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Haiku in Spain

The first translation of Japanese haiku into the Spanish language was thought to be in 1914 by the Mexican poet José Juan Tablada, who also was the first to publish a book of haiku, Un dia …, in 1919. The first original haiku by a Spaniard have been attributed to Antonio Machado a few years later. During the years of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco era (1936–1975) the development of haiku was suspended. Translations and studies of Japanese haiku began to reappear in the 1970s. Only after the year 2000 did haiku composition catch on in Spain, however, and the few Spanish journals and haiku organizations are all younger than 20 years.

The main article concerns haiku in the Spanish language in metropolitan Spain; separate articles on haiku in Catalan, Galician, and Basque follow.

Poems Before Haiku

At the beginning of the 20th century, when haiku were first introduced to readers in Spain, a form of a very popular short poetry already existed in Spanish: the seguidilla, comprising four lines of 5–7–5–7 syllables. In his collection of folk songs known as Canciones Españolas Antiguas, poet Federico García Lorca (1898–1936) included a long poem, “Los Pelegrinitos,” as a series of seguidillas:

Hacia Roma caminan 
dos peregrinos, 
a que los case el Papa, 
porque son primos. 
Two pilgrims
are walking to Rome
to be married by the Pope,
because they are cousins.

Other lesser-known but popular songs included the tercerilla and bordón, both consisting of three lines and a small number of syllables.

As noted by Eikichi Hayashiya (1919–2016), Japanese ambassador to Spain (1981–1984) and cotranslator with Octavio Paz of Bashō’s Oku no hosomichi into Spanish (Sendas de oku, 1970), in a 2013 interview: “for writing good haiku one of the decisive elements is sound. The Japanese as well as the Spanish language use the five clear vowels a, e, i, o, u as a basis. That is why Spanish-speaking people have an advantage in producing sonorous haiku in a pleasant rhythm.” The combination of tradition and language helped haiku evolve in quite a natural way in Spanish.

First Translartions and Original Haiku in Spanish

The history of Spanish haiku began not in Spain but in the Americas. The Mexican poet José Juan Tablada (1871–1945) was much impressed by haiku on a visit to Japan in the first years of the 20th century and is said to have experimented with the genre himself.

As early as 1914, in Hiroshigué [i.e., Hiroshige], a monograph about the painter of the snow and the rain, the night and the moon, José Juan Tablada translated a hai-kai of Bashō and said that, in the original, these little poems possess an admirable impressionist conciseness, and in translation they seem coherent. This incoherence [sic] may have made him determined to transplant the hai-kai into Spanish, creating in effect a Western poetry in a Japanese form. (Los hai-jines mexicanos.)

Tablada used the words hai-kai and poemas sintéticos (synthetic poems) to describe his particular type of poetry. Like many poets of his generation in Europe and the Americas, Tablada challenged the late 19th-century romantic tradition in poetry.

Antonio Machado (1918), painting by Joaquín Sorolla

Close contact of Spanish poets with their French colleagues accelerated the development of the haiku genre in Spain. In the late 19th century, poets and writers, along with artists and architects, became infatuated with Orientalism, and attempts were made to adapt this Japanese genre, as well as those of other “exotic” cultures, to symbolist and modernist literature. One notable example was the Andalusian poet Antonio Machado (1857–1939), who discovered Chinese and Japanese poetry in Paris in the early 1900s. According to Paz (“La tradición del haikú”), realizing its closeness to authentic Spanish folk songs, Machado tried to connect haiku and popular songs and consequently created poems based on a contemplation of nature and its transmutations. He followed the oriental tradition but used images from Spanish cultural traditions. The first haiku written by a Spaniard have also been attributed to him.

Junto al agua negra 
olor de mar y jazmines 
Noche malagueña. 
By the black water
the smell of sea and jasmine.
Night in Malaga.

Another Andalusian poet of the so-called Generación del 27 (“Generation 27”), the 1956 Nobel Prize–winner in Literature Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881–1958), became interested in haiku, which he probably read in English translation. Jiménez was an impressionist; he always used picturesque images and admired brevity in poetry writing, which, according to Pedro Aullón de Haro, would account for the fact that he was a great admirer of haiku.

