Polishing Haiku - Tensaku


Polishing Haiku - 添削 tensaku

Tensaku by Kaneko Tohta sensei


Dear Gabi san and all,
I have just spent three beautiful days in Chennai, in Tamil Nadu, southern India.

Chennai traffic --
every vehicle has
its own voice

Some of the impressions were jotted down in haiku form.
Here is a selection :
Chennai Haiku

Marina Beach --
little fish passes
from crow to crow

These haiku are still in note form.
Now my question : what do other haijin do at times like this?

Do you leave them unfinished, in their raw form, and rework them later, when contributing them to some group or publication?

Do you polish them immediately, so that they are ready, while memories are still fresh?

My question right now is, when do other haijin find is the best moment for doing this act of polishing?

Any advice gratefully received!



Dear Isabelle,

Chennai is my hometown . . . I was born there - grew up there and my parents still live there.

mango blossoms-
here there everywhere
childhood memories

Well - I do edit my poems and do change them even after they get published - if I feel the altered version reads better!
I think editing [ or polishing ] is so important - for sometimes a word change can make a world of a different to a haiku - for each word in a haiku is of great importance.

Kala Ramesh, India


I have revised haiku written more than twenty years ago. This usually comes from re-reading them after years have gone by. Sometimes a haiku from that long ago will just pop into my head unbidden, with the revision following right on its heels. It's often a slap-the-forehead moment: why didn't I think of that before?

When I'm on a trip, I both revise during the trip, and revise after the trip is over. During the trip, the haiku sometimes are like what are called "earworms," which is a slang expression for when a song pops into your head, and you can't get it out! LOL

So if a haiku is like an "earworm," I keep mulling it over in my head, even while continuing going through the motions of being a tourist. But I would say most of the haiku are jotted down in my ever-present notebook, and revised after the trip is over.

Larry Bole
More of his advise is HERE !

Isabelle continues HERE !


How to process a haiku ???

Usually when I find the leisure time to go through my memories again, hopefully very soon after the original trip, I polish my haiku. It is a matter of finding the time.

I usually publish them in my own forum just as they are .. first cut ... unpolished ... and hope for some time later (usually that does not come) since the next trip comes much too soon after this ... hahaha
Since I never send anything for publication in a magazine or contest, I do not mind sooooo much about the final touch. I know, I should, ...

polishing haiku
polishing my soul
day by day

Gabi Greve


Matsuo Basho 芭蕉 teaches us:

settoo senten 舌頭千転
mumble the haiku 1000 times

Speak it out loud and get the feel if it reads smooth or not.
If not, rewrite it ... again and again, mumble it again and so on
until it feels smooth!

. learn from the pine - BUT - .


Some more advise for my friends

get back to that moment again, tell what you really experienced there, with your five senses ...
What exactly did you see ? feel ? hear ? sense ?

say it in plain words first, try not to think POETRY !
Then work again on the image you got ...

But never forget to be your own best critic:

One of the things that my parents have taught me is
never listen to other people's expectations.
You should live your own life
and live up to your own expectations,
and those are the only things I really care about.

Tiger Woods


Advice from Josh "pottygok"

Here is a list of questions that you could ask yourself about each of your haiku before you consider it finished:

Am I telling instead of showing my moment?
Am I presenting abstract ideas instead of concrete images?
Is this haiku so crowded with images that it could be distracting or confusing for readers?
Is this a "snapshot" haiku?
Does this haiku contain a dangling participle?
Does the action I describe take more than a moment to observe?
Is this verse an example of cause and effect?
Is this an uncut poem?
Is this verse written as a complete sentence, with no break between setting and main action?
Have I left out articles or modifiers that are needed for clarity and smooth flow?

source : EssentialElementsofHaiku


The Practical Poet: Creating a Haiku Checklist
... By asking some of these questions or applying some of these ideas to your haiku, you can improve the quality of your work. And with your own haiku checklist, you can be your own editor first before sending your haiku out for publication.
source : graceguts : Michael Dylan Welch


When your haiku is finished:

Ask yourself:
Can any reader, who has not experienced this situation understand it? Did I get the meaning right and expressed what I wanted to say clear enough?
Is it not toooo cryptic and ambiguous to be understood properly? (In case it is tooo cryptic, keep it in your private haiku diary for a later re-write.)

Do NOT ask yourself:
Will the reader say WHOW? or rather SO WHAT?
After all, you thought it worth to be a haiku and wrote it in an understandable way. You know, the tastes of readers are manifold. Some like cats and others like dogs.
I often get varying comments, one saying, what a dumb haiku, the next saying: How great!

Do NOT ask yourself:
Will this be good enough to be published at "XYZ Haiku Magazin"?
Read my advise about
NOT writing haiku to get good points ! (tentori haiku)

Gabi Greve

Related words

***** Basic Haiku Theories

See also

Guidelines for editing your own haiku, by Lee Gurga
in the WKD Library

. Teaching Children .
good advise for haiku beginners


Advise from a Haiku Teacher
Tensaku 俳句添削教室

If you are lucky to study with a Japanese haiku teacher (nowadays many work online too), you can send your haiku for a TENSAKU, discussion and improvement by a teacher.
The teacher usually gives a resume of his opinions and why he thinks this or that should be changed. Then he re-writes the haiku in a way that it keeps most of the original but makes it a better haiku. In Japanese, a lot concerns the formal aspect of a haiku and the language choosen.
A haiku including tensaku is then often published as such, not as the original of the poet and can thus help others to learn from his/her mistakes.

