Monday, April 9, 2012

April 9th-Brought To You By the Letter 'H'

"No, seriously, you may want to row a little harder."
    One of the things I most hated to hear in high school (besides “I like you as a friend”) was “We begin poetry today.”
    Poetry was wedged between a grammar review (of one profoundly effed-up language) and a month-long analysis of Dickens’ Great Expectations (a boring book whose sole redeeming value was that it was written by someone named Dickens).
"I came, I saw...what the frig?
I can't see anything!
And I may not be wearing a shirt."
"No eyes? Big deal!
You try riding bareback, sissy Rome boy!"
    For three weeks, we endured the rhapsodies of the unfortunately named Mrs. Fluck as she blathered about the musical beauty of the written word.  Her eyelids would flutter shut in almost orgasmic euphoria while tapes featuring works from the “masters” filled the air of our classroom like a rank, rhythmical miasma.  Vergil, Chaucer, Whitman, Frost...all waxed lyrical as they taught us to see the beauty of the world through a poet’s eyes.
    And that crucifixions, Black Plague, Civil War, and getting lost in the woods weren’t so bad if you gave them a chance.
    After this extensive navel-gazing, she described the various poetic devices available to us: Rhythmic, Cinquain, Quatrain, Diamante, Ode, Ballad, Acrostic, Apostrophe, Epitaph, Sonnet, Enjambment, Epigram, and Free Verse (code for “unrhyming crap which doesn’t fit any other categories”).
    Much to Tommy Spagnola’s dismay, burping “Mary Had a Little Lamb” didn’t count.
"Feel the burn!
It's global warming!"
    Mrs. Fluck then encouraged us to “play around a little bit with it” (an unfortunate choice of words).  With an enthusiasm which would make Richard Simmons look like Al Gore, she exhorted us to find an approach with which we felt most comfortable.  We were to run with it in the creation of a “poetic masterpiece” which would surely stand the test of time.  Or the 11th grade.     
    Unfortunately, she wasn’t too keen on my first choice, the limerick.  This was a big disappointment, as there was much to be admired in this earthy, succinct art form.  Whether on a bathroom wall or on the back of a cocktail napkin, “There once was a man from Nantucket...” displays a quiet genius not normally found in polite society.
    Since I was denied my first choice, I more closely examined the relatively obscure Haiku.
    The Haiku is a short form of Japanese poetry which was developed in...Japan (I would think that would go without saying) by some...Japanese guys (once again...).
"I didn't even get the first pony ride.
And I'm the emperor, dammit!"
    Previously called “hokku,” it was given its current name by a writer named Masaoka Shiki.  Shiki was an honored guest at the Emperor Mutsuhito’s (his real name, but, c’mon, I could’ve just written anything) surprise birthday party and had written a “hokku” in his honor.  Unfortunately, when he woke up the next morning, covered in saké and birthday cake, he couldn’t remember what type of poem he had just laid on “My Main Meiji Man” (Mrs. Fluck also taught us “alliteration”).
    Since he was in a hurry to get his deposit on the moon bounce back (more alliteration...I’m on fire!), he didn’t have time to figure out its exact name.  So, he just called it a “haiku,”, because “it’s frikkin’ Japanese-it’s not like anyone will know the difference, anyway.”
    Traditional haiku consists of 17 “on” over three lines of 5, 7, and 5 (don’t worry, I did the math).  Even though “on” is translated as “syllable,” in reality it’s counted for a short syllable, an additional one for an elongated vowel, dipthong, or double consonant, and one more for an “n” at the end of a syllable.
NOTE: There was room for a picture
"Death to America!
But, could you send over Snooki? 

We're short a whore for stoning."
    Seriously, it’s just a syllable.   
    The essence of good haiku is the juxtaposition of two images with a cutting word inserted between the two.  Sorta like “samurai breaks wind.”
    A lot of haikus deal with the natural world (“typhoons...yeah...they suck”), as well.  Because, let’s face it, the Japanese of a couple hundred years ago didn’t really have all that much to entertain themselves.  Sex robots hadn’t been invented yet and you can only watch so much ritual disemboweling before you want to write some poetry.
    To me, the biggest appeal of haikus was that they really didn’t have to rhyme.  Plus, unlike free verse which-I guess-had to have at least some recurrent theme, I could throw anything down in a haiku.
    As long as I met the 5-7-5 set syllabic standard (NOTE: alliteration), I was good to go.  Sure, I may not be writing something which met all of the requirements of the haiku, but I was sure to come up with something like...   
Five syllables, five
The middle line has seven
Somewhere, a dove cries
    Wow, that was pretty easy, I thought.  So, I let my pen carry me away to...
"All I wanted to do was rest my eyes.
And then eat garbage."
Possum walks in road
Semi slowly rumbles past
Instant road pizza
    The more I wrote, the easier it became.  But, my conscience began to bother me.  There was nothing inherently Japanese about my haikus.  The least I could do was write something that gave a passing nod to the land of its birth... 
Cameras take pictures
Dinosaurs smash Tokyo
Lotus petals bloom
"From one man in a rubber suit to another,
what say we both go eff some things up?"
    Since these poems were super short, I wanted to turn in at least one more.  This one had to deal with the natural world. 
Wintry breezes blow
Forest creatures gather food
Damn! It’s frikkin’ cold!
    Flushed with creative genius, I handed my work in to Mrs. Fluck, confident I was going to get a richly-deserved ‘A.’  Surely, she would recognize me for a poetic wunderkind.  Okay, so my poems didn’t rhyme, but they weren’t the mishmash of disjointed free verse crap that brown-nose Donna Miglione turned in.
But we were stuck with this one.
Dude's crying because there's no topless chicks.
Now this version I'd watch
    Days stretched agonizingly forward as I waited for my grade.  While we slogged through the tedium which was Pip’s tedious life in Dickensian London (I really hated Great Expectations), my anxiety grew.  What could be taking so long, I wondered.
    Finally, the day came.  Mrs. Fluck airily announced that she was by and large happy with the effort we had put forth.  Of course, Donna got an ‘A’ (the girl’s farts even made honor roll) and even the belching maestro, Spags, got a B+.
    Without a word, Mrs. Fluck laid my paper on my desk.  I looked down, expecting to see my nomination for national poet laureate next to my ‘A.’
Your Haiku Project
Easy way out, not much thought
Consider Free Verse
    Damn!  In 5-7-5 format, too!
There once was a teacher named Fluck
A nasty, shriveled old f...
    Oops, there goes the bell.


