Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ado About Haiku

My haiku book got some really nice feedback and reviews. It received one sarcastic and - in my opinion and the opinion of everyone I know who saw it - mean spirited review, which I can't deny, still bothers me a year later. One of the critiques of this person who considers herself the last word on contemporary English haiku was that I must not be reading the in people of haiku ("the people "in the field") if I write the way I do (and that she hopes that as N.Y's Funniest Rabbi one day I'll look back and laugh at my little book of haiku). (She also thanked me (I can't imagine genuinely) for exposing her to a way she wasn't familiar with of writing G-d.)

If a major American author died in 1960 are they contemporary? I guess not. Still, it's got to count for something that the cutting edge write Richard Wright wrote haiku. Not only did he choose to write them but he chose to stick to the pattern of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables. This contemporary expert might argue that the poor fellow didn't know any better.

Wright's daughter shares that he told her, “Julia, you can write them too. It’s always five, and seven and five - like math. So you can’t go wrong.” Here's one of Wright's that I like. If you search his name in my blog's search bar you'll find more that I've posted previously:

Whitecaps on the bay:
A broken signboard banging 
In the April wind. 

Here's one by David M. Bader that every time I share with someone they say that they want to use it in a Bar Mitzvah speech. (I've used it several times at Bar and Bat Mitzvahas.)

Today I am a man.
Tomorrow I will return 
to the seventh grade. 

And here's one that I've cited here several times:

I don't blog daily
Such foolish consistency
Says "I have no life

-Siobhan Adcock

All this comes to mind because in one of my classes, before class starts I put on the board a haiku of the day. And lately some of the students have been asking if they can put up one of their own haiku. The other day I wrote a haiku of apology to a student who write a lovely poem and then I - with permission - wrote my tweaked version of it. She didn't mind at all. But I felt torn, as there's a thin line between teaching someone how to write, and stifling their voice.

Despite my resistance I am starting to lean more toward keeping certain haiku rules. I think it may make sense to not say I - describe the moment experienced without saying that you (I) are in the midst of experiencing or did experience this. Just show it. Also I'm veering towards capturing moments rather than being aphoristic or didactic. Also, I like the nature rule. And this is what the students are learning.

Here's a poem that a student wrote today (the word foggy and the last line are my contributions):

The rain is falling
It is muggy and foggy
The sun peeks through clouds


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