I'm Going to Write a Haiku About Every Band in Denver

Everybody knows the haiku formula: three lines — five syllables, then seven, then five — and some shit about nature. Boom. Haiku.

Of course, there's a little more to it than that. At its essence, each haiku is a shifting picture, a series of three images that color each other as they interact; even more basic to the haiku than the five-seven-five structure we all learned in grade school is the turn, where the third line recasts the first two in some way, sort of like the punchline of a joke. In fact, some haikus are a lot like jokes. Take this one, by nineteenth-century haiku master Kobayashi Issa:

New Year's morning—
everything is in blossom!
I feel about average.

Or this one, by eighteenth-century master Yosa Buson:

Coolness —
the sound of the bell
as it leaves the bell

You may have noticed that neither of those actually adhere to the five-seven-five rule, which U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass more or less dispenses with in The Essential Haiku, his collection of the work of three old Japanese masters (and the source of both of the above translations) and, as the title says, essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in haiku. It's the gold standard.

So anyway, obviously I love haiku, and that's why I'm going to write one about every band in Denver.

Why write a haiku about every band in Denver, you ask? I just said so: I love them. And also, why not? I believe every band in Denver is special and deserves to have a haiku written about it, each and every one. Your band, too.

You may have some other questions. I have addressed them below in a handy FAQ.

Where can I find these haikus?
On Twitter - where else? I'll be tweeting them five days a week @jefotte and under the hashtag #denverbandhaiku, plus @westword_music will retweet them here and there. But I can think of no reason you shouldn't just follow me right this second.

Can I write some haikus about Denver bands?
Shit, yeah, you can — that's why the hashtag. I want to read them! If they're hot, I'll gladly retweet them.

How do you decide what bands you're going to write haikus about on any given day?
Pretty much randomly. I'll be using the 2015 Westword Music Awards Ballot as a sort-of guide, but my choices will also be utterly subject to whim and whatever band happens to get my attention (more on that below).

Wait — how are these haikus "about" the bands, exactly?
Well...it depends. The form of the haiku doesn't afford much space for explicit references to much of anything, not even really the band's name; if I wrote a haiku about Safe Boating is No Accident, for example (which I will), putting the band's name in there would take up like half the haiku. My mission, then, is this: to listen to a given band's music and try somehow to capture that band's essence, somehow, a feeling of its spirit. Some of these attempts will probably be more successful than others. Some will be silly. Some will be weird. Every one will be 100 percent serious.

Wait a tic — this haiku has more/less than five/seven syllables in its lines! Isn't that breaking the rules?
I like the five-seven-five structure as a complaint, and in general practice, I try to adhere to it — but like Robert Hass (see above), I reserve the right to ignore it if I want.

Will you write a haiku about MY band?
Does your band live in Denver? Then yes, yes I will. Shoot me a tweet @jefotte with a link to your bandcamp or some other way to listen to your music, and I'll get right on it. No band is too weird or too unheard of. Did your band start yesterday but you somehow have some music on the  Internet I can listen to right now? I will write a haiku about your band. Does your band make experimental noise music that even your friends and loved ones hate? I will write a haiku about your band. Are you a solo singer-songwriter who wears her heart on her sleeve? Assuming you make some sort of music, I will write a haiku about you. And so on.

I'm starting today, and the first one's about A. Tom Collins, because, you know, they're the first band on the showcase ballot. After that, it's up to you. Read it now.

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte