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Untitled -- Stephen King

(Poem #1642) Untitled
 Your hair is winter fire,
 January embers
 My heart burns there, too.
-- Stephen King
       (from "IT")

   I first read this poem when I was 16, and was smitten by it. I like it
because, like Ben's english teacher explained to him in the book, "a haiku
... could be just seventeen syllables long - no more, no less. It usually
concentrated on one clear image which was linked to one specific emotion:
sadness, joy, nostalgia, happiness ...  love". I hope that you'll read IT
if you like this poem; IT is a mighty fine book.

I'd like to type in a few sentences that precede this poems in the book:

       "During the last week of school before exams, they had been reading and
  writing haiku in English class. Haiku was a Japanese form of poetry, brief,
  disciplined. A haiku, Mrs Douglas said, could be just seventeen syllables
  long - no more, no less. It usually concentrated on one clear image which
  was linked to one specific emotion: sadness, joy, nostalgia, happiness ...

       Ben had been utterly charmed by the concept. He enjoyed his
  English classes, although mild enjoyment was generally as far as it went. He
  could do the work, but as a rule there was nothing in it which gripped him.
  Yet there was something in the concept of haiku that fired his imagination.
  The idea made him feel happy, the way Mrs Starrett's explanation of the
  greenhouse effect had made him happy. Haiku was good poetry, Ben felt,
  because it was structured poetry. There were no secret rules.  Seventeen
  syllables, one image linked to one emotion, and you were out. Bingo. It was
  clean, it was utilitarian, it was entirely contained within and dependent
  upon its own rules. He even liked the word itself, a slide of air broken as
  if along a dotted line by the 'k'-sound at the very back of your mouth:

        Her hair, he thought, and saw her going down the school steps again
  with it bouncing on her shoulders. The sun did not so much glint on it as
  seem to burn within it."

Subramanyam Chitti

[Martin adds]

Actually, haiku are subject to a long and complex set of rules. Here's a
pointer to some places where you can learn more about them:

Jane Reichhold notes that "Haiku, which seem so light, free and spontaneous,
are built on discipline."

Keiko Imaoka on the distinct set of traditions that have grown up around
English haiku...

Note in particular the bit about syllable counting:
        Today, many bilingual poets and translators in the mainstream North
  American haiku scene agree that something in the vicinity of 11 English
  syllables is a suitable approximation of 17 Japanese syllables, in order to
  convey about the same amount of information as well as the brevity and the
  fragmented quality found in Japanese haiku. As to the form, some American
  poets advocate writing in 3-5-3 syllables or 2-3-2 accented beats. While
  rigid structuring can be accomplished in 5-7-5 haiku with relative ease due
  to a greater degree of freedom provided by the extra syllables, such
  structuring in shorter haiku will have the effect of imposing much more
  stringent rules on English haiku than on Japanese haiku, thereby severely
  limiting its potential.

  [broken link]

George Swede has another excellent essay on the form, including the
startling fact about "Criterion 2: The Haiku Should Be Arranged in Three

  This rules has one corollary:

  a. The three lines should be arranged according to a 5-7-5 syllable count.

  Neither this rule nor its corollary are essential. In fact, Japanese haiku
  almost always have been and continue to be written in one line or rather,
  column, as the language is usually written vertically. Because Japanese onji
  are so short, seventeen onji always fit easily into one line or column. On
  the other hand, a seventeen-syllable haiku in English usually has to be more
  than one line otherwise it would run off the page, at least in the normal
  horizontal way the language is written.

The site appears to be down, but you can read it thanks to the wayback machine:

Swede also distingushes between haiku and senryu, the latter being "a
haiku-like poem involving human nature only". By extension, in English the
word 'senryu' seems to be coming to be used to mean "a poem adhering to the
form of a haiku, but not any of the other rules".

Yet another proposal for the English haiku:

And as a parting note, here's an appropriate strip from one of my favourite
  [broken link]


[Stephen King Links]


And Amazon's page on "It":

[broken link]

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