Haiku Format: Designing Beautiful Haiku Poetry Books

POSTED ON Oct 26, 2023

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If you love writing haiku poems, it’s important to understand the nuances of proper haiku format when it comes to a full book. After all, haikus aren’t your traditional novel, and traditional book formatting rules don’t always apply. 

Designing an appealing haiku format can be challenging since the poems are so short. What do you do with all that white space? How can you retain the elegance of your poetry without boring your reader?

Today we will discuss some important haiku format ideas for your book of poetry, but before we dive into the details, let’s first ensure you know precisely what a haiku entails. 

What Is a Haiku?

A haiku is a type of short-form poetry that originated in 17th-century Japan. Traditional haiku format is made of 17 syllables arranged over three lines in a 5-7-5 pattern. For example:

Like captured water

You hold me in your cupped hands

I flow on your palm

As you can see, this poem has 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third. But this is only true in English. If you translate the poem, it no longer follows the traditional structure, which is why haiku poetry is language-dependent. 

Haiku poetry does not rhyme, and tends to favor imagery and contrast over metaphor or simile. Traditional poems also center around nature or the changing of the seasons. 

In Japan, haiku must contain a “kireji” (or cutting word) that creates a pause in the flow of the poem. It must also contain a “kigo,” or word that states what season the poem is in. 

In English, we don’t really have the concept of kireji, so many poets choose to use an em dash or ellipsis to denote a pause. 

Of course, there are many modern styles of haiku poetry that don’t follow the traditional format or themes. What’s important is capturing the minimalist yet profound essence of haiku. 

Now that you have a good understanding of haiku format, let’s talk about haiku format when it comes to your book. 

How to Perfect Your Haiku Format: 9 Design Tips

Designing the right haiku format for your book involves careful consideration of internal and external elements to create an aesthetically pleasing experience. 

The design of your haiku book should complement the mood or message of your poems. It should be both cohesive and visually appealing, so that it resonates deeply with your audience. 

Here are nine things to keep in mind when deciding on the haiku format for your book:

1. Design an Eye-Catching Cover

Think carefully on the colors, typography, and imagery that will capture the mood of your haiku collection. Then, craft an eye-catching book cover design that will make potential readers stop in their tracks. 

Here are some great examples of successful haiku book covers:

Blossom Haiku book cover
Book cover of Trees Haiku from Roots to Leaves
Silent Flowers haiku book cover

Make sure your cover evokes the overall essence of your haiku collection.

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2. Select Haiku Poetry Thoughtfully

Proper haiku format is about much more than just a stand-alone poem. You need to carefully curate your poetry to follow a cohesive emotional arc or narrative. Each poem should follow a similar theme.

Haiku book themes

If you need to, you can break your book into different chapters, such as love, loss, rebirth, or acceptance. You can also split your book into seasons like a traditional haiku book. There are lots of haiku format options to play with, but make sure your idea follows a clear pattern and deliberate order. 

3. Create Title and Chapter Pages

Once you have your themes or chapters laid out, it’s time to make title, table of contents, or chapter pages as needed for your haiku book. This will help readers understand the structure of your book, and find the poems that speak to them most in the moment. 

4. Play with Page Size

When it comes to books, size matters. You wouldn’t make a minuscule history textbook, and you should use giant pages for your tiny haiku poems. We want white space, but not that much white space. 

Book sizes can make a big difference in the reader’s experience. If you don’t plan to use full-page illustrations, consider using a smaller-than-average page size when playing with the format of your book. 

5. Use a Clean, Minimalist Design

Haikus are generally as elegant and profound as they are concise, and you want to give your poems room to breathe on the page. Using a minimalistic design can create a sense of balance and harmony and allow your readers to pause and reflect on each poem. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Just look at what C.B. Fraser did with Haiku Cats!

Interior haiku format

6. Be Purposeful with Fonts

Select fonts that are easy to read and will enhance the experience of the reader. Pay close attention to font size, spacing, and line length. 

Font choices for haiku poetry

Everything about the interior design of your haiku book should create a pleasant and inviting reading experience, and your font choices can make a huge impact – for better or for worse. 

7. Add in Visual Elements

Haiku poems for children

Depending on the theme and mood of your poetry, consider whether you want to include photographs, artwork, or illustrations to accompany your poems. If you do include visuals, make sure they enhance (and don’t detract from) your poetry. 

You should also ensure that your visuals match the mood and theme of your book. 

Some authors choose to simply leave the poetry to speak for itself on a blank, white page, and this is perfectly acceptable as well if you think it suits your haikus best. Perhaps you just want to highlight a poem here and there with a full-page illustration to break up the book. 

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8. Choose High-Quality Paper

If you are not engaging your readers with visual elements, consider how the texture, weight, and finish of your paper can enhance the experience of your reader. Choose high-quality paper and printing techniques to enhance the tactile experience of your haiku book.

9. Use a Critical Eye

Ask friends and family, beta readers, or a professional editor to read your haiku book and give feedback on the visuals, formatting, and flow. Don’t be afraid to make edits based on their critiques. After all, this book needs to be a success with more than just yourself! 

So there you have it. Nine tips to help you craft a stunning haiku book of your very own. 

Want Some Help with Your Book Design?

That’s what we’re here for! At The Book Designer, we help hundreds of authors just like you to create the book they’ve always dreamed of, but aren’t sure how to put out in the world. 

Our team can give you the tools and know-how to design the perfect haiku book format yourself, or one of our talented book designers can work with you to craft a unique design tailored to your haiku collection. 

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