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Softe Coo Haiku:

In this section, you will find an entire chapter from my book, Please, Lord, Make Me A Famous Poet Or At Least Less Fat. This is the section that deals, rather unseriously, with haiku. It is, appropriately, the shortest chapter in the book, 17 pages (one per haiku syllable). If you like this chapter, you may want to buy the book. If you want to buy it, it may even be possible for you to do so.

This chapter has end-notes (footnotes in the book itself). I've colored the end-note numbers blue in the text below:

Chapter 5: Softe Coo Haiku!

A Few Proverbs and Anti-Adjectives:

Next on "All Things Being Equal":
The poetry imbalance between the United States and Japan,
or how the Japanese are winning the real war.

The Perrier of poetry: "It is good...but it is not haiku."

"I like this haiku — but I’d like it better if it were just a few lines shorter..."

The poet pointed
somewhere else, but my eye stuck
on his jeweled ring.

Easy to write lots of poems: I don’t throw back the little ones.

A short poem should be an event, like a flamingo lifting one leg
and putting it down.

the start of too many poems
and too few changes of heart.

When every other word’s an adjective or adverb, the nouns and verbs cringe and complain like children being dressed up for a party.

Chapter 5
Softe Coo Haiku!

HaiKU! 1

Leapeth frogge
And splasheth bogge —
Softe sing haiku!
Adjective droppeth,
First person croppeth,
Softe sing haiku!
Bright leaf soarth high —
A butterfly!
Softe sing haiku!
Trembleth blossom
Quite ad naussom —
Softe sing haiku!
Haiku! Haiku! Softe coo haiku!
Haiku! Haiku! Haiku!

"Sorry to be so short with you,"
said the haikuist.

This chapter deals with the delicate art of haikuing and such related subjects as haikuism, haikology and haikolatry. Haiku is, of course, a Japanese form, but English-language haiku have become a thriving industry within the vast American poetry cartel. Here are some questions and answers designed to clear up the many misconceptions that have accumulated in this country about the haiku form:

1. Are haiku always exactly 17 syllables long? No. They grow longer during the heat of the afternoon and shrink in the cool of the evening. The seventeen-syllable requirement is not set in concrete: Haiku are still syllabic, not slabic. But the 17-syllable form (three lines of 5, 7, and 5) is the most common, as explained in the following classic by the great DeanOH!:

Samurai poet
with pen skewers seventeen
silly bulls...MU sound.

Note that "mu" is a Zen concept. It is often defined as "nothingness," that definition followed by many paragraphs that explain how it isn’t really "nothing," just not "something," which is closely akin to the Greek concept, "mu pi," or, in plain English (pardon my French), cow pie.

2. Must every haiku include a word to indicate the season (or "seyasonu worodu"), and if so, does it count against the syllable limit? Yes and yes, but it needn’t be as obvious (and disyllabic) as a season name (like "summer"). Thus, for example, "frost", "ice", "Tiffany", "witch’s tit", "of" and "the" are all words traditionally used to suggest the winter season, while "crisp", "harvest", "rake", "wild geese", "tooth decay", "toilet paper", and "moreover" are among the many indicators of autumn. In the following examples, the obvious season words are actually unnecessary, the season in each case, being conveyed by other words in the poem:

Spring. The old horse
vomits on the baby sparrow
after nibbling cherry blossoms.

Winter. Old crow
on a bare branch reading
the Wall Street Journal.

New Years. My little
daughter wants more rice cakes.
With my axe I chop her to bits.

And of course, this tradition gives some an unfair advantage:

No seasons
in L. A., which shortens
my haiku.

We have cats, dogs and
urine smell in every season
of the haiku.

The haiku has
many seasons, all of them
Nippy. 3

3. What is a death poem? The Japanese are a very poetic people. For example, when they crash their planes intentionally into a battleship, they are not crazy; no, they are "kamikaze" or "divine wind". When they fart...but you get the idea. This national poetic sensitivity is displayed in the tradition of writing a death poem (usually a haiku) shortly before (well duh!) death. Here is an example from Lord Bozo (with Bimbo, Boozin and Dumbo, among the great thanatographists or death writers):

Sting of winter air —
Bah! Show you something sharper?
Sigh! An arrow!

Note that "Bah! Show" is a hidden message to his contemporary, Basho, whom he acknowledges to be "something sharper" than himself; also note that the last line is his way of saying "Sayonara".