Está el árbol en flor 
y la noche le quita, cada día  
la mitad de las flores. 
The tree blooming—
each day the night removes
 half of its blossoms.
Suites (1983)

Federico García Lorca discovered haiku while studying in Madrid during the early 1920s. At the same time, he was deeply immersed in his study of the copla, the rural Andalusian folk lyric. For Lorca, the appeal of both the haiku and the copla was their power of poetic concentration. Lorca’s work most permeated by the haiku spirit is his Suites (1983). Though not published until long after his death, the poems of this collection were written around the same time he produced his haiku. The poems of Suites contain passages that much more closely resemble haiku as we recognize it today, suggestive of a development of compositional awareness of the form:

El buey 
cierra sus ojos 
lentamente … 

(Calor de establo.) 
The bullock
shuts his eyes.

(Heat in the stable.)

During the years of the Spanish Civil War and the rule of Francisco Franco (1936–1975), haiku writing came to a standstill. In those days, just a handful of mainstream poets turned their attention to haiku, and those found little success. From these years, the work of the undervalued José Ángel Valente (1929–2000), Fragmentos de un libro futuro (2000; Fragments of a Future Book), merits greater attention.

Haiku Scholarship and Publishing

The beginning of the 1970s witnessed the resurgence of haiku owing to the publication in Spain of the Bashō translations by Paz and Hayashiya. This constituted a significant milestone in the introduction of haibun and haiku into Spanish literature. Other factors that contributed to the burgeoning interest in haiku were the popularity of Buddhism, publication of the work of English-language haiku poets, and the influence of Jack Kerouac and other Beat writers, as well as continuing contacts with Latin American poets.

El haiku japonés (1972)

In 1972, Fernando Rodríguez Izquierdo, a scholar and translator who had spent several years in Japan, made the work of R. H. Blyth available in Spanish in his detailed haiku manual El haiku japonés (The Japanese Haiku), published in Madrid by Ediciones Hiperión. In fact, Hiperión led the way in the promotion of haiku in Spain by publishing dozens of books of translations of the classic Japanese poets—Bashō, Buson, Issa, Shiki, and Santōka—as well as work by contemporary Spanish poets and critics. Other Spanish publishers who included haiku books on their lists were Pre-textos and Miraguano.

El jaiku en España (1985)

Three other haiku scholars, Pedro Aullón de Haro, Vicente Haya, and Félix Alcántara Llarenas, also published monographs on haiku as well as translations from Japanese masters of the genre. Aullón de Haro produced El jaiku en España (1985; The Haiku in Spain). In 2002, Haya, a widely respected scholar of Islam as well as Buddhism and haiku, advanced the notion of a “rigorous haiku” respectful of the Japanese “mainstream” (i.e., traditional) model. Alcántara thoroughly studied Spanish haiku in his dissertation for the University of Zaragoza, “El haiku en España: recepción e imitación” (2006; The Haiku in Spain: Reception and Imitation).

Un viejo estanque

Over the past decade, several anthologies of Spanish haiku have been published, including: Alfileres (2004; Pins) edited by J. M. Rodríguez; Aldea poética (2005; Poetry Village); Poetas de corazón japonés (2005; Poets of the Japanese Heart) edited by Luis Corrales and Vicente Haya; Susana Benet’s Tertulia de haiku (2007; Haiku Chat); and Un viejo estanque (2013; An Old Pond) edited by Benet and Frutos Soriano. These two haiku by Elías Rovira Gil are from Un viejo estanque:

casi un segundo 
el rayo deja ver 
el aguacero 
luna llena, 
el brillo de una lombriz 
en la ribera
almost a second
the ray reveals
full moon,
the shine of an earthworm
on the shore

Currents Status of Haiku in Spain

Since 2006, the University of Castilla–La Mancha has sponsored an annual National Haiku Meeting (Encuentro Nacional de Haiku) that includes book exhibits, lectures, haiku readings, and international Spanish-language haiku contests followed by the publications of anthologies of the award-winning haiku.

