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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Believe it or not, there's poetry in news

By David Shapiro

News writing has never been considered one of the more elegant of the literary arts, but there's poetry in our pages if you know how to find it.

One of my favorite forms is Headline Haiku, in which you take snippets of headlines from different stories and recombine them into the classic Japanese poems that have five syllables in the first and third lines and seven syllables in the second line.

Whether you put together your haiku randomly or with purpose, they can guide you to hidden meanings in the news.

Such as this observation about the irony of my profession:

Bush approval dips
Can't Win the War? Bomb the Press!
Hard journalism

Or these lyrical flirtations with political and social commentary:

Axis of evil
Homeland insecurity
Change the oil mindset

New study reveals
Sex differences go deep
Gay marriage setback

Pirates storm London
Helpers for the gun lobby
Ballistic blackmail

Foggiest idea
Insanity flirtation
Congressional life

These headline bits became a mini-review of Henry Kapono's latest CD:

'The Wild Hawaiian'
Tunes for your summer soundtrack
Rocker in disguise

The most fun are lines that fall together, often randomly, in ways purely serendipitous:

Date with governor
Starry tales for summer nights
Goofy fantasy

Medical crisis
Fat people not more jolly
Cherry juice may help

Tahoe bear swills beer
Lawyer weighs insanity
Skull falls off, draws crowds

My other favorite form of journalistic verse I call Fibs in the News, in which you boil down stories into tightly-structured poems that stimulate the mind while bringing fresh perspective to the day's events.

Fibs are six-line poems originated by Gregory K. Pincus at GottaBook (http://gottabook.blogspot.com); they're based on the mathematical Fibonacci sequence featured in The Da Vinci Code.

The first line of a Fib is one syllable and each line after that combines the total syllables of the previous two lines, so the six-line syllable count is 1-1-2-3-5-8.

Here's the short take on the defendant who was jailed after praising the Lord for his acquittal:

for faint souls
like Judge Pat Border
who show us the blind in justice

I couldn't overlook a conservative commentator's continuing woes with prescribed substances:

got exposed
packing Viagra
under pretenses false and limp

Have you swerved to avoid any politicians lately?

waving signs
crying for our votes.
Someone call the litter patrol.

And don't you get tired of the lame excuses of irresponsible motorists who stain our highways with the blood of innocents?

I drove drunk.
I'd take your son's grave
if I could, but I can't, too bad.

Try writing your own Headline Haiku and Fibs in the News; they're fun, challenging and can be surprisingly enlightening.

Send your poetic punditry to dave@volcanicash.net and I'll share the best in a future column or online in the upcoming "Volcanic Ash, The Blog," available soon on a computer screen near you.

David Shapiro, a veteran Hawai'i journalist, can be reached by e-mail at dave@volcanicash.net.