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Senryu and Haiku

By Mike Orr (Sluggo)

Many moons ago we published excerpts from a Salon contest for computer-related haiku. I read them again recently and they're still as hilarious as ever. To make Linux a little more fun, I'd like to start a column of reader-submitted senryu and haiku. (The difference is explained below.) Here's my own mediocre set of poems to start things off, with some help from The Answer Gang.

vi guy time to fly
5 insert foo, escape yank paste
Bottom of the world
Fat, dark and handsome
Herring taste great
--HS 2nd line
Biff is too noisy
All he does is yacc yacc yacc
Bash kill lead pipe
'who am i' commands
existential quandary
should I log out now?
ps grep more
I see thirty zombies
Parents have left
--K-H 3rd line
Icarus spreads his wings
Error: Access out of bounds
Segmentation fault
--JOR 2nd line
Clippy the MS Office Assistant says:
"Looks like you're writing a contract
Want me to pretty it up?
Oops I deleted it"
Office assistant:
"I see you're writing haiku"
"Want fries with that text?"
Sleep deprivation
Enhanced imagination
So I write haiku
Drunken geeks marching en masse
Oh, you said /haik/u
A snake in the woods
Chomping down a can of spam
Life's better without braces
Code blazes across my lap
Almost ready for flight
Awaken when we land
--HS (about suspend/resume)

Authors: HS=Heather Stern, JOR=Jimmy O'Regan, K-H=Karl-Heinz Herrmann.

If you seek fame and fortune (or at least fame), send your Linux-related haiku to mso at oz.net and you may see them in the next issue. Read on for background and guidelines.

Senryu vs. haiku, and the syllable myth

Astute readers will notice these are really senryu rather than haiku. A haiku is traditionally about a season of the year. A senryu has the same form but is dark humor. Most of what has been called haiku in the Unix and Perl worlds is senryu.

The second thing to note is, the 5-7-5 syllable thing you learned in school is rubbish. I was taught that a haiku is a poem with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third. That was just a trick to get us to learn syllables. In the original Japanese form the 5-7-5 are not syllables but morae. A mora is a linguistic unit smaller than a syllable, which doesn't apply in English well. 'cat' has two morae, does that make sense? So haikus with 5-7-5 syllables end up being longer than the form intended. To keep to the spirit of the original, author William Higginson and others recommend approximately eleven syllables total for American English, and six stressed syllables for British English. (The difference is because American speakers "give fuller value to each syllable than British speakers do. Their tone is more even. British speakers emphasise some syllables, swallow others to nothing, and their sentences come out with lifts and dips like the flight of a sparrow. In consequence, American poets can make successful use of syllabics as the basis of a rhythm, and many have done so, but British poets have not. British speakers use a stress-patterned prosody.") Note that 11 suggests 3-5-3 syllables, and 5+7+5 = 17.


Here are some general guidelines for LG senryu/haiku:

To add elements of traditional haiku:

Other poems

Here are some hilarious haiku cartoons (non-Linux): 1 2 3 4 5 6


picture Mike is a Contributing Editor at Linux Gazette. He has been a Linux enthusiast since 1991, a Debian user since 1995, and now Gentoo. His favorite tool for programming is Python. Non-computer interests include martial arts, wrestling, ska and oi! and ambient music, and the international language Esperanto. He's been known to listen to Dvorak, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Khachaturian too.

Copyright © 2005, Mike Orr (Sluggo). Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 118 of Linux Gazette, September 2005

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