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Fun In the Haiku Factory
(You must be seventeen.)
By Chip Haynes
This piece first appeared in Mason's Wire Donkey Bike Zine.
Not sixteen, not eighteen, but seventeen only need apply. Syllables, that is. As such:
Shadows cross, I look up--
White birds fly high above me.
Drivers never see.
Five, seven, five syllables per line. And they tell me it's nice if you can work a bit of nature, weather or the seasons in there. Okay, I can do that. I thought about haikus–and made up the one above–on my lunchtime walk today. I really was looking down when the shadows of a flock of Ibis swept across my feet. I looked up to see the birds flying by, but no one in the cars going by saw them. It was a haiku moment.
If you're in the mood for a bit of haiku, you might want to check out Scott Munn's Bike Reader website (www.bikereader.com). He's got a whole section devoted to bicycle haikus, and they are all terrific. I even added one of my own there, some time ago:
One speed, no coasting--
the fixed gear teaches quickly:
Not pedaling hurts.
I think bicycling and haikus go well together. It probably has something to do with cyclists often being slightly out of breath, so much of what we say tends to sound like a haiku anyway. The forced brevity seems to go well with the subject of bicycling, and that little tag of nature doesn't hurt either.
I know Mason St. Clair (editor of Wire Donkey Bike Zine) is a great fan of the limerick, and I have to admit I've tried my hand at those as well:
There once was a cyclist from Kent,
Whose rims were irreparably bent.
He swayed to and fro, and barely could go,
And ended up getting there spent.
Okay, sure, yeah, that works. But for me, the haiku's precision and limits give stark definition to the subject matter. (Lads from Nantucket not withstanding.) So how does poetry get tied in with cycling? Easy: When you're out there riding, you've got all kinds of time to think. Only so much of your brain can be wrapped up in stuff like, "Miss that rock," "Watch out for that car," or "Was that my turn back there?" So you've got plenty of extra random access memory to play with while you ride. It's either think up haikus or another round of John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. And trust me, nobody wants that (with all the people shouting and all).
Next time your out for a walk or a ride, give it a try: Five, seven, five. Just seventeen syllables. No need to bow--you don't even have to recite it out loud. Fine tune your brain as you work on that muscle tone. And if you come up with a good one, go ahead and post it to Scott Munn's web site. I think he'd appreciate that. Now get out there and spin some poetry while you ride!
My advice never fails,
And is still always the same:
Keep your bike tires pumped.
To subscribe to Mason's Wire Donkey Bike Zine, contact Mason St. Clair at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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