Haiku is a form of poetry that developed in Japan from about 400 years ago. The style reached a peak in the first half of the Edo period (1603-1867), when a poet named Matsuo Basho wrote distinctive verses on his journeys around the country describing the seasons and the scenery of the places he visited.
In the ensuing Meiji period (1868-1912) haiku developed as a uniquely Japanese form of poetry thanks to the efforts of another poet, Masaoka Shiki. It was Shiki who promoted a new form of haiku that emphasized realistic portrayals of nature and human life.
A haiku is a short verse of 17 syllables, divided into units of five, seven, and five syllables. Haiku use simple expressions in ways that allow deeply felt emotions and a sense of discovery to be readily conveyed to the reader. As a rule, a haiku must have a word that is identified with a particular season.
The popularity of haiku has spread beyond Japan to Europe, North America, Africa, and China. Haiku composition is especially popular in the United States. The following is an English translation of a haiku by Matsuo Basho:
The autumn wind is blowing.
But the chestnut burs