4. Can true haiku be written in any language other than Japanese? No — true haiku cannot be written in any language at all, for haiku transcends mere words. Language is but the tea bag dipped into the seething water of individuality to produce the subtle infusion we call haiku. "He who speaks, knows not; he who knows, speaks not." Haiku represents a Zen moment, wherein... [We’ve had to cut this answer short for lack of space. For further understanding of how haiku transcends language, please refer to R. H. Blyth’s four-volume work on the subject.]

5. Can haiku be understood outside the context of the Zen experience of Satori (enlightenment)? Yes, for haiku can also be grasped in the context of the Yogic experience of Samadhi. As the 69th Zen Patriarch aptly remarked, "Everyone love Satori night and Samadhi morning." Basho expresses his view of Samadhi in the following classic haiku:

Samadhi —
Over the rainbow
bluebirds fly.

Note: In this haiku Basho is said to have achieved Toto enlightenment. A friend points out that Basho expressed his hope for salvation as follows: Samadhi/ my Prince/ will come.

6. Is it true that all haiku express an absence or emptiness of self, a transcendence of the competitive, ego-based dualism of most Western poetry? Yes, as is beautifully expressed in the following first-prize winner in a recent national haiku contest:

Ha ha!
My leaves fall better
than your leaves do.

7. Can haiku express personal human suffering? Yes. For example, in the following highly personal classic, Issa poetically expresses his frustrations: As water commissioner of his village, the frustration of finding all his resources frozen; and more deeply, the disappointment (after finally marrying at age 82) of discovering himself impotent:

Frozen river —
little horse can be led to it,
but not made to drink.

8. I keep hearing that, in haiku, the perceiver becomes the perceived. Please explain this. Let’s let one of the masters of haiku explain it — again, the great Issa. In the following haiku, Issa, viewing a rose, contemplates the breaking down of distinction between subject (Issa) and object (a rose), achieving Satori in the final syllable, where subject and object unite. This haiku is also a classic Zen Koan (or riddle), named after Zen Cohen, Len (or Leonard) Cohen’s younger brother. 4 Zeonard became a Zen master (during the Meshugganah Shogunate) after giving up guitar, having immobilized both hands with repetitive motion syndrome after years of rapidly closing fingers upon palms in an attempt to hear the sound of one hand clapping. But I digress. Here is Issa’s haiku of convergence:

A rose?...Issa?...
[Translation from the Japanese by G. Stein]

9. Isn’t a haiku just 17 syllables of nature description? No! No no NO! It is more — so MUCH more! In haiku, nature’s presence points to a razor-keen crest of awareness of... — well, here is how the great haiku poet, Snupei, expresses it:

Dark and stormy night —
not one creature is stirring,
not even a mouse.

Snupei tells us he wrote this while sitting on the roof of his tiny house, having earlier talked to his only friends, the small birds who alit at his feet unafraid, and with whom he shared the last crumbs from his bowl. It is all in those few syllables, his spiritual isolation that somehow unites him with all creatures great and small so that his dark and stormy despair becomes a "good grief", as he waits for the sun to rise and life to stir in the mud-red, barren landscape in the shadow of his "Master’s House" (for Snupei was a very religious poet). 5

10. Must haiku always approach the non-verbal? Verbs are OK. Just go easy on adjectives, adverbs, articles and first-person pronouns. Especially eschew first-person pronouns. For example, don’t say,

Trees hung with ice.
No one cares about me anymore.
I am not happy.

Say rather:

Trees hung with ice.
No one cares about Bob Dole anymore.
Bob Dole is not happy. 6

Some poets rebel against this prohibition. Here is an opposing view:

Against Haiku

Clear fall day;
even the evergreens
want to change.
No, no, this won’t do:
I want to say I.
I want to want.
I have no damned seasons.
Nothing is precious
but what can come out and play
with me.
I am no more a lie than spring.
I can say I seventeen times.
It is I who wants to change,
not evergreens.

