It is quite some time now that the haiku has made its way across the Pacific, and many an American, adult and school child, has tried their hand at imitating the form and sensibility of these Japanese poems. Meanwhile, you might say, I have, intermittently, been exploring what an American armed with English might do to the haiku. A few enchantillons, let’s call them:
She Had It All
She had it all—the
phone, the tattoo, the Diet
Coke, the cigarette
Balmy winter — ros-
y cheeks, shorts, smiling — species
On Human Agency
The taxi driver
without a fare drives slowly
and with a fare fast
You could fry an egg on the sidewalk
A woman says half
the women in New York — no
panties. Sticky hot.
to fight without hurting and
hurt without fighting
We admire his turds,
my son and I. I would show
him mine, but refrain.
Buildings in London
something taken from
the world and turned into stone
buildings in London
Christmas haiku composed after walking across Midtown Manhattan from my dentist’s office to the United Nations
December, New York
To inspire such honking
What did Jesus do?
Haiku written a day after long considering a tiny bit of a plant that clung to my finger while I was taking a shower
the bike lane blocked by cars—ghosts
play with our beliefs
First frost. School girls with
knit reindeer ears. And my son
has given up straws.
The Great Laurel
The Great Laurel
bends to its scattered petals.
The rain will not stop.
— William Eaton
William Eaton is an essayist, aphorist, , poet of a sort, and the Editor of the intellectual journal Zeteo. A collection of his essays, Surviving the Twenty-First Century, was published in 2015 by Serving House Books, and a second volume—Art, Sex, Politics—is due out in 2017. Readers of these haikus might also be interested in Translating Dickinson, Poetry as Conversation or This is my poem for Terminal B.
Drawings (involving cut-out and collage) by William Eaton.
Afterword: Shortly after I wrote this haiku a colleague sent me a news story about “chimeras”—organisms that are composed of two genetically distinct types of cells. Science Times writer Carl Zimmer told of a woman who discovered that her eggs did not all carry the same genes, and thus one of her three children was not genetically related to the other two (or perhaps only on the father’s side). More than half of all mothers of boys may have neurons—and thus reactions?—that, genetically, belong to their sons.
During the time I was working on this post, my mother introduced me to the ModPo (modern poetry) MOOC taught (and orchestrated) by University of Pennsylvania Professor Al Filreis. This led to a discussion of Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” which led in turn to a consideration of other ways, besides Stevens’s, of writing poetry. First up: the extraordinary first stanza of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “My own heart let me have more have pity on; let”:
My own heart let me have more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst’s all-in-all in all a world of wet.
While looking for that poem, on my mother’s bookshelf I found J. Paul Hunter’s Norton Introduction to Poetry and was pleased to find within it any number of wonderful short poems which were neither haiku or Ameraiku. I close this post with two of my favorites.
Ezra Pound, “The Bathtub”
As a bathtub lined with porcelain,
When the hot water gives out or goes tepid,
So is the slow cooling of our chivalrous passion
O my much praised but-not-altogether-satisfactory lady.
Frances Cornford, “Parting in Wartime”
How long ago Hector took off his plume,
Not wanting that his little son should cry,
Then kissed his sad Andromache good-bye—
And now we three in Euston waiting-room.
Click for the pdf