A new experiment today. Think it works?
A new experiment today. Think it works?
It was in an English literature class, while studying Shakespeare, that I first heard of poetic licenses.
Poets breaking rules.
Writing as their heart desired. Morphing labels, forging words, scouring attention.
It fascinated me. I grew up learning to obey authority, as most of us did. And I followed devotedly, setting additional rules for myself.
I hated putting a foot out of line. Always submitted homework on time.
Though I loved restrictions, I also found immense joy in testing those boundaries. That’s why haiku as a poetic form attracted me. It threw a challenge: tell a story with limited words. Couldn’t resist.
I’ve been writing haiku for a while. And I’ve always vehemently stuck to the traditional pattern. A haiku is a Japanese form of poetry containing three lines in the 5-7-5 syllable pattern. That’s how I’ve always written it; that’s the only way I knew of writing haiku.
Until I heard of Haibun—a piece that combines haiku and prose, often in travel writing and autobiographies.
Haiga—a haiku accompanied by a work of art like a painting or photograph.
And haikai—linked verses relating to vulgar, witty, and earthy topics written by multiple poets.
And then I heard of “modern English haiku”.
Apparently, contemporary haiku in English uses a 3-5-3 syllable pattern (with exceptions, of course).
I also learnt that the longer version is more suitable for Japanese haiku because of the language’s natural rhythm.
So after being inspired by a bunch of modern haikus, I decided to give it a shot myself. Oh, well—it’s not breaking the rules if there’re no rules to begin with.
It was a lonely little corner
she’d taken it up as her own
crouching low, perched on edge
on a tall-backed cushion chair
as if she’d forgotten for good
how good it was sitting back
intensely black her eyes
as a bird atop a peeling birch
darting from stitch to stitch
as though following a fish
unperturbed by them rustling
winter winds wailing without
cozy and carefree she snuggled
swiftly shifting her grip instead
keeping up steady progress
lips parting in occasional smile
chuckling at jokes only she saw
much like the readers around
cherishing the magic that unfurled
the old woman knitted in the library
“I […] picked up the notebook and pen and, after a minute’s thought, wrote, “Canberra awfully boring place. Beer cold, though.” Then I thought for a bit more and wrote, “Buy socks.”
Then I decided to come up with a new slogan for Canberra. First I wrote, “Canberra—There’s Nothing to It!” and then “Canberra—Why Wait for Death?” Then I thought some more and wrote, “Canberra—Gateway to Everywhere Else!,” which I believe I liked best of all.”Excerpt from In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson.
I read that piece of prose about a month before I moved to Canberra. A good friend, American, suggested that I read Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country as a way of getting into the moving mood. Of course, my friend meant well—though he couldn’t recall Bryson’s exact feelings about Canberra, he did mention that Bryson covers the whole of Australia from an American comedian’s perspective. And that’s just what the book does.
I’d done some research on my own and everything I learnt hinted at a great place to live—a quiet small town with lots of greenery and large lakes, stunning autumnal sunsets, and frostbiting winters. And so it surprised me to read the author had suffered great boredom in Canberra. In the book, Bryson moves on to Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, narrating his observations along the way. And sure enough, in comparison to those metro cities, Canberra is rather subdued and humble.
But Canberra is far from a boring place. I’ve been exploring the area and town life every day since I moved here a month ago. And there’s not a single thing that didn’t amaze me. Aside from the old parliamentary building and the old law-making systems, the national war memorial that brings to life each war Australians suffered, and the museum of modern history that plays host to thousands of years’ history, the city by itself has a story to tell.
The National Capital Exhibition is a smaller building than the other tourist attractions. However, it hosts hundreds of interesting titbits about the city that’d make any Canberran swell with pride.
Canberra is a planned city. When the government decided that neither Sydney nor Melbourne can serve the purpose, they weighed various criteria to choose the capital city. With sufficient resources for agriculture and cultivation, natural scenery that’d attract visitors and locals alike, a secure landmass away from the coast and naval invasions, and an accessible location from all over the country, Canberra became the ideal capital. As I read through each point in favour of Canberra, I found myself nodding in agreement. This is a great place. And the best part—not many people have discovered it yet, giving it an excellent population balance.
In the exhibition is a large 3D model of Canberra’s layout, lit up, and highlighting the geometrical marvel that the city is built upon. The parliament building is on top of a hill. Looking right across from the top is the national war memorial serving as a constant reminder of the consequences of any decision made inside the parliament. Branching away from the centre are the main roadways—the spines for the many suburbs woven around them. From above, Canberra looks like a spider’s web. It’s well spread out and yet interwoven to make sure you can drive from one corner of the city to another in 30 minutes or less.
And then there’re the lakes. Although artificial, Canberra’s primary lakes, Burley Griffin and Ginninderra, complement the many natural forests around the city. Footpaths go around the lakes and the bridges over. It’s as if no humans can ever disrupt the calmness of the lake or disturb the babbling ducks in it. Looking at the Lake Burley Griffin through a window, I wondered how much the city’s designers (Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion) would’ve appreciated and yearned for nature that they decided to plot such big lake right in the middle of the city.
Sure, Bryson was right in a few aspects—the shops close at 5 and the night scene is still quite bleak, but this is the bush capital. If you like yourself some greenery, Canberra won’t disappoint.
Parting thoughts: Never judge a place based on a few authors’ descriptions. Everything is subjective.
A lifetime of dreams
and world of expectations
presenting, a book