Haiku meeting of Spanish haijin in 2011 organized by the University of Castilla La Mancha (UCLM) and the Haiku Association of Albacete (AGHA).

Organizations for the study and promotion of haiku have been established in Navarra, Albacete, and Madrid. A group that calls itself Haikuniversaciones began meeting monthly in 2010 in the Yamaguchi Library in Pamplona, Navarra. The group’s main activity is the critique of members’ haiku and publication of a comprehensive blog. The Asociación de la Gente del Haiku en Albacete (AGHA; Association of Haijin in Albacete), established in 2008, organizes haiku courses; lectures; competitions for haiku, senryu, and haibun; book publications; and a website. It also arranges international meetings and cooperates with international organizations.

The growth of the World Wide Web prompted an explosion of interest in haiku in Spain. The pan-Hispanic website El rincón del haiku (The Haiku Corner) was set up in 2001 by telecommunications engineer Luis Corrales to serve the needs of Spanish-speaking haijin worldwide. This omnibus website quickly became a meeting place for poets (for example, Susana Benet and Frutos Soriano), translators (such as JM Bermejo, and JM Cabeza), and haijin (including José Luis Vicent [Barlo] (1958– ), María Victoria Porras [Mavi] (1969– ), Luis Carril, Juan Francisco Pérez [Raijo] (1961– ), and Marcos Andrés [Maramín]). For example, work by these prominent contemporary Spanish haiku poets had been featured on El rincon del haiku:

pequeño arce: 
al posarse el gorrión
cae una hoja

Llenas sus manos, 
se apoya contra el pecho 
las mandarinas 

Lluvia de marzo 
Del revés, en la acequia, 
la piel de un conejo 

Parecía muerto 
al sacarlo del agua … 
Un saltamontes 

little maple:
with the perching sparrow
a leaf falls off

   Frutos Soriano
Hands full,
he leans them against her chest
the mandarin

   Juan Francisco Pérez (Raijo)
March rain
Inside out, in the ditch,
a rabbit skin

   María Victoria Porras (Mavi)
Seemed to be dead
when fishing it out of the water …
A grasshopper

   José Luis Vicent

Thus, El rincón del haiku became the nucleus for the evolution of haiku in Spain. It has essentially assumed the functions of a Spanish haiku society, even engaging in book publishing with its imprint Haibooks. Another early website, now discontinued, was No-Michi, run by Mar Ordóñez. The Seville-based Paseos (Promenades), established in 2003 and administered by Gregorio Dávila, is still quite active.

Hojas en la Acera
issue 40,
December 2018

Hojas en la Acera (HELA; Leaves on the Sidewalk), an internet journal keyed to the seasons, was launched in 2009. This quarterly, edited by Enrique Linares, includes articles on haiku history and practice and hosts a kukai. Since 2012, a print edition of Hojas en la Acera has circulated as well.

Besides those already mentioned, prominent Spanish poets writing haiku include Ángel Aguilar, Verónica Aranda (born 1982– ), Gorka Arellano, Luis Elías (Luelir), Mercedes Pérez Kotori (born 1960 ), León Molina (born 1959), and José Luis Morante (born1956), Antonio Moreno (born 1964), Jesús Munárriz (born 1940), Manuel Díez Orzas, José Luis Parra (1944–2012), Isabel Pose, Antonio Martínez Rubio, Toñi Sánchez Verdejo (born 1969 ), Ricardo Virtanen (born 1964), and Pedro Yama.

AUTHORS: Susana Benet, Elías Rovira Gil, and the Haikupedia editors, with a contribution by Paul Chambers.

ADAPTED FROM: Susana Benet, “Haiku in Spain,” and Rovira Gil, “Haiku in Spain,” both in World of Haiku, The Haiku Foundation website.

