Friday, March 21, 2014

Poetic Musings: First Baseball Haiku by Jack Kerouac

Empty baseball field --
A robin,
Hops along the bench

According to Allan Burns, Kerouac’s haiku above is accredited as "the first baseball haiku and a classic" ("Gallery Fifteen: Play Ball”).

L1 sets the context, seasonal, thematic and emotive, while allusive Ls 2 &3 make a shift in theme and imagery, thus establishing a contrasting relationship with their preceding line through Kerouac’s skillful use of the zoom-in technique. This contrasting relationship fully embodies the “principle of internal comparison,” which is well articulated by Harold G. Henderson in his study of Japanese haiku (p. 18); therefore, it  gains added poignancy. Kerouac’s two-axis, cinematic haiku is beautifully crafted and serves well as a starting point for many thoughts and emotions.

Note: Kerouac’s haiku alludes to the following haiku by Shiki

The sparrow hops
Along the verandah,
With wet feet

In his 1952 influential book, Haiku, Blyth viewed the haiku above as “the model for all haiku” (p. 517). For more information, read my critique of Blyth's view, "To the Lighthouse: The Model for All Haiku !?"


Reginald Horace Blyth, Haiku, Volume 2: Spring, The Hokuseido Press, 1952.

Allan Burns, Montage: The Book, The Haiku Foundation, 2010.

Harold G. Henderson, An Introduction to Haiku: An Anthology of Poems and Poets from Basho and Shiki, Doubleday Anchor Books, 1958.

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