Take a moment and offer what you believe to be a good working definition of haiku — what a beginner might consider to be an introductory "guide" to writing haiku - dictionary worthy - beginner worthy, lets say. Secondly if you care to address it, do you think that beginners and advanced haiku poets operate from different definitions?
Interesting haiku definition examples:
"Though it can be presented on the page in three lines, a haiku structurally consists of two parts with a pause in between. Its power as poetry derives from juxtaposition of the two images and the sense of surprise or revelation that the second image produces." (Lanoue, 2003, para. 4) (The Disjunctive Dragonfly, Richard Gilbert, 2008/2013, pages 21-22)
"A non-ideational, breath-length poem aesthetically juxtaposing sensory images, usually including natural existences tinged with humanity or faint humor, that evokes intuition of things' essentiality. (Spiess, quoted in Gurga, 2000, p. 75) (The Disjunctive Dragonfly, Richard Gilbert, 2008/2013, page 22)
If you feel uncomfortable trying to define haiku, then please ponder out loud with us on how you would explain what haiku is to a beginner who has never heard of it.
Again, the ideas presented in this forum should be presented in more of an exposé fashion than from trying to be right. None of what we share here should arrive from the sticky position of being right; rather, what we enjoy here is a venue to share, in a safe way, what we believe as individuals as well as to listen to what others have to offer.
Thank you and enjoy.

Michael Rehling
I would not try to 'explain' haiku at all. The beat poet Lew Welch said it for me: "Somebody showed it to me, and I found it by myself."

Point people to the HSA site definitions, and then tell them to 'look' at the Henderson and Brady collections of winners. That collection goes back over a decade, and every contest is judged by two different judges, so you have a little of everything.

Very few people who I point to those sources does not give it a whirl for themselves. When they do, put them into a forum where many good poets, with open minds, can 'suggest' options to them. Some will gravitate to one liners, others to traditional forms, and some will just run with the idea in their own direction. Works, believe me.

Hansha Teki: 

To define something is to fix its boundaries or limits but I do know an excellent one when I read it. It is enough of a miracle already that something so entangled with the Japanese language can propagate itself into other languages and societies and still be the minimal powerhouse we continue to explore.

Michael Rehling: 

One more from Lew Welch that may make it clearer:

Step out onto the Planet
Draw a circle a hundred feet round.

Inside the circle are
300 things nobody understands, and maybe
nobody's ever really seen.

How many can you find?

There, it is a lot clearer now... I feel better. Thanks ‪Don‬‬! Thank Hansha!

Richard Gilbert: 

I strongly agree with Michael: ("I would not try to 'explain' haiku at all. The beat poet Lew Welch said it for me: "Somebody showed it to me, and I found it by myself."), and Hansha here. The examples Don qtd. from my book, "The Disjunctive Dragonfly" are set in the *negative context* of describing the *problems* of definition and why they *don't work.* I am anti-definitional, and pro-connotational. In Japan likewise, you can't find a "definition" of haiku. There are norms of course, but creative thinking in poetry, with norms in mind -- well, that is not what I want to teach beginners. YMMV. With the previous in mind, the best definition I've found, and it's qtd. in the same book, in the last Section (7.2 "Making it New"), is one penned by Prof. Haruo Shirane, pub. in Modern Haiku Journal (31.1, 2000). I'll quote it in my next comment, below.

Don Baird:
Thanks Michael! Thanks Hansha!

Richard Gilbert: 

(Qtd. from "The Disjunctive Dragonfly," Red Moon Press, 2013, pp.112-113). Disjunction, a variety of sensed qualities and techniques, only becomes effective via poetic creativity. The goal of introducing the concept of disjunction is not to supplant traditional practice, but add dimension, and allow for a wider range of variation and experiment — in keeping with the spirit of Haruo Shirane’s definition of haiku:

Echoing the spirit of Bashō’s own poetry . . . haiku in English is a short poem, usually written in one to three lines, that seeks out new and revealing perspectives on the human and physical condition, focusing on the immediate physical world around us, particularly that of nature, and on the workings of the human imagination, memory, literature and history. . . . this definition is intended both to encourage an existing trend and to affirm new space that goes beyond existing definitions of haiku (Shirane, 2000, p. 60).

Looking at the haiku presented in the sections above, it can be seen that they diverge in various ways from the prevailing definitions of haiku (as observed in Section 2 [contains the quotes Don inserted in his main post, "Ponderings #3," above]). As Shirane indicates, it seems timely to open the form.

