Monday, January 31, 2011

Minimalist Writing

There’s something (as my student Grace would say) genius about what you can say in just a few short words. Take for example haikus.

For those of you unfamiliar with my favorite genre of poetry, haikus are a Japanese poetry form where you write just three lines, the first line consisting of five syllables, the second line seven, and the third line five. In a lot of cases, the last line can be almost a punch line.

Here’s the classic example…

Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don’t make sense

And a few other less-than-classic examples…

Is it still stalking
If I type your home address
into Google Earth?

I can’t stop thinking
about you, and how you are
blocking the TV

Like Tom and Katie
our love is overexposed
and not ultra-sound

Even better, there’s a website where grad students can summarize their dissertations in a haiku…

Hungarian Slavs
Tried Czechoslovakia
It didn’t work out.

“Suburb,” “Slum,” “Village”:
Labels matter in planning
Good places to live.

Brachiopods and
Sponges – paraphyletic?
Still they just sit there.

And as an avid haiku-writer myself, here a few of my own creations …

Skinny skinny boy
sitting right in front of me
Matthew Jay Forrest.

Same exact lesson
seventeen times in two days…
God I love my job!

Mushrooms, diesel, eggs?
Moldy, asparagus, tar?
Wine does not smell good.

Clearly my future calling…

So some of my students, without my having ever taught a lesson on minimalist writing, did so on their term tests last week. On the one hand, these papers were genius, saying so much about superhero stories (their topic) in just fourteen and twenty-three words respectively. On the other hand, these papers were pure laziness, seeing as they had 75 minutes to write me more than fourteen and twenty-three words respectively, earning them just two and three points respectively. Regardless of how you look at it, I wanted to share them...

Villain is very bad guy.
Guy bother people.
And Super hero is
save people.

One day the woman is hurt.
So the man is fight somebody.
Fight - - fight - - and the man is win.
So they are marry.

I think they’re fantastic, even though they both kinda failed the assignment. Minimalist writing is awesome.

- Christine -

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