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Haiku in the Workplace: March Equinox

Several poems this week are interesting for what they can teach about trying a bit too hard. The topic perhaps lends itself to this phenomenon: while the equinox is a real and demonstrable thing, it’s difficult for most of us to actually experience the equality of light and dark. So the equinox as felt is as much an abstraction as a real event, and your treatment of it suggests exactly that. Of the fair number of poems that used the conceit of a midpoint pause, this was, I felt, the most clever:

In Galápagos
the turtles
	[Evan Flaschen]

This is what we call a “desk-ku,” one obviously not written en plein air but imagined. There’s nothing wrong with desk-ku, but usually the author is trying harder to disguise that fact. No need here, just enjoy the surreality of it all — hoary ancient creatures with cultural status on their home island very close to the equator (where the equinox is virtually indistinguishable from any other day) pausing — in the mind of the poet.

When your inspiration was derived from observation, your content became more generally centered on the overall shifting of season: weather and birds and flowers.

Spring chill —
on the homeless
even lice shiver
	[David Dayson]

Does this seem a desk-ku to you? Do you think it the result of close observation, or rather of thinking about a situation, and then manufacturing a poem about it? Is it even possible for lice to shiver? To my mind, this is clearly an attempt to channel the reader’s response in a certain direction, rather than allowing the truth of the reality speak for itself. It shows the difference between what the writer wishes to say, and what there is to be said. That’s not to say that a writer cannot say what s/he wishes in haiku, only that the images under scrutiny must be chosen with care or they will not support it.

Similarly, all these poems seem to me to be striving after effect —

first Spring walk —
the hunchback's stick 
a little shorter
	[David Dayson]
Spring sadness —
arms full of daffodils
this too will pass
	[David Dayson]
Spring couriers —
counting back swallows 
as they return
	[David Dayson]

Each of these seems to me to have some small betrayal, some exaggerated reach, some compromise with the actual in an attempt at pathos, or gravitas, or some other emotion. They all have the fingerprints of the poet on them. We can appreciate the author’s point, but as poems they are too caught up with making that point in time to become timeless. It’s nearly impossible to serve two masters in such a small poem (or truly, in any poem), and featuring my truth will make it more difficult for the truth to out.

My top choice this week also has traces of desk-ku, but combines it with what seems to be actual observation:

Spring clouds —
there in the same place
as last year
	[David Dayson]

It seems unlikely the clouds are in exactly the same place this year as last, but saying they are is very suggestive. It conjures the cyclical nature of the season without announcing it in so many words. There is also a bit of drear in it, a foreboding that another poet voiced by saying “April is the cruelest month.” And at the same time it is likely an accurate bit of reportage: weather patterns depend on geographical features as much as anything, and the “there” there is likely to recreate its patterns. This poem has a classical feel to it — like something Buson might have expressed — without being overly imitative. And the poem is allowed to say what it has to say, without overt authorial interference. So this one has a bit of everything, and in just the right balance to make the whole feel quite satisfying. And, as balance is the theme of the day, nicely weighed.

New Poems

welcoming the strengthening sun
a sad work desk
     — Ernesto P. Santiago
ducks during lunch hour
so close
to breaking even
     — Mark Gilbert
twenty March —
this morning’s lesson is
Earth's axis tilt
     — Angiola Inglese
spring solstice
the Easter bunny
hard at work
     — Rachel Sutcliffe
vernal un-equinox
the pay greater than
my beginner’s skills
     — Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
spring equinox
snow finally gone from 
the boss’s heart
     — Paul Geiger
carpe diem —
I surrender to spring
     — Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo
the night
leaves me in awe . . .
Dama de noche
     — Willie Bongcaron
spring equinox
Miss March in
tall clover
     — Michael Henry Lee
where daylight lengthens
evening retreats
spring too between us
     — Ron Scully
with longer days
the work day feels shorter 
creeping buttercups
     — Devin Harrison
Digital download
Light and darkness
on one document
     — Benedetta Cardone
equinox moon
the roll call of ancestors
in the oracle’s song
     — Sonam Chhoki
March equinox
on the coffee break
red ants
     — Martin Gottlieb Cohen
spring equinox
better half brings home
scent of jasmine
     — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi
equinox sun
i linger with the bees
by a blackthorn hedge
     — Polona Oblak
post-verbal dispute
the room
in equal halves
     — Anthony Rabang
spring equinox
she marks her holiday
in red
     — Andy McLellan
spring sunshine
behind bars
zoo animals
     — Olivier Schopfer
on the desk
begin to bloom
some daisies
     — Eufemia Griffo
school garden . . .
children with teacher
portray Spring
     — Elisa Allo
equinox —
a revolution
around the sun
     — Angela Giordano
office astrologer
checking the charts
March equinox
     — Christina Sng
march equinox —
for working days and nights
equal salary
     — Goran Gatalica
march equinox 
I take a cardigan
just in case . . .
     — Madhuri Pillai
aequa nox —
silently daisies bloom
in the janitress’ hair
     — Maria Laura Valente
Shunbun no hi
clearing weeds
from my cousin’s grave
     — Lucia Fontana
night recedes
into the spring
a minimal promotion
     — Timothy J. Dickey
the new sun —
the snowman’s nose
     — Antonio Mangiameli
vernal equinox
orchids blooming
on my screensaver
     — Debbi Antebi
early sunlight
reclaiming the lost hour
i skip the monday meeting
     — Jennifer Hambrick
we leave the intern
with the new fax machine
March equinox
     — Lee Nash
the boss prefers
to keep us in the dark
march equinox
     — Michael Stinson
red rose on her desk
secret admirer revealed
March Equinox
     — Karen Harvey
swallows in the sky —
again in the office air conditioner
their nest
Rondini in cielo —
nel condizionatore
di nuovo i nidi
     — Lucia Cardillo

Next Week’s Theme: The Boss’s Spouse

Send your poem using “workplace haiku” as the subject by Sunday midnight to our Contact Form. Good luck!

kacian_jimFrom October 2014 through April 2016 Haiku Foundation president Jim Kacian offered a column on haiku for the London Financial Times centered on the theme of work. Each week we share these columns with the haiku community at large, along with an invitation to join in the fun. Submit a poem by Sunday midnight on the theme of the week, from the classical Japanese tradition, or contemporary practice, or perhaps one of your own, which you might even write for the occasion. The best of these will be appended to the column. First published 15 March 2015.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. What’s up,I check your blogs named “Haiku in the Workplace: March Equinox” like every week.Your humoristic style is awesome, keep doing what you’re doing! And you can look our website about proxy server list.

  2. It seems to me the top haiku this week has little or nothing to do with workplace?? Same comment for the”striving after effect” ku. But I guess one can see clouds from an office window, stretching a bit. Galapagos I like for being so clever, even if a kind of desk-ku. 😊😊

  3. March equinox
    a promotion
    with no pay rise

    A post-deadline effort, after Timothy J. Dickey.

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