Best of November Haiku Challenge

Just as a bird needs two wings to fly, a poet must learn the art of reading haiku as well as writing them. No form of literature is more fully dependent on our emotional and imaginative response to what we read. We are inspired by the study of the work of other poets. . . and reminds us of what is possible in haiku. Our “haiku minds” must be greater than our individual minds. No one can master haiku alone.

Each of the winning haikus honorably mentioning last month’s challenge offers an invitation to step deep into the experience of another poet.

  • Lynda Zwinger explores the connection between gravity and beauty, finding poetry in seashells and shooting stars.
  • Alex Lubman waits on a hospice lawn for a sign from heaven that the moment of death has arrived.
  • Susan tamara darrow captures the precariousness of life with a metaphor that exposes its illusory “safety net”.

Congratulations to all! To read more merit poems from last month’s challenge, visit our Haiku Challenge Tricycle Group on Facebook.

You can submit a haiku for the December challenge here.



tides and gravity
debris becomes poetry—
seashells, shooting stars

– Lynda Zwinger

We can say anything in a haiku, but we can’t say all. With only 17 syllables to work with, we can do little more than suggest the possible meanings of a poem. “The poet creates half of the haiku”, explains the Japanese critic Hasegawa Kai, “While the remaining half must wait for the appearance of a higher reader. Becoming such a reader should be the goal of every haiku writer. There are no great haiku poets who are not also great haiku readers.

This month’s winning poem is immediately appealing, although it can be difficult at first to build the scene in our imaginations. Did the poet go out to the beach on a starry night to witness a meteor shower? Or is she just thinking of the ocean on a night of shooting stars, letting her imagination find an unexpected connection? The scope of the poem is impressive anyway.

Tides and gravity. The opening line conjures up an image the size of the planet. We could look at the earth from space. The second is almost an enigma: how do the debris become poetry? The third line offers the solution. Seashells and shooting stars are fortuitous forms of “found poetry” – beauty that occurs on its own.

Or, not quite. Their beauty results from the action of planetary forces so vast and omnipresent that they are difficult to understand. To reduce these forces to scale is the point of the poem.

Notice how the poet conceived of his haiku as an analogy: the tides are to seashells what gravity is to shooting stars. And yet she gives that turn of thought such a melancholy twist.

Debris becomes poetry when the world is left on its own. But this is hardly true of the human world. Who will make the beauty of everything our mess? This sad little question awaits us at the end of this masterful poem.


on the hospice lawn—
we are waiting for a shooting star
decompress paradise

– Alex Lubman

Again and again,
I slip through the safety net—
Like a shooting star

– Susan Tamara Darrow


Below you can find the word of the November season and some haiku tips:

Word of the fall season: “shooting star”

Catch a shooting star
and put it in your pocket—
it will burn a hole

Although it uses a seasonal word, this poem belongs to the genre of popular (rather than formal) haiku. The popular haiku opts for the witty and pithy statement that overturns our expectations. Like the punchline of a joke, their delivery is generally somewhat flat. Even impassive. Popular haikus often have a satirical or anti-poetic tone.

Submit as many haiku as you like including the fall season word “shooting star”. Your poems should be written in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively, and should focus on a single moment that is happening now.

Be simple in your description and try to limit your subject. Haikus are almost always best when they don’t have too many ideas or images. So focus on the word of the season and try to stay close to it.

REMEMBER: To qualify for the challenge, your haiku must be written in 5-7-5 syllables and include the words “shooting star”.


As an art form, haiku is not as monolithic as most Western readers assume. Even Japanese road slogans are often written in 5-7-5. The same goes for jokes, advertising jingles and public service announcements. And this is nothing new. Arrangements of 5-7-5 syllables are ubiquitous in Japanese culture and always have been.

In the premodern era, this gave birth to the first popular poetic pastime in world literature. One person would contribute a poem written in 5-7-5 syllables, the other a 7-7 syllable verse to complete, or “cap”, that poem. Or sometimes the order would be reversed.

The practice of “capping worms” dates back 1,300 years to the Kojiki (“Record of Ancient Matters”), the first book ever published in Japan. But the poets included in this anthology, which emphasized the culture of the nobility, were hardly representative of Japan as a whole. This changed with the advent of printing and mass reproduction. By the 17e century, Japan could boast of the highest level of literacy in the world.

With so many people suddenly able to read and write, worm capping games have become incredibly popular. A local referee (usually a poet of some notoriety) would issue a challenge written in 7-7 syllable lines, and participants from all backgrounds would submit 5-7-5 caps to be judged.

These 17 syllable caps covered such a wide range in terms of quality and content that it’s hard to know how to classify them today. The verses can be sublime, deep, witty, funny, satirical, dirty or even outrageous. Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) cut his teeth in 17 syllable poetry as a worm crowning arbiter during his years in Tokyo, and it is probably this experience that explains the down-to-earth quality of his haiku.

It is understandable why Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) wanted to reject the older and freer style of 17 syllable verses in his effort to establish haiku as a serious modern art form. But in doing so, Shiki and his followers narrowed the scope of versification to 17 syllables, imposing rules the logic of which poets of previous centuries would never have understood the logic, let alone observed.

There are now over 10 million active Haiku poets in Japan, plus millions more writing in other languages ​​across the world. Although there are still some who, along with Shiki, believe that the goal of haiku is “the objective description of nature,” many write haiku as a form of folk literature, incorporating elements of ordinary speech, slang and topical culture to give them accessibility to poems and mass appeal.

We follow this ancient tradition of crowning worms in our Haiku Tricycle challenges, using seasonal words instead of 7-7 syllable phrases as prompts. The use of seasonal themes provides us with a vital connection to the haiku tradition, while allowing for a wide range of self-expression.

For the rest, we favor the older and premodern approach which sees the 5-7-5 form as a playful invitation to an expansive poetic game. Basically, a haiku is anything you can do in 17 syllables. This is the only “rule” that applies to the entire history of haiku.

A note on “shooting stars”: Although one can witness a shooting star at any time of the year, they are more frequent during an annual meteor shower like the Leonids, which peaks this year at the first ones. hours of November 17. Falling stars are associated with fall in haiku poetry due to the dense cluster of meteor showers during this season.