Answering The Call

For JT.

When it comes to rhyming verse, I’ve seen better; I’ve seen worse
But at least I know the form to write it true
There’s a problem, though, with these, cos I don’t speak Japanese
So I’ve learned I must decline to do Haiku

With a sonnet in pentameter, I know the right parameter,
In ballad form, I’ve written one or two
If I have a tale to tell, I can write a villanelle
But I’ve learned I must decline to do Haiku

I compose my double dactyls with internal rhymes, like fractals
And my limericks? Renowned the whole world through
Should you want an ABC, you could leave it up to me,
But I’ve learned I must decline to do Haiku

Oh, there’s one that stands alone, I invented on my own
Cos it seemed the sort of thing that I should do
I could sharpen up my quill, and could write you what you will
But I’ve learned I must decline to do Haiku.

Haikus are only haikus
When in Japanese.
English? Counting syllables.

More, after the jump:

My dad, who did speak Japanese (having apparently learned it the way Benjamin Franklin recommended learning a language), told me long ago that haiku could simply not be written in English. They are, he said, based around the very breath of the Japanese language, and cannot possibly be employed in any other.

Perhaps that is why I am so wedded to meter and verse. When my sort of person wants to do Japanese, you end up with The Mikado. It simply doesn’t travel.

I know there are a good many English-language poets who disagree with me. Let them write haikus; I’ll none of it. I decline the challenge; should JT press it, I’ll gladly cede the contest and crown him winner.

I have (he admits, in full disclosure) written a very small number of very bad English haikus. Two that got a good many compliments (I honestly think they are clunky syllable-counting, but that might be my dad speaking):

Two Haikus

I once wrote a pair
Of Haikus, related, but
Willing to fuse–please

Don’t ask me how one
Limerick now replaces
The Haikus in twos

A Limerick

I once wrote a pair of Haikus
Related, but willing to fuse
Please don’t ask me how
One limerick now
Replaces the Haikus in twos


  1. Kylie Sturgess says

    Beautiful work. As always.

    (And haikus… seriously?? We’ll have to do a sonnet battle one day!)

  2. Cuttlefish says

    Not that hardcore? Dude, you were willing to take on a form in a language you don’t (do you?) speak!! Sonnets should be a piece of cake!

    Double Dactyls?


    Don’t run!

  3. HP says

    Quoting my comment from over at your old place:

    Ugh. Haiku contest.
    Pseudo-clever, middlebrow
    Pap for the masses.

    “See me count! One, two —
    “I know what syllables are!”
    Insufficient snark.

    I suppose this disqualifies me from the Republican nomination.

    Villanelles! I want to see villanelles, and I will not be satisfied until my thirst for blood is satiated!

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