June 15: 23-24: The Techniques of Using Puns and Word-Play

(See this post for an explanation of what’s going on here.)


The Technique of Using Puns

“Again we can only learn from the master punsters – the Japanese. … [W]e [English] haiku writers may not be so well-versed as the Japanese are in using these because there have been periods of Western literary history where this skill has been looked down upon.

a sign

at the fork in the road

‘fine dining’ ”

The Technique of Word-plays [Place Names]

“[The] work [of the Japanese] is made easier by so many of their place names either having double meaning or many of their words being homonyms (sounding the same). …  A steady look at many of our cities’ names could give new inspiration: Oak-land, Anchor Bay, Ox-ford, Cam-bridge and even our streets give us Meadowgate, First Street, and one I lived on – Ten Mile Cutoff.

moon set

now it’s right – how it fits

Half Moon Bay”

– Jane Reichhold, Haiku Techniques


driving rain
windshield wipers
try to keep up

Fond du Lac:
my boat has sunk
and I don’t even know it yet


Once again I combined two techniques because the second seems to me obviously a special case of the first — puns based on place names.

I didn’t feel terribly inspired by this — not that I have anything against puns, I make groanworthy ones all the time, but I guess they need to come up naturally in the context of something for me, not be forced for an exercise.

7 thoughts on “June 15: 23-24: The Techniques of Using Puns and Word-Play

  1. yeah. sometimes i get to thinking about a word until it just dribbles off into a playing on itself. i’ve not tried puns in haiku – well… may be i have. and i just dont remember it. i havent tried them often. now that i think about it tho, i do play with puns when i title work sometimes. may be. often.

    rough bark
    beneath the oak tree
    a watchdog

    i’m not sure which i prefer:

    rough bark
    against the oak tree
    a watchdog

    i’ll let them sit a bit…. and then see…

    • I often find that I’ve put puns in my haiku without noticing it, because that’s just the way my mind works, but trying to put them in on purpose is something else entirely.

      Your pun works really well. I definitely like “beneath” here better than “against.” Trying to articulate why … I guess because you usually don’t speak of either dogs or bark as being “against” a tree. With “beneath” — the haiku breaks up neatly into fragment and phrase after the first line. With “against” — it just kind of gets confusing.

      Take with several handfuls of salt, and throw them backward over your shoulder to ward off the devil. 🙂

      • devil? yikes!

        yeah. i like the Beneath better too. altho i think each line in both work as phrases and both of the bottom 2 lines work as a unit.

        to me there is only one reasonable way to read Against – and that’s the dog against the tree – like you said bark against the tree isnt so easy to swallow… altho i can imagine the situation where it could happen, it’s odd and not something that would be found other than in a special case may be… i think unique situations can work – but it helps if there is something common in it too.

        with Beneath the reader/listener can read the bark as tree or sound, altho in the end i think it’s easier to read it as a sound beneath the oak tree – which is the dog. still… it’s worthwhile to go back and follow it as rough tree bark. altho only slightly better than Against.

        something to work on.


        sun day nap
        the garden tools
        against a tree

  2. my noodles boil
    my neuronres perspire
    with mathematics

    is-there a pun?

    feel it as similarity in time!

    Bridge of Sighs
    the cat runs
    on two paws

    pun, no pun

    I very much like “the garden tools”, but just see that as humour like “the cat”!!!

    • I like the clever pun on “noodles” in the first ku … I think I may be a little too dense to understand the humor in the second one, though (or maybe it’s just a translation/cultural problem).

      Is your first language French or German, Claire (or something else)? I see you are coming from a French ISP but you have referred to German culture … Whatever it is, I’m very excited to have readers coming from non-English-speaking countries!

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