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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

December 7, 2003

Yes, Lawyers and Haiku

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 7:57 pm

Like the legal profession, haiku poetry doesn’t get much respect in America. I’m definitely not the guy to defend lawyers, but I plan to be a Haiku Advocate.

Most of us only know haiku as childish poems with three lines and strict 5-7-5 syllable format — or, as off-color or silly doggerel. I was fortunate to re-discover haiku as a true poetry genre and a multi-dimensional artistic experience, at a time when my health limited both my attention span and my stamina. Small doses of the tiny poems inspired me as a reader, and kindled a belief that even I could learn to “do something creative,” at a time when becoming a capable painter or novelist were far beyond my capabilities.

SuaveSN I wish I had found haiku when I was a busy, driven lawyer-mediator. Like many other attorneys, I rarely found time between career, family and civic activities, to enjoy art or literature, and couldn’t even conceive of creating anything artistic. But, haiku is perfect for the hectic professional, or any other overwhelmed member of our hyperactive society. And, it is especially perfect for the busy lawyer:

  1. brevity removes the not-enough-time excuse — open a good haiku book or web page and in a few moments you can have a worthwhile artistic experience (insight, joy, humor, serenity, etc.);
  2. lawyers love words — especially words that have layers of meaning, connotation, and denotation, where distilling an image to its essence is crucial, but a little misdirection is allowed (and even encouraged);
  3. and rules: not only are there lots of rules, but they are in dispute, constantly evolving, often misapplied, and frequently defended or attacked beyond all reason.
  4. creation: lawyers often feel (and are often told) that they don’t make or create anything (besides controversy and money). The haiku concept is complex enough to be a challenge but manageable enough to be mastered by anyone who gives it a little quality time. Every lawyer may not have a great novel inside her or him, but every lawyer can create some very passable haiku, and maybe even some great haiku.
  5. balance: haiku can help lawyers achieve the balanced lifestyle prescribed by Professor Patrick J. Schiltz, in his landmark article On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession, 52 Vand. L. Rev. 871, which we discussed here last September.

I hope you’ll catch haiku fever from this weblog and the resources mentioned here. Since most Americans are mistaken about the “rules” of English-language haiku, please take a look at “is it or ain’t it haiku?” to learn more about the haiku genre, and its cousin “senryu“, which focuses (often with humor or irony) on human nature. [See, senryu is not a typo, where we note: “Senryu can be particularly enjoyable for lawyers and other city folk — who are frequently far more attuned to human foibles than to nature’s essence.”]


tiny check Quick Definition of Haiku: Haiku is a “one-breath” poem (no more than 17

syllables) that relates nature to human nature, and usually compares or

contrasts a pair of images, which are separated by a pause. At its best,

haiku lets the reader share in the poet’s “haiku moment” — a moment of

insight or awe.

tiny check Quick Definition of Senryu: Senryu is a short poem similar in structure to haiku

but featuring ironic, humorous and/or coarse observations on human nature.


  • Update (07-12-04): If you want to see the kind of reaction I had hoped this haiku-lawyer weblog might inspire, please click and read finger pointing at the moon, at the EDDix Views on the News page.




thanks to Janell at BenefitsBlog and the unbundled Denise at Bag&Baggage for their continuing friendly sentiments.

(12/09/03) Und, vielen Dank to Margaret Marks of Transblawg for putting the spotlight on our Haiku Bar today (a nice birthday present). Yes, Margaret, I’ve been changing the haiku after posting them, trying to find the right word or phrasing. Going public with neophyte poems takes courage, or chutzpah, but also motivates this lazy Faulpelz to do the very necessary process of editing and re-editing. I hope you noticed that the e-magazine Simply Haiku has German translations for its poetry (plus several other languages).

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