Sources / Further Reading (Print)

  • Alcántara, F. “El haiku en España: recepción e imitación” (Haiku in Spain: Reception and Imitation). Thesis, University of Zaragoza, 2006.
  • Aldea poética (Poetry Village). Madrid: Ópera Prima, 2005.
  • Arce, Félix, Manuel Diez Orzas, Mercedes Pérez, José Luis Vicent, and Giovanni C. Jara. El camino del viento: haiku. Albacete, Spain: Editorial QVE162, 2011.
  • Arce Araiz, Félix. Recogido en el Agua (Collected in the Water). Seville: Edit. La Isla de Siltolá, 2018.
  • Arellano Pérez de Lazárraga, Gorka. Cada día mas tarde. Uno Editorial, 2015.
  • Aullón de Haro, Pedro. El jaiku en España: la delimitación de un componente de la poética de la modernidad (Haiku in Spain: The Delimitation of a Component of the Poetics of Modernity). Madrid: Playor / Hiperión, 1984.
  • Benachir, Hynde. Anthologie du haiku hispanique. Pessac, France: Université Bordeaux-Montaigne, 2016. In French. PDF available online at https://tel.archives-ouvertes.fr/tel-01492662/file/These_Hynde_BENACHIR_Anthologie_annexes.pdf.
  • Benet, Susana. La enredadera: haikus reunidos (The Creeper: Collected Haiku). Editorial Renacimiento, 2015.
  • Benet, Susana. Faro del bosque. Valencia, Spain: Pre-Textos, 2006.
  • Benet, Susana. Grillos y luna (Crickets and the Moon). Seville: La Isla de Siltolá, 2018.
  • Benet, Susana. Huellas de escarabajo. Granada, Spain: Editorial Comares, 2011.
  • Benet, Susana. Jardín. Valencia: Krausse, 2010. 12 haiku and watercolors. Partly available online from Issuu at https://issuu.com/editorialkrausse/docs/susana_benet_jardin.
  • Benet, Susana. Lluvia menuda. Granada, Spain: Editorial Comares, 2008.
  • Benet, Susana, and Frutos Soriano, eds. Un viejo estanque: antología de haiku contemporáneo en español (An Old Pond: Anthology of Contemporary Haiku in Spanish). Granada, Spain: Editorial Comares, 2013.
  • Blackwell, Danny, selected and translated. Haiku from Iberia and Beyond. Valencia: Mono ya Mono Books, 2018. Haiku in Basque, Catalan, Galician, Portuguese, and Spanish.
  • Bermejo, José María. Instantes: Nueva antología del haiku japonés. Madrid: Editorial Hiperión, 2009.
  • Bermejo, José María, trans. and ed. Nieve, luna, flores: antología del haiku japonés. Palma de Mallorca: Calima Ediciones, 1997.
  • Bianchi, César. Los haiku del Viejo Libo. Buenos Aires: ElAleph.com, 2006, 2019. Also available as an e-book.
  • Brisa de mar (Sea Breeze). Albacete: Facultad de Derecho de Albacete, Ediciones de la UCLM, 2006. Participants’ anthology, I Concurso Internacional de Haiku.
  • Cabezas García, Antonio, selector and trans. Haikus inmortales. Madrid: Ediciones Hiperión, 1983, 1989. In Spanish and Japanese. PDF available online via Scribd at https://www.scribd.com/document/389891699/Haikus-Inmortales-Edicion-Bilingue-Seleccion-pdf.
  • Cabrera, Antonio. Tierra en el cielo. Valencia, Spain: Editorial Pre-Textos, 2001.
  • Carril, Luis. El musgo que indica norte. Albacete: Editorial QVE: Colección Haibooks, 2010.
  • Cereijo, José. La amistad silenciosa de la luna (The Silent Friendship of the Moon). Valencia, Spain: Editorial Pre-Textos, 2003.
  • Chambers, Paul. “The Haiku of Federico García Lorca,” Modern Haiku 49:2 (Summer 2018).
  • Chiyo. Violeta agreste. Selection, translation, introduction, and notes by Fernando Rodríguez-Izquierdo y Gavala. Gijón, Spain: Satori Ediciones, 2016. 70 haiku in Japanese and Spanish.
