|Photo by Nanette Gonzales|
The Haiku North America Conference is where enthusiasts from across the globe meet for long discussions about the world's shortest poems. For instance, Sophia Frentz, a rosy-cheeked, wry and articulate 21-year-old genetics student, and her mother, journalist Sandra Simpson, flew in from New Zealand.
They are standing in one of the ballrooms on board the Queen Mary in Long Beach, where the conference is taking place, waiting to present their paper: "The Science of Haiku." "Mum noticed a recent upswell in the number of haikus with scientific concepts," Frentz explains.
A typical haiku consists of three lines and 17 syllables — a poem so short it can be uttered in one breath. It is meant to convey the essence of an experience. "Much of the art of haiku is in the simplification of a complex set of ideas, emotions and observations into a single moment," Simpson explains. A haiku seems intrinsically incompatible with something so vast, specific "and frankly incomprehensible to many" as science.
"And yet one of the greatest scientific achievements of the 20th century," she notes, "is shorter than most haiku: E=mc2." Science-related haiku do exist. "But how successful are they?"More »