Grandma Says..

Observations and views from a different set of eyes

The Haiku Train Wreck

on March 2, 2013


Poetry is not my thing.  I’m not proud of it, but I do admit it freely.  I yawned in high school when poems were read out loud; Shakespeare’s sonnets scared me silly and the terms onomatopoeia and iambic pentameter were Greek to me.  I felt that the only poets I could tolerate were the ones who were singing songs or those writing the nifty little jingles selling deodorants on television.

When my kids were born, I was forced to learn nursery rhymes.  Now, I could deal with those.  Easy to remember, not too deep and I got the drift of the message pretty quickly.  When my granddaughter required poems, I could whip out “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and sound like a pro!

And then I joined WordPress.  I found myself intrigued by the few lines of a poem in the Reader, so I opened the post and continued reading, always ready to make a quick exit.  Much to my surprise, I felt the need to comment on a few because I not only understood them, I liked them.  When I commented, I usually prefaced with the fact that I was poetry illiterate and they would have to tolerate my ignorance.

Much to my surprise, I found myself reading more and more of the wonderful poems out there in WordPressland.  I can’t pretend I liked them all..but I can say that most of them were enjoyable and some of them just floored me.

Before I knew it, I began reading poems in conjunction with my regular WordPress reading.  This was a giant leap from my former refusal to even consider reading poetry.  But, you poets out there, dragged me kicking and screaming into your world and I must say thank you for broadening my reading interests.

As my poetry reading increased, I noticed a number of poems that caught my eye.  One or two of the poets were kind enough to label them for me;  these weird, confusing poems were called “Haiku.”

I would read the same poem, over and over, trying to figure out what the poet was saying.  The each line of the poem was so pretty but I couldn’t understand the damn things.  Curious, I had to look up what the hell this Haiku business was all about; all I knew so far was that these poems were short…really short.  So, being the nosy broad I am and trying to expand my new-found thirst for knowledge on the subject of poetry, I looked it up.  And, yeah, they are short but they have a very distinctive set of rules you must follow to write a successful Haiku.  So I decided to learn about how to pump one of these babies out.

But, first, I had to learn to pronounce it. From reading the word, I though it would sound like a sneeze, like ha-choo.  After listening to the verbal pronunciation, I found that it actually sounds like “Hi Koo!”  So, I’m glad no-one ever used the word Haiku in a conversation with me; I’m sure my response of “Gesundheit” would have been frowned upon by the literary crowd.

I learned that a Haiku is a poem that consists of 3 lines.  The first line consists of words that total five syllables; the second line contains words that total seven syllables, and the last line..same as the first with 5 syllables total.  Sounds easy, right?  But, wait!  Those three lines are then supposed to be split in two completely different parts; and one word (called a kiji) is supposed to be used to cut the 3 lines in 2.  Confused?  Wait, there’s more!  The two parts of the poem are not supposed to relate to each other, or at least so you would notice.  But, the kiji is the word that links the two parts and makes it a Haiku.  Whew!

What?  Is your head spinning?  Mine felt like I’ve taken too many of my meds.  Hold on now..we still have to consider subject matter when writing a Haiku.  You don’t just blurt out words on a subject such as strip mining or gall stones.  You’re supposed to use a “kigo”,which is a reference to a season (if your Japanese) or something you’ve observed while meditating as you take your daily stroll (for those of us who are not Japanese and wear our shoes in the house).  I’m sure there’s more to it;  I just get lost trying to explain it.  And, if I can’t explain it, you can be darn tootin I can’t write it.

So, what has all my research come to?  It’s given me a very deep respect for anyone who writes these complex, intricate poems; I tip my hat to them.  In the poetry world, I imagine they’re considered “haiku nerds” for being able to construct such beauty in three simple lines because, in my mind, nothing less than a literary genius can pull these babies off.  My research has also resulted in a sharper eye and better understanding when reading a haiku, which naturally ends up in a deeper appreciation of the art of writing one.

Will I ever write one?  I do not think so…it sends shivers down my spine to even think about attempting to spit out one of these wonders.  It would be a virtual poetry train wreck.  I will be content to sit back and let the poetry nerds (and I say that with great love and respect) do the work.  I’ll stick to my “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and just enjoy their Haiku.  (By the way, there is no plural for these I guess if you had to describe having more than one; you would say something like “Boy, I sure wrote a sh*tload of Haiku today.  How about you?” )  See, I did learn something!

Poets of WordPress..You Rock, and Haiku poets..You Rock Hard!


8 responses to “The Haiku Train Wreck

  1. You know, you’re one of many who either hated poetry or was just so bored or overwhelmed by it in school that you turned off when people would mention the word. I actually know a few writers who can’t stand poetry. In fact, even I hate the pretentious ones…where people go out of their way to make it difficult to read or understand because it gives them a sense of superiority (at least that’s what I always thought).

    I, on the other hand, love poetry. Love reading it, love writing it. To me, there’s a beauty in being able to play with words and create such descriptive mental images…or to tie someone emotionally to a specific moment or feeling. I think my love started as a little girl, when my mom would read me psalms…and I knew David used to sing them (heaven knows I adore music).

    This post gave me the warm & fuzzies. I’m so glad you’ve developed an enjoyment for poetry!

  2. Joel says:

    I’m letting you know I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Congrats! See link for details.

  3. Riley says:

    What a great post! I hated poetry in school too…but am starting to grow to appreciate it the older I get.

  4. johnlmalone says:

    I don’t know if you’ve ev er inzspired a blog before but this blog inspired my current one. It\d be good if you left either a contribution or a comment

  5. Dave Higgins says:

    I enjoy both reading and writing haiku,, although I do not always stick to all of the rules when writing them.

    If you enjoy haiku I recommend looking at tanka as well: they are slightly longer but also distil experience down to a few lines.

  6. […] The Cranky Caregiver- Her story on how WordPress has given her an appreciation for a form of writing she’d never cared to explore before. […]

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