Monday, January 17, 2011

January 17: Haikubes on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday

For Christmas my sister gave me Haikubes, a set of 61 six-sided dice with short words or phrases etched on their faces in black and two dice with phrases on the faces in red. You're supposed to roll them all, and the red-lettered dice set the theme for your haiku. Today, my first time trying out Haikubes, I rolled A VISION FOR and OUR WORLD. That struck me as thematically appropriate for a holiday celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday.

The words on the other dice are supposed to inform the resulting poem. Fortunately among the many words--obey, swimming, dripping, finally, this, us, what, so not, I, baby, embraced, etc.--are some blanks to enable a little creative latitude.  Still, it took me about 20 minutes to come up with something, anything, and the resulting haiku is probably a bit more bleak and negative than I would have created if left to my own devices:

This still so screwed up:
war touches every surface.
What shines for us next?

What interests me is how a fixed but random set of words like this (or the ever-popular Magnetic Poetry sets, for example) begins to tell its own little stories. Like these, face-up now on my desk: swimming, dripping, salty, fathom. Or these: girl, room, charm, body, embraced, hot, limbs, glorious. Or these: war, dead, screwed, hellbent, so not. The thematic dice then help guide the tone for pulling out and following the most appropriate of the stories. If I'd rolled A DREAM ABOUT and MY ROMANTIC LIFE, you can imagine I'd have gravitated toward different word choices!

While I prefer creating my own haiku, sometimes working within the strictures of an exercise like this can free your mind in unusual ways or take your imagination to new places. (Even your imagination can get in a rut sometimes.) For that same reason I like to periodically play with formal poetry--to write a rhyming sonnet, for example, or a poem with a set number of lines per stanza or syllables per line. The act of fitting into the rules can lead to some surprising adjustments that often result in something more interesting than the same old "free verse."

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