Let us speak only in haiku

by Bob Schwartz

let us speak only
in haiku five seven five
all we have to say

Bob Schwartz

More than ever with media saturation, we say too much and hear too much. More than we need and more than they need. Too much of nothing.

It will seem ironic or hypocritical for a speaker and writer of thousands of words to suggest paring down all our communications to the concise forms of haiku (5-7-5 syllables) or the slightly longer waka (5-7-5-7-7 syllables).

But as Walt Whitman wrote in Song of Myself:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

For those not familiar with these forms, a summary from Edward Hirsch in A Poet’s Glossary:

haiku A Japanese poetic form usually consisting, in English versions, of three unrhymed lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables.

tanka A tanka is a short poem, thirty-one syllables long. It is unrhymed and has units of five, seven, five, seven, and seven syllables, which were traditionally printed as one unbroken line. In English translation, the tanka is customarily divided into a five-line form.

If you are feeling constricted by these limits, you may wonder whether you can combine haiku with extra words of prose:

haibun Haibun is a work that combines haiku and prose….The haibun has sometimes provided a model for the crossing of genres in contemporary poetry, from poetic diaries by Gary Snyder and lyrical prose works by Jack Kerouac, who saw much of his work as prose written by a haiku poet…

Please don’t dominate the rap Jack
If you’ve got nothing new to say
New Speedway Boogie, Robert Hunter for the Grateful Dead


Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Ecclesiastes 12:12


The Way is beyond language
Sengcan, Xinxinming (Faith in Mind)

© 2023 by Bob Schwartz