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Blackberry haiku

12/11/06 12:00AM By Peter Gilbert
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(HOST) Commentator Peter Gilbert is wondering whether new communication technology may be creating a new poetic form.

(GILBERT) Amidst a recent exchange of wordy, rambling email messages, I got one that was short, crisp, almost telegraphic in its brevity. And then, at the end of the message I saw the explanation. It said, "Sent from my Blackberry."

I thought of that old comment, attributed (like so many other great lines) to Mark Twain: "I didn't have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one." And I wondered whether this amazing new technology, which I myself have not embraced, may give rise to a new poetic form - Blackberry haiku.

I emailed friends and colleagues, and within a very short time, I had a number of promising haiku, Japanese lyric poems of seventeen syllables in three lines - five syllables, seven syllables, and five syllables. Typically haiku are imagist poems: they capture sharply and succinctly a single natural image.

The first submission, unsolicited, came from Dean, a novelist in Wisconsin. He wrote:

My Blackberry buzzed
and when I threw it, it broke.
I'm lost. Next time, call.

I thought just how tiny those keyboards are and how difficult it is to type on them. And, with more than a nod to a lovely poem by e e cummings, I offered this:

You make key strokes count
With hands smaller than the rain.
Blackberry haiku.

My friend Brian , a recently retired businessman, also wrote about those small keyboards:

No Blackberry for
me. My two old, obese thumbs
Wreck the lilting prose.

Charlie wrote about big thumbs as well, but with a witty, contemporary allusion to hidden weapons of mass destruction and war, in this case, thumb wars as we use both thumbs to surreptitiously send messages to friends when we should be paying attention in meetings:

Blackberry's are made
Only for mass distraction;
Hidden thumb parties.

Clever, huh! Then Charlie's wife, who'd been copied on all the back and forth, noted with a laugh, how blackberry haiku had caused businessmen to turn to writing poetry:

Makes you wonder. Big
Execs with tiny poets
Trying to get out.

Poetry, like any action, produces an equal and opposite reaction. Sean, in New Hampshire, doesn't have a Blackberry and he doesn't want one for Christmas. He writes,

No Blackberry gift.

Thought, quiet are better things
Than buzz, email, yack.

And Jan, from North Dakota, had the final word, which seems to resonate here in Vermont:

My Blackberry is
purple, luscious, cool, and sweet.
It never buzzes.

Peter Gilbert is executive director of the Vermont Humanities Council.

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