Monday, July 28, 2008

Haiku U and other stuff

Blog #1 --

Hi folks: I've been writing a lot of haiku lately...Not sure why...Could be because I'm getting a greater sense of time and how fast it passes...haiku has the power to say a lot in 17 syllables.

I share the following, taken from my forthcoming book "An Unmistakable Shade of Red and the Obama Chronicles" with Bottom Dog and ask poets so inclined to respond with a haiku of their own, or by someone else. Peace, Mary:


At night, crows enter rooms
of sexually molested daughters.
Make fathers eat them.


Anonymous said...

Powerful piece, Mary....

Mine seem frivolous by comparison.
But here are two "Gas Hike Coup" I recently and read at the Literary Cafe:

Planet earth gets hot,
has been bought by Texaco.
Kick Bush in the twat.

Leaders cavortin'
with Halliburton rape us.
Let's drill oily Bush.

Anonymous said...

Seems I have an extra "and" in my intro. Would like to blame it on a vast right-wing conspiracy.... ;)

Anonymous said...

Good to read you. Congrats on the upcoming book.

Good dad wipes his tears
cigarette dangles
candy drips from fingertips

(Not about molestation, but about the sadness of a dad.)

Anonymous said...

Does the word "haiku" in American poetry have any meaning left, other than "an unrhymed poem in three lines"?

Anything you say
in seventeen syllables
is not a haiku

Anonymous said...

Landis is correct.
Haiku has been as bastardized by American writers as much as Chinese food has been by La Choy.

There is supposed to be a flow from minutia to the universal - the syllables do not translate well from Japanese to English so I guess one could fudge with that a bit.

But the author of the post seems to think it is important and even claims "haiku has the power to say a lot in 17 syllables"

She then provides us an example with 21 syllables - a little bit of "do as I say - not as I do"?

Here's a link to a quick description of what a haiku should really be:

pottygok said...

Here's another website--the definition according to the Haiku Society of America.

Perhaps we should use phrases like "Western haiku" or "American haiku" to differentiate between 5-7-5s and other accepted alternatives.

Speaking of books coming out, though, I've got a collection of Western haiku due out soon on VanZeno press!

More in the future on this issue and definitons...

pottygok said...

Sorry, forgot to post the website:

Anonymous said...

My "Hike Coup" certainly don't fit the traditional Japanese definition of "haiku." Most of my seventeen syllable (or three-line) poems don't. So I tend to call them different things to avoid this debate (and be amusing, if only to myself) - like Hike Coup, High Coo or Maiku (my coo?).

Jack Kerouac introduced the concept "Western Haiku" in his Scattered Poems. He wrote:

"A 'Western Haiku' need not concern itself with the seventeen syllables since Western languages cannot adapt themselves to the fluid syllabic Japanese. I propose that the 'Western Haiku' simply say a lot in three short lines in any Western language."

So what makes Jack an expert? Nothing, perhaps... but one could argue that his willingness to operate outside of convention was what made him special.

The meanings of words evolve. Lots of words we use today don't mean the same thing they meant in Shakespeare's day or even Byron's day. The word "hound" used to be used to signify any dog. But as the word "dog" developed, "hound" came to be used only for larger types of dogs. The word "arrive" used to be much more specific in meaning - referring only to getting somewhere via water transport (comes from the same Latin word as "river"). Technically, one who says he will "arrive by train" could be accused of straying from the traditional meaning of "arrive." Even in Japan, the meaning of the word "haiku" has evolved over centuries. Perhaps its evolution isn't finished.

That said... in some fields, especially science, a strong argument can be made that words should have and retain a specific meaning, lest chaos result. In some ways poetry is a science - Aristotle treated it that way. Folks like Jack Kerouac did not.

I see validity in both sides, so I remain reluctant to use the title "haiku" for my poetry. Guess I'll stick to coinages like "maiku" and "Hike Coup"... ;)

pottygok said...

Amiri Baraka has a short form he calls "lowku". Here's a video:

Anonymous said...

I'm quite fond of senryu, a form that hasn't really caught on in America as much as haiku. If haiku, however, has evolved into a word that means "any short unrhymed poem," then there's no actual difference between haiku and senryu, or for that matter between haiku and anything else.
But I'm left at a loss as to why the poets are so insistant on using the word to describe their poems. I guess it's an attempt to acquire the cachet of writing a form poem, without actually having to actually write a form poem.

Pressin On said...

aren't there other things which distinguish a japanese poem as haiku?
such as hinting at which season of the year it is?
i think there are other 'rules'...

michael salinger said...

the link to the haiku society of america that pottygok provided does a pretty good job of defining the different incarnations of short japanese based verse.

i have to agree though, that most attempts at western Haiku falls short of the genre's intention.

the part that i think (as if what i think has a rat's ass of importance)is that the last line serve as a grand summing up or twist adding appendage.

sort of an epimythium if you will.

Anonymous said...

When I call my short poems "haiku," I use the idea of haiku as a touchstone for creativity. I expect as I become a better connoisseur of the form I'll appreciate "real" haiku like a fine vintage of poetic whine.

Anonymous said...

Bree said:
>aren't there other things which distinguish a
> japanese poem as haiku?
>such as hinting at which season of the year it is?

Right, haiku are seasonal, and immediate.

If it doesn't have a seasonal word, and isn't about observing nature, it's probably senryu.

Or maybe poetic whine.

Anonymous said...

Epimythium! Dig that word - don't remember hearing that one before.

I'm also quite fond of "poetic whine" - chuckled when Kathy used it and again when Geoff did.

Mary Weems said...

Hmmmm...Thanks to all who've responded. This may be a surprise to some but I know what traditional haiku is and am far from being the first to stray from both form and content. As a poet I've learned the rules/forms and feel free to fuck with them at will. Will continue to use the term as I see fit...hopefully never without this kind of feedback. Peace, Mary

pottygok said...


You write "This may be a surprise to some but I know what traditional haiku is..." I'm curious as to what YOUR definition of a 'traditional haiku' is. A lot of this discussion seems based around definitions and/or misunderstandings of definitions. For example, a lot of folks would argue that a 'traditional haiku' cannot be written in English, if only because syllables and Japanese 'on' don't correlate. As an academic, I'm sure you've put a lot of study into this, and I'm curious to see where that has led.

Also, another question, and something I'm probably going to post a seperate entry on, so if you want to sit and wait for that, cool. As an academic, why do you think haiku are avoided by the academy, specifically academic journals?

Anonymous said...

because we are free beings
on this planet,
mine own eyes are wiser
than ivory skies,
and a guy--who inspires
doesn't require
a geyse--nor caché of

Anonymous said...

Thinking too much about my writing, others' writings, humility, definitions, ego. Gotta add one last word to this after this last little ugly outburst o mine. I feel renewed humility:

Is the impulse to shame any different than rubbing nose in a claim to a higher spiritual path?

Thanks for the stimulation, all.

Anonymous said...

Kathy: your "Good dad wipes his tears" verse posted above is a good example of senryu, a short poetry form that focusses on insightful observation of daily life, and often is about foibles of human misbehavior (not necessarily funny).

Senryu look like haiku (17 sound units), but in many ways are exactly the opposite-- haiku are about nature, while senryu are about human society.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau