Of great photography…and haikus

I wrote my first haiku the other night. Even though I’m fairly certain that I’ve written many before, I can’t find any evidence to support that.

You learn early on that when you’re deep into the creative process and it’s speeding you along, you sometimes have to document things. Often, ideas change shape; concepts mutate, details are forgotten. It’s important to recall what they first looked like, so if you take a metaphorical wrong turn you’d know how to get back to the original idea or concept or details.

In the old days I used a legal pad or small tape recorder to capture the unsullied ideas, concepts and details before they developed their own lives. I suppose the suspicioned haikus failed to make that tally.

Anyway, the reason for this haiku creation was an excellent weblog on WordPress known as SethSnap. Here, the author posts photographs he has made, most of them within a few hours of his home. What really distinguishes his work from others is his good sense of composition, his use of exaggerated color and his simple but unique and effective way of naming each photograph.

In his recent posting Your Story: Blue Bank the author has published a photograph of a bank, featuring his usual pleasant and unique color oversaturation. The challenge for the viewer is to write about the photo:

It’s time again for you to write the story or caption for one of my photos.  This time, I’ve picked a photo of an interesting building I found in New Jersey back in September.  So, put your writing caps on and write how the following photo makes you feel.  You can write anything, a poem, a story or just a word.  Please add your thoughts to the response section below.  The previous versions of Your Story are Your StoryYour Story:Blue and Your Story: Country.

“Blue Bank”, from the SethSnap WordPress weblog. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

I have not written anything about any of his previous versions…but, for some reason, the other night I felt moved enough to compose what could arguably be my very first haiku:

The Bank has been closed,
Its customers were sad then;
And the Bank is Blue.


I don’t claim to have any great haiku-writing skills. For many years, though, I have understood the haiku’s unique properties, which to me are far more elegant than any rhyming scheme found in Western literature.

(And I should know about that: I had a poetry writing class in college. While I produced one poem that I was proud of and can sort of remember, most of the rest were just not very good. At least, I can’t recall any of them, and frankly I’d like to keep it that way.)

While doing research last night on haikus, I found a website that does illustrate what I think are very good ones. Of course, they are tech related–which might color my appreciation and understanding of them just a bit.

Here’s the deal: Salon magazine in January 1998 began a contest that challenged its readers to come up with Windows error messages expressed as haikus. It ultimately received over 200 entries, most of which were the products of American thinking.

Many were extremely creative and very amusing. However, over the years this subject morphed into an urban legend that Japan had substituted the haiku for the real error messages, a claim that urban legend whistleblower snopes.com found to be false.

Here are some of these haikus:

“Error message” haikus from the January 1998 “Salon” magazine contest.


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