The Erotic and Haiku

I am writing this because I am one huge, lecherous fan of the genre of haiku and I would like to see more people try their hand at erotic themes. Some of the best love poems I have ever read are haiku, with their massive understatement and subtle insinuation. In fact, one of the things that first attracted me to the form was its potential for being subtly but lusciously erotic. Check out this beauty by Chiyo-ni:


when a woman’s skin

is revealed (Donegan, 2010, pg56)

Or this one by Santoka Taneda:

the long black hair

of women

blowing in the salty wind (Donegan, 2010, pg56)

The above haiku verges on fetishistic in some ways but remains gently erotic and could be read to children without causing offense.  The same rule that applies to humour in haiku also applies to the erotic—use a light hand. Haiku is not really the arena for graphic description, rather hints of sexual.

rose fragrance—

our first night

folds into whitening sky (Donegan, 2010, pg77)

Even the Japanese themselves break this rule sometimes though, as in the Ippekiro Kakatsuka haiku:

the sultry grass—

and a woman

with voluptuous breasts (Donegan, 2010, pg57)

Masajo Suzuki is an undeniable contemporary mistress of haiku and always worth a look.  Note the narrow focus is this poem:

the nape of his neck

draws me in—

moth to the flame (Donegan, 2010, pg16)

This is a particularly good example to model off if you intend the write erotic haiku or even haiku at all. Haiku is a small bite of something, not the whole meal but it hints at what else is on the table. His neck is made the focus of her desire but you can see that this is simply a symptom of a much greater lust.

If you are keen to try your hand, I recommend start small and give yourself opportunities to catch a moment of desire. Find a good place to people watch. Pick out an attractive passer-by and try to focus on one small thing that makes them appealing. It might be the thickness of a man’s neck or the colour of a woman’s eyes. Take that detail and weave it into a haiku. Going straight to bedroom imagery is liable to lead to disaster and remember, less is more here; it is what is implied that will be sexiest. Here is one of mine to leave you with:

my lips against her

smooth white wrist:



2 thoughts on “The Erotic and Haiku

  1. heat lightning tricking sweat between her breasts

    Karen Cesar
    Presence 44

    (one line tho’ the formatting of the comment box insists otherwise ; )

    Vi, check out Sonia Sanchez on Terebess (she is listed under African American in the
    Us section) A sample:

    I am who I am.
    Nothing hidden just black silk
    Above two knees.

    I have caught fire from
    Your mouth now you want me to
    Swallow the ocean.

    Mixed with day and sun
    I crouched in the earth carry
    You like a dark river.


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