T  H  E     F  I  S  H  I  N  G     C  A  T     P  R  E  S  S

an international journal to share the spirit of haiku


The objective of seashores is to share haiku from all over the world and explore how the way and the spirit of haiku, with its power to connect us to nature and our world can play a role in poetry and our lives in general.


Submissions Criteria:
All submissions must be unpublished and not being considered elsewhere. All submissions must be in English. If originally in another language, translation must be provided with the original entry (if the author is not the translator, please indicate the details of the translator and his/her consent to publication).


Haiku (and senryu) need to reflect the rules and guidelines that are generally accepted in the global haiku community. Basically, haiku in three distinct lines with good rhythm are favoured and may include a season word (kigo) or a key word, a cut (kireji, by way of style, space or the use of punctuation or other) but poems of 1, 2 or 4 lines with haiku essence and spirit will also be considered. Ultimately, submissions will be judged on quality and originality.



The tips below have been produced to give a general feedback and help to contributors whose entries have not been accepted. Although every selection is subjective and no editor is 100% right, and all contributors should look for more than one source of feedback or review, some entries received would probably not be considered as “really haiku” by most haiku journals and websites.


We receive a number of entries that are poems and present a poetic interest but that are not haiku and are therefore not selected.


The tips and considerations below have been produced in light of these entries with the objective to clarify some “non-negotiable” haiku characteristics and help to distinguish differences between short poems and haiku.



I would like, to start with, to stress that this is a general introduction on haiku principles and considerations for submissions to seashores, an international journal to share the spirit of haiku, and only for this journal although these guidelines or principles are likely to reflect those of most haiku journals and sites worldwide. But there can always be different perspectives, and this is why I think it is important for anyone to look for more than one source of feedback and approach other online or printed journals but also haiku groups or associations.


General Principles

All haiku possess or transcribe what is generally described as a “haiku moment”: a moment observed/experienced that led to an emotion.

Hence, a haiku may be described as the objective transcription or sketching of a moment that led to an emotion (a feeling or sensation): it singles out a moment and recreates the circumstances in which the poet felt the emotion (haiku moment) and allows the reader to experience this moment, feel this emotion again.


Originally, the “heart” of a haiku was NATURE. Haiku is associated with nature and often considered as nature poetry. The haiku presents an event taking place in a natural and seasonal context. This relates to the “famous” kigo (or season-word), so important in traditional haiku (see below).


Even though, the majority of haiku is still about nature, this has changed, and haiku are also written about modern subjects including human life or conditions, activities, etc. Generally, haiku that have a non-natural theme/subject, and that can “see the funny side of life” are called senryu. Some poets and journals do make a distinction between haiku and senryu.



A haiku may not be exactly a poem (in the Western definition or tradition), but it is poetry; a poetry form that does not follow the same rules. This means, haiku does not rely on Western techniques and stylistic devices (rhymes, metaphor, comparisons, correspondences, repetitions, etc.)


The poetical (and sometimes philosophical or metaphorical) value, i.e. the poetry (poetics) is ‘inside’ the haiku (it is carried) not ‘outside’ (carrying)… It is the impact of the haiku that is poetical more than the actual “envelope” of the verse.

A haiku is not:

·       A proverb

·       An epigram (short witty statement, usually rhyming)

·       An aphorism (terse statement in prose)

·       A short or shorter quatrain

Many of the submissions that we receive and that are rejected are in fact thoughts, proverbs, epigrams, statements written in three lines. They are smart, sometimes very poetical or interesting, other times ‘catchy’ or literary, but they are not haiku. Most of the time, the fundamental flaw is that they do not have a moment, a particular experience.



A haiku is objective insofar that it does not express the poet’s opinion (‘this clever dog’, ‘how clever’, ‘how sad’…) or describe how the poet felt (‘it was great!’, ‘how beautiful’, ‘how sad’…) but conveys his/her emotion, experience through the description of the moment.


Objectivity: the poet is more of a drawing artist sharing a natural scene in three stokes of the brush for the imagination or the memory.


