Poems of All Sizes: Haiku, Tanka, and Japanese Poetic Forms

with Miho Kinnas

haiku and senryu writing course

August 15, 2024
3 1-Day Workshops


Zoom calls Thursdays 7-9pm Eastern

$245.00Enroll Now

The Japanese poetic form “tanka” has existed for over a thousand years. The tanka is the form of the Japanese national anthem and it birthed the haiku poetry. This workshop showcases many haiku, tanka and other poems written in or translated into English. We will take a walk down the path of Japanese history, punctuated with columns of short form poetry. We will inquire and unfold the workings of the tiny poetic space, making discoveries to enliven your own writing along the way.

Poetry keeps flowing. Tanka aesthetics have shifted in many directions over the years within the extreme limitation of 31 sounds (not syllables, a distinction we explore in the workshop). However, this number, and the similar restriction to 17 sounds for haiku, are not inviolable, as we shall see.

But first, we will learn the rules of these forms. Only then can we challenge the rules. Finally, you will reach for freedom in your own creative writing based on our conversations about Japanese poetry.

Linked poems or renga takes an important place in the history of Japanese literary tradition. We will learn the essence of good renga and we will see that understanding how the poems are linked well improves not only our basic haiku writing but also haibun and haiga/photo haiku.

Learning and Writing Goals

In these three workshops, participants will learn:

  • The short poetic forms as categories: waka/tanka, haikai/haiku, renga/renku, senryu, kyoka, and others!
  • The basic rules of sounds (syllables/on), and the use of kigo.
  • An overview of the history of Japanese poetry forms, from 800 AD to the present.
  • Haiku growing outside Japan.
  • Compact expression: learning from American Haiku poets and translators.
  • The range of subject matter, vocabulary expansion, and variations in tanka.
  • Associations: Basho and contemporary tanka.
  • Applications: Collaboration, hybrid forms.

We will write some short poems during the first session following prompts and a structural suggestion.

During the second and third workshops, we will write several more 3 and 2 line verses under various assumptions.

The participants are expected to write new works between the sessions.

A list of suggested submissions

  1. A sequence of 5 haiku (three-line poems).
  2. A sequence of 3 tanka (five-line poems).
  3. A free verse.
  4. A haibun with a haiku, and prose up to 150 words.
  5. A haiga (drawing or photograph) with a haiku.
  6. Linked Poems or Paired poems

Please place your work in the body of the email—please no attachments, except for the haiga. We will exchange emails after each session.

Workshop Schedule

These three workshops will run on Zoom for two hours each. Each call will run from 7-9 P.M. U.S. Eastern Time.

First Workshop (August 15)

  • Introduction: understanding individual goals.
  • Discussion of haiku as a form: its definition, variations, and transitions.
  • (Basho and other masters, Haiku in America (modern, jazz, beats and more), Structures and Syllables of haiku.)
  • Writing Exercise – learning from tanka practice.
  • Q&A
  • Writing suggestions.

Second Workshop (August 22)

  • Sharing the highlights of individual writing and editing.
  • Discussion on kigo (season word).
  • Learning Exercises – learning from translators.
  • History of Japan from the 8th to today through anthologies, crafts and attitudes toward poetry.
  • Two Writing Exercises – learning and applying from the renga and maeku techniques.
  • Q & A
  • Writing suggestions.

Third Workshop (August 29)

  • Sharing the highlights of individual writing and editing with Miho.
  • Discussion: What do you do with all those short poems you have written?
  • Examples of traditional and contemporary Haibun and Haiga
  • or photo haiku.
  • Writing Exercise. Haibun and Photo Haiku.
  • Q&A
  • Writing Suggestions.

