Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review: FU Haiku

Quinlan, Beth and Perry Taylor.  F U Haiku: Pissed-Off Poetry for Every Occasion.  Avon, MA: Adams, 2010. 218pp.

You may have stolen
my identity, but you
cannot take my rage.

Is it a timeless truth? Probably not, because just a few years ago we didn't even know what "identity theft" even was. Bostonians Beth Quinlan and Perry Taylor ramp up the levels of anger throughout the course of their book F U Haiku: Pissed-Off Poetry for Every Occasion.

Now I'll be the first to admit: I am not a multiply-divorced woman and have never once in my life had PMS. Some of these haiku flew over my head. But the seething bitterness of some of the rest of them rang through, like in the following examples, two facing-page poems:

Don't leave him laughing,
leave him burnt-out, broke, depressed,
bald and impotent.


Don't leave her laughing,
leave her burnt-out, broke, depressed,
fat and infertile.

Such rage. So lovable. The book runs the gamut of possible irritants, from asshole bosses to road rage to cheating spouses to Bernie Madoff. And while it's true that some of these references will be stale in five to ten years (like all those books that made fun of Reagan... still have any of those around?), the book gets to act as a sort of cheeky little time capsule for the powerless anger that is the Great Recession.

Some of the haiku also contain some clever pun-craft, such as in this one...

When in doubt, find a
private dick to keep close tabs
on your private dick.

....or turn from sweet to sour all in the last line, like in this one:

Korean ladies,
all petite and sweet. What the
hell are you saying?

But I think the haiku I like the most are the ones that walk the furthest afield from the traditionally meditative and peaceful koan. These are the violent haiku, a litany of running people down and keying their cars and setting their houses on fire. Perhaps my favorite example is the following poem:

My neighbor's dog pooped
in my yard again. Now he
barks for my mercy.

I'm not sure if "he" refers to the neighbor or the dog there, but I feel sorry for either one of them. Somebody's about ready to get medieval on one (or both) of them.

All in all, this is a pretty solid collection of witty poems. It's the kind of book you buy for an office Secret Santa gift exchange or for a friend near the end of the semester, when those research papers start piling up. Or maybe you keep it on hand as a reference so that the next time someone takes your sandwich out of the office fridge, you can scrawl one of these little gems on the wall with their blood, Manson-style.


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