I have posted a number of haikus on this blog. Many probably ask: What, really, is haiku? Well, here's a link to get you started: click here.
Another useful link, "Haiku of Kobayashi Issa", is here >> http://haikuguy.com/issa/index.html
Haiku has been described/labelled as a "one-breath poem". It is decidedly Japanese in origin, its rich history there going back several centuries, through which it has evolved appreciably. The essence of a haiku, written in Japanese, is that it is a seventeen-syllable poem in a 5-7-5 format. Many a Japanese haiku translated into English frame those 5-7-5 syllables in a three-line sequence. And that is the image that we have, those of us non-Japanese who write haiku. The Japanese haiku was traditionally a one-line affair, but times have changed (and places too).
It is difficult, though, for Japanese translations into English to maintain the 17-syllable mien, as you can discern in the translations that appear in the second link provided above. The English translations almost invariably have fewer syllables; since, experts note, the Japanese language tends toward the monosyllabic, and English toward the polysyllabic. Conversely, then, Japanese translations of English-language originals, and plenty of those are appearing every passing day in all sorts of places and sites (including Twitter), will usually appear to be on the higher side of -- that is, to violate -- the 5-7-5 rule. But as long as they are acknowledged as translations, this should not be a worry. Purists worry, though; and I detect that they would rather release those who dabble in Haiku-in-English from the "tyranny" of the rule, than see any haiku in the Japanese language, translated or "original", committing this hara... this error.
As I see it, however, the delightfulness, and the challenge, of the 5-7-5 format should not be missed or avoided just because a poet cannot communicate in Japanese -- or just because a poet cannot but communicates in English, or another language. There is enough poetic licence to get one through any jam. Let haiku be! Let it be 5-7-5 in any language!
I see that there is a tendency in many poets to write haikus without titles. That is something I personally avoid. Every child has a right to a name, we are told. Every haiku and every poem likewise.
P.S. (Monday, April 27, 2009):
Here is a Haiku in Swahili (with a Tanzanian accent) that I have written since this particular post was originally published last week.
And here below is my English translation
of Poromoko, touched up using my poetic licence:
Found me on the skids.
The world's a marginal place.
I was not ass-u-aged!
[Alternatives to the last line: I was not satisfied
/I made no nothing / Day, be em-pow-ered]