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Jocelyn Paine

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Listless Haiku

May 25, 2008

In reply to my Listless blog entry, Scott Widney sent me a haiku:

Since the day my boss
Made me stop coding in Scheme
I have felt listless.
"Or", he asks, "is that Lispless?" Many thanks, Scott. Any more, anyone?

Wikipedia's entry on haiku led me to a 1998 issue of Salon and their Haiku Error Messages Challenge. Truly, their stack ranneth over with entries, the best of which "used simple English to present both the message that — alas — must be delivered, and invested the exchange with appropriate sentiment: two things that engineers rarely provide." I particularly liked David J. Liszewski's:

A file that big?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.

Amongst Salon's two pages of haiku are several telling us that all things must pass: not only files, but also computers, Web sites, and, as Jason Willoughby observes, Web browsers:

The ten thousand things
How long do any persist?
Netscape, too, has gone.
Other haiku muse on the inadequacy of error messages, of Windows, and — from Francis Heaney — of memory:
Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.

To which, it seemed apposite to think, the company associated with this aptitude test, this recruitment policy, and this election campaign might retort:

"Disc full": little man,
you can never own the sky.
We do: we, Google.

It seems only fair to observe that such poems can be very far from the true haiku genre. Lee Gurga's Haiku: A Poet's Guide calls them "pseudohaiku"; David Giacalone in is it or ain’t it haiku? suggests "lowku", "hipKu" or "hypeKu", pointing out that real haiku are not aphorisms, epigrams, or proverbs. Here's an example from Garry Hotham, quoted in Ken Jones's Zen and the Art of Haiku. The loneliness of the long-distance Web consultant?

coffee
in a paper cup —
a long way from home

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