HSA logo

Frogpond 38.2 • 2015

Museum of Haiku
Literature Award

Haiku & Senryu

Essay 1 - Haiku Diction

Essay 2 - Haiku Ethics


Haiku Sequence


Book Reviews

From the Editors


Haiku Diction: The Use of Words in Haiku

by Charles Trumbull, Santa Fe, NM

Haiku Diction: The Use of Words
(complete PDF version)

Here is a sample excerpt from the opening page of this interview:

Haiku has been described as “the wordless poem.” Because of need for brevity, the haiku poet must use language with extreme economy and accuracy and employ techniques that are very different from those used in crafting Western-style poems. In this essay we will explore the poetics and aesthetics of English-language haiku as they apply to the poet’s choice and deployment of words.

In working with words, there are three basic strategies that a haiku poet can adopt:

1. minimizing the number of words in the first place
2. being sure that every word used is the right one
3. making each word as full of meaning as possible

We’ll look at some of these approaches, concentrating on questions of simplicity and conciseness of language, levels of poetic diction and choice of words, the use of metaphor and simile, the importance of allusion, and related questions of the haiku craft.

Haiku and Conventional Poems

It is important to know what we are trying to do with our hai- ku, which usually is significantly different from conventional poetry. We’re talking about English-language haiku, and our examples will be mostly that. Still, haiku evolved from Japa- nese haiku, and we’ll need to touch on Japanese poetics and aesthetics as well.

The goal of haiku is to communicate. The means of communi- cation has to be words, yet words are an inefficient, mislead- ing, even meretricious vehicle for the conveyance of meaning. It would be wonderful if the haiku poet, like the graphic artist, could communicate images directly, without the medium of words, but of course that is not possible.

[essay continues for several more pages] . . .

. . .

Trumbull, Charles. "Haiku Diction: The Use of Words in Haiku." Frogpond 38.2, Summer, 2015.

This excerpt inclues the first page of the interview: page 96. The complete essay includes pages 96-117. To read the complete essay, click on the link to the PDF version:

Haiku Diction: The Use of Words
(complete PDF version)


Charles Trumbull is retired editor of Modern Haiku and past president of the Haiku Society of America. His book, "A Five-Balloon Morning: New Mexico Haiku," was published in Santa Fe by Red Mountain Press in 2013.