Poetic Minimalism

Words by Alicia Woodward

There’s something wonderful on April’s calendar that hasn't been cancelled or postponed. It’s National Poetry Month. The celebration is taking on new meaning and importance as people turn to poetry to bring comfort, creativity, and connection during this unprecedented time.

Haiku poetry may be the literary world's finest example of less is more. Writing a haiku requires artistic discipline by challenging poets to pare their thoughts to a minimal number of words and syllables.

Well-known for the rule of 5–7–5, a haiku consists of just three unrhymed lines. The first and third lines have five syllables, and the second line has seven syllables. You might remember tapping your pencil on the desk to learn syllables in school. For example, the word frog has one syllable. The word silent has two syllables.

Nature often inspires poetry, but a haiku—by definition—is about nature. It can be traced back to 9th century Japan where it evolved as a form of poetry that celebrated the natural world. Matsuo Basho wrote one of the most famous haikus in the 1600s.

The Old Pond

An old silent pond
A frog jumps into the pond—
Splash! Silence again. 

While you’re keeping yourself and others safe by staying at home, find the time to pen your own haiku. Focus on something in nature that inspires you, and distill your thoughts into a simple three-line poem that follows the 5–7–5 rule. It’s a great way to clear your mind and a creative exercise in minimalism.

Poetic inspiration struck me early this morning when, wrapped in a blanket, I stepped out on the porch for a fresh look at the day. I inhaled deeply and watched my exhaled breath quickly disappear in the cool spring air. From inside, I heard the television mumble news of virus and ventilators. Closing my eyes, I took a slower, more intentional breath filled with gratitude and hope.


Nothing more precious
A calming, life-giving flow
In and out. Just breathe.

Alicia Woodward

Alicia is a retired teacher, an empty-nester, and a writer. She is an optimist who tries to keep life as simple and joyful as possible. She has degrees in journalism and secondary English education and taught middle school literature and language arts for 28 years. Along the way, she worked at several newspapers as a copywriter, reporter, and columnist. She co-authored the book Lessons in Loveliness with a dear co-worker with whom she wrote a blog by the same name. She and her husband, Mike, live a simple life on a quiet lake in Brown County, Indiana. They have four grown children and a six-year-old grandson. When they aren’t enjoying family or nature, Mike is cooking something spicy while Alicia is writing something cheery.


Ready to Simplify?

Inside Minimalism is our series of exclusive essays on simple living. Each essay is written by our team of writers who are passionate about helping you craft a simpler life. Supported by their own personal experiences, we want to inspire and encourage you to clear the path of life’s stuff, so you can get to where you really want to be.

Subscribe for $30 /yr

Save 50% with an annual subscription