Subjectivity: the subjectivity lies more in the perception and selection process singling out the moment. In front of a same tree under the sky, four different persons will sense/feel four different moments, therefore four different haiku may be written.


This is also why it is important to consider the use of adjectives. Adjectives tend to describe a feeling, an opinion and can be “dangerous” in haiku. Adjectives expressing colours, climate, physical descriptions (grey heron, cold morning, tiny drop…) are obviously different than adjective expressing opinion, state of mind, which tend to reveal more (impressive, scary, intelligent, beautiful…)


This also means that the haiku must not “say everything”; it is more a matter of suggesting, and let the reader relive the moment and experience the emotion.


A haiku is short and concise. Think ‘not too wordy’ but precise, i.e. the right word(s), rather than the nice word or embellished wording.


There is no need of “artifice”, like rhymes, a pun or play on words, metaphors, anything that may distract from the essence of the moment.


A haiku must be grounded in reality, and originally a haiku relates to nature.



A haiku must trigger an emotion, a feeling or sensation for the reader. The pure description of a moment or an object is not enough; it needs to contain feelings or emotions coming from the moment/object otherwise this moment/object and the observer are remote/separate, and the haiku can be “flat”.



For many, the essence of haiku is the juxtaposition of two elements (images). In classical haiku, there used to be the juxtaposition of a seasonal material with another material. The impact (emotion) coming from the reader’s intellect working out this juxtaposition, this combination of images/elements. Some haiku may have only one image and work really well, but haiku with 3 or more juxtaposed elements rarely work. See kireji below.


Other Considerations


Titles: Usually a haiku does not have a title. As always, exceptions are possible. But a title should be there to explain the haiku, i.e. a haiku with a title should also ‘work’ without the title. Otherwise, the title is an extra line, an explanation. The title should not give a different interpretation or lead to the interpretation, understanding for the reader. Sometimes, the title is the place (town, city, river…) where the haiku was ‘experienced’. There seems to be a current trend for (in the case of the title being a place) putting this information after the haiku (i.e. below), sometimes in italics, or smaller font, or between brackets… This is worth considering.


Caps: this is also another debate in Western languages (Japanese having no caps). The first Western translations used to have a cap at the start of each line, reflecting Western poetry’s practice and tradition. Caps in haiku have more or less disappeared. Having 3 lines with a cap at the start of each line may look or feel a bit cumbersome, heavy. Options like no cap at all (except if and when grammatically required like for a country, town, etc.) or a cap only for the first word of the first line seem to be predominant.


Rhymes: usually rhymes (end of lines) are avoided, or at least rhymes that would distract or undermine the haiku, but alliteration, sound and rhythm are important elements of a haiku.


17 syllables/Length: originally, in Japanese, haiku have 3 sections (17 syllables: 5-7-5) presented in one line. The number of syllables is often debated. Most think that 17 syllables should not apply to English (and other Western languages) although some poets have successfully followed this principle (especially JW Hackett). The jury is maybe still out… In any case, think short, some mention the concept of a one-breath-poem, i.e. the haiku can be read without having to take a second breath. This notion has some merits and is worth considering (if the poet is not a deep diver).


Style: being short and concise does not mean that a haiku does not have a structure, a correct syntax or grammatical or lexical elements. A haiku is not a telegram (i.e. segments not united or connected by grammar), nor a shopping list (i.e. elements put one after another without coordination or link). (See also punctuation below).


3 lines: it has been more or less accepted to write haiku in 3 lines (reflecting the 3 syllabic sections of Japanese haiku) but there is also a growing trend of one-liners. But 2 or 4 lines also work. Maybe consider 4 lines as a maximum.


Repetitions: elements should not be repeated or redundant (cold winter, white blanket of snow…). There are some very famous and great haiku with repetitions (like Bashō’s legendary ah! Matsushima / Matsushima ah! / ah! Matsushima). A word may be repeated, but it’s more redundancy in a haiku that needs to be looked at while repetitions need to be well considered and weighed.


