Limerick 71

This is from yesterday, and I think the last line needs some massage yet, but I really like the first two lines. Critique away…

I woke to steady rainfall falling
On balustrades and on the awnings
And though it’s still warm
I know I’ve been warned
A harbinger of cold cold-calling.

One weird trick to fill your days with haiku

Sales of The Haiku Project have been pretty slow. A large part of this, I’m sure, is because I basically suck at doing commerce. But this blog is all about learning and improving, so let’s call this brief missive what it is: an ad unconvincingly disguised as a blog post. Click that link up there and find out what so many folks should be talking about!

In other news, the Limerick Rehabilitation Project is proceeding apace. The thing is that I’ve been writing them all in my trusty notebook, and I have not been making the time to transcribe them into any electronic format with which they can be shared. (And since no one can read my handwriting, I can’t share that either.) It’s not that I don’t want to share, it’s that I spend so much time in front of a computer every day that when I have actual free time, a computer is the last thing I want in my hands. Every now and then, however, I’ll slip one in on Facebook or something.

Oh, and one more thing: I have a secret project I’ve started that is still too new and fragile for details to spill out. But it’s exciting. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

You Asked For It

Several of you Luddites out there have asked me about hard copies of Tango Girls. Since I had an evening free due to weather-related panic (seriously, y’all?) I went ahead and reformatted it for CreateSpace. It’s in the review process now, and should be available probably next week sometime. I shall be in touch.

In the meantime, here is one of my efforts from the Limerick Rehabilitation Project:

As I ran down the wind-soaked beach
Pondering the weight of my feet
How far to go
To reach my goal
As I ran down the wind-soaked beach.

Talk to you soon.

Project Update

One of the things that I learned from the Haiku Project that I’ve carried over to the Limerick Rehabilitation Project is that even though I am writing these things every day, I am not going to make any attempt to post them all. That is not because they are some big secret, or that I don’t want you to read/hear them. Rather,  it’s a huge pain in the ass to keep the blog up to date with them. Just like with the haiku, I write these in a little notebook, and eventually transcribe them into an electronic format. If I was then going to post them to the blog I’d end up posting like 40 or 50 at a time, and with the way my social medias are all connected now I’d be flooding everyone’s news feeds and just being annoying for all concerned.

Instead, every now and then, I’ll post one just to give you any idea of where I’m going with this. Today being either a now or a then, here’s a limerick:

The voice of Google Navigation
Has a strange habit of inflection
The way she says to-
ward with stress on “to”
As if “to” was the destination.

Feel free to be judgy in the comments.

What’s New for 2014

I am sure that many of you are wondering, in the wake of the smashing success of The Haiku Project, what I have planned for 2014.

Well, I pondered it and pondered it.  I really enjoy the idea of writing self-contained pieces every day. At the same time I need to be realistic about my schedule: much as I might like to I simply don’t have enough time to write a 30-line poem or short story every day. So, a short poetry form seemed best, but I didn’t want to do haiku again because I’d already done that.

Hence my project for 2014: every day, I will write at least one limerick.

Now, limericks have a deservedly bad reputation for being low and generally vulgar. I want to explore what else this form can hold, so my limericks will adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Must be five lines, with a strict rhyme scheme: AABBA (although AAAAA works too).
  • The line lengths (in syllables) can vary, but should be constant within the limerick. So, lines 1,2, and 3 should all be the same length, with lines 4&5 shorter but the same as each other. For example a common scheme is 9 syllables for lines 1,2, and 5, with lines 4 and 5 being just 6 syllables.
  • A limerick should have an iambic meter.
  • Nothing dirty (the occasional swear word notwithstanding).

None of this is to say that the limericks can’t be funny. If that happens naturally as I write them, that is just fine and dandy. But humor isn’t really the goal for me; this is an exploration and practice of meter and rhyme, with the stretch goal being no less than the revitalization of this ancient poetry form.

