Spring is come, and with it the return of Bluegrass Haiku

Spring just always seems to inspire me to write in haiku form, since there’s no baseball and bluegrass festivals are cancelled for a while.

We’ve covered this short form of poetry, which originated in Japan, in columns past. Some of my haiku history may have been a little fuzzy (read: “inaccurate”) before, so let me offer a new but brief summary:

The haiku began in Japan as the “hokku” which was the beginning of a longer poem with linked verses. It was Masaoka Shiki who introduced the independent hokku, which in stand-alone form was renamed “haiku,” which beat out the other proposed names: “haikum,” “hukai,” and “Governor Al Smith.”

For this reason, Shiki is referred to as “The Father of Haiku.” He and his brother Charlie Shiki wrote poetry together for a while as a duo, but found they didn’t get along at all. Masaoka Shiki was made a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1939, based on his exciting performance of The Mule Skinner Blues in haiku form:

good morning captain
do you need a muleskinner?
I didn’t think so

The more traditional Japanese form of haiku contains three lines of 17 syllables in a 5-7-5 sequence, contains a seasonal reference and what is referred to as a “cut” or “break” (this is generally when CDs are sold). They contain no capital letters and use little or no punctuation, making them not unlike some bands’ press releases.

Modern writers of haiku in the west are less concerned about the 17-syllable form. Jack Kerouac explained: “A ‘Western Haiku’ need not concern itself with 17 syllables, since Western languages cannot adapt themselves to the fluid syllabic Japanese. I propose that the ‘Western Haiku’ simply say a lot in three short lines in any Western language.” Mind you, Kerouac also said, “Avoid the world, it’s just a lot of dust and drag and means nothing in the end.” 

With apologies to Kerouac, though, I’m going to stick with the traditional 5-7-5 pattern and present a few bluegrass haiku for this highly unusual (and infectious) spring of 2020:

our gigs are all gone
at last some home time
so are you my wife?

so much I can do
write songs and clean the garage
or just binge-watch crap

the quarantine life
a time for self-reflection
and putting on pounds

I’m broke but I’m home
my family cries out with joy
“stop playing fiddle!”

time for my livestream
I’ll just do it the one time
until next thursday

This one contains the traditional haiku seasonal reference:

come warm july breeze
can’t wait to get back on stage
but six feet apart

my plan is simple
play cripple creek over and
over and over

the next time we meet
I’ll be the guy with chapped hands
and Pete Rowan hair

starting to go mad
Wagon Wheel stuck in my head
time for ten push-ups

honestly I’m fine
I say talking to myself
is today tuesday?

no mother or dad
sounds more poignant than ever
when sung through a mask

I’m washing my hands
while singing pearl pearl pearl twice
it’s a cry for help