How Do You Haiku? #3 haibun (story with haiku)


This is the third installment of our seven-post series on Haiku! Last week we wrote Picture Haiku where a picture of poppies by a mailbox provided colorful inspiration for my haiku. Today, we’re looking at another way to help us find inspiration — Haibun!

first things first: what is haiku

old pond—
frog jumps in
sound of the water

This short poem is a haiku. It is Japanese poet Matsuo Basho’s famous poem from the 1600s. These three lines tell us something about nature (and season) and capture a moment in time. When you capture a scene in this way, it’s called a “haiku moment” —it’s like a snapshot or a sketch, but with words.

Some people like to write their haiku in a strict 17-syllable count (five syllables for the first and third lines and seven syllables for the second line). Others want the freedom of writing three short lines without counting syllables (modern vs. Japanese forms). The main thing to remember is your poem should be easy to say and read in one breath. Read here if you want more instruction on writing haiku (season words, form, tips, and how to count syllables).

Now, onto the third way to write and share haiku.

#3: Haibun (story with haiku)

The Haibun is a haiku related form that allows the poet to enhance his haiku with a piece of a story (not a full story). In Japanese, hai means “haiku” and bun means “prose” (story or writing). A haiku in itself is a snapshot of a moment in time but the mixing of poetry and story adds more meaning to both the haiku and the story and gives the reader more understanding. Poet Matsuo Basho made this long existing form famous in during his lifetime in the 1600s.

my turn

It has been a long time since I tried my hand at haibun so it was fun for me to revisit this form. I came up with two haibun to share with you. The first is a story from my childhood, the second from a non-fiction book on bluebirds.

When I was a young child, I wanted to plant a garden but didn't have seeds. So, I improvised. I stuck popsicle sticks into fruit and "planted" beautiful rows of apples and oranges. My parents were not pleased with me when they returned home to find me proudly watering my garden.

in child's garden
bright imagination yields
a fruitful harvest

©Danna Smith at
Bluebirds' favorite foods include grasshoppers, crickets, ground beetles, and caterpillars. In addition to insects, bluebirds will feed on berries that ripen in summer.
bluebird hovering,
lunching on sweet berries served
on pokeweed branches
©Danna Smith at


Think of a story and write it down. It could be a childhood memory, an entry from your diary, or you can capture some words from your favorite book. Your story can be a few sentences to a couple of paragraphs long. Next, what haiku does your story inspire? Write your haiku beneath the story. The haiku doesn’t repeat what we’ve learned from the story, rather, it adds to it or completes the story.

Sharing your story

I hope you’ll share your haibun in the comments below. I know it can be scary to share your poetry. Here’s a pep talk if you’re feeling “iffy” about it. If you’d rather post your poems or comments anonymously, I’ve created settings to allow you to do so. Just reply without signing into your WordPress account.


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Next week

Don’t miss next week when we continue with the fourth installment in our How Do You Haiku?© series of posts. Here’s a hint: the next post will really rock!

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