Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
This week, Swarthmore’s English Literature Department unveiled plans to offer a new writing workshop: “The Art of Haiku.” A visiting professor and haiku master, Tumanee Sillabils will be teaching the course this fall.
The course is projected to attract many students and so portfolio requirements will be intense. In an interview, Sillabils explained, “The art of haiku/ is a very special thing./ But you must count well.” Elaborating further, Sillabils added, “Rhyming not enough. / to haiku is true poe’try. / It best suits the muse.”
When asked to explain the best sort of muse for haiku, Sillabils was eager to explain that she wanted Swatties to think outside of the box of ‘typical’ poetry. “Not love, not hate, not/ Death enjambed in flow’ry words / but blood, tears, and Spam.” In a long tradition of SPAMku, Sillabils has published multiple volumes on the glory of Spam. The beauty of Spam, to Sillabils is its survival which he finds nearly Darwinian. “Eat or be eaten. / With SPAM, you can never be / sure who is winning.”
Of the other workshops considered was one on limericks to be led by a Professor McGillicuddy, better known (according to the department chair) as “an old man from Killgore. He was known far and wide as a bore. So the department said no, yet despite this veto, he continued to read his labor.”
Not everyone is satisfied by the department’s choice, however. One student, who asked to remain anonymous pointed out,
“Make haiku on SPAM?
What pretention! Forget it.
Leave it to the prose.”