Haiku Maven: The Trouble with Twitter
Dear Haiku Maven, Recently a publisher accused me of something terrible on Twitter. She tweeted to over 1,000 of her followers that my widely-published haiku, which I had tweeted earlier that same day, was a déjà-ku. I am new to Twitter and so sent her a PM (Private Message) showing that my haiku was published years before the one she was claiming came first. (It was very similar to mine with only two word changes.) She sent me a weak PM response but never tweeted her followers correcting her mistake. I am afraid my reputation has been injured. Help!
Signed, Haiku Twitter Newbie
Dear Newbie, Déjà-ku is a common problem in the haiku world. Haiku Maven suggests you contact the poet who penned the haiku similar to yours. Perhaps it is just a coincidence. If you do not get a response, or are not satisfied with the response you get, you should move on. This is a fight not worth fighting. You can afford to do so since you describe your haiku as “widely-published.” As for the haiku publisher who tweeted déjà-ku about your poem, I would definitely strike her from your list of Twitter followers unless she is willing to own up to her mistake to all her followers. Finally, Haiku Maven can refer you to a worthy article on the subject, “Some Thoughts on Déjà-ku” by Michael Dylan Welch, which can be found on his website, “Graceguts.”
The Haiku Maven posts each Friday to The Haiku Foundation blog. Haiku Maven offers advice about awkward situations involving haiku poets. The word maven comes from the Yiddish meyvn, meaning “one who understands.” Please use our Contact page to send a question. Haiku Maven will select a pseudonym for you based on your question. Click this link to see the Haiku Maven archive. Feel free to leave comments.
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In fact, Lane, check out Tom Painting’s Innovative Category Commended Poem from the 2012 HaikuNow! Contest https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/haikunow-awards-for-2012/.
If tundra were placed on a green background would that be Déjà-ku? Would it lessen or strengthen? What about brown? Maybe a haiga of an end zone taken on a cold December in 1967 as the backdrop?
Where would the haiku poet be without the standards –
winter chill, autumn chill, waning, waxing, or crescent moon?
Would each, used as an opening or closing line be. . .
This is a fascinating topic. Haiku runs this risk for obvious reasons. To discriminate between good déjà-ku and bad requires real knowledge of ku. When I cut my teeth on archaic Greek texts, discovering the poetry in the mass of undifferentiated lines of text was good training. I had to learn what poetry is and is not.
Thanks for linking to my essay on deja-ku. A quick clarification, if I may. Deja-ku is not actually a “problem.” The term encompasses a range of situations, most of which are positive, not negative. Just as deja-vu means “seen before,” so too does deja-ku mean “seen before.” But that can include perfectly good things, such as allusion, homage, parody, or simply sharing the same subject or season word. In fact, the virtue of season words lies in their shared nature — they belong to everyone, and one poem that uses a particular season word is to be celebrated if it brings to mind another haiku that uses the same season word.
Deja-ku does have a negative side, too, which includes outright plagiarism and an “accidental” sort of plagiarism called cryptomnesia (in haiku terms, forgetting that you’re actually remembering someone else’s poem rather than writing it yourself — even though you may be stimulated by actual experience to which the remembered poem fits). A third negative kind of deja-ku, and the most difficult to assess, because it’s hard to know where to draw the line, is an *excess* of similarity — where you’ve written a poem that may go too far, even if written entirely independently, being too similar to an existing poem (whether the earlier poem is famous or not). The best solution to this problem is to write as honestly as you can, staying true to your own voice, yet being as aware as you can of the haiku literature.
Again, only certain kinds of deja-ku (the minority of them) are a “problem” — most, similarities, in fact, are to be celebrated. Yet it remains true that an occupational hazard of the haiku poet is that you may occasionally write a haiku that is excessively similar to another poem. Many folks, for example, have written haiku about birds on a telephone wire looking like notes on a musical staff. Go ahead and write the poem — get it out of your system. But be aware that others have already written that poem dozens of times and thus keep that particular poem in your notebook. Like an old Doritos taco chip slogan used to say, “Eat all you want, we’ll make more.” So just write another haiku instead.
For more on this subject, please also have a look at “An Introduction to Déjà-ku” at https://sites.google.com/site/graceguts/essays/introduction-to-deja-ku, and “Selected Examples of Déjà-ku” at https://sites.google.com/site/graceguts/essays/selected-examples-of-deja-ku.
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