Learn to Write Haiku:
Mastering the Ancient Art
of Serious Play
Join Clark Strand in an engaging, self-paced exploration of this accessible and profound style of poetry.
I have forgotten
most of what I learned about
emptying my mind
— Clark Strand
Write brilliant haiku
Fun, poignant, witty, fresh. Haiku is the perfect art form to share with friends and loved ones and online. This course will show you the basics and give you a new appreciation for this accessible but profound style of poetry.
Clark Strand has 45 years of experience writing haiku and is the author of Seeds From a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey. He is an experienced teacher of haiku and the ideal guide for those looking to master their skills, express their love for nature, or simply have some fun.
Study online, start today
This easy-to-use online course is available to all. It comprises six units that form a program of instruction, writing prompts, and community events. Each unit contains around 45-60 minutes of material to study, as well as writing exercises. A new unit will be released each Monday. You are free to study at your own pace, and will retain ongoing access to the material.
The course will also include Zoom Q&A sessions with Clark Strand on September 27, October 11, October 25 from 1–2 pm Eastern Time. Recordings will be available to all students.
What is a haiku?
A haiku is a three-line poem. The first line and the last line have five syllables. The middle line has seven. Each haiku has a "season word" that hints at what's happening in the natural world. There is also a turning point on which the poem hinges. Haiku may only have 17 syllables but they always have more than 17 syllables of meaning.
The first haiku poems were written in Japan over 300 years ago. Today, haiku poetry is written wherever there are people and in any language they speak.
What you will learn
• The 5-7-5 syllable form.
• The use of season words.
• Creating an original “turn of thought.”
You will also get a firm grounding in the history of haiku and will experience the various ways that haiku poets encourage one another and collaborate in producing a common body of literature. Most of all, you will learn to use haiku as a way of going “eyeball-to-eyeball” with the four seasons, learning to experience everything in nature as sentient and alive.
• Four weekly haiku challenges and a course anthology.
• Ginkos, or “poetry walks,” where you will venture outdoors in your area and write seasonal haiku about what you see.
• One community-wide kukai meeting where you will submit haiku and members will choose their favorites, explaining what they like about them.
• Experiments in the emerging genre of popular haiku.
Just as a clam parts
from its shell I, too, will part…
autumn will depart
A literary life
Why is haiku so popular? So many people read, write, and share haiku because it is a form of poetry that speaks the language of the here and now, yet somehow goes beyond itself.
Dedicate yourself to a spiritual art
The road to haiku mastery develops many spiritual qualities such as receptivity and mindfulness, sensitivity and tenderness, as well as literary skill.
Be part of the haiku community
Haiku is for everyone. This course will feature prompts and challenges and many opportunities to share your work with others, and appreciate their writing too. Clark has created a thriving community of haiku poets, why not join in?
Be part of a long tradition
Poets have been writing haiku for hundreds of years. We'll explore the work of the masters—both historical and contemporary—and add our own voices.
Simple rules, great depth
The principles of haiku are easy to pick up but there is so much depth and subtlety here. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned poet, this course has a lot to offer.
Find inspiration where you are
One of the pleasures of writing haiku is the ginko, a poetry walk. It's a great way to be receptive to your surroundings and to find meaning and creativity wherever you go.
A supportive community
The way of haiku is kind and encouraging. We learn by positive reinforcement as we and others show appreciation for good haiku. This course is a safe environment in which you can share your writing without unsolicited feedback or critique. We are happy for each others' successes: if someone writes a good haiku then everyone wins!
There will be a digital anthology produced, featuring selected poems from students of this course. So sharpen your haiku skills and enter the weekly challenges!
The rock in the stream—
a rock that flips the water
onto its white side
— Clark Strand
Clark Strand is a former senior editor at Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. His books include Seeds From a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey and The Way of the Rose: The Radical Path of the Divine Feminine Hidden in the Rosary, which was co-authored with his wife, Perdita Finn. He teaches the popular group “Weekly Haiku Challenges with Clark Strand” on Facebook and leads Tricycle's monthly haiku challenge, as well as the Tricycle Haiku Challenge Facebook group.
Moon of midwinter—
the pines have shot their needles
deep into the rocks
Unit 1 | Why 5-7-5?
A look at the 1,300-year history of the haiku form, exploring its origins in poetic community and playful collaboration. This introduction covers all the basics of haiku in historical context, while giving you the tools you need to write and share haiku of your own. Activities include beginning a haiku diary.
Unit 2 | Practicing the Season
Haiku is the only form of poetry in world literature that takes the four seasons—with their distinctive plants, animals, weather, and human activities—as its primary subject matter. This lesson (which features spring poetry) explores the roots of haiku in animism, the universal religion of homo sapiens during the upper Paleolithic and a tradition we can still practice today by writing haiku in community. Activities include a weekly haiku challenge.
