Friday, March 1, 2013

Poetic Musings: Urban Haiku in "yards & lots"

In reviewing Jack Galmitz’s yards & lots, I am reminded of Haruo Shirane's insightful essay, titled "Beyond the Haiku Moment: Basho, Buson and Modern Haiku Myths." In it, Professor Shirane suggests that since most of haiku poets now live in cities, they should "[write] serious poetry on the immediate urban environment or broader social issues. Topics such as subways, commuter driving, movie theaters, shopping malls, etc., while falling outside of the traditional notion of nature, in fact provide some of the richest sources for modern haiku."  One of the most exciting aspects of reviewing Jack’s book is that there are two sections, "yards" and "lots" from which the title is drawn, dealing mainly with everyday urban space.

Structurally speaking, the one-line haiku with opening words "the yard" are divided into two parts by the use of a colon. The first part, "the yard," sets up an urban social space upon which the second part acts/performs. The second one is further divided into two subparts by the use of a comma. Through the juxtaposition/collocation of these two subparts, the possible meanings/connotations emerge from the reader's observations of/reflections on daily encounters with his/her urban surroundings. The haiku regarding "lots" are similarly structured, except that they are two-lined with "an abandoned lot:" as the first line. Below are my favorites:

    the yard: a pile of tires, a baseball

    the yard: a birdbath, a chainsaw

    an abandoned lot:
    weeds tall as men, a shopping cart

    an abandoned lot:
    Trees of Heaven, auto parts

Note: For more information about Jack Galmitz’s haiku, see my detailed commentary on his "Twin Towers" and "Empty Chairs" haiku.


  1. The images in "yards" and "lots" are "random, dis-unified, detritus," encouraging readers to really stretch their imaginations.

  2. Absolutely, Chen-ou. That was the point. Rather than this overly assumed oneness of all things, I chose to point to the random, chance nature of the universe and objects in it. Your remarks are insightful!