Red Moon Press 
www.redmoonpress.com“You might call this book Twenty-four Ways of Looking at a Haiku in the 21st Century. . . Professor Gilbert investigates how language experimentation in contemporary English-language haiku both connects and radically departs from 20th century conventions. With the heart of a poet and the mind of a c…

Neelam Dadhwal: 

I started with juxtaposition of two images and the presence of kire but in long term I felt, one can only be taught if one is a dedicated disciple, otherwise it just hangs in the air. Haiku loses its definition. I agree with Michael, "one can find by oneself."

Don Baird: 

Hey Richard ... an interesting thought/fact, "In Japan likewise, you can't find a 'definition' of haiku." Of course, as you mention in your book (if I recall correctly) the English language practitioners are quite behind those of Japan today. Shiki had a strong, lasting influence on our educational system regarding haiku - his format becoming the school norm - even today - not Basho etc.

Richard Gilbert: 

Two more links found. Apparently you can read the entire article above, by Shirane, online here: "Beyond the Haiku Moment: Basho, Buson, and Modern Haiku Myths (Modern Haiku, XXXI:1, Winter-Spring 2000)" ‪http://www.haikupoet.com/def.../beyond_the_haiku_moment.html‬‬

Don Baird: 

Great find, Richard! Thanks for the link.

Richard Gilbert: 

And another link to a very similar, if broader question comes from one of a topical series of Peter Yovu's "Field Notes." This particular thread is titled: "Where do your haiku begin?" --which is part of an "Invited Forum" at The Haiku Foundation: ‪http://www.thehaikufoundation.org/forum_sm/index.php...‬‬
Field Notes: Where do your haiku begin?

Ro Berta: 

I was just thinking this is starting to sound a lot like Field Notes

Richard Gilbert: 

Hi Roberta, the more the merrier! Different format, different crowd -- pretty intense.

Neelam Dadhwal: 

Similar enigma is there if you start to teach someone other styles of poetry. Basically, haiku is not so popular yet (my experiences are limited to online and in India too). And with huge silos of knowledge on internet and due to technology available, it is obviously before one can be taught it will be lost in direction. In haiku learning, there should be levels in courses and also based on one’s aptitude and experience.

Michael Nickels-Wisdom:
The last time I did this online, I was excoriated for it... But I dislike universalized definitions. I do like the well-known essays by Charlie Trumbull and A.C. Missias about the complexity of definitions and how there seems to be an aggregate definition that mimics a biological organism in some ways. (Don't ask me to dig up the essays right now; that might take some lengthy effort at the moment.) I do also prefer a polythetic definition to a monothetic one (more biological terms). Though I don't like a universalized attempt, I do have a working definition, which comes in three parts as definitions for art, poetry, and haiku...

“Art happens when anyone in the world takes any kind of material and fashions it into a deliberate statement.” –Thomas Hoving

“A poem is anything said in such a way or put on the page in such a way as to invite from the hearer or reader a certain kind of attention...We signal that we are doing something special, and we listen or read with a readiness to accept something special...And the state of readiness is the essential factor.” –William Stafford

"A haiku is a brief poem using sensate imagery that resonates in a reader's mind." –MNW

I make my working definition, as both a writer and a reader, as purposefully broad as I can possibly manage. I do this in order to preserve the necessary writerly and readerly readiness that Stafford talks about above.

With regard to how to direct a beginner, I think Mike Rehling's advice is good. I would offer a small variety of definitions and sources, mainly a yuki teikei definition, the HSA definition, William Higginson's excellent _The Haiku Handbook_, and something like my own explanation above, with some detail added. Everyone has to start somewhere and grow from there, if it gets serious enough. Yuki teikei, though I almost never practice it in full, at least offers a definition that is recognizable to beginners and is challenging (though I say this as an aside, not as a directive).

Yes, I do think there is likely to be a difference between beginning and experienced writers' definitions, and this will again imply growth if one is deeply enough committed, and time, because haiku is a living, developing literature.

