Haiku Word Choices


This post is going to start by stating the obvious: word choice is important for all writing. But it could be argued that the shorter the piece, the more precise language needs to be. Or, at least, poor word choices are more exposed when there are fewer words around them.

One of the reasons I first got into writing micro fiction—in particular 50- and 100-word pieces—was that it functions as an exercise in precise word selection and brevity. I find it similar with haiku, where there’s both pleasure and frustration in the search for the right word.

In haiku’s case, I feel I’m also more prone to doubt. There are times, for example, when a word feels to be the best fit, yet comes with limitations that make me question its usage.

Take bin day here in Tokyo (or across Japan), when bins/rubbish/trash/gomi (this choice of word is the issue) is put out in the street, tucked under netting, to be picked up by the council; often after crows have picked at it.


An attempt to capture that could be:

bin day

a crow escapes

with raisin bread


I like the brevity of “bin day”, but is it too limiting in terms of audience understanding, even though it’s the phrase I’d use naturally? It could be:


bin collection day

a crow escapes

with raisin bread

But here, the addition of “collection” alters the tempo too much. It makes the opening line too unwieldy for me.


So, would including a more limiting Japanese word better place the scene in Japan. Like this:


gomi day

a crow escapes

with raisin bread


Maybe. Though I might as well also change “raisin bread” to “raisin pan” while I’m at it. Perhaps incorporating the haiku/senryu in a haibun would be best, to give more context? Maybe I shouldn’t worry about the audience and just write exactly how it feels best?

I have no answers to the above.