Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Room of My Own: #JeSuisCharlie (French for I am Charlie) Haiku

One of the things a cartoonist is for is to say the unsayable, speak the unspeakable and ask difficult questions -- paraphrasing Salman Rushdie


Note:  #JeSuisCharlie: Twitter solidarity follows killings at Charlie Hebdo by John Bowman:
In the wake of Wednesday's attack on the Paris office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie — French for "I am Charlie" — was trending in France, Canada and the U.K., with more than 130,000 mentions on Twitter....

Updated, January 8:

Below are excerpts from two New York Times opinion articles published today:

Proud to Offend, Charlie Hebdo Carries Torch of Political Provocation by Doreen Carvajal and Suzanne Daley:

Week after week, the small, struggling paper amused and horrified, taking pride in offending one and all and carrying on a venerable European tradition dating to the days of the French Revolution, when satire was used to pillory Marie Antoinette, and later to challenge politicians, the police, bankers and religions of all kinds....

Is Islam to Blame for the Shooting at Charlie Hebdo in Paris by Nicholas Kristof:

Let's speak up about terrorism in the Islamic world, but let's not respond with our own brand of intolerance.... The vast majority of Muslims of course have nothing to do with the insanity of such attacks — except that they are disproportionately the victims of terrorism. Indeed, the Charlie Hebdo murders weren’t even the most lethal terror attack on Wednesday: A car bomb outside a police college in Yemen, possibly planted by Al Qaeda, killed at least 37 people...

Below is my haiku set written in response to the Ottawa Terror Attack (2014 shootings at Parliament Hill, Ottawa), which was first published here on December 8, 2014:

East Meets West
Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet, ...
Rudyard Kipling, opening line of "The Ballad of East and West," 1889

a flurry of white
against the sunset sky
the smell of blood

gunshots from afar --
on the wall of a mosque
Go home spray-painted


  1. For more information about an in-depth analysis of this tragic event, please watch Democracy! Now's today episode:

    1 Scholar Tariq Ramadan, Harper’s Rick MacArthur on Charlie Hebdo Attack & How the West Treats Muslims,

    2 Comics Legend Art Spiegelman & Scholar Tariq Ramadan on Charlie Hebdo & the Power Dynamic of Satire,

    3 "A Clash of Barbarisms": After Paris Attack, How U.S. Policy in Middle East Helps Fuel Extremism,

  2. Hi - as you might have seen, I responded negatively and aggressively to this post on Twitter. I think your original poem is better, because at least it leaves some room to interpret events in other than a manichean 'Islam=bad', 'West=good' way. I've really enjoyed reading a lot of your Haiku and Tanka, but I'm disappointed that you could use the form for such cheap purposes. Firstly, it's a bad use of the form - you direct the reader to blunt political purposes far too obviously, when you should just let events speak for themselves- and then again, why didn't you just let the dust settle before writing? Some people are on life support in hospitals, even as I write. What do you want this poem to be judged on - aesthetic grounds? Well done- 130 people died and you wrote a nifty poem? Secondly, the metaphor is clumsy and cliched - blood red sunset- come on??? The use of the silhouette of a minaret leaves no room for nuance and simply suggests that Muslims - all Muslims are deeply implicated in this tragedy, This is totally offensive and akin to hate-speech. I don't know what I dislike about it more, the fact that it's such a smug metaphor or the fact that it propogates lies. Come on, I know you can do better than this. Peter

  3. Peter:

    If you read my poem in the update and the excerpts in the first comment, I believe you will have a "better understanding" of my position on this "complicated issue."

    By the way, the "shadow" in my haiku is "polysemic,"

    Chen-ou Liu