Earth-shattering discovery about pooooh-etry

I’ve just became aware of some information about haiku that’s irrevocably altered my entire poetic universe: apparently, the 5-7-5 syllable format I learned years and years ago is not the standard. No, according to, haiku in the English language is anywhere from 10-14 syllables!

I’m simply flabbergasted. Here I thought I knew everything about haiku and I come to find out that I know as much about haiku poetry as I know about every other form of poetry, which is, absolutely nothing. I just don’t know what to do with myself now. This totally eradicates my crippled attempts at BSG poetry and puts it back a few steps. Here I was struggling to throw hefty plot summarizing concepts into a 5-7-5 format only to learn that such was not necessary at all.

Of course, the article goes on to explain just what rules do constitute “proper” haiku in English:

1. Three lines
2. Up to 17 syllables total
3. Use of a “season” word
4. Use of a “cut” (sometimes indicated by a punctuation mark) to compare two images

Thus this example by Michael Dylan Welch (HSA Newsletter XV:4, Autumn 2000), ripped without permission from the aforementioned article.

meteor shower…
a gentle wave
wets our sandals

This does unshackle me to use the free form sort of poetry to which I’m most accustomed (most of my poetry is free form, I’ve never used “iambic pentameter” a day in my life). I’m good with metaphors, usually. So this should expand my horizons more than limit them, no?

I should point out that “brevity” is not a word in my vocabulary. As you can tell from my blog entries, shorter length writings have never been my forte. One of the hardest things I ever had to write was a short story for a fiction class in college in which I was limited to one page. Can you imagine the frustration I had in that? I’m just not good at the whole “quick, brilliant idea” sort of writing. To be good in short form, you have to state a magnificent idea in as concise words as possible with the poetic genius of a writer. It’s very, very hard. I’m much better at slowly guiding a reader through a plot by dropping little bits at a time.

I’ve always thought this was a weakness of my writing. It’s so painful for me to be short and sweet and to the point that I truly must not be very good at my art. Even writing short stories–where you could have 10-15 pages–is difficult for me because my ideas are always huge and hard to confine. I used to write big 150-200 page novellas in high school. I loved doing that because I could get my idea out by a slow adventure of taking a character through a series of events.

I think writing shorter pieces is something I need to work on. I should make myself do some writing exercises where I force myself to write a one-page story or topic. You’d think my technical writing would have forced me to “shave the meat” off my writing, but it really doesn’t. You use two different parts of your brain to write creatively and technically and, hence, the two ways of working never cross. Or maybe I’m an extremely verbose technical writer.

I guess I’ll have to try this whole new haiku form out. My new BSG haiku will definitely be less restricted. We’ll see how it goes Monday. If I get a chance to watch BSG when I get back from skiing. (Yes, another long weekend at Holiday Valley. Bring on the snow!)

7 thoughts on “Earth-shattering discovery about pooooh-etry

  1. The symmetry-craver in me cries out, too! It’s 5-7-5 or nothing! It always killed me to read Kerouac’s haikus that were 4-7-4 or even odder syllable patterns. What about all those times I wanted to use a word like “tomorrow” but it made that particular line one syllable too long?? Ah well.

  2. I’m not too good at using poetic devices. It’s too confining. I think that’s why I’m better at prose. My poetry is usually free form. Haiku is my only attempt at every using a poetic device like that…

  3. Having studied Kerouac in depth back in the day (I’ve amassed a bit of a collection of beat literature and biographies over the years) may I just say that chances are Kerouac legitimately did think he was writing 5-7-5 haiku. I’m not sure if that man was ever sober.

  4. *LOL* Writing haiku while drunk makes words have less syllables… Maybe I should write “drunken BSG haiku.” But I’d have to be drunk to write them correctly. ;)

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