all month to encourage you. Meanwhile, Dr. Boli will gladly print any hate mail from free-verse haikuists in this space.


  1. The Shadow says:

    Piffle! I can write
    English haiku as quick as
    Falling out of bed!

    Such a simple form:
    The poem ripens and falls
    Into one’s lap whole.

    Only once a day?
    The shadow of the gnomon
    Smoothly does as much.

    • The Shadow says:

      Ask Hezekiah:
      Syllables in their neat rows
      Flow on without let.

      But should that shadow
      Tremble, turn, and dance backward…
      O Lord, may it be.

  1. […] of the educational-industrial complex, so here is where we bring in the suggestion Dr. Boli made a few days ago: we invent our own form. For example, you decide, arbitrarily, that you will make a modern haiku in […]

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