Haiku work through juxtaposition—the placing of images side by side so that they inform one another’s poetic meaning. Though it is possible to create a haiku using a season word alone, with the addition of another element we can amplify that image, giving greater depth and nuance to our poem. The winning and honorable mention haiku for last month’s challenge employed juxtaposition to optimal effect, breathing new life into one of the oldest techniques in haiku poetry.

  • Suzanne Tyrpak uses the images of a butterfly and a spring evening enveloping the landscape to express the beauty of life itself.
  • Roberta Beary uses juxtaposition to create a pivot, shifting the setting of her haiku from the bedroom to the backyard.
  • Lynnea Paxton-Honn combines visual and auditory images to capture the soft, uncanny quietness of a spring afternoon.

Congratulations to all! To read additional poems of merit from recent months, visit our Tricycle Haiku Challenge group on Facebook.

You can submit a haiku for the current challenge here.

Spring Season Word: Butterfly


as evening settles
I walk beside the river
with a butterfly

— Suzanne Tyrpak

Haiku is the poetry of images. That is why Imagism, the movement that catalyzed modern English literature, chose haiku as its principal inspiration. Precision with language. Economy with words. The ability to isolate what Ezra Pound called “the luminous detail.” These made haiku appealing to poets who wanted to throw off the emotional excesses of Romantic and Victorian verse, finding a reset in concrete images drawn from life.

In March 1913, the journal Poetry published a summary of the group’s core principles:

  1. Direct treatment of the “thing,” whether subjective or objective.
  2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome.

To my knowledge, the Imagists never stated directly that the criteria for a good haiku could be applied to the rest of literature, but in practice that is what happened. Modern poetry found its footing in language that was generally sparer, simpler, and more direct—as did modern fiction, nonfiction, and drama.

In our winning poem for the April 2024 Tricycle Haiku Challenge, everything extraneous has been peeled away. The poet has preserved “the musical phrase,” giving her syllables the cadence of poetry. But to the images themselves nothing has been added. As a spring evening comes on, the poet walks beside a river in the company of a butterfly. That is all. It’s the way those simple images come together that makes for an exceptional poem.

Taken alone, the spring evening settling over the landscape is too inchoate to form a clear picture in the reader’s imagination. Add the poet walking beside a river and it’s a different story. Now there is a focus: a place for the eye to rest. Even so, there is little more to the poem at that point than a moody, somewhat somber scene.

Enter the butterfly. The addition of that luminous detail allows us to feel the darkness swallowing the landscape by giving us its opposite: a spot of color dancing along in the leftover light between the poet and the river. The butterfly becomes a companion on a pilgrimage that most of us don’t realize we are on from one day to the next.

With the appearance of the butterfly, the mood has lightened. Not so much that we forget the encroaching darkness, or the relentless force of the river winding its way to the sea, but enough to steady us on our journey. That such “steadiness” could come from so small and delicate a creature is the essence of the poem.


two blue butterflies
decorate the pillowcase —
clothespin afternoon

Roberta Beary 

a single dog yip
floats through the neighborhood on
soft butterfly wings

Lynnea Paxton-Honn

You can find more on April’s season word, as well as relevant haiku tips, in last month’s challenge below:

Spring season word: “Butterfly”

yellow butterfly
so what if it glides over
the edge of a cliff

Submit as many haiku as you wish that include the season word “butterfly.” Your poems must be written in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively, and should focus on a single moment of time happening now.

Be straightforward in your description and try to limit your subject matter. Haiku are nearly always better when they don’t have too many ideas or images. So make your focus the season word* and try to stay close to that.

*REMEMBER: To qualify for the challenge, your haiku must be written in 5-7-5 syllables and include the word “butterfly.”

Haiku Tip: Master the Art of Profound Play!

The HAI in haiku means “light” or “playful,” while KU is the word for “verse.” So HAIKU means “playful verse.” After reading a few examples, the average person grasps this intuitively—hence the widespread belief that a haiku is a kind of poetic joke, a playful bit of wordplay that impresses us briefly but doesn’t leave a lasting impression upon the mind.

With a little practice, most of us can manage this level of play. It isn’t that hard to be clever in 17 syllables. But that is only the first level of the art. There is more to writing haiku.

The best haiku reach a level of “profound play,” meaning that they say something significant while appearing to say almost nothing. This is the sweet spot of haiku. It’s not so much a joke as a “cheat”—a little bit of word magic in 17 syllables that shouldn’t be possible … but is.

It’s like when a magician performs a convincing illusion. Our first response is pure wonder: “That’s impossible!” A moment later, we want to see the trick again. In the same way, when a haiku works, the reader finishes it and immediately begins to ponder “how it was done.”

The best haiku feel effortless, as if they had slipped right out in conversation and inadvertently hit the mark. They rarely show any trace of conscious deliberation. This is an illusion of course … like the magician’s trick that “looks easy” even though it is nothing of the sort.

That being said, once we have fully imprinted the 5-7-5 syllable form upon our minds, haiku sometimes do come out perfect right on the spot. The trick, always, is to make them look that way, even if we have worked on them for hours or days or weeks.

A note on butterflies: In Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac, William J. Higginson writes: “What we call a ‘butterfly’ is only the final stage in the life cycle of an individual organism of the order Lepidoptera, which includes both butterflies and moths. But it is the most visible and aesthetically pleasing stage. Generally, butterflies fly by day and moths by night.” Although many species of butterfly appear in summer—and some in autumn or even winter—the word “butterfly” used alone in a haiku always refers to spring. Among countless butterfly haiku written over the centuries, the most famous is by Arakida Moritake (1473–1549):

A fallen blossom
returned to the branch? But no …
it’s a butterfly!

The poem offers readers a temporary moment of visual confusion that resolves itself in wonder.

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