Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

Haiku Your Novel!


Yes, I did just use “haiku” as a verb and I promise you, things are only going to go downhill from there. (Warning: Real poets may wish to avert their eyes.)

A few years ago, I wrote a post for SF Novelists called “Novel Haiku” where I suggested the game of summarizing one’s novel in the form of a haiku. Back in 2008, I described my novels like this, and shockingly, they both still work:

Kung fu goddess seeks
Five ancient jade statues and
Falls for geeky guy

Failing tech sends two
mermaids to find answers, and
their place in the world.

It’s Friday, and this is your challenge: Summarize one or more of your books in the form of a haiku. If you don’t have a novel of your own, pick any book to summarize.

Bring on the ‘ku!

About the author

Jenn Reese


  • Here’s my go!

    Insomniac security guard fights
    to destroy dream parasites that
    threaten his younger sister.

    Enter the Janitor
    Supernatural janitors and maids
    keep the world clean and
    safe from unnatural Corruption.

    • These are great!! The haiku for Parasomnia especially makes me want to read it. Although the idea of supernatural janitors is pretty awesome…

  • RUHE
    Mute girl in college
    Ex-socialite falls into
    Old habits die hard.

    That took me forever to decide “Is it more important to mention the social outcast she’s falling for, or the fact that she’s getting dragged back into being a socialite?” So I settled on above. Fun challenge.

    • As silly as this exercise is, it is kind of valuable to distill the book’s basic idea down. I love how you incorporated both your main points!

  • Wow, this is harder than i expected. Ah well, here goes:

    Home again, Hallie
    Battles lightning and magic
    To stop a killer.

      • Charlie, I can’t believe how well you’ve conformed to the actual strictures of haiku, including the kigo (seasonal reference). I kowtow to your mad haiku skills!

        • Jenn, well the first one is just a play on Basho’s frog haiku, which was itself a play on the traditional kigo about the frogs croaking. It was pretty damn funny in the 17th century to folks who were familiar with haiku. Most kigo don’t translate well to English because the words don’t have the same seasonal and emotional connotations. If I had ended the second one with “old tree sprouts new buds” or something like that, it would have carried the same weight for most readers that the word “spring” does — cf. e.e. cummings’ “now I lay me down to dream of Spring”.

          I could go off a whole different tangent about the 5-7-5 form in English, which is a misunderstanding of Japanese haiku forms particularly the function of the kireji, but I’ve tried before and that’s just a losing battle. I will, however, point you to “senryū” in wikipedia,ū – “senryū is a Japanese form of short poetry similar to haiku in construction: three lines with 17 or fewer total morae (or “on”, often translated as syllables, but see the article on onji for distinctions). Senryū tend to be about human foibles while haiku tend to be about nature, and senryū are often cynical or darkly humorous while haiku are more serious. Unlike haiku, senryū do not include a kireji (cutting word), and do not generally include a kigo, or season word.” Most of what folks are writing here are senryū, especially Sarah’s and Greg’s great summaries of their books.

          charlie spouting off
          about poetry again –
          could be anything

          Next up, a conversation about sonnets and the sonnet form…

          • I clearly don’t know as much as you do about haiku and senryu, but I debated long and hard about how to write this journal entry — I had paragraphs devoted to how the 5-7-5 syllable structure was an American thing and had nothing to do with real haiku. I even talked about seasonal references and nature. In the end, I decided I was taking myself too seriously, although a little part of my soul died because of the cultural appropriation. I’m thrilled to have this comment on record here — I think you’ve redeemed us all a little.

            • I’ve reconciled myself to the cultural appropriation issue by acknowledging that the western haiku is about as much like the original form as the western ghazal is like its namesake.

              Anyway, I think you made the right choice. People don’t give a shit about haiku vs. senryu or other questions of form. They just want to play around within a set of rules and have fun. And that’s what your post encouraged all of us to do! At least I had fun….

  • The Magic Thief

    Boy becomes wizard
    Overcomes magical foes
    His name’s not Harry

    The Magic Thief: Lost

    Conn loses his stone
    Pyrotechnical displays
    How dumb is this kid?

    The Magic Thief: Found

    Conn is a wizard
    Rowan becomes the duchess
    They do not get hitched

    • Okay, these made me LOL, especially “They do not get hitched.” Okay, actually all the last lines. Maybe your next book needs to be humorous!

  • This post and the comments are my favorite internet thing of the day!

    Norse god and his dog
    Brothers are world-ending jerks
    Chops family tree

    Sad, lonely summer
    Fights lobster dudes and big squid
    Best summer ever

    Boy wakes up alone
    Hikes with his robot buddy
    Mammoth poops a bunch

    • These are great, Greg! But I must admit that the last line about Protein was the icing on the… cake. (You thought I was going to say poop, didn’t you.)

By Jenn Reese
Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

Newsletter Signup