July 22: 1-2: The Technique of Humor

(See this post for an explanation of what’s going on here.)


“This is the dangerous stuff … [b]ecause one has no way of judging another person’s tolerance for wisecracks, jokes, slurs, bathroom and bedroom references.… Very often the humor of a haiku comes from the honest reactions of humankind. Choose your terms carefully, add to your situation with appropriate leaps, and may the haiku gods smile on you.

dried prune faces
guests when they hear
we have only a privy”

– Jane Reichhold, Haiku Techniques


Hmmm … okay, here’s the thing. My sense of humor tends toward the … obscurely satirical? Wait, is that just a synonym for “not funny”? Well, you can judge for yourself.


For my first effort at humor I set out to write a haiku that would encompass as many stereotypes about Japan and haiku as possible in seventeen syllables (5-7-5, of course).

origami cranes
sipping tea on Mount Fuji —
white cherry blossoms

For my second effort I felt like making fun of haiku poets. Yeah, all of us, cawing away, trying to impress our significance on the world …

Basho, Issa,
and the rest of us —
a convention of crows

Had enough yet? Can’t say I blame you. But come on, are they really any worse than Jane’s privy joke?

(And don’t forget my invitation!)

6 thoughts on “July 22: 1-2: The Technique of Humor

  1. wait. are you asking about your sense of humor or your haiku as compared to Jane’s? actually… i think you’re way ahead of me on this. again.

    home made
    this dandelion wine

    dandelion fluff
    the last mouth full
    of summer wine

    • I was talking about my sense of humor. I wouldn’t presume to compare my haiku with Jane’s. 🙂

      Do you actually make dandelion wine, Wrick? Are there dandelions in Hawaii?

  2. reaching for a pen
    at the first chrysanthemum
    a slave to haiku!

    the flowers of spring
    all the haiku I could write
    if I knew their names

    skinny dipping–
    her cute names
    for everything (Modern Haiku)

    and so on. All of these are haiku, in the sense that they have kigo. And the first two are 5-7-5. I don’t do much with privies, but

    roadside stop
    I aim to miss
    the wildflowers

    taking a leak
    in a withered field–
    cold moon

    Enough, for now.

    • Wonderful, Bill, as always.

      W/r/t the second one — I always think that about flowers and birds and trees and all kinds of other natural objects — I have such a vague knowledge of what they actually are and the Japanese seem to be so specific about naming things in their haiku. I feel kind of pitiful going “oh…pretty tree” …

      I love that skinny dipping one, I saw that on your blog.

      and the last two are completely Issa-esque. On “Everyday Issa” the latest post is

      chrysanthemum blooming
      horse-shit mountain…
      one scene

      which is now my new favorite haiku. 🙂

      And Bill! Send me haiku for my 200th post! They can be previously posted on your blog, I don’t care.

  3. Love the post, Melissa, I find it really hard to use humour. It always seems forced, I have to really get lucky to write one that does it even have ok!

    roadside stop
    I aim to miss
    the wildflowers

    From Bill make me smile, that works! And I did like your satire ku too – sometimes it feels like we’re all going for the same objects/referents, huh?

    • Thanks, Ash. Yeah … this was a hard one. I agree it’s one of those things that it’s hard to force — either you’ve got a joke in you or you don’t.

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