Author: Campbell, Bruce

Distilling Thoughts for Fun & Clarity

Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A few months ago, there was a flurry of Bluegrass haiku on the CBA Message Board. A whole lot of people chipped in (I seem to remember Ted Silverman being particularly prolific at writing haiku) and it was pretty good stuff.

What makes Haiku so fun is the brevity enforced by its rigid syllabic structure. To those of you who have forgotten (or maybe never knew), haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that requires the poem to have only three lines. The first and third lines contain 5 syllables, while the second line must contain 7 syllables. It’s not supposed to rhyme, which goes against our western tendency for a toe-tapping meter and rhymes. You only have a very limited space to make your impression, and the exercise of cramming a message into 17 syllables often results in surprisingly touching, effective, and hilarious poetry.

Claire Lynch had a contest where she offered a free CD to the best Bluegrass-themed haiku. Guess who penned the winner? It was Nancy Zuniga, and here’s her haiku:

Voices harmonize
Guitar, fiddle, banjo, bass
Carried on the wind

Isn’t that lovely?

Haiku is a also favorite form of expression for lovers of (and maybe just people obsessed with) the lunch meat Spam. Do a Google search on Spam haiku and you’ll discover that Spam haiku sites are among the oldest websites on the ‘Net. Here are just a couple of examples:

Ears, snouts and innards,
A homogeneous mass--
Pass another slice.

Ain’t that special? Here’s another that made me laugh (these are both credited to Christopher James Hume) :

Pink tender morsel,
Glistening with salty gel.
What the hell is it?
Sometimes, by being forced to distill our communications to a ridiculous level, we succeed in actually clarifying them. There’s a fairly new book out called “Not Quite I Was Planning”, by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser. The story was, the project was inspired by an anecdote where Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a 6 word story. He did – here it is:

“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”

The authors contacted thousands of people (well, hundreds, I guess) and asked them to submit their memoirs in 6 words exactly. Some of the submissions are from famous people and some are from non-famous people. What is interesting is how the famous people are no better at this than “ordinary” people. Here are a couple of 6 word memoirs:

“Seventy years, few tears, hairy ears.”
—Bill Querengesser

“Watching quietly from every door frame.”
—Nicole Resseguie

There was one I loved, but I can’t remember the author:

“Not born a redhead. Fixed that.”

You can’t go into much detail, obviously. You don’t get to explain yourself and your story will raise more questions than it answers. But it’s fun a cathartic to come up with a suitable memoir in the space of a headline. I have mine:

“Done much. But it’s never enough.”

So, what would YOUR 6 word memoir be?
Posted:  3/5/2008

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