Simanaitis Says

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ELEMENTAL HAIKU

A HAIKU, as is familiarly known, is a Japanese poem of a particular length and structure. It consists of three lines, the first and last having five sound units, the middle having seven. Formally, these sound units are called ons in Japanese, corresponding to morae among English linguists and, loosely, syllables to the rest of us.

At its traditional best, a haiku’s 17 syllables, 5 + 7 + 5, contain a juxtaposition of two images with a kireji, or cutting word, between them. The kireji emphasizes this duality of thought or image.

Japanese haiku is high art. But my purpose here is to alert SimanaitisSays readers to a respectful variation: The Haiku Art of the Periodic Table, offered in the August 4, 2017, issue of Science magazine, published weekly by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

AAAS Science writer Mary Soon Lee collected 119 science-oriented haiku, one for each element in the periodic table, plus a hypothetical haiku for Element 119, not yet synthesized.

On a personal note, I’ve composed only a single haiku in my life, perhaps more properly termed haiku doggerel. The occasion was my first trip to Japan, the press introduction of the Mazda GLC in 1980 and, incidentally, I believe the first time American journalists were trusted to drive home-market cars on public roads. Hitherto, foreign press drives had been confined to test tracks only.

Here are several of my Elemental Haiku favorites.

Hydrogen, H.
Your single proton.
Fundamental, essential.
Water. Life. Star fuel.

Lithium, Li.
Lighter than water.
Empower my phone, my car.
Banish depression.

Carbon, C.
Show-stealing diva,
Throw yourself at anyone,
Decked out in diamonds.

Aluminum/Aluminium, Al.
Spent kindergarten
Endlessly writing your name.
One i or two i’s?

Phosphorus, P.
Report. Willie Pete.
Don’t hide behind a smoke screen.
How many killed? Maimed?

Sulfur/Sulphur, S.
Disrupted first grade.
Popping stink bombs, starting fires.
Still can’t spell your name.

Titanium, Ti.
Aerospace stalwart.
Is the stratosphere enough?
Or only the stars?

Yttrium, Y.
That is not a name.
That is a spelling error.
Or a Scrabble bluff.

Rhodium, Rh.
Battling pollution
By transforming exhaust gas,
Catalyst for change.

Perhaps you’ll share your favorites. For an interactive periodic table displaying each bit of poetry, go to http://vis.sciencemag.org/chemhaiku. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017

One comment on “ELEMENTAL HAIKU

  1. carmacarcounselor
    September 6, 2017

    Inspired on the birth of our second daughter, a surprise redhead, in the Alternative Birth Center where we could sleep with her on her first night in the world.
    One small miracle.
    Red Hair! She purrs as she sleeps.
    Dreaming she’s a cat?

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