Beckett in Haiku

BECKETT IN HAIKU:

The sun rose, and shone,
having no alternative,
on the nothing new.

Sam sat out of it,
as though he were free,
and not captured in haiku.

The first two sentences of Samuel Beckett’s 1938 novel “Murphy” form one of the most resonant openings to any novel in 20th century fiction: “The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.  Murphy sat out of it, as though he were free, in a mew in West Brompton.”

I recently read a charming novella: “The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman” by a Canadian writer, Denis Theriault.  The story is all about haikus, and the effect they have upon the main characters.  I learned quite a lot about haikus, as I was reading the novella, and the opening sentences of “Murphy” kept springing into my mind.  I realized that this was happening because those opening sentences – although they were written purely as prose – had exactly the same resonance as a haiku; or, to be exact, two consecutive haikus.  I decided to rewrite Beckett’s sentences, and cast them in the form of two connecting haikus, which required some slight, judicious editing, in order to satisfy the necessary syllabic structure.  I admit the resulting poem is a collaboration between Beckett and myself, and will probably be meaningless to anybody unfamiliar with haiku or “Murphy”; but, if it attracts more readers to “The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman” and/or “Murphy”, it will have served its purpose! 

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