Monday, April 18, 2016

Haiku A to Z: O is for Overheard Haiku

photo courtesy pixabay
"It seems that unintentional haiku can be found anywhere if you bother to look and listen. I myself have overheard accidental haiku in such unlikely places as a school hallway and a supermarket aisle." --Billy Collins, Introduction to Haiku in English

I have my ears open for overheard haiku...and it's not the same as eavesdropping :-)

I first came across this concept when reading an online piece by Damion Searls, "Overheard Haiku." He writes of speech  rhythms and how we can hear the rhythms of haiku in everyday speech. He says: "It's not a haiku--the haiku form has demands besides 5-7-5 syllables e.g. seasonal key words (kigo), one image, two moments with a turn or jump cut between them indicated by a 'cutting word' (kireji). It's the serendipitous, spoken, American form: the overheard haiku."

Continuing: "After paying attention and counting syllables for not very long at all, you can hear this form everywhere. The length of a thought--in English? Or with average walking speeds? Or that you can remember when you're not really listening?--seems naturally to fall into 5-7-5 syllables."

One of his examples:
She has a home phone.
Who has home phones?...Yeah, different

"English is a great language for writing headlines, and tweets, but also for hearing haiku," Collins concludes. "You can't plan a phrase like this, craft it, present yourself to the world with it; it's something you run across, something the facts of the world and of language fall into. As though by chance. It's something you've trained your ear to notice, a way of paying attention."

Another opening to new ideas the study of haiku has brought into play. I tried really hard over the weekend to tune into haiku speech patterns and this is what I heard at a t-ball game, day fifteen:

okay, you can ask
all you want, I'll still say
no...oh, whatever
--Kenda Turner


  1. I admit I do hear the cadence of words, but to turn it into haiku is amazing!

    Gotta respond, but I'll cheat a little on this one:

    What you overhear
    Only to you would be clear-
    ly haiku, my dear!

    1. Peggy--another great contribution, I'm enjoying your haiku very much:-) Maybe you're hooked a little bit, too? Thanks so much for playing with this and passing it along!

  2. Wow, what a fun way to look at Haiku - never considered doing this. I'm guessing once I take the time to listen (and not eavesdrop, lol) I will hear it often. I like your version. So glad you shared this with us! :)

    1. Karen, I never thought the study of haiku could take us on such an interesting journey. And it even gives permission to mean listen for speech rhythms. Oh the things we learn! Thanks for stopping by...

  3. Oh golly and I thought I was beginning to understand this. I think I have a lot to learn yet.
    (trying to catch up :)

  4. You and me both, Sharon--haiku continues to sprout wings in so many directions!