A haiku is a Japanese poem consisting of three lines and 17 syllables. Each line must contain a specific number of syllables. The first line has five syllables, the second line has seven syllables and the third line has five syllables.
The word "haiku" originates from the word "haikai," which is a form of renga or linked-verse poem. Japanese lyrical poetry dates back to as early as the seventh century. When first created, only objective descriptions of nature and the seasons were fit subject matter for a haiku. Haiku poetry gained distinction in the 17th century when Matsunaga Teitoku taught Matsuo Basho about verse poetry. Basho helped popularize the art form and wrote 2,000 poems by the time of his death. Haiku poetry became widely known throughout the United States in the 1950s.