  • Corrales, Luis, and Vicente Haya, selectors. Poetas de corazón japonés: antología de autores de “El Rincón del Haiku” (Poets of the Japanese Heart: Anthology of the Authors of “El Rincón del Haiku”). Salamanca and Toledo, Spain: Editorial Ceyla, 2005.
  • Coyaud, Maurice. Hormigas sin sombra. El libro del haiku (Ants Without Shadows: The Book of Haiku). Translated into Spanish by Mario Canpaña. Barcelona: Ed. DVD Poesia, 2005. Translation of Fourmis sans ombre: le livre du haïku.
  • Díez Orzas, Manuel. Estares (Colección de haikus). Published privately (Lulu.com), 2009.
  • Díez Orzas, Manuel, Mercedes Pérez, Félix Arce, and Elías Rovira. El humo de las ofrendas (The Smoke of the Offerings). Albacete, Spain: Editorial UNO, 2018.
  • García Lorca, Frederico. Suites. Barcelona: Editorial Ariel, 1983.
  • Haya, Vicente. Aware: Iniciación al haiku japonés (Aware: Introduction to Japanese Haiku). Barcelona: Editorial Kairós, 2013.
  • Haya, Vicente. El corazón del haiku: la expresión de lo sagrado (The Heart of Haiku: The Expression of the Sacred). Preface by Chantal Maillard. Madrid: Mandala Ediciones, 2002.
  • Haya, Vicente. El espacio interior del haiku (The Interior Space of Haiku). Barcelona: Shinden Ediciones, 2004. In Spanish.
  • Haya Segovia, Vicente. Haiku: la vía de los sentidos (Haiku: The Way of the Senses). Valencia, Spain: Alfons El Magnanim, 2005.
  • Haya, Vicente. Haiku tsumami-gokoro: 150 haikus inmortales (Haiku Tsumami-gokoro: 150 Immortal Haiku). Madrid: Shinden Ediciones, 2009.
  • Haya, Vicente, with Akiko Yamada. Haiku-do: El haiku como camino espiritual (Haiku-do: Haiku as a Spiritual Path). Barcelona: Editorial Kairós, 2007. Translations of 70 Japanese haiku.
  • Haya, Vicente, and Yurie Fujisawa, trans. 70 haikus y senryūs de mujer (70 Haiku and Senryu by Women). Madrid: Editorial Hiperión, 2011. Verses by Suzuki Masajo, Kamegaya Chie, and Nishiguchi Sachiko, in Japanese and Spanish.
  • Hayashiya, Eikichi. “Entrevista” (Interview). Revista Hojas en la Acera. March 17, 2013.
  • Jodorowsky, Alejandro. El dedo y la luna: cuentos zen, haikus, koans (The Finger and the Moon: Zen Stories, Haiku, Koans). Barcelona: Ediciones Obelisco, 3rd edition, 2003.
  • Kobayashi Issa. Cincuenta haikus (Fifty Haiku). Translated by Ricardo de la Fuente. Madrid: Ediciones Hiperión, 1991. In Spanish.
  • López Castro, Armando. “Antonio Machado y la tradición del haikú.” Huarte de San Juan Filologeia y Didáctica de la Lengua 7, 9–20. Available online at: https://core.ac.uk/reader/19609796.
  • Machado, Antonio. Poesías completas (Complete Poems). Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1997.
  • Masaoka Shiki. Cien jaikus. Translations by Justino Rodríguez. Madrid: Ediciones Hiperión, 1999; 4th edition, 2007.
  • Matsuo Bashō. Senda hacia tierras hondas (Senda de oku). Translated by Octavio Paz and Eikichi Hayashiya; edited by A. Cabezas. Madrid: Hiperión, 1993.Matsuo Bashō. Sendas de oku (Narrow Road to the Deep North). Translated by Octavio Paz and Eikichi Hayashiya. Mexico City: National Autonomous University of Mexico, 1957 / Barcelona: Barral, 1970, 1981.
  • Molina, León. Rumor de acequia (Ditch Rumor). Seville: Ediciones de la Isla de Siltolá, 2018.
  • Morante, José Luis. A punto de ver (A Point to See). Madrid: Polibea, 2019.
  • Munárriz, Jesús. Capitalinos. Seville: La Isla de Siltolá, 2018.
