joiku: sketching the essence of our loved ones

by kye on April 13, 2010

I just made up a new poem form!

Basically, the joiku form is a way of vividly remembering our loved ones.

I called it joiku because it crosses haiku with the Sami art of joiking (also spelled ‘yoiking’).

From haiku it takes the three line form with a roughly 5-7-5 syllable count.  It also borrows the quality of close attention to the experience of this moment.  Lastly, it draws on the poignancy and paradoxical quality of great haiku.

Joiking is a powerful song form in the Sami (native people of Scandinavia) tradition.  A joik (pronounced yoik) captures the essence of a person, place, animal or thing, with a few precise words.

In the tradition, people usually sing about other people or things they know well.  It’s a way of recalling the things you love.  What is meant by ‘recalling’ is quite powerful.  It’s literally a ‘calling back':  an invocation.  A joik is a way of remembering the being who is joiked, making them spiritually present to the performer and audience.

It can also speak directly to the being itself, to call it back.  So the joik may shift to the second-person ‘you’ form, speaking intimately with the one being joiked.

A joik is truthful about a person.  It celebrates not just their strength but also their frailty.  A joik is metaphorical, evocative, pithy, and very intimate.

So… a joiku is:

  • a three line poem, roughly following the 5-7-5 haiku convention
  • written from within the experience of the present moment
  • about someone or something you love
  • directly addressing them
  • holding their essence, their strength, and their frailty in all its paradoxical poignancy
  • and recalling them for you, for others, and even for the person themselves.

I hope you enjoy playing with this new form, and I’d love to read examples of your own joikus in the comments below.

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