I’m calling it the Limerick Rehabilitation Project.

Crass Commercialism

The Haiku Project is at least complete, and ready to join the realm of consumable products. For now the list of outlets from which it is available is quite low, as is the price (both will rise in the future). For now, you can get an actual, perfect-bound, soft-cover hard copy for only $5 (plus shipping and handling, of course) from:


Or you can get an electronic copy from the Kindle store for just $2.99.

You’re already on your computer, so do some clicking and strike a blow for capitalism.

It’s Finally Happening!

At long last, The Haiku Project, the book, is finally assembled. Late last night I completed the myriad little pieces required to post it to CreateSpace. It just needs to go through their approval process and it will be done — just in time for those last-minute Christmas* gifts!

This will be an actual, physical book, with a cover and everything (although you can still purchase an electronic version from the Kindle store if you so desire). It has artwork and photography by Lucy and by a coupe of the Tango Girls (and me of course) to go along with all the haiku you’ve come to love.

Initially this will only be available through Amazon or CreateSpace (the latter is owned by the former), and I’ll be selling it at a ridiculous low introductory price of $5**. That’s a limited-time offer, so you’d better get on it.

I will let you know when it’s available, so keep checking back.

*  or whatever holiday you prefer.
** Plus shipping and handling, if applicable

On Writing Haiku

It’s easy to think that because many of my haiku are funny that I don’t take the art form seriously. In the course of writing a haiku every day for The Haiku Project I did give the matter quite a bit of thought. The other day, a friend of mine (and a very talented poet) posted a couple of poems on Facebook which he called haiku. But they did not follow either the 5-7-5 or the 17-total-syllable tradition. So, I replied with the following:

Poetic License?
Sure, but you’re writing haiku;
There are rules, dammit!

Now admittedly I was just being a snarky jerk when I wrote that. I am well aware that many poets eschew the 17-syllable rule, and sometimes even the three-line rule. I bristle at this.

Traditional Japanese haiku has very specific elements:

  • it has a form of 5-7-5 onji, which are not exactly the same as syllables;
  • it has nature, especially the seasons, as subject matter;
  • and it has kiergi, or “cutting words,” usually in the middle and designed to change the way the preceding lines are interpreted. (I often refer to this as a “punch line,” not like a joke but as in that’s what gives the haiku its punch.)

Of these, the last is the most essential element of haiku.  As Billy Collins writes in his introduction to Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years,

“the heart of the haiku lies something beyond counting, that is, its revelatory effect on the reader, that eye-opening moment of insight that occurs whenever a haiku succeeds in drawing us through the keyhole of its details into the infinite”

Generally speaking, American poets (myself included) don’t seem to keep the constraint of the natural/seasonal subject matter. That leaves only the structural elements to define what you’ve written as a haiku. However, you’ll see a lot of poets out there you say that because onji is not the same as syllables, that this requirement can be ignored. Here’s an example of just such an argument from Lou Freshwater, “The Art of Haiku.”

I contend that the form, the rules, are equally important. That rigidity of form is part of the beauty, the medium upon which the poet creates his art. The syllables are the closest we can come to onji so without the syllable count, no matter how lovely or revealing the poem may be it is a tercet, not a haiku, just as a 14-line poem without pentameter lines cannot be a sonnet. These forms have constraints, and the constraints make the form. Quoting Mr. Collins again, “with the form in place, the act of composition becomes a negotiation between one’s subjective urges and the rules of order….”

When I wrote The Haiku Project I decided to hold to the 5-7-5 scheme for exactly that reason: to see what the restriction would do to the art, to see what I could fit inside the shape of a haiku.  If we are to test the form, to see what it can hold, it makes no sense to change the shape of the container. To go outside these bounds is to change the vessel, the way a fine wine can be changed be the shape of the glass into which it is poured. Your brew may still be potent, but it no longer has the shape of a haiku.