This site has a list of rules one can apply to the writing of haiku. There are 65 rules given, with the admonition to pick and choose since some of the rules contradict each other. Here are a few of the rules:
2. Seventeen syllables written in three lines.I was hoping to find a few hard and fast guidelines to use but haven't had much luck. The 17 syllables rule is only a suggestion -- many very good haiku in Japanese and English have less than 17 syllables.
3. Seventeen syllables written in three lines divided into 5-7-5.
4. Seventeen syllables written in a vertical (flush left or centered) line.
5. Less than 17 syllables written in three lines as short-long-short.
6. Less than 17 syllables written in three vertical lines as short-long-short. (Ala Barry Semegran)
7. Write what can be said in one breath.
8. Use a season word (kigo) or seasonal reference.
9. Use a caesura at the end of either the first or second line, but not at both.
10. Never have all three lines make a complete or run-on sentence.
However, all good haiku share some basic characteristics:
1) They mention a season either directly or by inference.
2) They have two parts sometimes referred to as the fragment (the shorter, stand-alone line) and the phrase (the rest of the poem).
3) The two parts compare generally unrelated ideas in a way that forges new meaning.
The language is to be compacted as much as possible, which often means dropping articles, prepositions, and sometimes even verbs. Images are meant to carry the weight of the poem, and exposition is to be avoided. Classical haiku, with its foundations set in Zen, aims to produce an aha! moment in the reader.
Because haiku relies so heavily on images and the symbolic associations they evoke, Westerners have had a hard time getting the essence of haiku. This has resulted in a distinctly Western haiku form often bearing little resemblance to the Japanese traditions.
Japanese haiku is founded in nature imagery. This convention has not survived the conversion into English, though there are many who still attempt to honor this element of haiku.
As I learn more, I will post more information on the art of haiku.
Here are a few of my first attempts at the form. These are rough and feel very forced to me. I hope to get more relaxed with the form as I practice.
old river sleeps under snow--
moonlight warms skin
moonlit lotus blossoms --
last water scent
before the desert withers --
breathe in, breathe out
fierce hummingbird squabble --