I don’t write free verse these days. Free verse is just prose. Prose with poetic bent, to be sure, but still prose. Less form? Less function.
Now, while my biggest fan (and probably my only one) might claim that my prose oftentimes soars beyond the clouds, nay, the very heavens themselves; that it transports her beyond reality; that through my prose, she has quite often touched the face of God, etc. prose and poetry are not the same thing.
Please understand, I’m not denigrating free verse, I’m not actually claiming that there is no difference between free verse and short prose. Even if I were, I would think it perfectly acceptable for someone to describe such free verse as poetry. What I really mean to express is that free verse presents no more challenge to me than would prose–of any length.
So I guess my point is not that it is the same, but that I see it as the same. Poetic prose, and free verse poetry require similar chops. They both draw on similar aspects of ones knowledge and psyche. Hence they both present a similar level of challenge.
Haiku is not free verse, however. Its short size and syllabic constraints make it more of a challenge. So, while I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as an enthusiast of the form…. Well… let me explain it this way: I can’t remember how this came to pass; but some time ago, the commenters at a blog I used to frequent, started posting comments using Haiku. At first these comprised just a few here and there. But, over time, the practice grew and seemed to take on a life of its own. It was a light-hearted site, and hence the Haiku were funny and light hearted. It became quite an entertaining diversion for all concerned. It kept everyone laughing.
Somehow, the whole thing got itself lodged in the back of my mind somewhere and popped out here, on this site, for some reason. And I find the constraints of haiku more and more entertaining all the time, and hence I find it creeping more and more into my introductions, comments and other secret places. Of course, the constraints of Haiku are nothing compared to the ones presented by sonnet form. This creates pressure.
And, as I mentioned in a previous post, such pressure can be quite daunting. Constraint creates pressure. Pressure creates diamonds where once there was only coal. As such, when I introduce additional constraints to the form, creating additional pressure; that is when the act of conforming to that pressure forces me into a mode of self-education.
Something as elementary sounding as the need to find a word beginning with “I,” one with the second syllable accented, and one with just the meaning I wished to convey caused quite a voyage of discovery, without which I would not now know the identity of the goddess of pursuit in battle–and incidentally that she is one of Athena’s lieutenants.
I’m just not interested in Greek Mythology to such an extent, for its own sake. However, no student is utterly fascinated with all his lessons; even these days, when such lessons as he may still receive contain very little substance. But that was true a century and a half ago. It’s just that the lessons were better, greater, and more numerous. A student of that age wouldn’t have necessarily enjoyed his Latin or Greek; or the learning, memorizing, and reciting of poetry and prose–in more than one language, by the way–but he would have learned them nonetheless. And that would have expanded his horizons later in life. It would have exponentially expanded the number of connections he would have been able to make about his world, not to mention the larger world of ideas.
So… note to autodidacts: Write sonnets; it will kick your self education into high gear regardless of your intent, or lack thereof, to do so.
I’m afraid that may have been quite more than a few words about Haiku. But… well… there you are.