The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Haiku’

Overheard Haiku

November 18, 2014 | by

The rhythms of overheard speech.


Photo: NARA

In Martin Walser’s 1987 book Brandung, about a German professor teaching abroad at the very un-German University of California, Berkeley—a novel really not worth reading unless you are interested in German-English translation and able to read it in the Berkeley sun, to a whiff of eucalyptus or a glimpse of Mount Tamalpais, and even then I didn’t finish it—the professor overhears a bit of dialogue. A student steps into an elevator and says “Going up?”; the one in the elevator says “Trying to.” The professor, “who did after all teach English back home, was crushed to realize, yet again, that he would never master this language.” Not long afterward, he sees a campus newspaper headline, “Sex Blind Admission,” and tries and fails to reconstruct the line in German. “English is a language for headlines,” he thinks.

I saw a headline myself in Berkeley, on the unbelievably trashy San Francisco Examiner: “Cops Fear Pimp Turf War.” Five punchy syllables, each pretty much any part of speech—it took me a moment to understand what it meant, then I knew I had witnessed greatness. (I’m not the only one who noticed: a weekly DJ night called “Cops Fear Pimp Turf War!” sprang up a few months later in San Francisco.)

It was walking in downtown Manhattan, on the other hand, past the new construction of, according to the slogan around the scaffolding, TWENTY INDIVIDUALLY-CURATED FINELY-CRAFTED CONDOMINIUM RESIDENCES, that a couple hurried past and we heard the man say, “The problem is in this country people believe they deserve something ... ” Whether his complaint targeted the members of the 1 percent who were building or planning to live in these super-creative residences, or the passersby resenting that they couldn’t, or other groups altogether, it was also a classic example of American speech:

The problem is in
this country people believe
they deserve something

It’s not a haiku—the haiku form has demands besides 5-7-5 syllables: seasonal key words (kigo), one image, two moments with a turn or jump cut between them indicated by a “cutting word” (kireji). It’s the serendipitous, spoken, American form: the overheard haiku. Read More »


Edgar Allan Ho, and Other News

October 31, 2013 | by


  • This would either confuse an alien who had just set foot on Earth, or maybe explain everything: the NSA haiku generator.
  • Along similar lines: Edgar Allan Ho, which BoingBoing has anointed Best Sexy Costume 2013. (As the creator of the admittedly theoretical Sexy Struwwelpeter, I respectfully disagree.)
  • The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Novel comes to Kickstarter.
  • According to the Common Core guidelines, The Hunger Games is more complex than The Grapes of Wrath. (But, plotwise, it sort of is, no?)


    Times-ian Haiku, and Other News

    April 3, 2013 | by

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  • Foxing and diapers: learn the anatomy of a book.
  • A Tumblr blog displays incidental New York Times haiku (not all of which mention nature, but still).
  • The AP has dropped illegal immigrant from its stylebook. The New York Times (haiku generators) are considering following suit.
  • A Jane Austen guide to thrift. Retrench!
  • “I am officially Very Poorly”: Iain Banks reveals that he has terminal cancer.


    Translating, Restoring, Interring

    June 14, 2012 | by

  • The long, strange history of Dorothy Parker’s ashes.
  • Translating Emily Dickinson (into modern English).
  • Thomas Pynchon (finally) allows his books to be sold digitally.
  • At the newly launched the Slant, Erica Jong talks … well, everything.
  • The Arizona Department of Transportation turns to haiku for their latest dust-storm PSAs.
  • Hemingway’s Oak Park childhood home has been purchased. The new owners say they plan a Hemingway-esque restoration.




    James Shea’s “Haiku”

    February 9, 2012 | by

    What poem would I write today, if I had it in me? So many titles come to mind. For instance: On Eating an Orange that is Too Wet. Or: On Drinking Coffee Slowly and Finding it Cold. The poem about Failing to Own a Microwave. Poem After Weird Moon. The poem called Patience.

    Of course, the name of a poem isn’t a poem. Or is it? This is what James Shea’s brilliant, funny poem “Haiku” makes me wonder. It is a breathless, cluttered, charming, and heartbreaking list of titles. The poems that follow the titles—were they to exist—would be spare and measured. But Shea refuses to measure himself. These unwritten poems speak of ambition and youth, and suggest a flood of feeling that won't be contained by form. It’s a series of ghost haiku. Yet these traces of other poems, taken together, make a whole no less sufficient, no less moving, for its cobbled parts. Read More »