Richard Gilbert:
Michaels, &c., I'm in the lucky and unusual position of teaching first-year Japanese university students a semester seminar, "Introduction to Haiku in English." They don't know a lot more about traditional Japanese haiku then you do, and likely have a far more negative impression, since they were forced to memorize certain poems and details for very difficult testing regimes, in no way related to personal growth or enjoyment. As for modern (gensai/gendai) haiku -- they generally haven't a clue. Senryu on the other hand, not being "professional/academic/technical" is a different story. The last thing these kids need is (moribund) rules. I generally kick off the class by commenting that haiku in English is much like good senryu, because there are no kigo in English (ergo, no Saijiki, no difficult old-kanji-equivalent or English-lang. vocab. to master). This is very relaxing for students. I tell them each language has its own, unique forms of poetic power, and some haiku in English are very good modern haiku in my opinion. Then I point them to a few online collections of good-to-excellent haiku, and ask them to read for a week and pick some favorites and discuss them. A few weeks later they are writing them. I tend to create thought-experiments -- use an "inside-mind" image and an outer image, for example. then I show them a bunch of abstract expressionist and color-field paintings -- and ask them to choose a few favorites (from google search etc.), then write a non-linear haiku (i.e., a haiku which does not "explain or narrate" the painting). I could go on ... It's not so hard to grasp haiku though exposure and play (and playfulness and experiment), but as we know, writing excellent haiku is not so easy. I can't show "Roadrunner Haiku" right off -- but some students are already in a pretty avant-garde frame of mind, so why limit them? I think it's up to teacher-pedagogy and style of course, but really, what's the big deal? The leg up I think Japanese students may have is that they don't seem particularly caught in naturalistic/literalistic thinking (as American students seem, and also stuck with some 5-7-5 syllable idea). Their great difficulty seems universal however: the concept of "kire" cutting is quite difficult to grasp (in Japanese or English). One kind of game is let one student write say the first 2/3 and then pass to another student to "cap" the poem (collaborative composition). Even for second-language students, over a semester they begin to appreciate the intricacies of excellent haiku -- but this is just my opinion.

Hansha Teki: 

Hmmmm "... please ponder out loud with us on how you would explain what haiku is to a beginner who has never heard of it."

Perhaps a roleplay/parable would be in order.

"My child, with your love for words and rapt attentiveness to the world about you, you may find a outlet for your urge to create by writing in the manner of haiku."

"Master, what is this haiku you speak of?"

"Let it reveal itself to you in this way. Close your eyes and listen to your body breathing.

Hear the sounds of what can be heard distinct from your breathing.

Hear your breathing.

Now visualise the nature of one of the sounds outside of your body. In as few words as possible make its reality present in your mind as it is without limiting it by mere description."

"Yes, I have that."

"Now find words to evoke the present nature of that which is breathing."

"It is done."

"Good now bring the first set of words together with the second and watch how the images interact."

"Ohhh, I see!"

"Good! Now shape your words that others may, matching their inhalation and exhalation to yours as they read them, recreate in their own selves what you have found."

Richard Gilbert: 

Hansha, I like what you playfully describe -- which could be a "way in" for all sorts of (genres of) poetry. One of the most eloquent beginnings I've read (in Weinberger's translation) would be those lines (which are also the ending/endless lines) of the circular poem, Piedra de Sol/Sunstone, by Octavio Paz (1957; New Directions, Weinberger, trans., 1987):

a crystal willow, a poplar of water,
a tall fountain the wind arches over,
a tree deep-rooted yet dancing still,
a course of a river that turns, moves on,
doubles back, and comes full circle,
forever arriving:

the calm course
of the stars or an unhurried spring,
water with eyes closed welling over
with oracles all night long,
a single presence in a surge of waves,
wave after wave till it covers all,
a reign of green that knows no decline,
like the flash of wings unfolding in the sky ...

Don Baird:
@ Roberta: Regarding the format: I really enjoy FN interplay and the musing that ensues. However, I have been longing for immediacy; I like FB for that reason — that we are operating in "real time," often without delay. FB is an easy, immediate format for roundtable discussion that just might cause us to go to bed slightly late and/or draw our attention away from work — even if briefly — and, be in the moment.

I'm hoping this group remains somewhat casual without losing its scholarly overtone. The FN material (responses) are often lengthy and well researched (I mean this in a very, very positive way). I like that; it will happen here as well. But this environment also allows for quick and casual exchanges of which I embrace whole-heartedly.

I appreciate your being here and thoughts . . . always.

@Richard: Yes. A resounding yes. The more of this kind of exchange(s) the merrier. The wars are over. Exchange is in play; ideas are not demanding sameness as a result (anymore). I posit honest "ponderings"; our group offers sincere thoughts/responses. And, we learn about haiku — we learn about each other.