  1. I agree with you, Great Expectation is terrible. I believe haiku is equally terrible. Here's what might not be terrible. Can you tell me the rest of the Nantucket limerick? I've always wanted to know.

  2. Cameras take pictures
    Dinosaurs smash Tokyo
    Lotus petals bloom

    That haiku is a serious piece of beauty Al, awesome stuff man. Mrs Fluck is such an unfortunate name for a teacher haha!

  3. Great post! You're better at poetry than I am, I can't even write haiku's! Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

  4. @Nellie: Great Expectations was horrific! I could tell you the Nantucket limerick, but it's way naughty. It uses the 'c' word. And I don't mean cannolis.
    @Matthew: No kidding, that's her name. Hmm...since it was her married name, I wonder why she changed it after marriage......
    @Loopylo: Haikus make me giggle. Then again, so do monkeys.

  5. I had forgotten all about alliterations until my daughter came home a few years ago talking about them - talk about a mind flash back to grade school. Yikes! And now you did the same thing LOL

  6. Alliteration-Fun fancy fare for fabulously festive...uh...firefighters.
    Sorry. It was the best I had.

    1. And damn good too, Al!! I'm not even going to try to compete!

  7. Hi...I'm hopping over from the A to Z challenge. Lovely post...good luck with the challenge.

    Donna L Martin

  8. Thanks for the visit. I'll be coming by in a few minutes.

  9. Knock Knock, Who is there?
    can tell you're laughing now
    HA HA Funny Al.

    I so enjoy reading your blogs!!!!!:)

  10. And I did started laughing. Then the dog gave me a funny look.
    So I stuck him outside.

  11. @DM: Great haiku, by the way!
    Took me a second
    Cause I'm kinda slow and dull
    But, then I looked...ohhhhh!

  12. GW Shipmate,
    As you go A to Z (well, starting at H now), I'll pick a celebrity who's last name begins with the letter of the day. You have 6 degrees to get them to Kevin Bacon. Today's challenge: David Hasselhoff.

    A fellow BOCOD violator

    1. Oh, I am so going to take up that challenge. I think I'll need to find someplace to eat lunch, though. Wonder how they'll react to that at the Geek diner (which is no longer owned by Greeks).
      BOCOD...haven't heard that in quite some time. It no longer applies. Thank God. Speaking of..........

    2. Okay, it took me a little while, but.... David Hasselhoff-William Windom-Tom Bosley-Ron Howard-Kevin Bacon. Guest-star on 'Knight Rider'-William Windom who was the doctor on 'Murder, She Wrote' which also starred Tom Bosley as the sheriff who was also on 'Happy Days' with Ron Howard who directed 'Apollo 13' which starred Kevin Bacon.

    3. That may be a good idea for next year's challenge.

  13. al penwasser dude
    makes me laugh til i pass gas
    poetry blows chunks

    limericks are the way to go for any poetry assignments. maybe it's good that i was homeschooled because my mom thought they were good enough.

    1. See? Aren't haikus a lot of fun?
      They blow me away
      Make me blow milk through my nose
      Ocean breeze whispers.....

  14. I never learned about haiku in school. I can't believe she gave you an F. You had to count syllables, or whatever, that took some thought.
    I love alliteration when I write.

    1. She said it wasn't math class.
      That motherflucker.

  15. LMAO oh lots of fun can be had with Miss Fluck's name. Sounds like one of those who wants you to do it her way but tells you to do whatever you wish.

    The old duck,
    Should get hit by a truck
    When crossing the road
    Coming eye to eye with a toad
    Who asks if she went cluck

  16. At least if she was a duck, we coulda got eggs.
    Speaking of....
    How do you get down from a duck?
    Jump off its back.

  17. There are damn few poets I can stand to read. Bukowski, Whitman, and Poe. That's about it. I think the bias comes from my intense dislike of poets themselves. Bleh, the dregs of literary excitement.

    1. Those who can't write, write bad poetry.

  18. I loved her Haiku comment! lol
    BTW, I bought your book on Kindle. I was laughing out loud before I finished the second page (Penguin Academy--love it!). Mr. Eva is reading it, too, and he agrees with me--great stuff! When I'm finished, I'll do a review on my blog.

    1. Thanks, Eva, that means a lot coming from you.

  19. I have been gone for awhile and I could really use some more readings like this :) I wish I could of got everything squared away by the first so I could of did A-Z but it is what it is. Best of luck to you!

    1. You've been quite busy with important things. I hope everything worked out.

  20. I can't believe you even had time to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon during all this! I wonder who else even remembers William Windom (A Christmas Story). I liked your Haikus, and Mrs Fluck should have been more appreciative of your talents. Though you couldn't ask for a better ending! Julie

    1. I admit it was tough, but then I remembered Murder She Wrote with Tom Bosley. Everything just fell into place then.