Hump day haikus

The Squeen, in her most noble and wise ways, has declared that: “Wednesdays, today and forthwith and here-on-after, are haiku Wednesdays.” I’ve thought about posting random things related to haikus (including actually writing my own) in the past but haven’t actually done it. And so now, by royal proclamation, I feel it’s time I address the issue.

I have a love-hate relationship with haikus. I love that it forces the writer to think in a pre-defined pattern, but I hate that school teachers throughout the western world (unintentionally?) don’t explain what that pattern is. As a child I was simply told that a haiku is a three-line poem consisting of a first line with five syllables, a second line with seven syllables, then a third line with five syllables again.

But the reality is that a haiku is meant to contain 17 moras (in the 5/7/5 format) which are not really the same as syllables. Now, I will admit that in the English language we rarely discuss sentence structure in terms of moras, but I feel that this is something that should still be brought to the attention of young minds.

Another thing I love about haikus is the seemingly obscure connections between lines. They are vague and sometimes challenging—especially to young school children. I remember being told to write a haiku (with three lines of 5/7/5) that told a short story or gave a description of some random object of my choice. Which was fun because it was a bit challenging to pick just the right words to get the 17 syllable cap right.

But the reality is that a haiku is meant to consist of a seasonal reference (a kigo) and a cutting word (a kireji). It is true that the English language doesn’t have a direct equivalent to the latter, but that doesn’t seem like a fair reason to not at least explain this difference.

I guess that my love is that haikus are fun and challenging (yes, I find challenging to be fun).

And I guess that my hate is that while western school teachers seem keen to explain that haikus are a form of Japanese poetry, often combining the writing lesson with a lesson in traditional Japanese art form such as gyotaku (fish painting, basically), they neglect to fully give the lesson in how true Japanese haikus are formed.

I suppose that I wish I’d been given the full lesson as a child, which could have included how haikus in English evolved and are their own writing form—distinct from what’s found in Japan but certainly rooted in the culture and history of the original haikus.

But maybe when you were taught about haikus, your teacher went into all of this with you and so you’re at a loss to why I’m whining. And that’s OK.

Anyhow, as a reward for reading this far, here are the two haikus that I wrote today by orders of The Squeen as part of my silliness course, which are meant to address items in my medicine cabinet, which is more of a drawer than a cabinet, but let’s not split hairs…

Fall is in the air
Wood smoke making my eyes dry
Ah,
Visine, my friend

Summer is fading
Factor thirty nearly gone
Cat Crap is ready

And here’s a bonus one just for Just Frances readers:

Autumn is awesome
And Just Frances is awesome
And her readers, too

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5 thoughts on “Hump day haikus

    • Well, it’s never too late to learn! I see that you’re a bit of a poem/lyric writer yourself, so maybe it’s time to give it a go! (They are fun to write!)

      And Cat Crap, in case you didn’t click the link, is an anti-fog lens cleaner that skiers and snowboarders use on their goggles – and I use on my specs in the winter so that I don’t fog up every time I go in from the cold!

      Looking forward to reading more of your typewriter ramblings!

  1. I just remember having to make a whole book of haikus for Mr. Cadman’s class. Do you remember that? I think I still have the book, cuz it felt like so much work at the time I could never bear to get rid of it.

    • Wow, Amy! I remembered making the book but couldn’t remember the teacher’s name. But now I have loads of “Mr. Cadman” memories. Didn’t his brother act in some after-school TV drama thing about a junior high, so we had to watch the show? Or am I confusing teachers?

      I wonder if my mom has my book of haikus from that class. I’d be a bit embarrassed to read them, but it would be kind of fun to see them again!

  2. I’ve never learned anything about haikus either. Thanks for the lesson. I knew they were Japanese poems in 3 lines with something about syllables, but that was about it.

    My less than traditional haikus for the Squeen were:

    Pills, plasters and things
    Would be useful indeed, but
    I never have them

    Oh, clamity!
    My medicine chest is bare.
    Good job mine isn’t!

    If you think about it hard enough, both have seasonal references – kind of? Ok, maybe not!

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