In many English-language haiku workshop forums, anyone can give advise or state his opinion and it is hard for the student to figure out which is useful and qualified and which to better drop.
Sometimes I find in more confusing than helpful. In the end often a democratic quote for xyz version usually ends a discussion ... leaving a good starter haiku shredded down to .. well, sometimes it is really interesting just to read that.

If you do give advice online, try to keep it in the spirit of the poet.
Try not to impost your opinions of "what a haiku should be", but use the words and ideas of the poet and try to improve them. And with so many non-native speakers, try to help them improve the English language.

When giving advise as a "haiku master" or "hokku master" in a special forum, try to stand in the shoes of the other poet, not try to slam your own hat on the other's vision.
Do not spoonfeed him your ideas, but encourage him to find his own improvement.
It is not about being right or wrong, but about bringing out the best of the other poet.
If you feel strongly that you have to show your superiority as a "master", you might just as well consider stepping down from the post and grow a little more yourself.

In the end, it is hard to decide which version to send off for publishing, if it is not your own but a "workshopped" one.

Do you really feel proud of yourself if you get good credits for a workshopped haiku?
Or just use the experience gained in the process and write a new one for a contest or publishing?

Discussing Tensaku / Gabi Greve

. 先生 Sensei, a haiku teacher .

Kuroda Momoko and Teaching Haiku
See also the comments below of this entry.


Read some tensaku of Susumu Takiguchi sensei

first shrine visit -
only the sound of
snow melting

yuki no yo mo
suwari tsuzuku ya

Some more examples
Gabi Greve / Susumu Takiguchi

There are many Kensaku Kyoshitsu online now.
Try to find a suitable one if you want to improve your writing skills.

about 16,300 hits for ”添削教室”
even on Facebook ! 俳句添削教室

- - - Books 添削教室 - - -




Anonymous said...

From Larry Bole:

I have been thinking for a long time about how one goes about accepting suggested revisions for one's haiku, and what it means in terms of authorship--who's haiku does it end up being really?

But what does accepting revisions mean in a poem as short as a haiku?

As those on other yahoo haiku groups know, I've been reading a book by Abigail Friedman, "The Haiku Apprentice." I highly recommend this book.

Ms. Friedman began taking instruction on writing haiku, while she was living in Japan as a U.S. diplomat, from Momoko Kuroda, a prize-winning haiku poet and well-regarded haiku teacher, who frequently appears on television there, talking about haiku.

At one point, near the beginning of her lessons, Ms. Friedman takes a walk looking for inspiration. She ends up at the imperial palace moat, about a twenty-minute walk from where she lived. She sees "a
duck paddling about in the black, uninviting waters of the moat. The
wind was picking up. I turned up my collar and dug my hands deeper
into my pocket. ..."

She goes on to write:

A haiku took shape within me:

aki no kaze kookyo no hori no kamo no ashi

the fall wind
in the palace moat
a duck's feet

I knew this was not a good haiku. "A duck's feet" sounded silly in English. It probably sounded just as bad in Japanese. The haiku did not capture the scene or my mood. Sighing, I wrote it down on a scrap of paper, tucked it in my pocket, and returned home. I couldn't wait
for my first meeting with Momoko. [She had previously met Momoko in a
haiku group meeting; this will be her first one-on-one meeting.]

[After a lot of general instruction about haiku, Momoko discusses Ms.Friedman's "duck" haiku. This generates a lot more instruction about haiku as Momoko begins to offer revision suggestions.]

Momoko sensed it was getting late, and she stood up to put on her
cape. ... As she reached the door she stopped, with her hand on the
doorknob, as if she had just remembered something. She walked back to the table, studied my duck haiku, picked up a pen, and wrote:

kamo kitaru kookyo no hori ni ware mo mata

ducks arriving
at the imperial palace moat
--I, too, am here again

"It's just a thought. There are many possibilities. In a haiku, it's alright to be a part of the subject. It isn't simply a matter of writing about nature, but capturing that sense that we are a part of nature."


Then Momoko did go, adding as I walked her to the elevator, "Oh, I
meant to tell you: your duck haiku, it rightfully remains yours. What I have done with it, we call 'tensaku'. It's a kind of poetic editing."

I went back inside the apartment and looked at my haiku on the dining room table. She was right; only eight of my original seventeen
syllables survived the afternoon intact.

[end of exerpt]

For a discussion of polishing haiku, with a mention of 'tensaku', you can look here:


How much suggested revision can we accept into our haiku before we
feel uncomfortable still calling it our own?

I often feel like putting two names with such a revised haiku: my own name, and the name of the person who suggested the revision, to call it a collaboration.


Anonymous said...

"Johnye Strickland" :

This used to bother me when I was new to the haiku community, where I began my writing as part of an international renku group.

The Japanese woman who often wrote with us made this point early on--as long as it has 1 word that was originally yours, you have the right to call it your poem.
(In the Western tradition, we are inclined to think of this as tantamount to interference from someone, or if we really like the revised version and wish we had written it, feel a bit guilty if we use it, as though it were almost plagerism.)


If my original verse was very important to me, I can still use it elsewhere.
So it has become the best of both worlds for me.

Ultimately, I now feel the most important thing is not the style or the rules, but which version is the better poem, when writing haiku, senryu, tanka.

I have heard this view from several well known and/or accomplished haiku poets in the recent past, so I am leaning more toward it for my own work.
If I am uncomfortable accepting a particular suggestion, but like the revision it presents, I usually try rethinking the poem and trying different words or kigo or images to make the whole poem better, considering such things assound, rhythm, and the look on the page.