Haiku Sonnets

The haiku sonnet is an experimental form I’ve been working in since 2001.

Formally, it combines four haiku and a final two-line “couplet” consisting of seven syllable and/or five syllable lines, making 14 lines.

Conceptually, it’s an attempt to wed two like and unlike forms. To me, the sonnet seems the quintessential western poetic form, defined by the order and rationality of its problem-resolution organization. Depending how you see it, the haiku might be just as organized—haiku certainly have strong rules and conventions. Because haiku can rely, just as a sonnet does, on a sort of reversal—a “volta” in sonnets, a “kireji” in haiku—they may be distant cousins. However, haiku are eastern, and, where sonnets are rational, haiku are resonant. Where sonnets solve—or attempt to solve—haiku observe.

Though I’ve written over 100 of these haiku sonnets, I’ve only included five of my favorites below, along with one haiku sonnet crown, consisting of seven linked haiku sonnets. All of these come from my previous blog and were written in the last year or so.

North and Sedgewick

They wait at the signs
telling them it’s a bus stop,
trying not to see

each other, the sky,
anything close to here. Some
have papers or books

to take them away,
but they stare too. The bus is
more reliable.

The middle distance
promises some salvation,
a sweep of motion

that, across the street, appears
to make them vanish.

First Girlfriend

I sat in the vee
of the chinaberry and
watched an early moon

rise like a bubble,
wondering when silence might
fall between us or

whether my name—
just invented in her voice—
might lose its power

as a spell and leave
with the last light of the pale
Texas dusk. Her mom

called her in, but I’m still there,
dreaming her echo.

Remembering

I remember winter
now that it’s here—the next word
in a song, a plea

for love you forget
until a character speaks.
Now I remember—

outside this window,
one leaf clung all winter. Wind
set it fluttering

like a hummingbird.
Its sociable flicker was
like life. One day

it flew away, and I thought—
it wouldn’t ever come back.

The Big Top

As a child, I saw
just one circus, a show whipped
by snaking roads and

tired of carrying
itself between towns like ours.
The ringmaster roared

with boredom, his voice
ripped from rotten canvas. As
his wife—stuffed in sequins—

prepared to climb an
elephant, he pulled her stool
too soon. She fell and

broke her leg. The show ended—
her sharp cry so real.

The Other Room

In another life
you might be in an office
reading clouds’ outlines

in a building face
or eating with waiters framed
by failing sunlight

and onlookers’ gaze.
You search for your other selves
in the familiar

posture of strangers.
The soldier’s gestures are yours.
The child laughs like you.

In another room nearby
someone writes you down.

Haiku Crown: Fall

1: Departures

Spitting city rain
riddles the sidewalk with spots
of ghost animals.

Those who once really
roamed here weren’t so exotic,
their camouflage brown,

grey and tan, colors
of Chicago now. This rain
isn’t wet enough

to bring any life
back, isn’t wet enough to
pool. In the alley,

a squirrel climbs from a dumpster
just to watch us pass.

2: Signal to Noise

Just to watch us pass,
the child moves from window to
window—her hands up

to rest on the panes—
She stares as if she isn’t seen.
Her lips move. The half

of conversation
we see is code and—without
her necessity—

meaningless. You’ve said
something I haven’t heard and
the child smiles, waving

behind the glass, knowing now—
the world is outside.

3: Meeting

The world is outside
our control, too big to lift
and much too big to

carry. Two friends stand
at the corner shaking heads,
shaking hands. Their eyes

connect at a spot
on the ground between them, and
each stalls at goodbye.

You and I exchange
a look to acknowledge our
common regard. Sun

seeps like water into day.
You reach for my hand.

4: Crowds

You reach for my hand.
When you think of every shade
still here, the world crowds

with forms, each dimly
communicating. Shadows
overlap—the pools

meet at unknown depths.
Do you remember the time
our son tried to count

the people he’d met
and decided only stars
were more numerous?

His smile turned into a sun
bathing us in light.

5: Talking Together

Bathing us in light,
the coffee shop window plots
illumination

on the floor. We’re in
its square with our second selves—
shadows—sipping cups

like us. You whisper
conspiratorially,
“Are we alone?” and

our shadows smile. Once
I wondered—if shadows were
real, where would we be?

Waiting to walk on stage when
clouds cover the sun?

6: Channels

Clouds cover the sun,
and you’re chilled again. “Let’s go,”
you say. I follow.

We are animals
after all—uncomfortable
with the dangers of

solitude. Thinking
of our children sleeping at home,
worry flares as if

you’d turned the channel
to static, the dead broadcast
of chaos. Without each

other, the world is too cold
for imagination.

7: Common Regard

Imagination
runs when we walk together.
Moving pushes it

ahead of us. We
don’t speak. Inner voices do,
their soliloquies

on everything but
now. When we come home again
we find nothing changed.

Maybe nothing does.
Leaves spot sidewalks. Chicago
thins in cold—now we’ll

hold hands at windows watching
spitting city rain.

10 thoughts on “Haiku Sonnets

  1. Pingback: anticipating dinner | whimsy~mimsy

  2. This is fascinating–I’d have never thought to put haiku and sonnet together, wow. I may have to try one–no rhyming, just 14 total lines, regular haiku followed by the final 2 lines. Hmm.

    • What I’ve always enjoyed about this form is the marriage between sonnet’s poetic logic and haiku’s arational resonance. Putting them together produces lots of variation—some fights but also some different winners each time. You should try it out… and thanks for commenting! –D

  3. I have been working on similar structures and really like the idea of haiku sonnets. These are great. I particularly like Departures, Signal to Noise, Meeting and Crowds. So pleased to find another haiku fiend!

    • Thank you so much! I think it was William Carlos Williams who said that sonnets are an idea and not a form. I write more conventional sonnets too, but what I like about the haiku sonnet is its sparseness. Finite syllables allow more airiness in the poems. In comparison, real sonnets seem so dense, deep meditations instead of fleeting awareness.

      Thanks for visiting. I look forward to reading your work! –D

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