A 50s-style illustration of a day in the park with a funny haiku laid over it, which can be read below.
A 50s-style illustration of a day in the park with a funny haiku laid over it, which can be read below.

Haikus have a long, rich history. Once used as the opening stanza of a longer Japanese poetry form called renga, by roughly the late 19th Century they were established as an independent form, usually used to evoke a place and feeling. 

Today, haikus are written around the world, in dozens of languages; they can be poignant and zen-like or, according to the translator of The Penguin Book of Haiku, "funny, crude and mischievous”. They can also be painfully British.

Each year, the haiku – typically a 17-syllable structure poem, organised across three lines of five, seven, and five – is celebrated worldwide on 17 April on International Haiku Poetry Day. To mark the occasion, we thought we'd have a go at writing some that capture life after a year of lockdown. What would yours say?


‘Best laid plans’, I think,
Striking from my to-do list,
‘Write lockdown novel’

Ah, sweet normalcy
The park hums with life again
Until it rains, obv

Do you remember
How we used to socialise?
One of us has to

The takeaway pint
Proffers one big takeaway:
Sitting down was nice

Brave the toilet queue?
Or do we travel home, and back
Duration: the same

Ah! My friend, from Zoom
I didn’t recognise you
Sans your glitchy voice

Meet you in the pub
As long as you booked it – please,
Tell me you booked it

What’s a holiday?
Is it sitting, with a book,
Like home, but on sand?

Oh, you’ve made a meme?
How clever of you to write,
‘Nature is healing’

What is confidence
If not a fresh new haircut
Not, thank god, self-done

How long now, until
We return to normal, and
I cancel some plans?



What did you think of this article? Email editor@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk and let us know.

Image: Mica Murphy / Penguin


  • The Penguin Book of Haiku

  • 'A revelation' Sunday Times, Books of the Year 2018

    The first Penguin anthology of Japanese haiku, in vivid new translations by Adam L. Kern.

    Now a global poetry, the haiku was originally a Japanese verse form that flourished from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. Although renowned for its brevity, usually running over three lines in seventeen syllables, and by its use of natural imagery to make Zen-like observations about reality, in fact the haiku is much more: it can be erotic, funny, crude and mischievous. Presenting over a thousand exemplars in vivid and engaging translations, this anthology offers an illuminating introduction to this widely celebrated, if misunderstood, art form.

    Adam L. Kern's new translations are accompanied here by the original Japanese and short commentaries on the poems, as well as an introduction and illustrations from the period.

  • Buy the book

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