Richard Gilbert: 

I wanted to quote the beginning of "Sunstone" because as well as deeply moving, the lines (and let's not limit them to the category of "magical realism," please!) incorporate many of the qualities Shirane urges (in 2000, 14 years ago) that we might open to and incorporate, in English-language haiku approaches. I'm referring to the same article liked above: ""Beyond the Haiku Moment: Basho, Buson, and Modern Haiku Myths," but further along, where Shirane is discussing the "vertical axis" of haikai. I'll quote a small section:

"If Basho and Buson were to look at North American haiku today, they would see the horizontal axis, the focus on the present, on the contemporary world, but they would probably feel that the vertical axis, the movement across time, was largely missing. There is no problem with the English language haiku handbooks that stress personal experience. They should. This is a good way to practice, and it is an effective and simple way of getting many people involved in haiku. I believe, as Basho did, that direct experience and direct observation is absolutely critical; it is the base from which we must work and which allows us to mature into interesting poets. However, as the examples of Basho and Buson suggest, it should not dictate either the direction or value of haiku. It is the beginning, not the end. Those haiku that are fictional or imaginary are just as valid as those that are based on personal experience. I would in fact urge the composition of what might be called historical haiku or science fiction haiku.

Haiku as Non-metaphorical:
Another rule of North American haiku that Basho would probably find discomforting is the idea that haiku eschews metaphor and allegory. North American haiku handbooks and magazines stress that haiku should be concrete, that it should be about the thing itself. The poet does not use one object or idea to describe another, using A to understand B, as in simile or metaphor; instead the poet concentrates on the object itself. Allegory, in which a set of signs or symbols draw a parallel between one world and the next, is equally shunned. All three of these techniques - metaphor, simile, and allegory - are generally considered to be taboo in English-language haiku, and beginners are taught not to use them. However, many of Basho's haiku use metaphor and allegory, and in fact this is probably one of the most important aspects of his poetry."
- - - - -
I think it's useful to graze among the lines of Paz, Neruda, and others (as Higginson did in "The Haiku Handbook") for the wider, vertical concepts Shirane urges -- and which have been integral to haiku/haikai from more ancient times. (Shiki likewise has many fanciful "imaginary" haiku, it must be said--Kaneko argues "shasei" was never meant to be "realism" as such). I think there is no single haiku anthology that "takes the cake" as a beginner's guide, though with "Haiku in English" and "Haiku 21," plus the previous anthys (especially ‪Cor van den Heuvel‬‬'s "Haiku Anthology editions), and some of the intro-to-haiku books already mentioned... There is potency in Shirane's prescient message to our literary community, writing at the dawn of this new century. (Ref. ‪http://www.haikupoet.com/def.../beyond_the_haiku_moment.html‬‬)

Don Baird:
I've always pondered the thought that the greatest freedom comes from the most supportive structure. Martial arts is profoundly based on structure — the newest students are not allowed the same freedoms that the more advanced are because without basics, their more advanced skills won't perform well and put them in danger. As a result, I have a tendency to teach haiku with a little more structure at the beginning — a place to start. To do that, I've felt compelled to use a description (definition).

Tonight, while I see that haiku and martial arts clearly have commonality, they are also very different. The idea of having haiku students learn by reading quality haiku from advanced poets is terrific and workable. "The" definition, as a result, can become more descriptive/broader, more inclusive of differing ideas, and support what they are learning-by-reading instead of telling them — telling . . .

I cannot teach a martial art style in this manner. However, it seems only logical at this point, to do so with haiku. There is a difference between them after all.

Nice thread. Thank you.

Don Baird:
This is an interesting thought, Richard:

"Allegory, in which a set of signs or symbols draw a parallel between one world and the next, is equally shunned. All three of these techniques - metaphor, simile, and allegory - are generally considered to be taboo in English-language haiku, and beginners are taught not to use them." (Richard)

It reminds me to once again remember (over and over) that Basho's most famous haikai (the frog poem) was largely, almost completely fictional (imagination) — from Basho''s "world of mind," as Hasegawa might put it.

In attempting to define haiku (haikai, hokku), it was over simplified for English speaking folks so that it was more accessible as a style/genre of poetry/literature. In the short run, it was helpful; in the long run, there is now much for us to unlearn in order to learn.

Richard Gilbert: 

Shirane again: “Without the use of metaphor, allegory and symbolism, haiku will have a hard time achieving the complexity and depth necessary to become the object of serious study and commentary. The fundamental difference between the use of metaphor in haiku and that in other poetry is that in haiku it tends to be extremely subtle and indirect, to the point of not being readily apparent. The metaphor in good haiku is often buried deep within the poem. For example, the seasonal word in Japanese haiku tends often to be inherently metaphorical . . . The emphasis on the "haiku moment" in North American haiku has meant that most of the poetry does not have another major characteristic of Japanese haikai and haiku: its allusive character, the ability of the poem to speak to other literary or poetic texts. I believe that it was Shelley who said that poetry is ultimately about poetry. Great poets are constantly in dialogue with each other. This was particularly true of haikai . . .”

