Melhuish Grade 12

Monday, March 27, 2017 - By: Aidan H, Ellis ‘17; Photo by Jim Ganley

The following is the winning Grade 12 speech winner in this year’s Melhuish Speaking Contest.

So, you’ve just been given an assignment in English class. The paper is slapped down on your desk. Your eyes widen at the words “free verse poem” (shudder). The clutches of anxiety close in on your fragile teenage psyche because of the sheer number of daunting variations of poetry. But a heavenly light shines down on you, and you know exactly what to write -- a haiku.

 Billy Collins, a poet laureate of the United States: his favorite poetry form? The Haiku. He writes

Mid-winter evening –

alone at a sushi bar,

just me and this eel.

 This is the beauty

 of the haiku – it’s simple,

 elegant, refined.

So why is it such an overlooked form of poetry? 17 syllables is perfectly bite-sized for our apparently miniscule millennial attention spans.

So you’re telling me,

I can write a haiku, and

Study chemistry?


So who needs the length of epic poetry like the Iliad and Odyssey, Shakespeare’s  plays, or God-forbid Chaucer. Because the thing is, at Brentwood, we’re just too damn busy. Trying to write the next Divine Comedy is just a bad idea. But when you say, Ms. MacInnis, can I please write a haiku, she gives you this look that says, “What are you: stupid, or just dumb?”

 Actually, a Harvard study says haiku writing makes people cleverer, and that haikus stimulate the mind in ways other poetry cannot: haikus are intelligent --take this haiku about getting out of bed:

no no no no no

no no no no no no no

no no no no no

But the haiku is just as relevant and beautiful as Shakespeare, or Milton, or Chaucer. And more than any other type of poetry, haikus are incredibly diverse!

Take this haiku love poem:

My love, preserved

Your icy white complexion


Now haikus are often seasonal – take this one about winter:

I wake, reluctant:

Too cold to get out of bed,

But I need to pee.

But the only problem is

Space is limited

In a haiku, so it's hard

To finish what you

Aidan H, Ellis ‘17

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