My Old Kentucky Homesite

You Take the Haiku and I’ll Take the Lowku

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 12/31/2009

Yesterday, a fellow geezer reran an old post of his, in which he tried his hand at writing haiku. Seeing his effort, I was very glad I didn’t have to study that poetic form back when I was in school. Because – please excuse me, all my Japanese readers – I just don’t get it. Confining oneself to seventeen syllables in a poem is too much like tweeting.

Anyway, most of the verses that I like best are really wordy. You’re not surprised, right?

So I began to wonder: What would have happened if some well-known Western poets had haiku-ed? Well, for one thing, the Norton Anthology would be a lot shorter. But would students have been stuck memorizing the following?

William Shakespeare
Shall I compare thee
to a summer’s day – or not?
That is the question.

Andrew Marvell
Had we time enough,
I’d enjoy your run-around.
But we don’t. Let’s screw!

William Blake
Tyger burning bright,
Your symmetry frightens me!
Who made thee, ol’ puss?

William Wordsworth
When you get lonely,
Picture daffodils dancing.
Believe me, it works!

Percy Bysshe Shelley
Listen, pal, am I
supposed to be all impressed
by this dumb statue?

Edward Fitzgerald
A book, some nice wine,
a little bread, and – yeah – you.
Oy, I’m in heaven.

Edgar Allen Poe
So this bird flies in,
and starts squawking “Nevermore.”
And then … phhht … I’m dead.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Listen to me, kids.
Forget that Harry Potter.
I’ll tell “Paul Revere.”

Robert Browning
That’s my last duchess,
whom I had killed because she
smiled at ev’ryone.

Rudyard Kipling
Boots, boots, boots, boots, boots,
Din, Din, Din, Din, Din, Din, Din.
Goddamn these hiccups!

Ernest Lawrence Thayer
Yay! Casey’s at bat!
Hit it out of the ballpark!
Why’d you strike out, jerk?

T.S. Eliot
Michelangelo!”
Why don’t those women shut up
and pass me a peach?

Dorothy Parker
Men won’t make passes
At near-sighted young ladies
who don’t wear contacts.

Robert Frost
Two roads through the woods?
Yikes! Decisions, decisions.
I’ll just flip a coin.

Ogden Nash
This will be haiku,
these seventeen syllables.
(OK, so maybe it’ll take me more, like, say, forty syllables altogether, to make this swill be my coup.)

There will be no test on this, so have a Happy New Year!

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11 Responses to “You Take the Haiku and I’ll Take the Lowku”

  1. Squeeze me? tried tried to write Haiku? Wha?

    I did write Haiku
    not up to your standards, sure.
    Refrigerator.

  2. You, Sir, are a silly Man.

  3. Jenn Dyer said

    Ernest Lawrence Thayer is an improvement and I kind of like the Poe.

  4. Going:
    The haiku magnets
    are not strong enough to hold
    these on my freezer.

    Percy:
    I’ve never been complimented by a true connoisseur before.

    Jenn:
    Yes, I think a lot of famous doggerel could do with some pruning. For example: While working on this collection, I tried to reduce Eliot’s cat poems to seventeen syllables, but even that was fifteen too many. All I could come up with was “Meow.”

    It’s nice to see you. How the hell have you been?

  5. Evie said

    I like the Poe and the Frost. I got here when my coin came up tails. You don’t want to know what the heads choice would have been.

  6. Evie:
    I didn’t know this blog was available in the forest; you must have a really strong Internet provider. Or perhaps you stumbled upon a Starbuck’s in the glade?

  7. srsny said

    Your portmanteau version of Kipling irks me. It is likely because, as a child in the Bronx I used to listen constantly to a 78 record we had(pre-long playing vinyl, for your younger readers, if you have any). On one side was a reading of “Boots,” on the other, “Gunga Din.” I much preferred “Boots,” and for a time attempted to memorize it. At the age of ten, I almost had it, but all is gone now. It never occurred to me – or to the grown ups in my family – to actually go to the library and get a copy of the two poems for me to read. (Younguns – that was what we did back then. You actually had to WALK somewhere to get information). Your dovetail hiccupping of the two poems inspired the following:

    Foot, foot, foot slogging
    Boots, Boots: Moving up and down
    No discharge in war.

    Din, Din. Beaten, flayed.
    By God- (no wait, you’re Hindu!)
    Still – You’re better man.

    I’m now going to look on the internet to see how much I really do recall of those two poems.

  8. Srsny:
    Both your versions are vast improvements over the originals. I can almost hear the second one being recited by Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. to Sam Jaffe. Now I’m waiting to see what you can do with “If” and “Danny Deever.”

    Speaking of old Rudyard: In case you don’t remember the old joke about him, here it is.
    He: Do you like Kipling?
    She: I don’t know. I’ve never kippled.

  9. srsny said

    I’ve always hated “If” and liked “Danny Deever.” I guess that’s my tendency toward morbidiity talking.

    And even though you’re the portmanteau artist, I think those poems lend themselves nicely to:

    If Danny Deever

    Blame it on Deever.
    They’ve cut his stripes and buttons.
    You can keep your head.

  10. srsny said

    Oh, by the way, You should do a post calling for old jokes similar to your Kipling creaker. Here’s my submission.

    Olsen: I know a man with a wooden leg named Smith.
    Johnson: Really? What was the name of his other leg?

    (I’m not sure the derivation truly is Olsen and Johnson, but it certainly could be.)

  11. Srsny
    I will use your suggestion in future, when (and if) I get some readers who haven’t heard all my jokes already.

    In the meantime, as you’ll see from my post today (January 2 as the cuckoo flies), I’m waxing wroth. Perhaps I’ll feel funnier when I’m waxing someone else.

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