Saturday, February 25, 2012

Haiku moment

I am reading a book right now, Gideon's Corpse, by those two guys -- hmm, I'm guessing Lincoln somebody and Douglas somebody.  Wait, let me look it up.  Hang on a sec.  Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  Anyway, the main character described some jazz music this way:  "too many notes, not enough music."  Immediately, my mind said, "too many words, not enough poetry."  And that terrifically sums up why a lot of poetry doesn't work for me.  Too wordy.  Or, more succinctly, too many words, not enough poetry.  Perhaps this is why I am a fan of traditional haiku.  And suddenly (and I truly mean suddenly, as in just this minute) I am recalling a piece I wrote about haiku about five years ago.  Maybe six.  Here it is:


It was a dark and stormy night.  I sit on the couch, laptop perched precariously on my knees, doing a little research on haiku.  If I'm going to start writing poetry, I ought to know a little about it, and all I could remember was the 5/7/5 thing.  Imagine my dismay to find that the haiku rules have changed.  How can that be?

why did the rules change
before I even started
this will take some work

Poetry does not come tripping off the tongue for me.  Nothing does, actually; I've never claimed to be a writer.  But I was intrigued by the idea of thoughts gracefully composed and artfully arranged.  The OCD in me liked the 5/7/5 concept, and here I find it has been yanked out from under me.  Zero steps forward, two steps back.

alas, woe is me
thoughts are tripping lazily
right back in my head

Okay, let's take another look.  I've only been to one website and already it's sucking the life out of me.  I thought this would be fun.  Now I've found a list of rules - one of which is the 5/7/5 rule to which I'm holding dear - and I see that haiku is many things to many people.  Maybe I can still give this a try.

on the windowsill
Ubu watches nightfall come
my cat is haiku

There's something here about riddles, and something about seasons.  One rule says "do this" while the next one says "don't do this."  There are so many rules they cancel themselves out so I'll interpret that to mean anything goes.  In fact, I think I'll call them tools rather than rules, and pick whichever ones will get the job done.

three times in two days
spiders running on the floor
spring is in the air

I want all of my haiku to be "true stories."  I'll be a non-fiction haiku writer.  That way I won't be burdened with inventing a plot and a cast of characters - I'll only write about things that really happened or things I really feel.

rain falls as I run
my thoughts scatter to the wind
like drops of water

It's the cadence I'm attracted to.  The 5/7/5 thing is very melodic to me, almost soothing.  Any three lines of poetry where the middle line is longer than the other two counts as haiku - there's a rule about that somewhere, I'm sure of it - but to me it doesn't feel right if it's not 5/7/5.

every day's the same
broken glass and razor blades
Band-Aids are my friends

I wonder if it's possible to sum up my entire self in just seventeen syllables.  My autobiography.

I travel through life
with watchful eyes yet silent;
birds cry look at me

Yeah, I guess it is.  Frankly, that was a stroke of genius, even if I'm the only one who gets it.  A "haiku moment" is supposed to be a profound event that inspires you to write or paint or somehow create, but this happened backwards; the writing created the "haiku moment" and the Zen of it is zinging all over.

I'm still sitting here on the couch, it's an even darker yet not so stormy night, and I've summed up my entire life in three lines totaling seventeen syllables.  Damn, I feel good.

No comments:

Post a Comment