Unit 3 | Crafting a Turn of Thought
Poetry lives in the expressive possibilities of the language we use every day—in slang or common idioms, in news headlines, in snatches of popular song. Sometimes the words of a haiku will slip right out in conversation. This lesson (featuring summer haiku) focuses on the unique little “twist” that gives the 17 syllables of a haiku more than 17 syllables of meaning. Activities include a weekly haiku challenge and experiments in the genre of popular haiku.
Unit 4 | The Sketch from Life
Modern haiku begins with Masaoka Shiki, whose “sketch from life” approach grounded haiku in the stuff of everyday life. The objective description of a moment using images (usually connected to the season) is a basic skill that every haiku poet needs to master. In this lesson, which features autumn haiku, poets—that's you!—will learn to observe nature carefully, attuning themselves to the kinds of details that produce a good haiku. Activities include a weekly haiku challenge and a ginko, or “poetry walk.”
Unit 5 | The House of Haiku
To devote oneself to a fixed poetic form means living inside of that form, in much the same way we live inside of a house. But haiku isn’t just any house. It is filled with the ghosts of thousands of poets who have lived within its walls. And not just poets. The ghosts of crickets and storm clouds live there. And the ghosts of famous haiku, too. This lesson (which focuses on winter poetry) explores the way modern poets have occupied the House of Haiku, honoring its traditions while still striving to express themselves in new and original ways. Activities include a weekly haiku challenge and a self-guided ginko where poets venture outdoors in search of season words unique to their environments.
Unit 6 | The Haiku Party
Once you live in the House of Haiku, it's natural to invite others into your home. Haiku originated over 1,300 years ago as a poetic party game in which participants took turns capping one another’s poems by adding a new verse to them. Although haiku eventually developed into a serious art form, it never lost its social dimension. That is one reason why haiku is now the most popular form of poetry in the world. This lesson explores the many ways of writing haiku together—some traditional, some new. Our six-part course culminates in a traditional Kukai gathering in which members share their haiku anonymously and then vote on their favorites, stating briefly what they liked about them.
The course concludes with a full set of resources for the ongoing study of haiku, including Weekly Challenge Groups, monthly Kukai Meetings, contests, and publication opportunities.
For beginners and experts
Like haiku poetry, this course is for everyone. This art form is easy to pick up and start having fun with. Your next haiku could be inspired, even a masterpiece. And it might only take a moment to write! It does help to know what you're doing, though, and be part of a community. Clark can set you on the road.
Even if you have a long history with haiku, let Clark offer his years of study, composition, and teaching to further attune your writing sensibility. And please share your own insights with this community to help others along this wonderful path.
Praise for Clark Strand's haiku courses
Whether you’re a beginner, or if you’ve been writing haiku for years, if you have a chance to study with poet/author, Clark Strand, grab it. A gifted poet and teacher, Clark has a knack for diving deep into his students’ poems, gently guiding each of them to grow. His deep understanding and knowledge of the form makes him one of the finest (if not the finest) teachers of haiku in the English language.—Suzanne Tyrpak, Author & Haiku Poet
To study haiku with Clark Strand is to enter a world of poetic play that is grounded in nature and the seasons. In his Weekly Challenge group and Master Class, I learned to turn my eye inward and outward as we studied haiku masters, ancient and modern, wrote dozens of haiku, shared them with the group, and received feedback from Clark. Working with a group of interesting people from various walks of life became a highlight of my week.—Susan Polizzotto
I cannot recommend Clark’s workshops, classes, and haiku challenges highly enough. I have gained a new world of poetry along with a network of poets to share that world.—Rev. Jaeni Aarden Minister, International Metaphysical Ministries Poet and Artist
Clark is an exceptional and rare teacher whose love of haiku is infectious. He has a vast knowledge of haiku and expertly guides us in expressing ourselves and nature in the spirit of play. Also, the support and encouragement from this community has made writing fun again and, as I've found, invaluable to writing consistently.—Kelly Shaw
I’ve spent the past few years gleaning all that I can from Clark through the Weekly Haiku Challenge group and now his Master Class. A true master with years of experience, his haiku skills are honed yet still evolving, and he has me completely hooked.—Dana Clark-Millar
Strand’s clear instructions on writing haiku is also a pathway for the practice of kindness and simplicity.—John Fox, Finding What You Didn’t Lose
Clark Strand weaves poetry, weather, and Zen into a delightfully luminous pathway anyone can walk.—Rick Fields, How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America
I love the community aspect of the writing experience. It has been twenty years since I did any creative writing, and I have never tried my hand at poetry. It has already been a life-changing experience, and I look forward to continuing to learn with you and the group.—Noga Shemer
The fly in amber
from the age of dinosaurs
must be really bored
— Clark Strand