Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Haiku Game

We go for the cheap thrills. When we are looking for entertainment, we don't go to the cinema, the races, or skiing in the Alps. Usually not even to the bowling alley. We're game-playing people. There may be later posts dedicated to Settlers, Ticket to Ride, St. Petersburg, Scrabble, Chinese checkers, and the host of other games we love to play, but this one will sing the praises of The Haiku Game.

Haiku, as you may have learned in elementary school, is a form of poetry from the Japanese culture. It is the simplest kind I know in terms of rules, classically consisting of three lines with a reference to the natural world. The first line holds 5 syllables, the second holds 7, and the third concludes with 5 more. That's a simplified and strict definition - modern forms infrequently stick to the 17 syllables or images of nature. For example, here's one I wrote in the back of class during the poetry unit in my Elementary Education courses:

Half of my classmates
Talk too much, saying nothing.
The other half doze...

More recently we spent four years in Willits just a few miles up the 101 from Ukiah, which holds a grand Haiku festival every year. They take it pretty seriously, with judges, awards, and submissions from around the world.

Enough with the background. Now for the game. I have, sadly, not been able to figure out from whom we learned it initially; none of the people present the first time I recall playing it even remember the occasion. But since learning we have introduced it to many friends and acquaintances. It goes like this:

Each person sits with a piece of paper and writing utensil in front of them. Each person writes the first line of a haiku (5 syllables) and passes the paper to their right. Each person then takes the paper passed from their left, and writes the second line of haiku (7 syllables) to match the first line in front of them, and passes the paper to the right once more. On the sheet now in front of each person, they write the final line (5 syllables) to complete the poem, and pass it to the right once more. When all poems are complete, each persons takes a turn reading the haiku that the three people to their left wrote.

Depending on the group and the time of day, poems can be entertaining, deep, foolish, or completely unintelligible. And if the young (or syllablically-challenged) are participating, the 5-7-5 rule might end up as more of a suggestion. But it remains good wholesome fun, encourages community, and creates art.

So in honor of the past participants of Haiku Games that Margo and I have facilitated, and in honor of the 10,000-view-mark that the blog passed recently, I am instituting a "Haiku of the Week" to be featured in the sidebar. Each one will be taken from the sheets of Haiku Games past that I've kept.

Happy reading!

1 comment:

  1. I am intensely
    pro-haiku-sidebar, my friends;
    Let the games begin.