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(hī`ko͞o), an unrhymed Japanese poem recording the essence of a moment keenly perceived, in which nature is linked to human nature. It usually consists of 17 jion (Japanese symbol-sounds). The term is also used for foreign adaptations of the haiku, notably the poems of the imagistsimagists,
group of English and American poets writing from 1909 to about 1917, who were united by their revolt against the exuberant imagery and diffuse sentimentality of 19th-century poetry.
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. These poems are usually written in three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. See senryusenryu
, a Japanese poem structurally similar to the haiku but primarily concerned with human nature. It is usually humorous or satiric. Used loosely, the term means a poem similar to the haiku that does not meet the criteria for haiku.
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See the anthology ed. by H. G. Henderson, Introduction to Haiku (1958).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a genre of Japanese poetry; a three-line poem of 17 syllables in lines of five, seven, and five syllables, respectively. Haiku derives from hokku, which in turn was a development of the first half-stanza of the tanka (hokku means “beginning verses”). Haiku is distinguished from the tanka by its simple poetic language, rejection of earlier canonical rules, and the increased importance of association, elliptical style, and allusion.

Haiku passed through several stages of development. The poets Arakida Moritake (1465–1549) and Yamazaki Sokan (1465–1553) saw haiku as a purely comic genre. Haiku was transformed into the leading lyric genre by Matsuo Basho (1644–94); lyric description of landscape became the chief content of haiku. The thematic range of haiku was broadened by Yosa (or Taniguchi) Buson (1716–83). In the 18th century the comic haiku developed to the point that it became a separate humorous and satiric genre called senryu. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Kobayashi Issa (1763–1828) introduced patriotic themes into haiku. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Masaoka Shiki borrowed from painting to introduce into haiku the technique of “sketching from nature” (shasei), which facilitated the development of realism in haiku.


An Anthology of Haiku Ancient and Modern. Edited by Miyamory Asataro. Tokyo, 1953.

Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei, vols. 45, 58. Tokyo, 1959.

In Russian translation:

Iaponskie trekhstishiia: Khokku. Moscow, 1973.


Grigor’eva, T., and V. Logunova. laponskaia literatura. Moscow, 1964.
Haiku koza. Tokyo, 1932.
Blyth, R. H. Haiku, vols. 1–6. Tokyo, 1952.
Haikai and haiku. Tokyo, 1958.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


, hokku
an epigrammatic Japanese verse form in 17 syllables
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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