Get out your haiku.
Traditional haiku are three-line poems. The first and third lines have five syllables each. The middle line has seven syllables. Haiku rarely rhyme.
There are modern haiku with different configurations, but for the purposes of this contest, I want you to stick to five-seven-five.
There are no prizes, but I will select the best ones and include them in an upcoming column.
I have a favor to ask: Don’t plagiarize. Write your own.
Traditionally, haiku have referred to nature, but this competition is wide open.
Japanese haiku, which led to English haiku, are lovely, and, well, poetic. But modern ones can be found that are humorous and even disrespectful of traditional limitations.
Here are examples of each. Traditionalists might balk and wriggle at the second one.
“The first cold shower. Even the monkey seems to want. A little coat of straw.”
That was written by Matsuo Basho (1644-94).
“Haiku are easy. But sometimes they don’t make sense. Refrigerator.”
That was written by Anonymous.
Jack Kerouac wrote “American sentences,” which are similar to haiku in simplicity.
For example: “The taste. Of rain. Why kneel?”
By the way, the plural of “haiku” is “haiku.”
Language has become a slapdash of convenience, with very little poetry nearby.
When I was growing up, none of my friends said he wanted to be a poet, although we were often impressed by limericks.
What none of us knew was this: “A limerick is a form of verse, almost always humorous and frequently rude, in five-line, predominantly anapestic meter with a strict rhyme scheme of AABBA, in which the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme, while the third and fourth lines are shorter and share a different rhyme” (Wikipedia).
It was the rude part that attracted us. If someone knew a limerick, they were admired, which was not true with other forms of poetry.
Reciting “Barbara Fritchie,” for example, would have been a bad idea; but with a limerick, you’d be in like Flynn.
Here’s a-safe-for work example: “There was a young lady of Kent. Whose nose was most awfully bent. She followed her nose. One day I suppose. And no one knows which way she went.”
If you’re wondering what “anapestic meter” means, so am I, and I am looking at the definition.
“In classical quantitative meters it consists of two short syllables followed by a long one; in accentual stress meters it consists of two unstressed syllables and one stressed syllable” (Wikipedia again).
And I thought limericks were written by old sods just having a pint.
There is an underlying structure with all good writing that sometimes goes unnoticed. My own strategies are so subtle, however, that it could be gathered they don’t exist.
But if you look closely, you’d find a number of distressed syllables rooming with various meters.
An even closer look shows that the way I write is a lot like the way Harry performs on a walk. He goes where it smells good.
The deadline for your haiku, sent to email address at the end of this column, is Feb. 14.
Traditional haiku lines are not separated by periods, but please do so for this contest.
Again: Please write your own, in five-seven-five, one per author, and know that ribaldry will not be acceptable. Except most privately.
Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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