Haiku Workshops

The following are selected workshops that I can provide relating to haiku poetry. Most of these presentations include a PowerPoint presentation and handouts. See photos of one of my “Haiku in the Woods” workshops and nature walks. See also A Sample Haiku Lesson Plan.


“The Joy of Haiku” — An overview of haiku poetry, with English-language examples, a short history of Japanese haiku and its major practitioners, and the various techniques used to write literary haiku. Includes writing exercises and a sharing/feedback session. Can be tailored to be informational or generative, with discussion.


“Come to Your Senses: An Introduction to Haiku” — Same as the above, but with the additional focus of writing haiku based on the five senses, with engaging worksheets on exploring one’s senses in haiku (mostly for schoolchildren). Optional writing exercises and sharing/feedback.


“The Nature of Haiku” — An exploration of haiku poetry in English with an emphasis on the seasonal and nature-focused aspects of this poetry, covering such techniques as kigo (season words), kireji (cutting words or a two-part juxtapositional structure), and shasei (primarily objective sensory imagery). Includes writing exercises and a sharing/feedback session.


“Haiku Targets” — What do you shoot for when you write haiku? This class explores the targets to aim for, and why 5-7-5 is not necessarily one of them—learn why 5-7-5 is a sort of urban myth for writing haiku in English, and why other techniques (not “rules”) such as season words and a two-part structure are better targets to aim for in writing these brief poems of personal experience. Includes writing exercises and sharing/feedback.


“How Do You Write Haiku?” — A tour of various ways to write haiku, including from direct personal experience, vicarious experience, memory, writing prompts, and other methods, including a discussion of the pros and cons of each approach. Includes writing exercises and sharing/feedback.


“Editing Haiku” — A practical symposium that explores options and approaches to consider when revising your own haiku or haiku by others. Includes a discussion of topics such as a poetry rating scale, pros and cons of discussion groups and other feedback, craft vs. art, revision tips, haiku checklists, the right tone of mind for giving and receiving criticism, editing individual poems vs. sets of poems for books, and more. Includes group discussion topics, recommended websites, and handouts. This presentation can also be adapted to cover the editing of other sorts of poetry, not just haiku.


“Haiku Myths and Realities” — Really, that’s a haiku? Find out why what you were taught in school is sometimes far removed from the literary practice of haiku in both North America and in Japan. If not a pun or joke, then what? If not 5-7-5, then what? And why? This workshop may stir some controversy, but will get you thinking about fresh and more effective ways to write haiku poetry. Includes writing exercises and sharing/feedback.


“Is That a Real Haiku or Did You Write It Yourself?” — Same content as above, but targeted towards teens or young adults. Optional writing exercises and sharing/feedback.


“Haiku: It’s Bigger Than You Think” — An alternate title to the “Haiku Myths and Realities” presentation above.


“Haiku on Steroids” — An advanced workshop that explores rule-breaking, taboo topics, and other creative and energizing approaches to writing and appreciating haiku. What did Bashō mean by “Learn the rules and then forget them”? What do you have to learn, and how do you forget?

“Making the Cut: The Art of Juxtaposition in Haiku and Beyond” — Watch any two juxtaposed scenes in a movie and you immediately “get” what’s implied, like the leap that happens when you see an oncoming train and then cut to a hospital bed. Movies got this technique from haiku poetry a hundred years ago. We’ll explore juxtaposition in haiku and the unexpected effects you can generate from grammatical and imagistic leaps in poetry and prose. We’ll write together, then break into groups to try out fresh juxtapositions to see if they make the cut.

“A Moment’s Notice: How Long Is a Haiku Moment?” — A key aspect of haiku is the so-called “haiku moment.” But what is it, and how long is it? And does the haiku moment occur at the moment of inspiration, or does it occur in the poem itself? Or in the reader as he or she feels the same experience on reading the poem? This workshop, with optional writing exercises and sharing/feedback, explores these questions for the nonbeginner haiku poet.


