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

September 8, 2005

sortapundit is ACD’d after arrest for haiku abuse

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 7:39 pm

We take our job of Haiku Sheriff about as seriously as anything we do
here at f/k/a. Indeed, we were honored when MansfieldFox dubbed us
The Haiku Police. The role usually means issuing summonses and
warnings to webloggers who perpetrate and perpetuate the myth that
anything written in 5-7-5-syllable form is haiku. (See, is it or ain’t it haiku?,
also here and there; find a quick definition of haiku at the foot of this

Yesterday, we found a particularly odious example of haiku abuse at copLightN
The 155th Carnival of the Vanities, hosted at Keith Taylor’s sortapundit.
Keith decided to present “each entry this week as a haiku, the Japanese
form of poetry consisting of three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables.” Oh, sure,
he did warn that “they are the most shoddy haiku you ever did read,” but
that suggests knowledge aforethough of the crime (genrecide).

The result was a Carnival list which described each submitted posting with
three-lined verse, having 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively. Exhibits One
and Two are the first two entries:

Doctor Hartline writes
Of Man’s tendency to sin
And God owns our stuff

The librarians
Steal umbrellas, the bastards
Baby Jesus weeps

Clearly, a guilty verdict was going to be a slam dunk for our prosecuting Prof.
Yabut. However, acting as his own advocate, Mr. Taylor presented the
following “Update/Rebuttal,” which brought the Court to tears:

“(Update) David Giacalone correctly points out that these aren’t
genuine haiku but rather verse in the 5-7-5 syllable form that we
unsophisticated westerners often call haiku. You can find a helpful
resource including the criteria for haiku here. Here, though, is my
rebuttal (or refutation, or repudiation. These word things were never
my strong suit. I like to feel the soil). Have you ever tried writing a
haiku about looting of electrical goods in the present tense and including
a reference to the seasons whilst at the same time creating a sense of
harmony and contrast? I can barely dress myself at the best of times.
And at least I didn’t call the plural haikus :)”

That emoticon almost earned Keith a couple days of community service, but
the overall cogency and sincerity of his plea, gained him an ACD (Adjournment in
Contemplation of Dismissal). So long as Keith refrains from repeating his offense
over the next six months, the matter will be dismissed. (Getting the Google cache
scrubbed will be his problem, however).

noYabutsSN For future reference, please note it is virtually
impossible to write real haiku that is attempting
to summarize written material (be it a book, article,
or weblog post). Even the extremely talented and
witty David M. Bader can’t actually make his 17
syllables equal genuine haiku. On the other hand,
his Haiku U., which condenses famous books into
pseudo-haiku, is pretty witty. For example:

Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
What I learned at court:
Being more feared than loved – good.
Getting poisoned – bad.

As claimed by sortapundit, it can be difficult to write haiku about the Aftermath of
Hurricane Katrina, much less about articles about Katrina (especially while still filled
with anger over governmental inadequacy). We suggest attempting senryuinstead,
as we did in our post a few days ago. An example:

treading water:

“keep your chin up”

he says



fr ventalone But, seriously: Entire books have been written on the definition of

the haiku genre and related forms of poetry (e.g., see jim kacian’s how-to primer,

with is online here at f/k/a). This description works for me:

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

syllables, with fewer often being better) 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, wonder or awe.

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.

Finally, here’s another excerpt from our postis it or ain’t it haiku?” It is a quotation

from Poet-editor Lee Gurga, in a chapter from Haiku: A Poet’s Guide (2003), titled “Not

Exactly Haiku: Senryu & Zappai” (pp. 55- 58):

“[T]here is a third genre in Japanese practice that includes light verses in haiku-like form written purely as a joke. . . . Zappai means ‘miscellaneous haikai verse’ in Japanese.


