Wolfku Garden

Wolfku Garden


Wolfku, noun; a short, as a rule seventeen-syllable, poem that is part epiphany, part aphorism, and part haiku; derivation: Rowan Wolf Haiku

Garden, noun; a plot of ground where flowers and other cultivated plants grow, including the soil, the conditions, and the care taken to grow them; derivation: from Old French gardin, of Germanic origin; compare Old High German gart, enclosure


Some years back, I grew very interested haiku. Initially, because these short gems struck me as the perfect match for Twitter—a marriage made in digital heaven, as it were. Besides, how hard could it be to write a seventeen-syllable poem.

As I normally do when my interest alights on something, I read several books on the subject (that this time included Higginson and Harter’s wonderful The Haiku Handbook) and from there proceeded to immerse myself in several well-known haiku masters, such as Bashō, Buson, Issa, Shiki, et al.

Meanwhile, I began trying my hand at these things, initially strictly adhering to the five-seven-five syllable format, which, I soon came to find out (from online self-proclaimed haiku gurus), was quite a crude adaptation of that principle seeing that Japanese syllables do not necessarily correspond to English syllables (which are, by expert reckoning, quite unwieldy by comparison). Also, reading a lot of (published and respected) English language haiku I soon realized that both the five-seven-five and the seventeen-syllable “rules” had long since been abandoned by the better haiku poets.

As a result of seeing things in this particular light, I soon began taking liberties with the five-seven-five rule but for some odd reason the seventeen-English-syllable statute remained on the books, refused to leave, had found a home in me—if for no other reason than that my little haikus (which I soon named Wolfkus for an obvious reason) seemed to percolate to the surface fully grown and just about always in a string of seventeen-syllable creations. And when they did not, say they surfaced as an eighteen-syllable Wolfku, or a sixteen-syllable one, well, then I discovered that when I sand-papered the longer one into seventeen, or inflated the shorter one into seventeen: the meaning seemed clearer, more definite—besides, this was a fun exercise (I love language and its many words and their bendable uses).

Struck by something, an image, a feeling, a thought, before long this seventeen-syllable raft came bopping to the surface (having been let go of by some curious and creative, though shy, deep-sea Wolfku deity). During a morning’s walk by the Pacific, three or four or sometimes five of these Wolfkus might surface, and it was all I could do to remember them all until I returned home to a pen or a keyboard.

Sometimes I did forget them, memory like a sieve these days.

Before not so long, many of these Wolfkus arrived more as aphorisms than true haikus, as little containers of distilled perhaps philosophical reflection. Well, since many of them struck me (the creator, or recipient might be a better word) as both unique and insightful, who was I to call a halt to this quite enjoyable, if curious, phenomenon.

A phenomenon that still flourishes and seems to have no intention to do otherwise, for I rarely return from an hour’s walk without some seventeen-syllable epigram or other.

Seeing, though, that the earth from which these Wolfkus sprung (and still spring)—the Wolfku Garden where they grew—was replete with impressions and sometimes micro-epiphanies, I thought that perhaps it was time to revisit these Wolfkus and examine this fertile soil for what else it might hold. What, indeed, gave birth to them, what carried them from darkness to light? And where did they, in turn, carry me? This is what gave birth to the idea of a Wolfku Garden—a collection of Wolfkus and their underlying musings.

Here is the result.

A wide-open gate
  hinges rusted brown with years
  Who left it open?


Gates, as a rule, are closed—or they are in the process of being opened to then be closed, or in the process of being closed—especially those set in fences that stretch across open fields; we don’t want the animals (sheep, cows, lions) escaping now, do we? I can remember catching minor little hells from our farmer-neighbor for leaving a gate or two open—a habit I soon grew out of as a result of the brimstone. Always close gates behind you, it became first the mantra then the law.

And has no one noticed this open gate before now? I try to shut it, but the hinges are more rust than iron and will not yield even a fraction.

Several scenarios scuffle for recognition, me, me, me: some running children, laughing, chasing, flinging the gate open, rushing through, intent on where they are going not where they have been. But wouldn’t someone have noticed this gate left open and closed it?

Some animals are very smart; perhaps some Nobel-prize-caliber donkey figured out how to open the gate and so made his escape, never to be seen or heard from again. Still, why did no one notice?

Or, someone did close the gate, but carelessly. The wind, or some other donkey, did the rest. Still, why did no one notice?

Or, or, or.

And wide open. That’s not the wind’s, or chance’s doing. It stands so deliberately open, cannot stand more open. It’s an intentional act, then. A long, long ago intentional act. Perhaps the final act of the farmer closing things down and heading for the city—too far in debt to rely on his not at all profitable farm to dig him out; a pity, it’s been in the family so long. So, to hell with it then, I’ll do exactly what I’ve never done before, leave the gate wide open. Goodbye three hundred sixty-five (some years sixty-six) pre-dawn mornings a year, goodbye a worry about the weather so constant it felt like an ulcer. Goodbye and good riddance.

Or it is a magical gate who knows how to open and close itself that one day, just after opening wide plumb forgot how to close.

Or, or, or.