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Frogpond 38.3 • 2015

Museum of Haiku
Literature Award

Haiku & Senryu

Essay 1 - Two-Line Haiku

Essay 2 - Interview


Haiku Sequence


Book Reviews

From the Editors


Writing Haiku: The Two-Line Form

by David Grayson, Alameda, CA

Writing Haiku: The Two-Line Form
(complete PDF version)

Here is a sample excerpt from the opening page of this essay:

The majority of English-language haiku published today is, of course, written in a three-line format. One-liners have comprised a smaller (but increasing) share in recent years. But two-line haiku remain rare. For instance, in a recent issue of Frogpond, there were four two-line haiku and senryu out of a total of 197 poems. Similarly, a recent issue of Modern Haiku featured two out of 268. In Take-Out Window, the 2014 Haiku Society of America members’ anthology, only four appeared in a collection of 291 poems.[1] These numbers prompt the question of why two-line haiku remain, in fact, “unicorns.”[2]

Since the introduction of haiku into English the three-line form has predominated.[3] Much early scholarship defined haiku as a three-line poem. Kenneth Yasuda wrote that haiku is a “one-breath poem in three lines.”[4] James Hackett recommended that haiku poets “write in three lines . . .”[5] The early translations by Blyth, Henderson, and Yasuda were composed in this form. The Beat poets mainly wrote three-line haiku, which includes Jack Kerouac’s popular work.

The weight of tradition is not the sole cause, however, for the persistence of three lines. Over the past century, English- language haiku poets have migrated from other established conventions, such as a strict seventeen-syllable count, for example. So what does account for the dearth of two-line haiku? While it seems unlikely that this format, which sits between the two preferred options, would be especially demanding, the two-liner does feature unique constraints. Simply put, the key qualities of English-language haiku are more difficult to achieve in a two-line structure.

[essay continues for several more pages] . . .

. . .

Grayson, David. "Writing Haiku: The Two-Line Form." Frogpond 38.3, Autumn, 2015, 74-81.

This excerpt inclues the first page of the essay: page 74. The complete essay includes pages 74-81. To read the complete essay, click on the link to the PDF version:

Writing Haiku: The Two-Line Form
(complete PDF version)


David Grayson’s haiku and essays have been published widely in haiku journals. He was featured in A New Resonance 6: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku. In 2014, he served as editor of The Half-Finished Bridge, the 25th installment of the Two Autumns reading series.