“Likewise, in the West, poems written in three lines and seventeen syllables, clearly not haiku in tone or feeling, have often been called senryu by those sophisticated enough to to differentiate these verses from true haiku. Even beyond senryu, however, lies that large class of poems writtten in parody of haiku or using the 5–7–5 haiku form and mock-Zen spirit as a vehicle for lowbrow humor. . . .


“If a short poem sounds like an aphorism, epigram, proverb, or fortune-cookie wisdom, it is probably zappai. Whether we choose to refer to these kinds of light verse as zappai or pseudohauku, however, is not really important. What is important is that it be understood that, though their authors may choose to call them haiku, they are merely versified ideas in haiku-form, not poems of the haiku genre.

End of today’s sermon. Now, go and sin no more against the haiku spirit [and try to avoid haiku purgatory.]



p.s. No definition can please everyone. Ed Markowski
points out in a Comment tonight that “zappai” is
considered a separate literary genre in Japan, and
should not be thought of as doggerel or pseudo-haiku.
Of course, the Zappai Police are quite irked by “pseudo-
zappai.” See Richard Gilber & Shinjuke Rollingstone,
Simply Haiku, Spring 2005, The Distinct Brilliance of Zappai.




a blue day under a blue sky

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 5:49 pm



The rest of the f/k/a gang has abandoned haikuEsq today; Prof. Yabut

wanted a mental health day; the Clientes took some family leave to work

at a shelter for Katrina victims; and ethicalEsq refuses to write anything

(especially about potty parity) until he gets a sexual harrassment refresher

course.   Although haikuEsq has a headache, he’s worked to pull together

today’s post.   There’s a bit of melancoly, but also a double-header of

haiku, featuring Rebecca Lilly and Jim Kacian. 




Far off, a wedge of geese…

the flooded farm field

darkens with evening








Sunlit dust motes…

stunted corn stalks

scorched golden-brown









Cool breeze scented with mint —

a grasshopper poised

in the twilit stillness












My small family gone–

ants crawl on their graves

in the pale autumn sun


“cool breeze” – A New Resonance 2; Modern Haiku XXXI:1





28 feet

of intestine



                                        without islands in the dead center loneliness









    a blue ceiling
where the roof-beams

    have collapsed




“a blue ceiling” – Presents of Mind (1996)

“without islands” – Frogpond XXXVIII: 2 (2005)

“salmonella” –  Frogpond XXXVIII: 2 (2005)




migraine —

blue sky

behind closed blinds



                  [Sept. 8, 2005]




tiny check  If, like myself, you’re still waiting for Evan Schaeffer and Ted Frank to

fill us in on yesterday’s AEI Vioxx Verdict panel, I suggest heading to

George Wallace’s Forest for his “Fighting Fire With Fliers, and Other

Tales of Lumbering Bureaucracy.”  Actually, visit George first.

update (11:30 PM, ESDT, Sept. 8, 2005): Still waiting for Evan’s debriefing

from the Vioxx panel at AEI.

tiny check  If you love seeing obscure words in weblog posts, try Walter Olson’s

summary of his “generally favorable review” of Sadakat Kadri’s new book

run across the word adoxography” (fine writing on a trivial or base subject)

in quite a while, although I have certainly seen it often in practice (along with

its far more common cousin, “dysodoxography” — writing trivially about important

subjects) here in the blogisphere .  Walter says: 

“As for glittering but empty turns of courtroom rhetoric, Johnnie

Cochran was just building on a tradition that goes back to Shakespeare’s

time. ‘Elizabethan schoolboys,’ Mr. Kadri writes, ‘were commonly taught

adoxography, the art of eruditely praising worthless things….The first English

treatise on the subject appeared in 1593 and contained essays celebrating

deformity, ugliness, poverty, blindness, drunkenness, sterility, and stupidity.

Its preface claimed that it would be particularly useful to lawyers’.”

I find it interesting that topics such as “deformity, ugliness, poverty, blindness,

drunkenness, sterility, and stupidity ” were considered to be worthless or base.




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