The following haiku is by the famous Japanese haiku master Matsuo Basho, who lived from 1644 to 1694: "Temple bells die out. / The fragrant blossoms remain. / A perfect evening!" Haiku is a Japanese poetry style with three lines. The most widely accepted style of haiku in the English-speaking world is called the 575 form. In this type of haiku, the first line must have five syllables, the second line seven syllables, and the last line five syllables.
Haikus are untitled, and nature is often a foremost theme. Usually a word or phrase indicates the season. Examples include "snow," "cherry blossoms," "harvest moon" and "autumn dusk." The haiku typically has a reflective tone, leaving the reader to ponder.
The following are examples of modern haiku, both in the 575 pattern. Michael R. Collings wrote: "Freeway overpass–– / blossoms in graffiti / on fog-wrapped June mornings." From poet Dave McCroskey comes "The morning paper–– / harbinger of good and ill / I step over it." Chris Spruck wrote the poem: "Faceless, just numbered. / Lone pixel in the bitmap–– / I, anonymous."
Not all haiku follow the syllable-counting style, although publications such as Haiku Journal insist on 575. Various styles are acceptable in Japan, and Japanese-English translators may use their own discretion when it comes to syllable count. The following example is another from Matsuo Basho: "The first snow! / Enough to bend the leaves / of the jonquil low."