Naming Haiku

Originally published in Alsop Review, 2004, as a spontaneous part of my correspondence with Jack Foley about Jack Kerouac and Beat haiku. The original Alsop Review appearance is no longer online, but the text has been republished on Terebess Asia Online.

 

 

      “A haiku should be as simple as porridge.” —Jack Kerouac

 

 

A rose

by any other name is

still a rose.

The map is

not the thing.

The name is

not the thing.

In the beginning was

the word,

and the word

was God.

By naming the animals

in the Garden of Eden,

Adam and Eve

asserted dominance

over them.

You can decide to call

a cupcake a billboard,

but no one

will understand you.

Haiku is a word

for a genre of poetry

whose popular perception

does not match

its literary reality.

What is called haiku

may or may not

be a haiku,

but he who calls it

a haiku

may feel

that he has dominion

over what he has written

because he has given it

a name.

The Tao that can be

named

is not

the true

Tao.