11. Can haiku deal with social and political issues? Of course, although usually haiku-length poems emphasizing social issues and human relationships are called "senryu". While today haiku and senryu are considered separate genres, originally they were simply different regional pronunciations of the same phrase, "thank you." Both began when the first English speakers came to Japan and offered gifts to the people (beads, digital watches, etc.). The Japanese gave, in return, short poetic notes of gratitude inscribed with exquisite calligraphy on painted scrolls. These notes, the Japanese called (after the English) "thank you notes" or "t-hankyou". In Eastern Japan, the natives called these "haiku", as in "Haiku velly much!" In Western Japan the pronunciation was, first, "sankyou", then, "Senryu velly much". To further complicate the picture, in Western Japan, the natives pronounced another English borrowing in such a way that it sounded like "Haiku", as in "Haiku and the horse you rode in on!" or "Haiku! You AhSo!" This led to much misunderstanding and eventually a bloody war between Eastern and Western Japan, when an Eastern lord said "Haiku" (or thank you) to a Western lord, who, misinterpreting it, took offense. But I digress. The following haiku, by Boffo (who called the form "sicku"), shows this form used to comment on the human condition — by contrasting the harmony of the seasons with man’s inhumanity to man (usually based on misunderstood pronunciations), while yet showing how nature assimilates that inhumanity, as the ocean swallows a droplet of rain:

Full summer moon,
hushed crickets. Over Hiroshima
a large mushroom cloud.

The difficulty of dealing with human issues in haiku form may be better understood if we simply replace animals with humans in familiar haiku, for example:

The old pond.
A lawyer jumps in.
Sound of splashing. (better "Sound of cheering")

On a bare branch
sits an old lawyer.

In Basho’s originals, a frog leaps into the pond (not a car pool) and a crow occupies the branch (not a branch office). The closest thing to a lawyer in classic haiku is the scarecrow, who in many haiku is out standing in his field, threatening crows with little more than a suit.

12. Many argue that 17 syllables is too long for an English-language haiku, that Japanese haiku in translation seem padded when rendered in 17 syllables. Is this true? Possibly. "Basuboru" (or baseball) is NOT a two-syllable word in Japan. Basho wrote (according to some translations):

The old pond —
a frog jumps in:

but in Japanese, it’s 17 syllables, because Basho, a hippie (into Zen, you know), used lots of hippie "cutting words" (a term for the Ohs and Ahs and Ah-So’s of traditional haiku) — "cutting" because Basho was a Nippy Hippy. A full literal translation (doing justice to all 17 syllables) reads:

You know, this old pond?
Well like this frog jumps in, right?
Like, Oh WOW! SPLASH, man.

13. Must a haiku be witty or aphoristic? Must it deal only with lofty or picturesque subjects? No to both: Haiku is a direct pointing at what is. Aphorism is a distraction, a blurring layer of conceptualization interposed between viewer and nature and is to be avoided or touched upon by the most delicate allusion only. And haiku is at home with the commonplace, frogs, scarecrows, taverns, but treats these subjects so that they become, somehow, part of a totality and the expression of that totality. Thus, for example, in the following classic haiku by DeanAh! (DeanOh!’s grandmother), we see a girl making soap in the spring, stirring the pot full of wood ashes and bones, aware that she has no lover. The smells from the pot are so strong that she can’t smell the cherry blossoms. This poem combines many traditional elements of haiku, but in an unexpected manner. For example, the usual swooning over cherry blossoms, associated with spring and young love, is here undermined (and yet suggested) by the homier pungence of soap in the making:

Spring soap-making:
Lye, fizz — not a beau. Love?
Cherries — hard to smell.

Adding to the richness of this vignette is its evocation of an ancient Zen aphorism, which you may hear for yourself by pronouncing the last two lines carefully (excluding the last three words). 7

14. In the West (e.g., Wyoming), we often think of poetry, especially formal poetry, as a difficult, painstaking art. Are you trying to tell me that something like "The old pond, a frog jumps in: SPLASH!" is poetry? My 3-year-old can do better than that! Basho’s classic loses much in translation. First of all, the last line is better translated, not "splash", but "sound of water" or "water sound" or, more profoundly evoking its deeper Zen significance, "auditory manifestation of a deep penetrating impact with the aqueous surface." Second, Basho was only TWO years old when he wrote it (so there!).

Thirdly and finally, it is a little known fact outside Japan that in Japanese, the traditional haiku must be, in addition to all other requirements, a perfect palindrome. That is, it must read the same backwards and forwards like the sentence "Able was I ere I saw Elba" or the name Otto. It is this bi-directional form that gives the haiku its timeless quality, for its beginning is also its end, like the great serpent that swallows itself.

This is VERY difficult to achieve with any degree of spontaneity in English. Here are three noble, but alas, failed attempts at full palindromic translation:

Who Leaps Into The Old Pond?

Is "I" true to Basho?...
Hero Frog? I’VE vigor, for...eh? —
Oh saboteur — ’tis I.

