Thursday, May 3, 2018


Mike Chisolm reminded me obliquely that Jack Kerouac wrote a lot of haiku, and that these are easily my favorite things in his oeuvre. So I went and got out my edition of these things and whiled away a little happy time.

And then I made a picture.

The sound of silence
     is all the instruction
You'll get

I call it incisive lens-based criticism of Kerouac's poem but you are welcome to consider it this picture that popped into his head after he read the poem which I think means the same thing.


  1. Clearly, I love haiku, but they can also give me the giggles, especially when I recall The Fugs and "The National Teenage Haiku Contest" (on "It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest"):

    The mud elephant
    Wading through the sea
    Leaves no tracks

    Now there's the Spirit of '68!


  2. Gentlemen:

    At the risk of being pedantic, a proper Haiku consists of 17 syllables, arranged in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively.

    1. Kerouac actually developed a whole theory of American Haiku, which dropped the syllabic structure.

      Three lines, paints a little picture.

      Apparently the the syllabic structure makes more sense in Japanese for reasons which elude me.

    2. That's because Japanese is mora-based, and a mora is sort of like a syllable, but not quite.

    3. I learned about Haiku in high school, not while smoking dope and listening to jazz, hence my confusion.

      That said, I'm not surprised, as Kerouac clearly wasn't one to follow arbitrary rules...

    4. Actually, to be really pedantic, I think you'll find that a *proper* haiku (that is, a Japanese one) is not divided into lines at all.


    5. Haiku
      so many rules
      sigh *

      * I didn't write this, but remember it from high school. 8^)

    6. Pedants' Corner, European Branch: My Japanese Japanese-poetry-writing wife tells me that haiku are *usually* but not necessarily written in three lines.

    7. An ultra-pedant replies: If you ask her again, see if she can explain the difference between the concept of "lines" (as understood in Western right-to-left written, metrical poetry) and "phases" in Japanese poetry. As with syllables and "mora", there's a similarity, but they're not the same thing. [In my understanding, which is not great].


    8. Mike, Do you have the Japanese term for 'phase' in this instance? So far I'm drawing a blank here at home.

    9. Sorry, typo for "phrases" (ditto left-to-right, not right-to-left!). Ignore me. Today is my day off from pedantry. Sundays, I am a "who cares?" sort of guy.

      On Sunday morning
      Who reads the business section?
      A nice cup of tea.