Sunday, March 18, 2018

Haiku Schmaiku

Something has been bothering me for three years.

When I go to work in downtown DC, I walk through an area of town known as "the Golden Triangle." Every spring the triangle people have a "Golden Haiku" poetry contest and publish the results on little placards that they jam into roadside gardens all over the area. I walk past eighty-six million of these little placards every morning and afternoon.

Now, I'm not big into poetry so we all know that this isn't my thing. We all know that I will resent being forced to read poetry on my way to work. We all know that I have some anger issues.

But it makes me Dennis from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia rageful that the word "haiku" is on those placards in three spots when the poems are not, for the love of all that it holy and just in this world, haikus.

Three lines. Five syllables. Seven syllables. Five syllables. Right?

Not according to the Golden Triangle Management Bureau.

always/one step ahead/sidewalk sparrow by Elizabeth Steinglass
I've wanted to write this post for three years, but haven't because it seems like an asshole move to put someone's poetry up on a blog and then scream at it. I actually like this poem, so I feel better screaming about the concept while still supporting the poet.

Now, in previous years I've been so agitated that I've gone to the website to look at the rules and they specifically state that the poetry doesn't have to follow that traditional haiku format. This year, probably because I'm not the only one ready to send angry letters about syllables, the website has a big quote at the top attributed to the Haiku Society of America that says: "Haiku...a short poem that uses imagistic language to convey an experience."

I'm not buying what you're selling, Haiku Society of America.

Maybe I'm overly literal. Maybe once my third grade teacher told me how many syllables are in a haiku, I shouldn't have locked on so solidly to that idea. Maybe I should just not look at the placards as I walk past them.

Or maybe I just need to finally write this post so the poison of this great injustice to my third grade soul can vent and be released.

haiku comes in threes
of five then seven then five
i feel better now


  1. They have loosened up on the format be because translations often loose it. I think we should think of it as sonnet-like. If you want to write your own sonnet, you say whatever you want within the format. If it varies from the format, it may be a lovely poem, but it’s not a sonnet.

    Also, proper haiku is written while consuming sake. Just saying.

  2. I feel your pain. The announcement on the Long Island Railroad often says that "Only the first three cars will platform at Woodside". It takes every bit of my limited self control to stand up and scream "Platform is not a verb!".

  3. I do like your closing haiku. And I tend to be a traditionalist so I understand. Third grade Stimey is ok.

  4. I agree with you:
    Non-haiku poems are great!
    But they're not haikus.

    OMG DID YOU CUT YOUR HAIR?? (*sudden fear that I already knew about that, perhaps even exclaimed over it at length, and just forgot about it because the profile picture still had long hair*)

  5. Yes, I did cut my hair! I think I mentioned it on Facebook, but not here, so no worries. You're not behind. :)


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