Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dog - Ku

underestimate the value of being clever.

Now I am not exactly certain why – but the subject of haikus seems to get everyone going around here. It’s like bringing up politics at the thanksgiving dinner table – everyone has an opinion and there just may be some mashed potatoes headed for the side of your melon if you’re not diplomatic enough.

Well, a friend of mine in Ann Arbor Steve Marsh (they used to have a football team attached to a school up there somewhere I think) has pegged the meter on the cleverness scale by publishing a book of Dog Ku. Haiku (at least the 5-7-5 variety – you guys can battle this one out) written by dogs.

So are these ditties sanctioned by the all supreme Haiku Arbitration Institute of the Known Universe and adjacent dimensions? Probably not. But they are clever and fun and definitely possess that “why didn’t I think of this” envy that sprouts whenever we are gob smacked with an obviously good idea.

Now I happen to know if you deal directly with Mr. Marsh – he can get you a discount along with a signed copy. E-mail him at: stevedmarsh@charter.net

Tell him I sent ya.

Dog-ku: Very Clever Haikus Cleverly Written by Very Clever Dogs
by Steve D. Marsh
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pub. Date: October 2008
ISBN-13: 9780312377144

Here’s a couple Dog Kus for ya:

All day I sniff butts.
I come home to celebrate
By kissing your face


The paperboy comes.
He wants to murder us all!
Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark!

A great stocking stuffer for that near clinical dog lover on your list.


pottygok said...

It's interesting that one would consider this collection something that "possess that 'why didn’t I think of this' envy that sprouts whenever we are gob smacked with an obviously good idea," because the "good idea" that I'm seeing from this collection, at least the sample poems posted and the ones available on-line, is the fact that pet lovers and people who know them will buy anything remotely related to said pets, especially if it's "poetry".

This is not to knock Steve, or any of his projects. Wordsmith Press certainly deserves mentioning.

However, this book is a product, not a collection of haiku. Adding the "s" to the end to Americanize the word doesn't rectify the myth that this book perpetuates. Like "Haikus for Jews," "Hipster Haiku," "Gay Haiku," "Cat Haiku," "Homeowner Haiku" (Yes...all of these are real books.) it finds a niche market, comes up with cute and clever 17 syllable sentiments (some might argue stereotypes) for said niche, slaps a cute cover on it, and waits for the money to roll in.

Is Marsh going to get rich on this book? Probably not. Should Marsh be able to make money writing poetry? Absolutely--any artist should be able to survive on their craft. However, does poetry suffer because of this collection? Absolutely.

Michael writes "Now I am not exactly certain why – but the subject of haikus seems to get everyone going around here." I think it's because there are two extreme positions in the Cleveland poetry community, if not the poetry community at large--5-7-5ers and non-5-7-5ers.

I would hate to polarize the debate even further by calling these groups "those who don't get haiku vs. those who do," as a lot of translators, famous translators (Hamill, Blyth, Henderson, etc.), try to maintain the 5-7-5 form in their translations and perpetuate this stereotype further, but books like books like Dog-ku, at least for me, push poets and audiences further and further away from the revolutionary potential that contained within. I trully believe that, as Bruce Ross writes in his introduction to his book How To Haiku, "haiku, through nature, can heal the problems of society." Haiku, at it's best, is not a form of poetry, but a contemplative practice. The more people that read and write haiku--not pseudo-haiku, bumper sticker haiku or whatever you want to call it, but (for lack of a better adjective) "real" haiku--the stronger and more connected we will be as a society, not only with each other, but with the earth itself.

pottygok said...

Something happened with the post here...I meant to write "that is contained within haiku." I don't know why it got clipped--not enough coffee, probably.

Pressin On said...

Michael! what have u gone and done now!

there once were some poets in Clevetown, who took three short
lines and wiped on a stone,

honing in sharp edges
they threw into hedges
any hopes of touching down

on agreement, that is

black mold on one tired dawg-bone

(sorry for all the Browns references---i KNOW we oughtn't
support a team with a homophobic team name).

Anonymous said...

Folks, I thank Michael for making me famous in Ohio (although for an Ann Arborite that's a sign I need new enemies). I want to simply ask folks to look at these little poems for what they are...and not for what they are not. There is no intent to undermine the value and beauty of true Japanese haiku. I am not out to destroy haiku and, thus, all of poetry. I'm out to use a form to express an idea. The idea has certain self-imposed structures: 1) 5-7-5, 2) three lines, 3) Two lines of "set-up," one line of punchline, 4) make a commentary on humanness on some level, 5) to encourage us not to take ourselves too seriously, 6) to talk about the nature of trust, love, value between personalities, 7) to express a few well hidden poetic thoughts in a form that will appeal to folks who don't read poetry.

Here's what the book is not: 1) Not a book of Japanese Haiku, 2) Not a book of Japanese Senryu, 3) Not a book of Japanese anything, 4) Not a book of insults, 5) Not a book of poetic poison, 6) Not a book of anti-poetics, 7) Not a very serious book.

I just thought the world could use something light and easy that celebrated a positive relationship between dogs and people. Maybe I was wrong.

Buy it anyway and give it to all the cretins on your shopping list. They'll get a kick out of it. No, really.

pottygok said...


Thank you for your response. However, the issue with the book still stands. By using the 5-7-5 syllable count and perpetuating that myth as "haiku," you are leading readers, perhaps even ignorant readers or readers who have never experienced poetry, away from haiku and what is currently happening in Western Haiku. The fact that you approached these pieces as jokes (set up and "punchline") and maintain that this book isn't serious is troubling, and perhaps furthers the idea that this is more of a product which detracts from poetry more than it promotes it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure this detracts from poetry - maybe broadens poetry or popularizes poetry, though some might call popularization a form of detraction. I can't comment on the book itself, because I haven't read it, but I definitely will now. Any methinks anything that gets people to buy poetry can't be all bad. But I admit being a bit biased, as a huge dog fan and Ogden Nash fan. ;)

I keep having this feeling that Tevye from Fiddler on the Ruff [sic] is going to appear on this blog and break into refrain of "Tradition."

sara holbrook said...

Read the book. Or more accurately, Salinger read it aloud and we laughed our way through the book. What the heck is this discussion all about? These are short poems WRITTEN FOR FUN called dog-ku. Give me a break.

Anyone go to head Billy Collins when he was at John Carroll? Remember his "found haiku?" He eavesdrops on people and if he hears 17 syllables he writes it down. One I liked so much I asked permission to reprint in a book I was writing for teachers and he kindly granted it. Below.

When he found out he
was like, oh my god and I
was like oh my god.

Gets a laugh every time I read it. I say, if you want to trash a book of dog-ku, fun little form poems, take it up with Collins.

Otherwise, if you are looking for a chuckle in a depleted world or a laugh to pass along to someone who needs one, buy Steve's book. Jeez.

Anonymous said...

Here are a couple of found haiku. I found them in a Spanish song. Perhaps they could be called "high-ku":

la cucaracha
la cucaracha ya no
puede caminar

porque lo falta
porque no tiene mari-
juana que fumar

Andolph said...

I like the book. The book is very funny. It is actually found in the dog section of the book store.

Advice for Mr. Potty Mouth (PottyGok). Read the dang book before you criticize it.

My fatal attemp at 5/7/5
Somehow this is likely Steve's fault.

I am in Houston
I've really enjoyed it here
Tomorrow I'm home


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