[Basho concludes that it is HE who leaps into the pond and sabotages silence.]

Gentle Issa Is Charming, But Perhaps
Not For All-American He-Men

Was I ass? Inane?
Meek? Nay! O no YANKEE men —
An ISSA I saw!

Consummate Artist, Buson Refutes Critics

Eh? Badrap Buson at arts!
"Buson — no substrata..."
No subpar dab, he!

As you can easily see, it is almost impossible to produce a truly traditional haiku in English. Palindromes are easier in Japanese, with all its reversible exclamatory vowels (e.g., Ah So! O Sha!). The Japanese have always, after all, been rather backward. As Kikaku says of the klutzy Subaru Van: "Subaru, U R a bus!" Later, chiding his rival, Buson, he adds, "No, Subaru, U R a Buson!" Issa later exclaims, "A toy! O! Toyota!" Sober Shiki bitterly replies, "Nissan — a van as sin!" (Shiki yearned for the ancient traditions and considered sinful all attempts to be in the van.) Issa’s retort (typically, accepting the sin as his own) is: "In Issa, Nissan: I!" Buson, ever the optimist, tells of his spring motorcycle tour: "Was I Yamaha dude? Dud? Aha! MAY I saw!" After a religious experience in which he realized that all such spring pleasures were illusion or "Maya", he rewrote this as "Was I a Yamaha dude? Dud? Aha! MAYA I saw!" As usual, Basho gives us the ultimate Zen summation: "I saw race car; race car was I!" (It is indeed fortunate that these particular palindromes could be thus translated into roughly equivalent English palindromes.)

Nonetheless, even in Japanese, the palindromic requirement makes haiku FAR more difficult than any Western form. This aspect of haiku has, hitherto, been held secret from notoriously lazy Westerners lest they lose interest in the form. You have driven me to indiscretion with your impertinence.

15. Is it possible to modernize and Americanize the haiku in theme and setting? Certainly. For example, why not deal with the immutable seasons of the air conditioned business world:

Summer — at full speed,
talking on the car phone — LOOK

You see, work has its own seasons: Superbowl season when you jump into the old office pool (sound of money changing hands), end of fiscal, first quarter, etc. — personally, first quarters are my favorite, that smell in the recycled cubicle air of new money; all the tight little customers slowly unfolding like spring buds; and, stretching above us, reaching almost out of sight, our quotas, ah, yes! And end-of-quarter, the shredded memo that turns out to be the report you worked on for two weeks; the boss giving you a bad, unfair review — Ah so! Third quarters, too, have their special tang, the crisp directives, all the changing part numbers... why are there no business season haiku? For example:

First Quarter — shortstaffed
branch office; an old salesman

While some traditionalists feel that America must be saturated with traditional haiku, featuring cherry blossoms, frogs, temple bells, scarecrows and some sort of bird called a hotogisu, at the opposite extreme are those who feel invaded:

Why this American dotage on haiku? Are the Japanese
reading and writing sonnets? No! They won’t TOUCH
our huge gasguzzling, chromeblazing, tailfinned
Western poems, while our poetry mags are flooded with
cheap compact efficient haiku. Americans! Fight the
poetry trade imbalance: READ AMERICAN!

Now that the most commonly asked questions have been answered, to further clarify the range of haiku, here are some haiku and haikuesque poems (Hiccups? Lowku?) that deal in some way with the nature of haiku:

Perceiving a
phenomenon, I respond with
a certain feeling.

Hanging to five sounds
by one hand, I swing to the
seven line and back.

Four a.m. — wide awake,
I grab for a sonnet,
catch a haiku.

The next several poems are all tributes to Basho’s seminal haiku about the old pond into which the frog jumps:

Basho Bashing

Plopping into a pond —
Who knows what that frog meant?
How can you tell the sound
Of a haiku from a fragment?

What a subtle satorist was Basho,
Who, while watching a bullfrog, sneezed "Hasho!"
In frog and pond fashion,
These met with a splashin’,
And "Ah So!" said Basho, "My gosh O!"

Old circle
Triangle jumps in
An acute sound.

The new highway —
a frog jumps out...

(Note: A more proper evocation of the Zen spirit of this poem requires, in place of "squish", "the sound of the rubber hitting the road with frog intervening" or "sticky macadam sound".)

"We accept only
PURE haiku..." — kerplunk in the
old wastebasket.

Old circle —
a triangle falls in!
Sound of circumscription.

