Southern Haiku

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Summary: I attempt a handful of haiku where I break a couple of rules but try and establish a mood. Haiku are poems about nature and try for evocative language. In this case, I took the stances that Southerners are sort of caught up in nature more than your average American, so each tends to involve a hint of mankind, and I tried to have each one act as a glimpse into a larger story.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

(11:51:08 CDT)

Southern Haiku

Haiku are an abused, endangered species in The States. Because of their short form (a total of seventeen syllables, which means an average of ten to twelve words) schools traditionally teach them as enabler poetry, a sort of gateway arts. "If you can do haiku, you can do Homerian epics...someday!" Another downside to their short stature is due to your average American's inability to avoiding thinking anything small is (a) cute and/or (b) a virus. You see websites and comments and tweets and all sorts of things in which people have co-opted, I am sure they would say "adopted", the haiku form to joke about zombies or taxes or what-have-you. Almost all of the haiku are comical, because I suppose keeping haiku and limerick separate in their minds would be a challenge, and may try for a snazzy punch (again: see limerick). The funny thing is, there is a cousin to the haiku, the senryū , that is about human foibles and is often written with a comic bent.

Haiku, on the other hand, are about nature and are often evocative. True haiku do not have three lines, but three beat structures. That is a different sort of game in the Japanese than in English, so English haiku are considered proper with three lines. You have all heard of the 5-7-5 structure, which I understand is mostly a suggestion, and is often taken as the maximum (in other words, if you can write in a smaller space, then do so). A syllable is a little bit different altogether in the Japanese, but not really that different. Like any language, some of their words are more efficient than others.

I have been thinking about doing a series of "Southern Haiku" (a title meant to reference Kerouac's American Haiku) except I have not been able to quite get in the mindset of it. Of the ones posted here, only the first is of my original effort. One of the things that occurred to me is that, as Americans, us Southerners tend to be out in nature more than your average Yankee. Our landmarks and historical markers point to fields and places where plantations were. Haiku about the American south would involve people and nature in the same breath.

The later one (marked "F") about kudzu started as a comical attempt since kudzu—once ubiquitous to the South before we started, somewhat, fighting back—is a Japanese import. I'll give a moment to let the sheer hilarity sink in. At any rate, I ended up combining it with another Southern phenomenon: lost cemeteries. I imagined the two coming together as one. Something that a Southerner can picture, but might not have as much of an impact if you are from elsewhere.

Anyhow, all of them are here for your reading. Before I let you at it, though, I want to point out that, as improbable as it might seem, one of the major inspirations for this project was Texts-From-Last-Night, an often-crude and often-hilarious collection of out-of-context and weird text messages. Some of them, though, are glimpses into a strange and wonderful time. You might get one, and keep in mind this is a made up example but the real ones are just as good, that says "(256) Just woke up. When did we buy a large box of crayons and why are all the blue ones gone?" There are so many possibilities there. What sort of night involves someone so wasted they (a) bought a box of crayons they did not remember and (b) used up all the blue ones already? Several of these haiku ask more questions than they answer, is what I am saying. I will leave it up to you if I succeeded in that goal.

(A) The wind Octobers Through the pine. Cool like a fog Alive at midnight. (B) The smile echoes; she Wears it in full sun. Rain comes Soon enough, it seems. (C) Boards left against the Shed breathe dew like roots exposed In the swamps below. (D) Mahogany age In a lifetime of oak. Water- Falls, laughing sounds. (E) Nineteen seconds gone In the time between one cry And the next. Silence. (F) Kudzu eat passing Car sounds. Deer graze, hidden. Graves Reenter the soil. (G) Storm's passing leaves mud And dark houses. Children wait For the coming dawn. (H) Counting stars, she got To five before the falling One reminded her.

Si Vales, Valeo


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Written by Doug Bolden

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