$245.00Enroll Now

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Student Feedback for Miho Kinnas:

Miho is awesome. She is wise in her teaching, knows the history of her poetry, and offers great feedback. Amy Smith

The explanation of form and the survey of how Japanese poetic forms have been written and interpreted was eye-opening. Miho is very perceptive. Verena Tay

What a fantastic course. A short course for small poems, filled so much great information and practice! I loved that we had a small group, and were able to interact with each other between zoom sessions. Miho is a wonderful teacher. She was clear, direct, answered questions, gave great feedback. And she also offered some wonderful exercises that we completed collaboratively. This class came at the perfect time for me, and I am so grateful for the experience. Thanks, Miho, and my fellow students!
The experience of this course was very positive. Everything was conducted in a supportive atmosphere with a high degree of professionalism. Clear and detailed slides were especially useful. This is without a doubt the best poetry course that I have taken and a valuable use of my time and expenditure.
The teacher was organized, well qualified, and professional. Her course content was well researched and thorough, providing good resources and bibliography. I was especially impressed by her attention to detail in her feedback, which was kind yet strict.
The group workshopping benefitted by the professional oversight of the instructor, who played a significant role in organizing the students’ input into a cohesive whole. It was fascinating for me to observe the process of poetry creation from an amalgam of ideas.
The side by side bilingual slides were quite helpful.

As a teacher really enjoyed Ms. Kinnas’ constructive critiques of the haikus my students created about flowers. Her suggestion were insightful and useful. I appreciate her comments so much that we dedicated our ocean haikus students drafted at Creative Arts to present for BRAVO night 5/24/22. Michelle Howard

what is she like?

like moonlit snow – quiet

strong radiant presence

I was very fortunate to attend the workshop Miho Kinnas held during Shanghai Literary Festival at M on the Bund several years ago. It was a short, intense, warm, and greatly empowering workshop. Karolina Pawlik, Ph.D

I have had the pleasure of being a participant in Milo’s HAIKU classes at LIFELONG  LEARNING  and the PAT CONROY LITERARY CENTER in Beaufort County S.C. She is an interesting and exceptional teacher; skilled in the introduction of Japanese verse to audiences that are mostly unfamiliar with these poetic forms. Miho is a well regarded author of several books of HAIKU. She has participated in forums on the subject in the US and internationally. Most important is that her creative work is inspiring and of the highest quality – providing a sense of authenticity and enthusiasm to her innate teaching skills.” Norman Levy 

I took a haiku class last winter through Lifelong Learning of Hilton Head Island. It was taught by Miho Kinnas. I have usually avoided haiku, but this class was delightful. Miho bent the rules and encouraged us to be creative in writing about a wide variety of experiences. We had a couple of elderly women in class who insisted they had no talent and couldn’t write their own haiku. Even they left the class with poems they were proud of.  I loved her leadership. Miho is a marvelous teacher. Jim Riggs

Miho takes the mystery out of writing haiku while also creating a fun atmosphere. I came away from her workshop with new work that surprised me in the best possible way. Frances J. Pearce

August 15, 2024
3 1-Day Workshops


Zoom calls Thursdays 7-9pm Eastern

$245.00Enroll Now

miho kinnas


Miho Kinnas, a 2019 & 2023 Pushcart Prize nominee, is a Japanese poet, author, and translator. In 2023, a poetry collaboration with E. Ethelbert Miller, We Eclipse into The Other Side, was published by Pinyon Publishing, Best American Poetry 2023 selected her poem, Three Shrimp Boats On The Horizon, initially published in Wet Cement Magazine. Her translation appeared in Tokyo Poetry Journal Vol. 12. She is the author of two poetry collections: Today, Fish Only and Move Over, Bird (Math Paper Press). Kinnas serves as Artist in Residence or conducts various haiku/poetry workshops at, including Pat Conroy Literary Center, Life-Long Learning, Heritage Library, Richland Library, Island Writers Network, Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University, local schools, and Shanghai Literary Festival. She teaches translation at Tender Leaf Translation (https://courses.tenderleavestranslation.com.) She holds an MFA in creative writing (poetry) from the City University of Hong Kong.