An Insider’s Guide to Receipt Haikus

We got expert tips on how to start a regular practice with this beloved form of poetry.

THIS EARTH DAY, turn trash into treasure. Take a receipt – be it from a library, bar or cafe – and scrawl a haiku about your experience. The poems are 17 syllables in three lines of five, seven and five, respectively.

To get started, we asked Woodland Pattern Book Center’s co-executive director Jenny Gropp for tips.

Start by setting the scene.

“Just sit with a moment. Find whatever is going on for you, whether it’s an emotion or a space, and begin to count out what you can say in the first two lines syllabically, using those
to record the scene you’re in.” 

Look for enlightenment. 

“When you hit the third line, you’re supposed to strike a sense of sudden enlightenment. And that can be something that is humorous or visionary or even might turn into darkness or change the subject entirely.” 

Practice makes perfect. 

“It actually doesn’t take that long, and you can practice them easily. It’s like playing a sport or doing a yoga pose. You can do it over and over and over.”

Woodland Pattern is hosting a haiku workshop on April 3 (


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s April issue.

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Alli Watters is the digital and culture editor at Milwaukee Magazine. That means that in addition to running this website, she covers art, entertainment, style, home and more for the magazine. It also means she doesn't sleep much.