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Haiku could bring poetry to “no parking” signs

February 18, 2015

“No parking” signs in haiku poetry wouldn’t be as different as I thought.

Imagine if all “no parking” signs in Vancouver had to be written in simple haiku poetry; it’s easy if you try.

Structuring the short prohibitions to vehicular lassitude according to the most basic rules of a 370-year-old form of Japanese poetry is neither all that difficult nor does the result even have to read much like poetry:

No parking allowed (5 syllables)
Unauthorized vehicles (7 syllables)
will be towed away (5 syllables)

The basic structure of Japanese haiku translates into English as exactly 17 syllables broken over exactly three lines: five syllables on the first line, seven on the second and five on the third line.

Writing Haiku is fun in the same way that eating spaghetti is

Traditional Japanese haiku involves connecting two juxtaposed images — generally from nature; while typical North American haiku is satisfied to simply meet the syllable break requirements. Thus North American haiku can be every bit as authentic as North American spaghetti, if you know what I mean.

But that’s okay. As a kid I never gave a care to how authentic Chef Boyardee spaghetti was, I just enjoyed eating it.

Similarly, messing around with haiku can be great fun because the less you understand it the easier it is to create.

Start by satisfying the line and syllable break requirements. If you enjoy doing it enough to care about creating more traditional haiku just ask Google; the Internet loves haiku.

What got me stuck on the whole idea


What got me thinking about haiku on signs was a sticker tag I saw Tuesday morning. The hand-lettered tag was stuck on the bottom of a condo’s “no parking” sign and declared:

Interpretations of others [sic] Motivations are usually WRONG.

Most graffiti tags on street furniture are territory-marking devices advertising the existence of the tagger (yawn); but this sticker tag actually advertised that someone had a brain and was using it.

We could do with more of that sort of thing in the back alleys I thought and the rest was history, or at least led up to this post.

Okay, so it’s not exactly poetry in motion

Haiku “no parking” signs could become another one of those ‘things” that Vancouver becomes known for, like wooden utility poles and…all those other things the city is known for — whatever they might be.

In order to provide guidance to any city of Vancouver staff tasked with drafting a suitable haiku “no parking” sign by-law — and to demonstrate how thoroughly practical they can be (as well as entertaining and thought-provoking), I end with a few sample verses:

don’t block the driveway
if you must block the driveway
we must tow your car

no parking here please!
towing and booting will be
enforced at all times

people may stop here
cars and trucks are not people
they may not stop here

you drove here by car
but if you also park here
you will leave by bus

no parking allowed
all vehicles will be towed
at owner’s expense

cars must not park here
or else they will end up there
in the impound lot

small as they are now
click to enlarge the images
they will grow on you

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