Haiku, Agile and a haijin apprenticeship story

I received a letter yesterday morning telling me that one of the four poems I submitted to a competition had been selected to appear in the anthology.

Fantastic! But… it wasn’t one of the three carefully crafted, heartfelt or witty pieces I had thought might stand a chance. It was a throwaway nine-word haiku called “January Blues”, intended to capture that moment of sadness as you take the Christmas tree down.

I need to have more respect for my ‘ku. I stopped writing poetry at fourteen, when I realised how bad it was (teenage goth poetry is far worse than that of any Vogon). I didn’t take it up again until a few years ago, when I ran into the Scifaiku group – some of the most talented individuals it has ever been my privilege to work with. Haiku and science-fiction haiku changed the way that I thought about poetry, and my poetry changed too. Some of it’s even good, I’m told.

As my brain was turning over last night before I slept, I realised that there was a reason why the competition judges had chosen this haiku over the other poems. They, too, identified with the moment. A haiku is intended to capture an experience, often something common to a culture, and distil it into a form that makes that shared experience happen all over again. It takes subliminal information – things which everyone knows about, but no one talks about – and puts it out into the world so that everyone recognises that the moment isn’t something particular to one individual, but an experience that the poet, too, has had.

I wrote a while ago about code comments, and how they should be haikuesque in their delivery of information – but it goes further than that. Agile itself is haikuesque. It takes information which is understood at an unspoken level and makes it obvious. With a haiku, someone might say, “Wow! You feel the same way as me about the end of Christmas!” Whereas with Agile, someone might say, “Wow! You think that the persistence layer is really hard to work with too!” The haiku is rewritten in careful calligraphy beneath a little oriental watercolour. framed and put on the wall. The persistence layer becomes the subject of a discussion with a view to improving it.

As an example, here’s a shared experience that you might be familiar with, and which Agile makes explicit. Reading or writing a ‘ku feels very similar.

code falls into place –
      green bar!
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2 Responses to Haiku, Agile and a haijin apprenticeship story

  1. avishek says:

    That’s really cool, getting selected for an anthology. I used to write some poetry, but it has been some time, and I’d rather not show them to anyone. And the comparison between haiku and Agile is *poignant*. Damn good post 🙂

  2. sirenian says:

    Thank you. I’ve just been admiring your AI stuff. Haven’t studied Neural Networks since the last year of my Electronic Engineering degree, but it makes me want to go back and do them all again.

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