The Poetry of Crows

Yesterday afternoon, as I was wandering through the woods enjoying the warm weather, I was jolted by the sound of a crow. This experience inspired me to write this haiku:

a crow calls in flight
the silence has been broken
it's time to head home

It turns out that the haiku is the perfect form of poetry to capture this type of experience. This three-line, brief form of poetry often focuses on images of nature and emphasizes simplicity and direct expression.

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828), Yosa Buson (1716-1784), and Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) are often called the early masters of the haiku. Below are a few examples of their haiku about crows.


Basho’s Crows

on a withered brach
a crow is perched
an autumn evening
why does it head
to the market at year's-end?
a flying crow

Issa’s Crows

mocking the farmer
plowing, the strutting
entrusting the thicket
to the field crow...
the lark sings

Buson’s Crow

they end their flight
one by one--
crows at dusk

Shiki’s Crow

why does it head
to the market at year's-end?
a flying crow


Robert Frost’s Crow

Robert Frost (1874–1963) was an American poet who is known for depictions of rural life. Frost didn’t write haiku. However, he did write this short poem that has a crow as one of its main characters.

“Dust of Snow” by Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Emily Dickinson’s Crow

Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) was an American poet who often incorporated nature into her poetry. In this poem, the crow also plays an important role.

“Fame is a fickle food” (1702) by Emily Dickinson

Fame is a fickle food
Upon a shifting plate
Whose table once a
Guest but not
The second time is set
Whose crumbs the crows inspect
And with ironic caw
Flap past it to the
Farmer’s corn
Men eat of it and die
Crow Photo by Frank Cone on
Photo by Frank Cone


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14 thoughts on “The Poetry of Crows

Add yours

  1. Great article, great recommendation. I have come to believe in stretching some of the conventions regarding haiku, mainly anthropogenic in nature. I would love to start a conversation with you about the genre.

  2. Hi Rodolfo, Thanks for your comment. I am just starting to learn about the history and the conventions of haiku. I would be happy to hear about your thoughts regarding anthropogenic and anthropomorphism in haiku.

  3. I think you are correct that communing with nature, even for just an hour, instills a desire to express it in writing in some way…and the haiku is perfect to express that moment. Thanks for a thoughtful post on the subject and introducing Matsuo Bashō…..its a pleasure.

    1. Hi Dianne, I am glad you enjoyed this and I would be interested in reading your post when it is done. If I don’t see it, feel free to share the link. Thanks for visiting and be well!

  4. Crows feature regularly in modern English language haiku:

    two crows
    flying into dusk
    my ill-wishes
    (Shot Glass Journal)

    winter rain
    on the crow’s beak
    droplets of night
    (Open Journal of Arts and Letters)

    dwindling light
    a crow shadows me
    from the dolmen
    (Presence Haiku Magazine issue 70)

    1. Hi John, Thanks so much for adding your work to this discussion! It is much appreciated. I actually have a few crow haiku in my notebook right now! Thanks again for reading and sharing.

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