Tuesday, September 15, 2015



THE HAY(NA)KU ANTHOLOGY, VOL. II Edited by Jean Vengua & Mark Young
(Meritage Press, San Francisco & St. Helena, 2008)

This is the second collection of hay(na)ku edited by Jean Vengua and Mark Young. By now, the poetic form called hay(na)ku needs no introduction. Let's do one anyway.

Credit Eileen Tabios for inventing hay(na)ku. A hay(na)ku is a poem or stanza consisting of three lines, one of one word, one of two, one of three. Variants occur because the rules are writ on water beyond the consistent count. The pulse of 1-2-3 then 3-2-1 seems much used as well as regulated 1-2-3. I do not note 1-3-2 but maybe some have chosen that course. Jill Jones, just to say, made 6 word lines, with spaces on each line demarcating the 1–2-3.

It is a simple form, sure enough, similar to the haiku. Jack Kerouac's directive that American haiku  should have no more than three words per line influenced Eileen. The parenthesis in hay(na)ku helps splice haiku with a common Pinoy expression hay naku that serves similarly to the English oh. Many Pinoy writers have taken to the form, but so have non-Pinoy. Eileen's afterword further explains the creation and history of the form, tying it to Philippine independence.

I have noticed that tho this book resides largely in English, many of the writers in this anthology use English as a second language. Tho the form can accept the use of complex sentences, it seems to invite simpler grammatical expression. Each word bears more weight, set so sparsely on the page. The form allows for each word itself to be a poem (as Emerson noted they are, back when we listened to such declarations). The pace can be gentle or brisk.

It is an egalitarian form insofar as most of us can manage the count, whereas trochees and iambs tend to  confuse many of us with their scutter. The count itself becomes breath as the words become poems.

While hay(na)ku can be haiku-like in their patient advance, they can gather strangeness, too. Karri Kokko, from Finland, abbreviates Gertrude Stein to fascinating effect. Here are the first handful of verses from “Comp as Expl”:

sing diff
exec gene comp

inte consists
long conn thin

deci prep
degr pain occu

arou happ
part crea refu

ente mode
spea impo unex

And on, for thirty more verses. Before you even start to work out what those words might “mean” you see almost tactilely the space each word makes. Why, hello Gertrude!

Hay(na)ku seem especially adapted to quiet appearance (I would say revelation, but that word is too loaded).

Jeff Harrison writes a glyph of a poem with:

declaims, “Sweet
dreams, famished fox.”

This poem envelopes several gusts and torrents, thinking myths. Yet Harrison boils it to a premium flash.

Do you see how you want to slow your reading down with hai(na)ku? The hay(na)ku form implies this slowing. Zukofsky, Niedecker, Creeley (from Pieces on), Dickinson (and others, of course) wanted that same slowing. But also, Tom Raworth and his skittering speed, the hay(na)ku can hold that boldly, as well.

The rhythm of hay(na)ku is not rhythmic in the sense of beat. The musical rhythm remains in the syllabic force of the words themselves, not the implicated beat of an induced metre. I'm not ranking on metered poetry, just saying that form can overwhelm meaning, fitting words to the pattern. Hay(na(ku doesn't bend that way.

A poem by Michael Steven called “precision” somehow enjoins quietly:

have the
precision of silence.

The rhythm of
truth against

walk the
streets after dark.

the world
for a light.

I count some fifty poets offered here. I see the the hay(na)ku-ness collecting the disparate many into a somehow tribe. That's an extra something somehow found in these resurgences. A community exists, thereby, therefrom.


Re. Allen Bramhall: A diminishing flow of poems, a continuing insistence in watching superhero movies with my son, an increasing interest in the healing, lifebound elation of creativity, and some websites:

Generally cheerful.

[Each review provides the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily the opinion of THE HALO-HALO REVIEW staff.]


  1. We hope that this form of poetry became popular. It's fun and exact!