Oulipost #17: Haikuisation

Little Beads of Grit

tiny plastic particles
a gentle scrubbing
in rivers and lakes
slip through sewage system filters
particles so small
fish, other wildlife
absorb toxic chemicals
mistake them for food

 Source: Michelle Manchir and Taylor Goldenstein. “State targets tiny beads: Skin cleanser ingredient poses ecological risks”. Chicago Tribune. 17 April 2014: 1.


Mount Thorium

boat slips on river
gauze soaked radioactive
sandy leftovers

Source: Michael Hawthorne. “Just off Mag Mile sits city’s toxic past: Radioactive waste from early 1900s dogs Streeterville”. Chicago Tribune. 17 April 2014: 1.


The prompt:
The haiku is a Japanese poetic form whose most obvious feature is the division of its 17 syllables into lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. Haikuisation has sometimes been used by Oulipians to indicate the reduction of verses of normal length to lines of haiku-like brevity. Select three sentences from a single newspaper article and “haiku” them.

Author note: I handled this prompt two different ways. For the first, I reduced each of  the three sentences I selected into a separate haiku. For the second, I reduced each of the three selected sentences into a line in one haiku. I think the second method was more successful overall, but had a hard time doing this with my first article without eliminating the serious environmental issues it concerned.

In general I’ve tended towards lighter articles as my sources this month, as these techniques feel too playful to apply to more serious articles.  Just my bias, I’m sure, as I’ve seen my fellow Ouliposters use these techniques to create profound poems from heavy subjects. But in my hands, the results just seem to be disrespectfully absurd.

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