pillow words

August 15, 2022

TWWM 5th Anniversary Event Prompt - Write an Esk-inspired haiku: A throwback to our 2017 Haiku event! To complete this prompt, you must submit a haiku inspired by Esk characters or lore. You may submit your haiku as text, text within an image, or in an image submission's description. You may submit a series of haikus if you wish.

These may not look like haiku to you. And they're not! But not for the reasons that you might think.

The 5/7/5 format in English language haiku is not the only way to write haiku. Honestly, it's not even the 'best' way, if what you want to do is capture some of the quirks that originally made haiku compelling in the Japanese language. Keiko Imaoka has a wonderful essay breaking down why this format exists, and why it's kind of a milquetoast way to translate haiku into the English language. Kent Morita made a similar video essay that really focuses on rhythm, for those who are more musically-minded.

I really, really recommend reading up on what a haiku can be, if you find the 5/7/5 format bland or uninspired. I was you! When I figured out that haiku had things like cutting words, mental "leaps," and a keen sense of negative space-- things I already loved to play with in my own work, but didn't have a word for-- it got a heck of a lot more fun. There are so many other quirks of haiku that aren't even covered in these resources... And the most fun part, I think, is that they're all interpretive. People break even the hard-and-fast 'rules' all the time. One of my favorite poets is Kobayashi Issa, and you'll see that he regularly puts convention through the wringer.

As for why my poems aren't the platonic ideal of a haiku, well... I leave that to you to figure out ; -)

Speaking of mysteries and implied space...

枕詞, makura kotoba, or "pillow words" are fancy epithets / figures of speech that are associated with a specific subject in classical Japanese poetry. Some of these pillow words have even gone on to replace the words that they were originally meant to prop up. Kind of like kennings, we try to talk about the thing by talking around the thing. Or in the poet Rebecca Lindenberg's words:

I think there is a general misconception that you write poems because you “have something to say.” I think, actually, that you write poems because you have something echoing around in the bone-dome of your skull that you cannot say. Poetry allows us to hold many related tangential notions in very close orbit around each other at the same time. The “unsayable” thing at the center of the poem becomes visible to the poet and reader in the same way that dark matter becomes visible to the astrophysicist. You can’t see it, but by measure of its effect on the visible, it can become so precise a silhouette you can almost know it.

AP Breakdown

Base Score: 4 AP (Writing: 210 words)
+5 AP (Personal Work Bonus)
+5 AP (5th Anniversary Event Prompt Bonus)
Total AP: 14

GP Breakdown

Diaspore #1117

Base Score: 2 GP (Writing: 210 words)
+5 GP (5th Anniversary Event Prompt Bonus)
+4 GP (Poetry Bonus: 4)
Total GP: 11*

*I decided to give the GP to the one esk who makes a repeat appearance, rather than write a bunch of low-effort poems for everyone else just so they could get scored. I figure making this twine kinda fills in the gaps, but let me know if that's not kosher!