Poetry Explained

14 Themes that Appear in Haiku Poetry 

Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that is known for its brevity and focus on nature. The poems are meant to capture a moment of insight or enlightenment and are often characterized by their use of vivid sensory imagery and the juxtaposition of seemingly disparate images or ideas.

Tori Gates

When setting out to write a haiku, it can be difficult to narrow down the many different possible subjects to something you really care about and can relate to. We’ve gone through 14 of the best subjects for haiku and explored their best features, hopefully making your next haiku easier to write. 

What is a Haiku? 

Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that is known for its brevity and focus on nature. Traditionally, haiku consists of three lines, with the first and third lines containing five syllables and the second line containing seven syllables. The poems often include a kigo or a word or phrase that indicates the season or time of year. 

Haiku are meant to capture a moment of insight or enlightenment and are often characterized by their use of vivid sensory imagery and the juxtaposition of seemingly disparate images or ideas. 

In contemporary Western culture, haiku has been adapted to include a wider range of subject matter and may not always follow the traditional syllable count or seasonal references.

Why Write Haiku? 

There are many reasons why people choose to write haiku. Here are some of the most common:

  • Mindfulness: Writing haiku can be a way to cultivate mindfulness and live in the present moment. By focusing on the sensory details of a particular experience, we can become more attuned to the world around us and appreciate the beauty in everyday moments.
  • Creativity: Haiku can be a fun and rewarding creative outlet. Playing with language and imagery allows us to express our thoughts and feelings in new and unexpected ways.
  • Connection: Haiku can be a way to connect with others and build community. Sharing haiku with friends and family can spark conversation and inspire others to try their hand at writing.
  • Reflection: Writing haiku can be a way to reflect on our experiences and emotions. By distilling our thoughts and feelings into a few lines, we can gain insight and clarity.
  • Tradition: Haiku has a rich history and tradition, and writing haiku can be a way to honor that legacy and connect with a larger cultural heritage.

Popular Haiku Subjects/Themes

Here are 14 of the most popular subjects for haiku. 


Nature is a classic and popular subject for haiku poetry, and for a good reason. A haiku might feature flowers, trees, animals, weather, landscapes, and more.

Traditional Japanese Garden
Traditional Japanese gardens are popular sources of inspiration for haiku

The natural world offers a vast array of sensory experiences that can be captured and distilled into a few words, providing a unique perspective on the beauty and wonder of life. From the delicate petals of a cherry blossom to the roar of a thunderstorm, nature offers endless opportunities for Haiku poets.

Daily Life 

Daily life is a rich and fertile subject for haiku poetry. By capturing small moments and observations from our everyday experiences, haiku poets can reveal the beauty and significance of seemingly mundane activities. The ordinary moments of our lives can be transformed into powerful expressions of gratitude, joy, and connection.

Seasonal Changes

Seasonal changes provide a natural framework for haiku poetry, as each season offers its own unique sights, sounds, and sensations.

Cherry Blossom Trees in Tokyo
Cherry blossom trees are a sign of spring in Japan

A haiku about the changing seasons could capture the beauty of cherry blossoms in the spring, the warmth of the summer sun, the colors of fall foliage, or the stillness of a winter snowfall. Writing about seasonal changes allows authors to reflect on the cyclical nature of life and the passage of time.

Human Emotions

A haiku about emotions is focused on the intensity of love, the sadness of loss, the joy of a new beginning, or the anger of a conflict. By exploring our emotions through haiku, we can gain insight into our innermost thoughts and feelings and find a sense of connection with others who may be experiencing similar emotions.


Travel is an exciting and transformative subject for haiku poetry. A haiku about travel could capture the thrill of a new adventure, the wonder of a new culture, or the joy of meeting new people. You can explore the world around you by digging into haiku about travel. Perhaps also, you can gain new perspectives and connect with people and places beyond your immediate surroundings.

Food and Drink

Food and drink offer a sensory and sensory-rich subject for your haiku. A haiku about food and drink could capture the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, the sweetness of a ripe strawberry, or the warmth of a bowl of soup. If you spend time focusing on the flavors and textures of your favorite foods and drinks, you can, ideally, appreciate them to a higher degree and share your experiences in a unique way. 

Spiritual and Philosophical Themes

Spiritual and philosophical themes offer a profound and thought-provoking subject and a challenging one for the aspiring haiku writer.

Sensoji Temple
The Sensoji Temple in Tokyo is a spot of spiritual contemplation

Due to the complexity of these themes, they can be difficult to convey in a few lines. But a haiku about enlightenment, impermanence, or the nature of existence could capture, in theory, the essence of our deepest beliefs and aspirations.

Art and Literature

Art and literature provide an endless source of inspiration for many writers.

Japanese Style Art in Tokyo
An example of Japanese-style art in Tokyo

A haiku about music, painting, or literature could capture the beauty and power of the creative arts, inspiring us to connect with our own inner creative impulses. If you spend time writing about art and literature, you can, hopefully, find meaning and insight in the works of others.

Culture and History

Culture and history offer rich and diverse subjects for poems of any length. A haiku about customs, traditions, or historical events could capture the feelings and images associated with a particular culture or historical period.

Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle is a historically important destination in Osaka, Japan

If you want to explore the cultural and historical context of your life, you may be able to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and others and connect with the broader currents of human history.


Haiku about relationships can evoke a range of emotions, from the warmth of familial love to the bittersweetness of a fading friendship or relationship. One might focus on a particular moment or gesture that captures the essence of the relationship, such as a shared laugh or a touch. Writing about relationships in poetry is very common and for good reason. It allows us to explore the complexities and nuances of human connection in a concise and poignant way.

Moments of Stillness and Silence

Haiku about moments of stillness and silence can capture the peacefulness and serenity of a quiet moment, such as a morning meditation or a solitary walk in nature. These haiku often use vivid sensory details to create a sense of stillness and invite the reader to slow down and appreciate the present moment.

Urban Life

Haiku about urban life can capture the energy and complexity of city living, from the towering skyscrapers to the bustling crowds.

Kyoto City
The ancient and modern Kyoto city is a source of inspiration for many poets

These haiku might be interested in the contrast between the natural world and the artificial landscape of the city or explore the sensory experience of navigating through a busy urban environment. 

Personal Experiences

Haiku about personal experiences can capture the essence of a moment or memory, from a cherished childhood memory to a recent moment of clarity or insight. These haiku might focus on a particular sensory detail or emotion or use imagery to evoke a broader feeling or atmosphere

This type of haiku allows writers to explore emotions and experiences in a concise and poetic way.


Haiku about humor can capture the playful and lighthearted moments of life, from a silly joke to a mischievous prank. These haiku might use wordplay or unexpected imagery to create a sense of lightness and fun or poke gentle fun at the quirks and foibles of human behavior. 

Writing haiku about humor is a good idea because it reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously and to appreciate the joy and laughter that can be found in everyday moments.


What are some common subjects for haiku?

Some common subjects for haiku include nature, seasons, wildlife, and emotions. However, haiku can be written about anything, and poets are encouraged to find inspiration in their everyday lives.

Can haiku be written in languages other than Japanese?

Absolutely! Haiku can be written in any language as long as it follows the syllable count and structure guidelines of a traditional haiku.

What makes a good haiku?

A good haiku should be concise and evocative. It should capture a moment in time or a feeling, and the words should be carefully chosen to create a vivid image in the reader’s mind.

Can haiku be written in different formats?

While the traditional 5-7-5 syllable format is most common in English language haiku, there are many other formats and variations that can be used. Some poets choose to write haiku with fewer or more syllables, while others experiment with different structures or line breaks.

Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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