The new movie —
Titanic goes down;
Water sound, water sound, water sound, water sound...

The old pond —
my wife jumps in...
Where did the pond go?

The middleaged husband —
a chip dipped in sourcreamonion jumps in,
a handful of peanuts leaps in,
three dipped corn chips jump in,
a piece of cake and two cookies and three
carrot sticks (to propitiate) and a bowl
of vegetarian chili and four curry puffs and
two more dipped chips and a finger full
of frosting from the side of the cake tray
and a glass of sparkling cider hurtle in...
no sound...no sound...no sound at all...

To be Followed by the World’s Greatest Disguise Artist —
The Butterfly That Looks Like a Leaf! — but First..

"And now, ladies and gentleman,
the worlds most remarkable frog
will make his timedefying leap
into the old pond! Drum roll...
SPLASH! He’s done it!
Good show, Basho!

The next four poems allude to the many haiku in which what appears to be an autumn leaf or petal turns out to be a butterfly:

I mistook that butterfly
for a leaf. All us haiku poets
are nearsighted.

Chuang Tze just flew across the yard,
dreaming that a poet on a lawn chair
mistook him for a butterfly.

This gives a Haiku twist to Chuang Tse’s dreaming he was a butterfly and finding it so vivid that later, as Chuang Tse, he wondered if he might not be a butterfly dreaming itself Chuang Tse. 8

Basho Magoo

"O see! That red leaf...butterfly!"
"Oops! Drop it! — a SNAKE, not a stick!"
More myopic with each passing tick,
If I’m not doomed untimely to die
From the bite of a poisonous stick,
Then, Basho, Buson, just like you
I’ll turn my mistakes to haiku —
Leaf to butterfly’s sure a neat trick!

But a stick for a snake’s a mistake
Of the sillier sort that they’ll take
For a joke in Boy’s Life — kids will laugh
Themselves sick at the poisonous gaffe
(Unlike Pharaoh, whose staff were his servants
Till Aaron turned staves into serpents,
And the Queen’s servants could only gasp
When Cleo cried out "O! My Asp!" 9)

Well, blindness has ever to Vision
Been kind — and as kind to derision.
If the eye chart shows three and I get a four,
I’ll make poems of it — else what’s a metaphor?

The remaining poems in this chapter are probably here for some good reason:

Toccata and Tanka for Kikaku

Mischievous Kikaku, it is said,
wrote that if you tore the wings
off a dragonfly, you’d have red
pepper pods.

That, said Master Basho,
is not haiku. Haiku would say:
Add wings to pepper pods and get

Sagely (and Blythely 10) nodding,
the critics pass this tale down to us,
and its moral: Poetry should fly.

(And so, I suppose, should pepper pods,
red ones, at any rate.)

To this extent I agree:
Any sadistic brat can tear the wings
off a dragonfly,
but only the imagination
can attach wings to a pepper pod
and on them soar.

A poet! Tear off
his wings and you get a critic
or a scholar.

Now that’s poetry, for who
Could tear the wings off a poet?

Note: The last 5 lines above almost constitute another Japanese form, the tanka, lines of 5, 7, 5, 7 and 7 syllables. "Tanka" is how the natives of Southern Japan (who wrote longer thank you notes) pronounced "Thank you". Imagine the confusion! It made the Japanese want to "renga" the necks of the English. (Note: "Renga" is another Japanese form...)

Song Sung by Basho at the Funeral of his Disciple, Kikaku
(to the tune of "K-K-K-Katy")

K-k-Kikaku, K-k-Kikaku,
You’re the only Haik-k-ku poet we adore!
K-k-Kikaku, K-k-Kikaku,
Sorry you’re not k-k-k-kickin’ any more.

Poor tulips bloomed
into a frost. Froggie
instructs them: Bud Wiser." 11

On the toilet, trying
To write poems....I keep
Picking hair off the floor.

Reading haiku: "The
old pond..." — startled by the sound
of turning the page.

Spring walk, trying for
poems. "Wordy wordy wordy"
scolds a cardinal.

I need a fine-edged
probe to touch the sweetness in
this pain: Haiku, please.

Clothes in the dryer —
permapress, just time
to write haiku.

I stop typing.
A clear autumn night. I wonder
who my neighbor is? 12

From across the bed,
a hand: The bed acquires
a skyline.

