Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I haiku. Do you?

One of my all time favourite books is Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, and one of the main characters in that book, Bobby Shaftoe, is a compulsive composer of haiku.

We are never told why Shaftoe is so captivated by this particular form of Japanese poetry - but, really, what's not to love about it?

Haiku is a structurally simple form of poetry that anyone can write - and quickly. (I remember being set the task of writing haiku in primary school, whereas we were never asked to write, say, a sonnet, an ode, or an epic narrative poem).

Of course, writing haiku well is another matter entirely. But it's intriguing to me that even the most basic attempt at haiku seems to create a very particular type of head-space, whereby your brain filters out large volumes of extraneous fluff in an attempt to capture the very essence of whatever it is you're trying to describe. After all, haiku is nothing if not economical, and that linguistic economy produces a mental state that feels (to me) very much like meditation.

So, below are three autumnal haiku, inspired by yesterday's outing to a currently under-utilized quarter-acre block of land known as "the creek block" (I'm not very creative when it comes to naming segments of land).

If you need a mental break some time soon, I urge you: write a haiku. It will be fun. I promise.

Incidentally, the word haiku is both singular and plural, and the structure is:

5 syllables
7 syllables
5 syllables.

Haiku on hops
Dry autumn lantern,
Brown, and golden, and bitter.
Hint of summer beer.

Haiku on mowing
Roaring blade on wheels
chews up grass, fuel, and time.
Neat lawn, quiet life.

(Does fuel have one syllable or two? How about oil? Apparently, I'm not the first person to ponder this thorny issue).

Haiku on pitchfork
Bent tines, worn handle.
Lost, and sorely missed. Now found,
in the neighbours' yard.

1 comment:

  1. I love the last poem especially! It really does sum up the dark day of the fork's loss and the emotion of its rediscovery :-)