  • Neuman, Andrés. Gotas negras (40 haikus urbanos) / Gotas de sal (20 haikus marinos). Córdoba, Spain: Editorial Berenice, 2007.
  • Ota, Seiko, and Elena Gallego, trans. Haikus contracorriente (shinkoo haiku) (Countercurrent Haiku: Shinkō Haiku). Madrid: Poesía Hiperión, 2018.
  • Paz, Octavio. “La tradición del haikú.” Cambridge, 1970. In Pedro Aullón de Haro, El jaiku en España (Madrid: Player, 1985).
  • Pérez, Juan Francisco, and María Victoria Porras. A la intemperie (111 haikus). Albacete, Spain: Uno Editorial, 2006.
  • Rabassó, Francisco Xavier. “Antonio Machado, entre la tradición del haiku y el vitalismo lírico de su poesía breve.” Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas (AIH): Actas X (1989). Available online at https://cvc.cervantes.es/literatura/aih/pdf/10/aih_10_3_023.pdf.
  • Rodríguez, José María. Alfileres: el haiku en la poesía española última (Pins: Haiku in Recent Spanish Poetry). Lucena, Córdoba, Spain: Ediciones del Ayuntamiento de Lucena, 2004.
  • Rodríguez, Josep M. Hana o La Flor del Cerezo. Valencia: Editorial Pre-Textos, 2007.
  • Rodríguez-Izquierdo y Gavala, Fernando. El haiku japonés: historia y traducción: evolución y triunfo del haikai, breve poema sensitivo (Japanese Haiku: History and Translation: Evolution and Triumph of Haikai, Short Sensitive Poem). Madrid: Guadarrama, 1972 / Madrid: Hiperión, 1999.
  • Rodríguez-Izquierdo y Gavala, Fernando. Luna de arena (Sand Moon). Gijón, Spain: Satori Ediciones, 2019.
  • Rovira Gil, Elías. Las cinco estaciones (The Five Seasons). Albacete, Spain: Uno Editorial, 2012.
  • Salas, Alonso. La senda de Buson (Buson’s Path). Selección y prólogo de Vicente Haya. Lucena, Córdoba, Spain: Uno Editorial, 2006. 36 haiku.
  • Sánchez Verdejo, Toñi. Dientes de león en la hierba: haikus de atención plena (Dandelions in the Grass: Haiku of Mindfulness). Valencia, Spain: Hojas de Té, 2019.
  • Sancho, Javier. Flores de Almendro (Almond Flowers). Valencia: Hojas de Té, 2018.
  • Singh, Pariksith. “Federico Garcia Lorca: Use of Haiku-like Images in Surrealist Poetry.” Frogpond 19:3 (December 1996).
  • Soriano, Frutos. Diarios de un holgazán. Granada, Spain: Comares, 2006.
  • Tablada, José Juan. Un día …: poemas sintéticos (One Day …: Synthetic Poems). Caracas: Bolívar, 1919.
  • Taneda Santōka. El monje desnudo: 100 haikus (The Naked Monk: 100 Haiku). Translated by Vicete Haya and H. Tsuji. Madrid: Miraguano Ediciones, 2006.
  • Tertulia de haiku: antología de haikus (Haiku Circle: Anthology of Haiku). Prologue by Antonio Cabrera. Pontevedra, Spain: El Taller del Poeta, 2007. 
  • Valente, José Ángel. Fragmentos de un libro futuro (Fragments of a Future Book). Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg, 2008.
  • Valente, José Ángel. Obras completas II. Ensayos (Complete Works II. Essays). Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg/ Círculo de Lectores, 2008.
  • Virtanen, Ricardo. Nieve sobre nieve: Haikus, 2010–2014 (Snow on Snow: Haiku 2010–2014). Madrid: El Sastre de Apollinaire, 2017.
  • Vocance, Julian. Cien visiones de guerra: seguido de Fantasmas de ayer y hoy: haikus (One Hundred Visions of War: Followed by Ghosts of Yesterday and Today: Haiku). Seville: Editorial Renacimiento, 2017. In Spanish and French.

Sources / Further Reading (Online)

Haiku in Spain: Catalan

Haiku in Spain: Basque

Haiku in Spain: Galician

Updated on November 5, 2023