I remember my first haiku like it was yesterday. The year was 1992. The Cold War had ended. Jon Secada and Kris Kross sat atop the music charts. Children wore their pants backwards. On purpose. And as I had just entered my second decade of existence as a human person, a seminal film was released that would change my life forever. Despite the PG-13 rating, my father believed the film’s importance far outweighed the Motion Picture Association’s age recommendation. Around the 30th minute of this ground-breaking piece of American cinema, the following dialogue took place:
-We’re looking down on Wayne’s basement. Only that’s not Wayne’s basement. Isn’t that weird?
-Garth! That was a haiku!
The theater erupted with laughter. I didn’t get it. I didn’t get a lot of the jokes in the movie.
“Dad, what’s a haiku?”
“It’s….I’ll explain later. It’s complicated.”
“Is that where babies come from?”
“Maybe. I’m not really sure. You’re adopted.”
OK the last part didn’t happen. But along with other questions like “What’s an Alice Cooper?” and “Asphinctersayswhat?” my interest was piqued. What’s a haiku? And why was it so damn funny?
When I got home I looked it up in a dictionary—yes, an actual, physical dictionary—and found its meaning:
Hai-ku (noun): 1) an unrhymed verse form of Japanese origin having three lines containing usually five, seven, and five syllables respectively; 2) definitely not where babies come from.
Ah, so a haiku was a Japanese poem! Excellent! Or as they say in Cantonese, “zang!” So if I wanted to ape the promising careers of the lead characters and get girls the likes of Tia Carrere and Claudia Schiffer, I had to master the art of the haiku. And for those questioning whether a 10-year old would be interested in girls at that young an age, let me remind you of the medical breakthrough that came about in the year of the film’s release. 1992: the year a cure for cooties was finally found. Circle circle dot dot. Never forget.
In the two decades since my introduction to this ancient form of Japanese verse I’ve written dozens upon dozens of haikus. Sometimes intentionally so. Here are a few excerpts from an upcoming anthology of my haikus, coming soon to a large-print bookstore near you.
Man versus Machine
Caution hot surface
“You can’t tell me what to do!”
Well played, stove, well played
Man is by nature
that pees on the rug
As Michael Bluth says
Family is most important
Oh and breakfast too
Eight bucks for a beer?
That is the price one must pay
For dimly-lit love
I once knew a man
of great fame from Nantucket
The stories are true
To write is to bear
one’s soul publicly to all
open, spread eagle
Still waters run deep
Or they may run quite shallow
Algae is the proof
Wayne’s World, Revisited
“That was a haiku!”
Eight plus seven plus four is…