Cut: what is called in Japanese kireji (cutting word) and is a grammatical way, which generally has the effect of dividing the poem into two parts, as with a long dash or colon, and therefore creates the opposition/juxtaposition of the two images/elements in the haiku syntax is usually differently perceived or expressed in English. To render this caesura, some use punctuation or go to next line, enjambment… I have seen some interesting options such as inserting a gap/space within the same line, a cap put to a word inside a line (i.e. not the first word of the line).


Punctuation: it seems that punctuation is less and less used in English haiku. For some this is an issue as the lack of punctuation can provoke a grammatical error or an issue in the syntax. Some use punctuation as the kireji (see cut). In any case, too much punctuation in one haiku usually looks cluttered and clumsy. With regards to the full stop, at the end of the haiku, the jury is still out, even though it seems to be very rarely used.


Season-word: in Japanese haiku, a kigo (which was considered compulsory) helps defining the time in the season when the poet experienced the haiku moment. These season-words relate to plants and flowers, animals and insects, skies and rivers and mountains, festivals… They have been compiled in a kind of encyclopaedia ― the saijiki ― which is used by the haiku poets and readers as a reference. One of the benefits of a season-word is also to “contain” layers of information in some cases (nature, history, religion…), which means that a lot of meaning and implicit sense can be conveyed with one word, which is a practical resource considering the brevity of this form.


Key-word: more recently, the notion of key-word has been promoted and is sometimes considered as a replacement for the traditional season-word. In this case, it is a word that is “charged” with meaning and layers of signification and is vital for the haiku.



A bit of thought on haiku

Please find below some quotes from previous seashores issues, extracted from the section called A bit of food for thought, which offers various quotations around haiku, poetry, nature to feed the debate and stimulate reflection on haiku and the way of haiku. In this case I have mainly copied quotes precisely about haiku.



Haiku is simply what is happening in this place at this moment. Matsuo Bashō


Haiku expresses what we, all, have in front of our eyes, the perfectly ordinary life, the absolute banal event, which does not hide nor exhibit itself but is simply there and is transformed, instantly, in a piece of eternity with a haiku. Haiku is the ultimate stage before silence. Antoine Arsan


Haiku is not a rich thought reduced into a brief form, but a brief event that finds at once its right form. Roland Barthes


The foundation of haiku's identity is based on emotions felt from the contact with nature. Kawai Takashi


What is it in fact that typifies a short text? It is a heightened capacity to open oneself up to a specifically poetic experience. Yves Bonnefoy


A haiku, as long as it is a work of poetical creativity, ought to be an expression of one's inner feeling altogether devoid of the sense of ego. Haiku and Zen, however, are not to be confused. Haiku is haiku and Zen is Zen. Haiku has its own field, it is poetry, but it also partakes of something of Zen, at the point where a haiku gets related to Zen. Daisetz T. Suzuki


It is imagination which is shallow and has nowhere near the variety of the sketch from life. I do not say that a work based on the imaginative method is always bad, but it is a fact that many of the works that rely on it are often bad. Shiki


The season word (kigo) was one solution to solve the major problem caused by a form that is so restricted carried by a language that is very polysyllabic. It was a mean to suggest much more than could be said or described. Alain Walter


Don't think - feel. Be natural. Get your ideas from the everyday world. Eliminate every unessential word, down to the bone. Shiki


Description of the object is not enough: unless a poem contains feelings, which have come from the object, the object and the poet's self will be separate things. Haiku at its best is an art in which the poet takes a natural, most ordinary event, and without fuss, ornament or inflated words makes of it a rare moment - sparely rendered, crystallized into a microcosm which reveals transcendent unity. Lucien Stryk


For haiku is ultimately more than a form or even a kind of poetry: it is a Way - one of living awareness. The raison d'être of traditional haiku poetry is distinctly beyond humanistic anthropocentrism, wit, didacticism, or conventional 'poetics'. The haiku poet seeks rather to share (through suggestion) those special experiential moments in which we see into, and emotively relate with, the world of nature. JW Hackett



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