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“Waterfall” by Jillian Carmel, age 9, is a haiku. The title names what the poem describes: this is about a waterfall. But the word “waterfall” never appears in the poem itself. Instead, we see the effects of the waterfall on the world around it and on the speaker of the poem. 

How does this poet play with poetic forms?

The haiku is a traditional Japanese poetic form. The first line of a haiku is typically five syllables, the second is seven, and the third is, once again, five. This 5/7/5 structure is reflected in “Waterfall” as well. Historically, haiku started out as openings to longer Japanese poems called renga. But over the years, poets have begun to use haiku on their own.

“Waterfall” opens on a loud, boisterous image:

Crashing to the ground

Often, nature is described in soft, polite words. Crashing is a striking departure from that tradition. This waterfall isn’t soft or delicate or gentle—it crashes. It charges. It knocks things over. It moves quickly. 

The second line introduces an internal contradiction:

So silent but very loud

This conflict between loudness and silence makes us start to wonder how we define these words. Perhaps silence and loudness aren’t just ways of describing noise. Maybe these words also describe how we feel when we look at something as simultaneously enormous, powerful, and serene as a waterfall. 

Another interesting part of the second line of the haiku is that “ground” and “loud” form a slant rhyme. The slant rhyme mirrors the dissolution of the second line—things don’t quite line up or make sense with this waterfall. But even in its complicated messiness, there’s still music to it, just as there is music to the waterfall in all its loud silence.

Discussion questions:

  • What do you make of the third line? Why do you think the writer steps out of direct description and into a more abstract space?
  • What are other natural phenomena that, like waterfalls, feel both silent and loud?



Crashing to the ground
So silent but very loud
It’s nature’s magic

Jillian Carmel
Jillian Carmel, 9
Denver, CO