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Net Gains: Poetry in motion

www.coolwebsite.com/ haikus.htm

Every society needs its nonsense valve and the Net has its: haiku. Most of us can dredge up a couple of features particular to the concise Japanese poetic form: 17 syllables apportioned 5-7-5 over three lines. But why has the Net embraced an Oriental lyric to the extent it has?

There are thousands of sites devoted to haiku. Some, like www.mccoy.co.uk/snapshots/haiku.html, take an academic stance, and go into some detail about the form's development and history. You may not know, for instance, that haiku has its origins in "haikai", a hugely popular comic colloquial form which nicely anticipates haiku's ubiquity today.

The majority of haiku sites, though, happily acknowledge the fact that their doggerel bears little resemblance to the true form. "Haiku-o-Matic" (www.smalltime.com/nowhere/rhubarb/haiku.html) is typical, inviting all- comers to contribute their efforts no matter how terrible. What's more, pure haiku's distillation of a "moment" seems to chime with the instant, sound-bite culture of the Net. An example of this can be found at www.coolwebsite.com/haikus.htm which serves up the day's current affairs in the form of haiku headlines.

And it suits the time-pushed surfer too: would you rather read a 17-syllable elegy to a dead hamster on a haiku site or a 17-page obituary? Why not try for yourself: it's a devil to get right, but an easy form to mimic badly, as some of the sites point out.