Give me your funky/your impudent Tokyo/nightlife of haiku

While I am all for “just” being funny with haiku, to my mind, the best of the form layers humor into image and story, evoking what haiku poet Alexey Andreyev calls “certain bright moments of life”—the quixotic or troubling, the deeply tender, or simply a flash of time whose specificity caught your attention. Ideally, each of the poem’s three lines (traditionally five, then seven, then five syllables, respectively) presents a stand-alone image. Even more ideally, the images in the first and second lines create friction that sets up a big-bang, five syllable finish.

If you can be funny while doing all this, you can do anything.

As this blog explores how childhood influences writing and vice-versa, I nominate the comic haiku for Most Likely to Capture the Profound, the Hysterical, and the Sheer Hysteria of Parenting.

Everyone expects Sandra Bullock to win. A few years back, however, an Austin writer-mama named Kari Anne Roy came out with Haiku Mama. Her pocket-sized volume with its cheery, red-and-peach cover and alluring subtitle, (because 17 syllables is all you have time to read), purported to suit me like white on rice. Check out this ditty:

Red leaves on tree
glitter poop in the diaper
It’s the holidays!

Boom, as Jon Stuart might say. Each line here presents a single image —in the case of the second line, a striking and original one. Without inserting herself into the poem, Roy conveys a mama-specific perspective. She even slips in a “season word,” the word that creates a backdrop (often environmental) for the “haiku event.” The above is High-ku.

Unfortunately, the majority of Roy’s work settles for thoughts wrestled into the requisite five-seven-five:

Tennis ball in sock
sad yet apt description of
post-nursing boobies.

If a writer has but 17 syllables, “sad yet apt description of” wastes seven. Give me a second image to equal “Tennis ball in sock,” driving to “post-nursing boobies.” Success is in the boobies. High-ku incorporates cultural references as a kind of shorthand for the reader. “Tennis ball in sock” struck gold. Another of the same caliber —such as one used smashingly, elsewhere, to discribe her tush: “Small, like fresh ham steak”—and …  oh;  Hope flung like whole fish/Splendid opening does not/a true haiku make.

So, don’t do that, and you’ll win.

(This post adapted from mine, originally published on Literary Mama. Because I am both.)

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