Monday, April 26, 2010

Ritualistic Cleansing of Nineteenth Century Academia… or Nothing.

Had to use that title, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with today's post. Such a college answer. And what is more college than haiku, the form of the day? We’ve covered a lot of Western forms of poetry during poetry month, but I’ve purposely shied away from the Eastern ones. Haiku scares me and most of the other forms from Asiatic regions, I can’t pronounce. But perhaps rather than laud my ignorance, it might be better to stare down these strange poetic forms that I don’t understand and share my break down.

The haiku, the type of Japanese poetry most familiar to people, is based on syllable count. I’ve never had much of an ear for meter or syllables so anything based on this, makes me cringe. I have horrific memories of 200-level English and scanning line after line of poetry completely ass-backwards. But I digress.

The haiku is a three-line poem, with a syllable count of either 5/7/5 or 3/5/3, with the theme usually pertaining to nature in some way or another. Abbreviated haiku is even shorter, one with only two lines, 7 / 2 syllables, and the other with three lines of 5/7/5 (regular haiku) or 3/5/3, even as small as 2/3/2. If you can get it down to 1/2/1, you get a prize. Just kidding. But you can feel good about your skills of brevity. Use of metaphor and simile is highly encouraged in Japanese poetry. Apparently, haiku in English is much more flexible than haiku in Japanese and the history of the haiku really only starts after 1890. Fun facts to know and share.

Here’s a fun haiku generator,, but if you want to learn to do it yourself, an additional reference is

Another Japanese form closely related to haiku is tanka. This is also syllable-based, with five lines instead of three, with a larger syllable count. A count of 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7 is the long version, but an abbreviated version of 2 / 3 / 2 / 3 / 3 is also acceptable. The content also usually has to do with nature, but also strong emotions and first impressions. Complex, myriad feelings expressed in a simple form is one of the key features of Japanese poetry, “a suggestiveness felt beyond the words” ( .

For more Japanese poetry, try or

 For those interested in farm stuff, spring has sprung and we're busier than ever. Fences going down and going up, steers to market. Got a nice steer check the other day yey! The cows are flytagged and ready to go to pasture as soon as the grass grows a little more. One steer got hurt the other day, got his shoulder dislocated or broke going through a doorway with three big cows. (For the record, 3,500 pounds of cow going through a man door is just ugly.) So we got him dropped off at the butcher today rather than try to nurse him back to health. It's just more humane to put him out of his misery now than make him suffer through the healing process. I wish he hadn't gotten hurt, but the most I can do is give my animals the best life I can and the cleanest, most stress-free death possible. Other than that, the garden is going in bit by bit and the little heifers are trapped in the barn with cute little halters on so I can get them to tie and lead. It makes calving go so much better when the cows are tame, for them and for me. Got the big bull taken back to where he lives and scheduled to pick him up again in October. Very excited about babies coming. This should be a good crop.

Happy Poeting!


Rowenna said...

*Gigglesnort* at the title of today's post :) I've always been interested by Japanese poetry--because I've never really gotten it. Maybe I need to learn Japanese...

Kathy said...

We tackled some poetry in my class today. (7th gr) The kids have been doing research on topics for a larger project, but I'm wanting them to share findings in mulitple genres. Anyway we were working with haiku form, cinquain, diamonte. I am amazed at what images were created. Some were collaborations between students and I, others are created independently. The collaborations are cool because many of these kids are scared to try poetry and to get knee to knee and explore words and ideas...sweet!

Ax said...

That is great! I’ve always thought poetry gets kind of a bad rep, too stuffy and academic. It should be fun, something you can put your knees together with others on and have fun with words and images. I once had a professor say that literature should be hard, and sometimes it should, just like poetry, but there are also times when it should be simple, fun, and beautiful. Congrats to your class!! :)