We have spent some of our time in this column asking the question what exactly is a haiku, and we’ve arrived at some far-flung responses. This has been perfect training for the following:
Elegant artistry of one hand sandwich eating, juggling of crisps and paper clips with audience holding their breath when your other hand catches the open bottle just before it pours its contents over the paperwork [Odnrej Rob]
So what do you think? Is this haiku?
We can certainly say that it doesn’t look like haiku. Yes, it appears in three lines, but that’s about it in terms of any normative approach to the genre. It flaunts its excesses (so far as haiku is concerned): the last line alone contains 26 syllables.
But by now we should also be asking more incisive questions about what makes a haiku. The questions we are now prepared to ask include things like is this a comparison, implied or expressed, between two images? Do the images so compared constitute a moment, of awareness if not of time? Is there a caesura between the images? While not all haiku will have all of these features, it would be a very rare haiku that had none of them. And the present example really has none. It is not so much a comparison of images as a descriptive account of a cinematic performance. We enjoy the description, but I’d much rather see Peter Sellers do it. Maybe not so much Adam Sandler.
So, unless we subscribe to the “anything I call a haiku is a haiku” school of thought (and there is one), we probably have to conclude this does not really qualify. If we must name it, perhaps “vignette” or “anecdote” or “tableau” is more appropriate. Nevertheless, we find it here, submitted (in earnest?) to a haiku column, which at least provides us with the opportunity to stretch our formalist legs, so to speak.
And stretching out legs is about all we get to do in meeting the content demands for this week’s challenge. What cruel version of capitalism is at work when people can’t even have a decent interval for lunch, but must instead remain actively engaged in production while seeking their necessary sustenance? It seems inhuman, monstrous, outrageous (hang on a bit here while I wash down the last of my sandwich). That’s better. Where was I?
Oh, yes, eating at my desk. Most of you found humor in the situation (we are resilient creatures, are we not?). And curiously, most of you had more empathy for the plight of your keyboards than for yourselves.
Best from M&S Many crumbs in the keyboard Dinner out tonight [Robert Bewell]
This cannot be a good sign. What is worse is the seeming willingness with which you accept your plight:
Half an hour of victuals for my sustenance; a swift diversion [Noble Francis]
or use it as an excuse for self-discipline:
hara hachi bu — eighty percent full will have to do [David Dayson]
or might even consider the break an intrusion on work itself:
mandated break time the silence munching of my keyboard [Ernesto Santiago]
Happily (or unhappily?), some of you did find some savor in the situation:
scent of saffron while I open my suitcase people walk by [Ernesto Santiago] illicit bliss — hidden in the top drawer M&S sandwich [David Dayson]
My third choice this week calls upon metaphor to find respite in the moment:
bento box — its bite-sized symmetry time-out from chaos [David Dayson]
Our second place poem conflates work materials and food materials, input and input, to good effect:
Keyboard, egg and cress: eschewing mindfulness, I consume data [Duncan Stephenson]
And my top selection for the week deftly conjures up the habitual deferment of conscious lunching presumably for some reward, but that reward cannot be the life better lived — a sad, sad poem:
his desk — a palimpsest of takeaways [David Dayson]
engrossed with the monthly target eating in place — Willie Bongcaron * annoying co-workers eating at my desk the vinegar flies — Ernest P. Santiago * fast desk lunch — sushi bento and Best of Japan on YouTube — Maria Laura Valente * rustle of paper — the fried egg sandwich aroma gags cube mates — Angelee Deodhar * stench of sauerkraut from his desk to mine – Roberta Beary * desk lunch the salad that much greener under the fluorescents — Jennifer Hambrick * daily planner lunches remnants a bugs life — Katherine Stella * too busy today lunch while taking care of grandma — Kristjaan Panneman * Jim enjoys kimchi and hard-boiled eggs at his desk . . . tough luck — he’s the boss — Michael H. Lester * working lunch chewing my pencil — Rachel Sutcliffe * desk mates — the candy bar and a diet pop — Valentina Ranaldi-Adams * quick lunch . . . imagining spaghetti Sunday — Eufemia Griffo * the bitter taste of radish on my tongue makes me question everything — Mark Gilbert * at my desk — lines of red & yellow sales figures . . . or mustard & ketchup? — Paul Millar * Falafel at lunch — sorting the beans out while the script runs — Monica Federico * eating at your desk rehearse monthly budget Swallow loss — S. Radhamani * overtime dinner the roaches have a field day — Celestine Nudanu * sandwiched between half-written papers a cheese baguette — Andy McLellan * production secrets a bag of Cheetos in the top left hand drawer — Michael Henry Lee * lights off the odor of salted sun-dried fish — Enrique Garrovillo * lunch break at our desks syncopated burps — Martin Cohen * the bitten apple next to my touch screen lost paradise — Eva Limbach * cake crumbs dropping on my desk a sparrow — Marta Chocilowska * lunch at my desk — breadcrumbs and words in every bite — Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo * working lunch one bite at a time all afternoon — Pat Davis * the smell of tuna . . . I open the window to let in the fumes — Madhuri Pillai * Ants in a row on my desk I have to travel — Angela Giordano * one eye on the screen and one on my sandwich . . . short chew break — Adrian Bouter * eating alone at my desk — nut allergy — Susan Burch * sandwiched between urgent calls . . . her working lunch — Karen Harvey * office lunch — her finger prints in turmeric — Arvinder Kaur * no food or drinks policy . . . rumbling thunder — Martha Magenta * turning my keyboard over all you can eat — Olivier Schopfer * lunch after a patient absorbed by the past I digest it — Lucia Fontana * a time slot for multitasking lunch at desk — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi * finding the way through a forest of paperwork tuna sandwich crumbs — Peggy Bilbro * lunch at the conference room flies join the meeting — Anthony Rabang * spelt salad . . . among the keyboard keys small oil spots — Elisa Allo * sound of chewing — both hands on the keyboard — Tomislav Maretic * dark moon emphasizing our future sales that drop of mayo — Gail Oare * jalapeno pepper in the p folder past due 90 days — Ron Scully * lunch time my boss chews on his fingernails — Cezar Ciobika * latex gloves for his sandwiches laboratory lunch — Marietta McGregor * spring breeze depositing the scent of my food in my boss’s office — Adjei Agyei-Baah *
Next Week’s Theme: Working from Home
Send your poem using “workplace haiku” as the subject by Sunday midnight to our Contact Form. Good luck!
From 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 1 September 2015.