Imagine English-language haiku, one of the most demanding of all poetry forms because it challenges us to convey so very much in just a few syllables. Now imagine haiku melded with science fiction, where science and imagination meet to speculate on the future of humanity as well as the universe we inhabit. Welcome to the world of scifaiku!
Before we begin our discussion of this relatively new and intriguing poetry genre, let's review the subject of English-language haiku. Contrary to what most of you were taught in school, haiku is not created by arbitrarily chopping a declarative sentence into a 5-7-5 syllable format. To learn how to distinguish real haiku from pseudo-haiku, read this article that I wrote for this blog a few years ago.
Besides possesing a keen understanding of haiku, writing scifaiku also requires an interest in and knowledge of science. The most successful scifaiku poets try to keep abreast of the latest discoveries and developments in biology, chemistry, physics and other fields. We appreciate technology, and our poems suggest new engineering possibilities that will enrich our lives. For some of our descendants, this new technology might prove a bit intimidating.
my first teleportation
engineer laughs when I materialize
with crossed fingers
Future technology may sometimes challenge us to the point of exasperation.
I glare across the board at
my chuckling android
Androids indeed might be programmed to know that archetypal human trait of taking joy in victory. If our engineers are wise, however, androids also will be able to experience a wide range of human emotions, including grief.
weeping next to the parents
the android nanny
While the technology of tomorrow will surely overshadow the devices that we possess today, human nature seems to be something of a constant across the centuries. Unscrupulous business practices likely will remain a problem.
used spaceship lot
dealer rolls back an odometer
800 million miles
Many scifaiku poets speculate on the likelihood of extraterrestial life and how the civilizations of these beings will differ from ours.
the alien's language
lacking a word
Perhaps our respective cultures will successfully mingle. We will adopt some of their ways, while they will embrace some of ours.
on the alien infant's forehead
The Mr. Spock character in Star Trek had a human mother and a Vulcan father. If extraterrestials and humans indeed prove capable of producing offspring, will such children be met with acceptance or bigotry?
the half-alien child
Extraterrestials who are granted visas that enable them to reside on earth will eventually acclimate to our culture and begin to participate in some of our species' customs and festivals.
a drunken alien bares
her 26 breasts
Some aliens might prefer our civilization to their own to such an extent that they choose to become citizens of earthly nations. This proud American's ancestors came from Ireland, so it seems reasonable to assume that future residents of the United States could include naturalized citizens from other planets.
Pledge of Allegiance
the alien immigrant covers
both his hearts
The best way to learn about scifaiku is to read it. While an increasing number of poetry journals now publish scifaiku, the best poems in this exciting new genre appear in Scifaikuest, which is produced by Sam's Dot Publishing of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Check it out at www.samsdotpublishing.com As you acquire an appreciation for scifaiku, perhaps you'll even begin writing it yourself. Much stranger things will happen in our universe!
John J. Dunphy (johndunphy.com) is a writer and poet who owns The Second Reading Book Shop in Alton. All scifaiku in this article were written by him and appear in his first scifaiku chapbook "Stellar Possibilities" (Sam's Dot Publishing, 2006).