Monday, October 27, 2014

Police Blotter Haiku: A Review

Police Blotter Haiku: A Review

I am fascinated by popular haiku and how widespread it has become.  From my perspective, as focused as I am on the possibilities for syllabic verse in English, the widespread acceptance of a poetic form that is defined by its syllable count is a very encouraging sign.  It means that the cultural ground is being tilled for a broader acceptance of syllabic verse in English. 

Some of the best examples of this acceptance are to be found in humorous collections of haiku in the 5-7-5 format.  Many people are aware of Haikus for Jews and Redneck Haiku: The Double-Wide Edition.  These two have had a wide appeal and are still in print.

Recently I have come across another collection which, I think, deserves to be added to its illustrious predecessors.  It is titled Police Blotter Haiku, by Jim Jones.  PBH has the same wry sense of humor as Haiku for Jews and Redneck Haiku; the same kind of commentary on the foibles of human life and its difficulties.

A tree collided
with a drunken motorist.
The tree was not hurt.

Jones writes, “A couple of years ago I spent the weekend in a small town of no great significance.  Out of boredom I picked up a copy of the local paper.  And discovered the Police Blotter column.  The stories were so short and pithy and human that they read like haiku.  Before long, I began converting them into actual haiku.  This seemed appropriate.”

Aflame with anger,
he set fire to the carport
of her new lover.

The collection is divided into 17 topics like ‘Men, Women and Wretched Exes’, ‘Bad Behavior’, ‘Much Outrage About Nothing’, etc.  Each section is roughly 6 to 10 pages long.  Included are really great illustrations of the suspect behavior, which add to the charm of the book.

Just to pass the time
he walked into traffic and
dared cars to hit him.

Most of the haiku are humorous, but now and then Jones observes some of the more poignant tales from the Police Blotter:

In her high-end home,
in the finest neighborhood,
she still died alone.

I am impressed by the ability Jones shows to distill a short news item down to 17 syllables.  That is not as easy as he makes it look.  Like RNH and HFJ, PBH explores areas of life normally not touched on by haiku poets.  Yet this is also a part of life and these aspects of life are all around us and, I think, are a rich source for haiku material if we will turn our attention to them.

Dew catches the sun
and floods the windshield with light.
Two-car accident.

Stylistically, the haiku in this collection are either single sentence haiku or in two parts; kind of like a juxtaposition, but not so self-consciously artful.  I don’t recall reading a list haiku.  The seasonal element is, for the most part, absent; I doubt that Jones considered it.  But there are a lot of non-seasonal haiku written these days even among the denizens of official haiku. 

Night of the Taggers.
Come the dawn, call after call
about defaced walls.

From my perspective, popular haiku accomplishes two things.  First, it broadens the subjects that are acceptable for haiku poets.  And second, popular haiku affirms the possibility of a syllabic approach to English language poetry slowly emerging. 

Get yourself a copy of Police Blotter Haiku.  I think you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Parolee Rule 1:
Put down your meth pipe BEFORE
answering the door.


Police Blotter Haiku
Jim Jones
ISBN: 9781500471163


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