July 29, 2009

Jeffrey Goldberg says "Dahlia Lithwick is a Haiku Genius."

"She's condensed a week of Senate blather about Sotomayor into exquisite little poems."

I'm no poetry expert — maybe you are — but I don't see why these should count as even marginally good haiku. I suppose the whole thing is that it was done at all — making Senators' statements about Sotomayor into haiku.

Here are some teaching materials on haiku, focusing specifically on haiku in English:
The haiku poet cultivates awareness so that s/he may experience some unusually forceful impact coming from ordinary life or from everyday surroundings....

In 'haiku spirit' the poet adopts a self-effacing and faithful attitude towards the object s/he perceives. S/he does not set out to be moralistic or didactic or judgemental. The haiku form has been used successfully to write adages and epigrams, but because the aim of adages and epigrams is to mould opinion they are not haiku in spirit....

[M]any successful haiku result from a long process of draughting and re-writing, during which the poet clings hard to the original perception.

The pain is to give readers the means to feel as the poet her/himself felt at the time, or maybe differently, without any explicit (and so directive) statements about actual feelings. Some typical attitudes are humility, serenity, compassion, acceptance of transience and man's lonely state, joy in resurgence and company, wonder, wistfulness, as well as humour of a whimsical and sometimes paradoxical kind.
Now, those "typical attitudes" are so obviously not what one finds among Senators that the idea of writing bad haiku in the voice of a Senator is a very good one, but if you're doing bad, be really bad — there's a blog, Bad Haiku — and I think — I think — that would have to exclude anything that Jeffrey Goldberg would proclaim as the work of a genius.


And I know, I know, I know: How can you take advice about taste from someone who writes "S/he" and "her/himself"?

UPDATE: And curses! What a missed opportunity to keep up what began as an accidental Theme of the Day. Permit me to compensate via this update:
Dead Sea Shells Worship
Lobster Fangs In Hades Door
While I Sleep Dead

Lobster and artichokes
Slather with spirits
Canine hurls protein yak

Snip my buttons off,
With your shearing claw, my sweet
Lobster in my pants

Though warm tasty and
delicious, urine should not
be served with lobster

Such a tasty meat,
Drenched in succulent butter
Lobster dies for me
All right. Enough. I am satisfied.

UPDATE #2: Jeffrey Goldberg is not amused.


MadisonMan said...

I did not realize until now that Mr. Goldberg had expertise in pronouncing Haiku expertise.

Mr. Goldberg wastes his time
Haiku Judging Circuit Calls
Goodbye Atlantic.

garage mahal said...

I think Goldberg reads this blog and is copping my ideas.

madawaskan said...

I don't get haiku what are the rules?




Wow, that reminds me of a lot of haircuts in my youth....

The Pixie.


madawaskan said...

Oh and I hated Twiggy then.

I like her now.

Paul Zrimsek said...

In 'haiku spirit' the poet adopts a self-effacing and faithful attitude towards the object s/he perceives. S/he does not set out to be moralistic or didactic or judgemental.

Are you accusing Lithwick of Haiku Activism?

madawaskan said...

moralistic or didactic or judgemental.


Screw the Haiku.

traditionalguy said...

No Wise Haiku in the Constitution, so using haiku is activist: 5 to 4!

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bissage said...

A seashore summer’s night
blushes new love tenderly beneath
the lobster on my piano.

Pogo said...

A bye-ku for the Constitution is needed.

the yellowed page
crumpled and thrown
like a tear it falls

Kirk Parker said...


Oh, please; that's just sooooo insensitive to the non-gendered.

The proper, respectful term is "s/h/it".

DBrooks17 said...

White in pale yellow
Adrift in post-boil delight
Lobster reveries

Sofa King said...

To write a haiku
You must follow a meter.
Five, seven, and five.

Michael said...

Dahlia writes crap haiku, nonsense in three lines with no seasonal. Have to have a seasonal reference.

See R. H. Blyth on haiku. Also see "Frogpond" the U.S. magazine of the haiku society. Lot's of crappy haiku in Frogpond, but nothing close to Lithwick. Profoundly incompetent.

Oligonicella said...

Some Ozark Haykooz

A blush of green slowly spreads,
A distinct spring odor is about.
The septic pond has thawed again.

Tiny feet patter, then stop.
Orange orbs hang in the blackness.
Road-kill opossum heralds spring.

The robin hops about the garden.
He pulls the worms from the ground.
I was gonna use those to fish today.

Water drips and moss grows upon the wood.
A field mouse pokes its nose out of its nest.
Wish I could afford some new siding.

The fullness of the palest white circle.
The faintest dab of yellow.
No such thing as too many grits.

Long ago, the delicate tangles of his hair
Covered the emptiness of my hand.
Finally got that damn dog clipped.

A heavy perfume finds my nose,
Bringing a tear to my eye of memories past.
Damn dog's been messin' with skunks again.

A small animal huddles, shivering in fear,
Echoes reverberate thru the ravines.
Mom sure hates the start of hunting season.

The moon is new and the light is low.
The frost crackles softly underfoot.
The outhouse is just too damn far from the door.

The wind blows through the open areas.
Snow flakes caress my cheeks and nose.
This is the winter of my discount tent.

The touch of her skin and a soft, low moan.
A sudden tension and it's done.
God, I hate artificial insemination.

Sean E said...

Short Japanese poem
Favoured by the pretentious
Haiku are so lame

Sofa King said...

True story:

I had my own talk show for a few weeks on student radio when I was in law school. One of my favorite features was a "Supreme Court Poetry Slam." I played a loop of the first few bars of Take Five and summarized recent SCOTUS decisions - in limerick. Time in class well spent, I say. If only I could remember any of them...

Lance said...

How about having a Dahlia Lithwick theme one of these days?

Yeah, maybe not such a good idea.

madawaskan said...

It's Sotomayor

Welcome wise Latina Season

Soon the Third Branch falls.

Fred4Pres said...

All you did was disagree with him. Goldberg must be a real priss.

Tibore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tibore said...

Is it just me, or did Goldberg misspell "half-assed"?

reader_iam said...

My entry for bad Haiku:

Haiku, breath of birth:
Eternity strains for worth.
Bali Ha'i: Hi! Coo...

Sorry. That's the best I could do with the very little time I have (stolen from elsewhere, as it is). Still, it's bad enough, I think. Yes?

reader_iam said...

Dang. I really regret keyboarding that period at the end of the second line.

Ger said...

Fred4Pres says:

"All you did was disagree with him. Goldberg must be a real priss."

You must be new around here.

It seems he and Ann are alike in that regard. Ann too is notoriously thin-skinned.