“Introducing the American Haiku Archives” — As cofounder of the largest public collection of haiku poetry books and materials outside Japan, I’m pleased to offer this overview of the American Haiku Archives as a resource for poetry teachers and researchers. PowerPoint presentation includes numerous photographs showing the facilities and demonstrating how materials are archived and viewable at the California State Library in Sacramento.


“Fuyoh Observations: The Nature and Scale of Haiku in Japan” — Did you know that some haiku journals published in Japan contain 10,000 haiku—every month? This presentation surveys the differences between how haiku is practiced by Japanese and American haiku poets and groups, and the lessons Westerners can learn from Japan. A presentation for the more advanced student of haiku poetry.


“Senryu: All It’s Cracked Up to Be” — Senryu is haiku’s kissin’ cousin, a similar genre of poetry that pokes you in the ribs with its human instead of seasonal observation. This presentation focuses on this often humourous or satirical alternative to haiku. Also includes a discussion of American Sentences, a form created by Allen Ginsberg partly based on haiku that you can use to record everyday personal moments, but with freer expectations.


“An Introduction to Rengay” — In 1992 I cowrote (with inventor Garry Gay) the very first rengay poem. This brief form of collaborative writing combines chief aspects of the renga/renku and haiku traditions into a six-verse thematic composition. This generative workshop presents examples and variations, and then divides the class into pairs or groups to write rengay together, which can be shared and discussed at the end.


“Renkurama” — An energetic, directed writing session where each participant contributes collaborative verses in the renku tradition—but with whatever rules he or she wants, and with everyone madly writing and sharing at once. Also includes examples and an overview of the history of renku poetry (also known as renga).


“An Introduction to Déjà-ku” — Haiku are so short and the experiences they focus on are deliberately so common and everyday that it’s easy to write haiku that are similar to other haiku. But sometimes you do it on purpose. This presentation explores the major types of déjà-ku (a term I coined), including plagiarism, cryptomnesia (remembering someone else’s work rather than writing it yourself), excess similarity, allusion, parody, homage, and simply sharing the same topic (as with season words). It can be disconcerting to discover a poem similar to one of your own—this presentation digs into the emotional reactions we are likely to have as a result.


“What Is Haibun?” — An introduction to the combination of chiefly autobiographical prose with haiku poetry, with examples to read and discuss, plus writing exercises and an optional sharing/feedback session.


“Haiku Books for Children” — A survey of recommended books for children, designed for the benefit of librarians, teachers, and parents. Includes the display and discussion of many dozens of books of or about haiku for children of various ages, including board books, picture books, chapter books, and informational/resource books. Can also include the most recommended books about haiku for adults.

“NaHaiWriMo” — Brief PowerPoint presentation about National Haiku Writing Month in the popular Pecha Kucha tradition (20 slides for 20 seconds each, under three minutes in total, introducing a topic). I started NaHaiWriMo in 2010, and it has a very active Facebook page that promotes daily haiku writing and sharing.

“Five Years at Seabeck” — PowerPoint presentation celebrating five years of annual Haiku Northwest retreats at Seabeck, Washington, with photographs, summaries, statistics, and anecdotes of the much-loved Seabeck Haiku Getaway that I direct.

“Becoming the Leaf: A Haiku by E. E. Cummings” — PowerPoint presentation focusing on the poem l(a by E. E. Cummings, the influence of haiku on its creation, and its haiku characteristics.

The Weather-Beaten Jizō: Shikoku Pilgrimage Haiku by Shūji Niwano — PowerPoint presentation featuring jisei or death haiku written on Japans famed Shikoku pilgrimage.       +

“Taking It to the Streets: Urban Haiku Workshop” — Haiku is often thought of as a poetry of the seasons and nature. But what if you live in an urban area? This workshop takes haiku to the streets to explore urban topics, and how you can still find nature even in a ghetto.