[Dixielandjazz] Re: "police" & rules - was Watch Your Back - was haiku

Bill Gunter jazzboard at hotmail.com
Fri Oct 22 20:58:23 PDT 2004

Hi Steve (and Haiku lovers) . . .

Aha, we meet again . . .

You say:

>You still don't get it do you?

What's to get?

Haiku has the following conditions (as listed on the same web page you got 
your Basho quotes, but further down):

1. Using no more than 17 syllables.
2. Arranging these often in lines of 5-7-5 syllables
3. Avoiding similes and metaphors
4. Retaining Japanese values

Now Basho, in those lovely quotes didn't write in English.  Translating his 
poems into English from Japanese while trying to retain the (1) essense of 
the poem and the (2) meter of the poem is extremely difficult.

Sort of like the Fitzgerald translations of the Rubaiyat from Arabic into 
English. Those are true to the mood of the poetry AND the meter. And it 
wasn't easy for Fitzgerald to accomplish this!

Now I know that rule number two (above) has the qualifier "often" in the 
sentence. But if the meter is not important then, conceivably the following 
two poems (both mine) are squarely in the Haiku realm:


Never before  in the history of the civilized world have so many people
Refused to believe the evidence even though it is right there in front of 

If this is true then any three lines containing a coherent thought would 
qualify as "Haiku"

If any three logical lines can be considered a traditional art form then the 
traditional blues form is indistinguishable from Haiku.

Well I woke up this morning, blue as I could be.
Yes I woke up this morning, blue as I could be.
'Cause my mean ol' woman - she done run out on me!

And, if we're not gonna worry about convention then why is it important to 
NECESSARILY use three lines?

Why not:

A rope
The end

Is that a Haiku? And, if not, why not?

What about one line . . .


Hey, that breaks the rules of syllables AND lines and yet is one of the most 
profound thoughts humans can express!

How about this one (in the tradition of 4'33"):

"      "

Now there's a Haiku to contend with!

I know this line of argumentation is called "reducto ad absurdum" but 
perhaps that's where we're headed.

I feel that any English effort at Haiku creation ought to, by the nature of 
the art form, absolutely conform to the metric function (5-7-5).  Otherwise 
it's not a challenge and reduces the skill level of the poet to that of a 
language manipulator with a poor vocabulary.

Slipping into Haiku mode here . . .

So at profound risk
I write that Haiku MUST be
Poetry with rules.

Otherwise it is
Just another batch of prose
Any fool could write.

The rules are simple.
The basic Haiku poem
Doesn't even rhyme!

All one asks of it
Is seventeen syllables
Strung out in three lines.

It is sort of like
Iambic Pentameter . . .
Five feet to the line.

That's it, Amigo.
Ignore the metric feet and
Shakespeare's just a hack.

So on this matter
I am right and you are wrong!
So there, ha ha ha!

With this final thought
I bid you all fond farewell
And depart the joust.

Respectfully submitted,

Bill "No Basho" Gunter
jazzboard at hotmail.com

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