Haiku originated as one of the forms of Japanese poetry. Traditionally, its length is 17 syllables, arranged in lines of 5-7-5 syllables, and having a thematic reference to nature. However, haikus written in English tend to be more variable in length (to account for the different length of English syllables) and in theme.

It might be useful to think of it as a snapshot of a moment. Like a photograph it captures that precise point in time and space.

 Often the first two lines paint a picture and the last line is used to change the perspective or to shift the tone of the poem, or the understanding of what that moment might be about.

For our purposes, we’ll consider a haiku to be any poem of 2 or 3 short lines and which share the haiku style.

The best way to understand the nature of haiku is to read some. Here’s a few from around the world:


morning surf
a dog fills the sky
with seagulls

Jim Boyd

in my medicine cabinet
the winter fly

has died of old age

Jack Kerouac

on a barren branch
a raven has perched
autumn dusk


a croft
two brothers
potatoes on a plate

Iain Crichton Smith

a puppet dances
to its own merry tune
no strings attached

Paul Callus

as if mending
socks, I repair my mind
and live on                                                          

Yoshino Yoshiko                                         

waves wash in, out, in
menhirs incline to each other
farmers grumbling

Kathleen Jamie

warming my feet
in the patch of sunlight
on the floor

Alan Spence

abandoned house
the aging mousr
has become a bat


Here are some suggested online haiku and haiku-writing guides. But here are 6 basic rules for writing a Haiku (taken from Jane Reichhold’s guide):

  1. Write in three lines that are short, long short without counting syllables
  2. Make sure the haiku has a fragment and a phrase
  3. Have some element of nature
  4. Use verbs in the present tense
  5. Avoid capital letters or punctuation
  6. Avoid rhymes

And we will be breaking the rules immediately by welcoming poems on human nature and activities.


What’s a Haiga?

Haiga is the Japanese name for a painting (often by the poet) that sometimes accompanies a haiku.Our resource page lists some examples.

We are looking for an image which illustrate or comment on the poems. Or which might inspire someone else to write a poem.  A good image might have some narrative content or some specific emotive quality. It might display some contrasting elements. Or it might have an unsettling, mysterious aspect.

Your image can include the text of your haiku or you can supply the text separately. Experiment!

The images can be photographs, original graphics or images of your own artworks (eg photographs/scans of drawing, paintings, sculpture).

We are also intested in historical photographs of island life.

Here are a few haiga examples fron aound the world: 



What’s a Gaiku?

Gaiku are Haiku which are written in Gaelic. See our resources page for more information

We are hoping that the short-form of the poems will be a good fit for the old local traditions of Gaelic township verse and semi-improvised waulking songs. Similarly, traditional Gaelic proverbs and other Uist-specific Gaelic idioms have their own specific set of metaphors and cultural references. We hope it will prove interesting to contrast these with poems on similar daily life topics within the same environment but from Uist residents with an English-speaking background.

Here’s a few examples:


thus’ ann a Leòdhas
mise seòladh na mara
‘n aon ghealach ar n-acair

Angus Macmillan

na tri nithean as suaraich’ à th’ann
uaisle gun chuid, marag gun gheir
agus `pòg o bhur lom

ear a’ buain ‘s na chois cù a’ rùrach air a’ chùl
chinn anns an fhionnairidh
‘s ag èirigh far na mòna de smùrach
Rody Gorman

saighead chabadaich
air thilg bho bhogha gheamhraidh
speur geoidh mu dheas

Alistair Young