Dream Haiku

She’d wake up clinging to fragments
of haiku lost with her dreams,
so she began to keep a notebook by her bed
ready for things that go

Boomp boomp boomp baboomp
boomp boompity boomp boomp boomp —
Ah! boompity boomp!

in the night.

Final note: In this chapter, the names Basho, Buson, Issa, Shiki and Kikaku refer to actual, much admired haiku poets, R. H. Blyth indeed left us a magnificent study of haiku, and occasionally the "facts" related above bear some tangential relationship to what is elsewhere recorded (for example, the discussion of dragonfly wings and pepper pods), but the great "DeanOh!" is responsible for all of the poetry (if any) in this chapter except the famous frog poem by Basho (in italics). I leave it as an exercise for the reader (or perhaps it has already been done?) to produce versions of Basho’s frog/pond haiku as written by Henry James (a 2-page version — "A diminutive watery gleam which, while scarcely meriting the name ‘pond’, yet, in its quiet fashion was not without a certain fluid je ne sais qua..."), William Faulkner in The Water Sound and the Fury ("Not a leap, no, nor a convulsion of amphibious joy, nor...") and from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Monk and the Pond: "It felt cool and good. It had been a good splash."

End Notes:

1 A takeoff on a medieval lyric, "Cuckoo": "Lhude [loud, with hint of lewd] sing cuckoo," where the cuckoo’s song suggests spring and the likelihood that some husband has just been cuckolded, probably because cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, much as Japanese haiku poets have laid their literary runts in Western nests — that is, nests for the West ern, a very ernest bird that lays its eggs mainly in Grecian urns.

2 Haiku poets frequently are astonished to discover that petals or leaves are really butterflies. But only Joanie Mitchell has tried to turn war planes into butterflies. Ugh! Stubby shit-brown butterflies!

3 For the deplorably young among you, "Nip" was a nasty word for Japanese during WWII — from "Nippon," a Japanese word for Japan, which, economically, was nippon at our heels, though lately they have fallen nippon hard times.

4 Students of Zen are said to meditate for months on a "koan" such as "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Leonard Cohen was erected in Canada, but taken down by Suzanne ("Suzanne takes you down/ to a place by the river…"). Since he is sometimes considered a poet, I should have written about how you can lead a horse to a place by the river and give him tea and oranges, but you can’t make him drink. It might conclude: "If you don’t drink, I’ll have to shoot you, but, hey, that’s no way to say goodbye."

5 Snupei is, of course, Snoopy, the creative dog in "Peanuts." Hence the "red barren landscape" (Snoopy often dreams he’s a WWI pilot hunting for the Red Baron) and so forth. When Snoopy decides he’s a writer, his stories always begin with Bulwer-Lytton’s famous lead-in, "It was a dark and stormy night…". Note to my fellow pseudo-intellectuals in high school: I still say "Pogo" was a lot funnier!

6 In case this book is being read long after Bob Dole is otherwise forgotten — say, five years from now — he, like many politicians ("You won’t have Richard Nixon to kick around any more") often spoke of himself in the 3rd person. Presumably this is because so many politicians are sick of being themselves, Bob being particularly doleful.

7 For the exceedingly pun-impaired: "Lye, fizz — not a beau. Love? Cherries" strangely suggests (by most delicate allusion) "Life is not a bowl of cherries." (My jokes are either so good or so bad that explaining them can’t harm them.)

8 Chuang Tse was Chinese, not Japanese, a great Taoist writer. This poem is too wordy for haiku, but IS a twist on the "mistaken butterfly" theme of many haiku, the second most common mistake in literature, the most common mistake being that of all the Americans who mistake 17-syllable nature descriptions or 17-syllable ANYTHINGS for haiku.

9 Cleopatra’s asp was on her breast, not her ass, and came from (and put her into) a hole in the ground. But first, she addressed it as an old friend. Cleopatra might, thus, be considered one of the few queens who ever KNEW her asp from a hole in the ground.

10 R. H. Blyth’s four-volume study of haiku is a classic reference on the subject. For a four-volume classic reference work, it’s unexpectedly fun to read — unless you expect four-volume classic reference works to be fun to read.

11 Where’s that water sound (FLUSSSHHH!) when you need it?

12 This is a twist on a famous haiku by the originator of the form, Basho. He wrote centuries ago, when people still knew who their neighbors were. He wondered, instead, what his neighbor was doing. In our day, you could lie drunk and bloody by the roadside for days before you found out who your neighbor is — especially if you don’t carry an insurance card.