The Art of High Coo (An Emerging Form of Short Poetry Similar to Haiku)

“High Coo” is a not the correct spelling of the classic form. The classic form is spelled “haiku”. It is a Japanese poetry form with a specific arrangement of syllables. “High Coo” is a play on this word, and in the opinion of this writer, an emerging style in and of itself.

I started writing “High Coo” in the late 80’s and upon publishing them found that I was not alone in this invention. I had been looking for an adequate “genre” label for what had become my blatant disregard for syllable count whilst writing short form poetry. Whether it be a fascination with fitting as much as possible into a small space (like packing the trunk of a car before a road trip), or the sheer joy of capturing something profound and vital in a very few words, this type of poem continues to be my favorite.

Quite honestly, it is something that happens all by itself. What doesn’t, right? I will often crawl out of bed in the middle of the night just to scribble down a few words on the closest piece of paper. Call them mantras or a koan or whatever you will, they carry a particular power.

I can appreciate the discipline that comes with the syllable structure of traditional haiku, yet for me a clear understanding of something captured in a few words is what it is really about. I say “syllable schmyllable” and practice the art of simplicity-in-language and honesty-of-experience without any strict form.

Whether it be by reflecting on something in nature, or by reflecting on something in my own experience, poems with just a few words in them can really hit the spot. As a reader, I am always thankful for a poem that is digestible in length, and gets to the point. Long pretentious poems wear me out quickly.

The path to “enlightenment” or just feeling the best we can about life, must necessarily be by way of personal growth-traversing many moments where misunderstanding transforms into understanding. Haiku, “high coo” or any other form of concise testament is often a chronicle of these transitions. There is a special beauty in recorded revelation, and it is often expressed concisely. Truth has a strange simplicity to it whether it is mine, yours or universal.

“High” (uplifting, aspiring) “Coo” (innocent, spontaneous muttering) is the perfect name for this type of poem. After thirty years of writing and scribbling, it is undeniably the art form that comes most natural to me. My guess is that it comes as natural to many others. Almost all of my poetry is this short and would consequently fall into this category of poetry.

Here are a few examples:

by the time you finish
making your point
it will be the same
as everyone else’s

her dog smiled
even if she
couldn’t bring herself

High Coo Kerpoo
high coo kerpoo
big bang two
and the
nuclear arms race
is over

Contemplation Takes the Gold
do you think it’s possible
that staring at the ceiling
will ever become
an Olympic event?

I have found that reworking these natural pieces to fit a syllable-per-line strict form often robs them of their inherent value and organic unity. After all, this haiku-ization can only be accomplished through a deliberate-de-liberate (not liberated) effort. Let’s face it; part of the joy of writing “high coo” is in the expression of irreverence for the traditional form. Most of what the Muses drop into my head has an angle that is very Zen-like in its joy and playfulness- laughter at the absurdity of the ideas that we fall prey to so easily.

The joy in this witnessing of inspired arrangements (via Muses) is doubled by the prevailing amusement for over the process of personal growth (as in “How I could have previously thought otherwise?). Struck by the clarifying insight, and still giggling with delight over the freedom from one more mental shackle, the words still buzzing their narration drive me towards the nearest pen and paper.

On whose authority will this form of poetry be officially recognized? Let’s hope it isn’t soon, because with it will come a homogenized version. It may then appear on cereal boxes, and advertising campaigns. Let’s enjoy its obscurity while we still can.

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