A haiku poem consists of three lines, with the first and last line having five moras, and the middle line having seven. A mora is a sound unit, much like a syllable, but is not identical to it. Since the moras do not translate well into English, it has been adapted and syllables are used as moras. Haiku poems date from 9th century Japan to the present day. Haiku is more than a type of poem; it uses uses visual language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or the season intuitively linked to the human condition.
Traditional haiku often focuses on very simple subjects while providing an interesting or unexpected perspective. Two distinct images are usually placed in juxtaposition, allowing the reader to see an enlightening connection between the two. Like a good joke, the first part serves as set-up while the second part delivers the punchline. As exemplified in this Haiku by Masaoka Shiki:
As one who loved poetry
Other haiku poets are more concerned that their haiku focuses on “showing” as opposed to “telling”, i.e., describing rather than explaining. Haiku uses an economy of words to paint a multi-tiered painting, without “telling all”. As famed haiku poet Matsuo Bashō put it, “The haiku that reveals seventy to eighty percent of its subject is good. Those that reveal fifty to sixty percent, we never tire of.”