Alan Summers:
Great thread, and Richard, great posts because it's a major reason why haiku are not respected or 'articulated' well and that is the mistaken taboos of haiku in English from metaphor to including our self, to be aware of literature and art as a whole.

Hansha Teki: 

Richard, you do well to quote Piedra de Sol. It has always been part of me.

OCTAVIO PAZ modern haiku 36.1 
antantantantant.wordpress.comA DAY IN THE CITY OF LAKES : : The white palace white on the black lake lingam a...


Michael Nickels-Wisdom: 

Here are three resources to which I want to refer fellow haiku poets. They have broadened my understanding of both haiku and other poetries. They have deflated for me many of the "don'ts" of the haiku world, which now seem embarrassing. They are...

_A Glossary of Literary Terms_, M. H. Abrams, Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1999, ISBN 9780155054523.

_A Poet's Guide to Poetry_, Mary Kinzie, University of Chicago Press, 1999, ISBN 9780226437392.

_A Poet's Glossary_, Edward Hirsch, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, ISBN 9780151011957.

Along with Shirane, you, Richard, and others, these books have confirmed for me that trope *are* used in haiku; that the idea of "moment* has a long history in English literature; that despite claims of objectivity vs. subjectivity, English-language haiku have been fed by quite a lot of subjectivity in the forms of Romanticism and Transcendentalism; and many other such realizations.

Michael Nickels-Wisdom: 

One caveat: Hirsch's entry on haiku is poor.

Peter Yovu: 

There is a degree of overlap between Haiku Ponderings and Field Notes, which is a feature on the Forum of The Haiku Foundation. Perhaps an overview of Field Notes (hereafter FN) will be helpful, especially to those who may not know of its existence.

FN is an online symposium wherein a group of invited panelists is given a subject to write about, and the time to do so. Contributions range from a few sentences to several pages in length. There is no emphasis of approach. The emphasis is on exploration, and on the belief that writing about something may be as revealing to the writer as it is to the reader.

This was set up because some of us involved with earlier forums were often baffled by the lack of participants. It seemed the equivalent of a sparsely attended haiku conference, or a feast which hungry people shunned. After all, don’t haiku poets want to discuss haiku? The solution seemed to be to actively solicit participation, to give some people who didn’t wish to maintain the kind of day-to-day commitment that online discussions sometimes require, the chance to offer their views in much the same way as presenters at a symposium.

And, as usually happens at symposia, the "audience" is then invited to ask questions or to present their own views. And that is where the overlap with Haiku Ponderings dwells. Those who wish to discuss the subject under consideration, panelists and non-panelists, may do so. Discussions at times have been lively.

Michael Nickels-Wisdom: 

I think one reason why people are reluctant to participate is fatigue over the endless disagreement over virtually any haiku subject. I know that has been my own case more often than not.

Don Baird: 

Thanks for popping by Peter. The FN series at the THF is terrific. I'm enjoying it very much. But, I do miss the immediacy of communication that forums like this can offer. It seems, the mix of the two offer the most opportunity for continued haiku chatter.

I hope you don't mind that I stepped forward with this other side. And, possibly, this, as many forums have, will fall by the wayside of disinterest.

Thanks again for all you do for the THF. It is greatly appreciate by us all.

Don Baird:
@Michael N-W: In regards to this forum, there is zero tolerance for "arguments." It's a simple place of explaining your point and if folks want to learn from it, fine . . . and if they don't want to, then fine as well. Sharing is the operative word here.

Enjoy, and thank you for participating.

Michael Nickels-Wisdom: 

Thank you for adding me to this forum, Don. Its freedom and non-confrontational style are why I have been speaking up here.

Don Baird: 

I'm very glad you are enjoying it, Michael Nickels-Wisdom. I know that our members have terrific tolerance for others' ideas/ideals and I'm enjoying the excellent interaction as well. I've tried confrontation ... it's a burden ... and I set it down. Haiku will be what-ever-it-will-be and I'm in for the long run.

There is so much to learn; and often, it feels like there is so little time - especially when that time is spent in a negative space/place. It's not healthy ... and it doesn't make much room for friends, either.

Blessings ....

Alan Summers: 

I have to agree that we are able to reply much quicker here, but also that those who might be reticent to respond elsewhere know they can here, and be acknowledged. I love hearing new and old voices, as I learn from them all. 

Diana Ming Jeong: 

As a web developer, I have been taught that the perfect alt tag for a photo is a haiku. Alt tags are important for screen readers because it is here that the image is presented to a visually impaired user. A haiku therefore conveys a feeling and/or moment of life as it is unfolding, while using words that are simple and direct.