Moby-Monday: A big honking book in tiny poems

I will write haiku / without "Call me Ishmael" / e'en if it kills me!
You might think nothing could be more antithetical to Herman Melville’s sprawling Moby-Dick than haiku, the compressed Japanese form that was the salvation of every “write a poem” assignment in school: five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables, and time for lunch. But where there’s an idea, there’s a haiku about it on the Internet.

In the case of the white whale, online haiku abound. Here’s one by Dan Higgins, a reader of the Albany (NY) Times Union newspaper:

Call me Ishmael
Then we will go whale hunting
‘Til the thing kills us.

A darker version showed up on muruch.com last week:

Call me Ishmael.
Ahab’s white whale heart of Hell.
Obsessed depths of death.

The king of Moby-Dick haiku, though, is Moby-Dick in Haiku, a hilarious 15-part retelling by the genius behind MadHaiku.com. Here’s chapter one:

Call me Ishmael
a white boy from Manhatto
I’m not really gay!

Noticing a pattern? There are other Moby-Dick haiku out there … and they all seem to start the same way. Do you think Melville wrote that famous first line in five syllables on purpose?

Margaret Guroff is editor and publisher of Power Moby-Dick.

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MegDC

Washington DC writer, teacher, magazine editor, bass player.

4 thoughts on “Moby-Monday: A big honking book in tiny poems”

  1. If only the other 1 zillion lines of Melville’s were five syllables, it would’ve taken me a lot less time to read it.

    Thanks for the shoutout.

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