Erotic Haiku


To fully appreciate the often delicate beauty of erotic haiku, the reader should approach the poems with a basic understanding of exactly what erotic haiku is. Much like other erotic poems and erotic prose, erotic haiku will often be judged based upon very personal concepts of erotica. To find a broad definition of erotica readers can consult a dictionary which defines “erotica” as: “literary or artistic works having an erotic theme or quality “(1). The same dictionary defines “erotic” as: “1. of, devoted to, or tending to arouse sexual love or desire 2. strongly affected by sexual desire” (1).

In other words, much like erotic poetry and prose, erotic haiku is NOT the naked woman or man calling you with legs spread wide. No, erotic haiku is the tilt of a woman’s brow as she looks at you that “certain” way, it’s the gleam in someone’s eye just before they realize you caught them staring at your cleavage or ass, it’s the glimpse of her thigh in a long slit skirt, or the hint of fragrance as he or she leads you to the bedroom. While other poetry and prose can carry on past these initial images, due to their brevity, erotic haiku will provide the reader with the initial spark of eroticism, leaving him or her to let the thought develop in their imagination.

Historically haiku was not often used as a form to express erotica: “Because haiku traditionally tended to shun strong passion and romantic love, to explore those areas was to go counter to established tradition…” (2 pg ix). More often, poems of love and erotica were written in the more ancient tanka form, a Japanese 5 lined poem of 31 Japanese syllables. Tanka featured a more elegant, lyrical quality compared to haiku. Although erotica was not the traditional subject of haiku, there was some written as haiku:

moonflowers in bloom
when a woman’s skin
gleams through the dusk

                       Chiyojo (1703-1775) (2 pg 40)

The subtle eroticism in this poem is accentuated in the comparison of the two images, the woman’s skin gleaming like moonflowers in bloom. Though tame by today’s standards, writing of this image in the 18th century was provocative indeed.

As time passed and haiku became more widely publicized, a wider base of artists began to study and write haiku. Though the years styles changed and challenged many traditions in the arts. Variations in forms developed and the senryu became popular. Though similar, haiku and senryu are different forms and their difference is significant in considering erotic haiku. Other articles posted at Literotica go into great detail on both forms, but briefly, according to the Haiku Society of America haiku is defined as: “1: An unrhymed Japanese poem recording the essence of a moment keenly perceived, in which Nature is linked to human nature. It usually consists of seventeen onji (Japanese unit roughly equivalent to an English syllable). 2: A foreign adaptation of 1, usually written in three lines totaling fewer than seventeen syllables”(3 pg 4).

Senryu is defined as: “1: A Japanese poem structurally similar to the Japanese haiku but primarily concerned with human nature; often humorous or satiric. 2: A foreign adaptation of 1” (3 pg 26). A third form, similar in structure only to haiku and senryu is the zappai: “In Japanese poetry, zappai includes all types of seventeen syllable poems that do not have the proper formal or technical characteristics of haiku…” (4).

Basically, the short (usually seventeen syllables or less) poems of roughly three lines can be classified as haiku, senryu or zappai. Based upon the simplified definitions above and within certain structural limitations, if the erotic poem in some way links Nature (Mother Nature) to human nature it will most likely be classified a haiku, if it has only to do with human nature it will often be classified a senryu and if it is basically three lines of about seventeen syllables but doesn’t fit the requirements for haiku or senryu it would be classified a zappai. For more information on each of the forms, please refer to the number of articles here at Literotica.

As time passed, many more Japanese poets studied the haiku and similar forms. Some wonderful erotic haiku grew from this increased popularity:

the winter blooming plum
buds touching one another
in the twilight

                                 Ishibashi Hideno (1909-1947) (2 pg 123)

Though perhaps only about the ripening buds on the plum trees, another starkly erotic image may come to mind in this haiku: perhaps the hint of two women in moonlight. Another 20th century haiku artist presented an incredibly beautiful, erotic image with her haiku:

beyond the dark
where I disrobe
an iris in bloom

                                 Katsura Nobuko (b. 1914) (2 pg 140)

As haiku spread to different languages, erotic haiku also followed. In Cor van den Heuvel’s excellent book: “The haiku Anthology” a number of erotic poems were featured. Though some could be classified as senryu based upon the definitions listed above, these images are definitely erotic:


the girl

                 loosens her bra

starts peeling off panties



                                      Alan Pizzarelli (5 pg 149)

Without a reference to Nature, this would most likely be considered a senryu, but the image does meet the definition for erotic. From the same anthology, two poems are offered by Alexis Rotella. Notice that one of the poems, most likely a senryu is created in just one line:

Lying in the wet grass,
him still beating
inside me.

                                         Alexis Rotella (5 pg 171)


                                         Alexis Rotella (5 pg 170)

Another one line haiku from “The haiku Anthology” features a break in the line, accentuating the two images:

Night begins to gather         between her breasts

                                          George Swede (5pg 210)

The popularity of erotic haiku has grown throughout the 20th century, with a number of erotic haiku anthologies developed in the late 1990s. Gabriel Rosenstock, a haiku artist from Ireland published a book of his own erotic haiku titled: Cold Moon, The Erotic Haiku of Gabriel Rosenstock. The book features the original haiku written in his native tongue, with the accompanying English translation:

waxy glistening of leaves
sometimes i’d come
along your thigh

glioscarnach chiarach na nduilleog
thagainn uaireanta
feadh do cheathrun

                                            Gabriel Rosenstock (6 pg 15)

standing stark naked before you
shadow-penis lengthening on the wall
you tantalize the shadow

seasaim lomnocht romhat
scath mo bhoid a fhadu ar an mballa
griogann tu an scath

                                             Gabriel Rosenstock (6 pg 93)

Into the 21st Century, erotic haiku has remained popular, with yet another anthology in the works from former president of the Haiku Society of America Hiroaki Sato. Two of his erotic poems include:

in your panties
slightly pulled down
a crisp fallen leaf

that first time
my middle-finger slipped into
your warm wet cleft

                                             Hiroaki Sato (7)

In fact the most recent edition of Frogpond, The Journal of the Haiku Society of America featured a beautiful, erotic image:

lunar eclipse
a nipple peeks
over her dress

                                             Paula Fisher (3 pg 37)

Clearly, the erotic potential for haiku, senryu and zappai is distinct. While the brevity limits the reader to one or two quick images, it allows the reader to expand upon the erotic suggestion within the poem. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination of the reader.

by the lamp
the curve of her breast
in silhouette

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