Eran's Blog

Biku


Biku - Eran Hadas

On January 2011 I had the honor to be invited to a special event, held
by Tel-Aviv University in memory of brilliant linguist, activist and one of Noam Chomsky’s favorite PHD students, Tanya Reinhart. Chomsky wrote about her.

Reinhardt focused her research on the expansion of the laws of linguistics to explain political structures and forces. One of her legendary legacies was a course she gave on Tel-Aviv University, titled “As Written in the Newspaper”, in which she exemplified how the media serves the dominant ideology using the newspapers that were published on the day her classes took place.

Reinhardt explained that each media item could (and should) be have a threefold reaction. We should first read it as it is, then read it in order to find whom it serves and how it affects us, and then we should write or react, creating our own text that stems from the discourse we just had. So, in honor of her, I turned this mechanism into a poetic genre: Biku.

Store chains
store chains
on shelves

Similarly to a Haiku, a Biku is a condensed poem, comprised of 3 short lines. The main constraint is that two out of the three lines are either phonetically or visually identical, or both, but must have different meanings. They follow Reinhardt’s method of text interpretation. The first line reads at surface value, the second line is identical to the first but its meaning is shifted by contextualization, and the third line grounds the previous lines into a statement of sort. At the event I read a long poem, built of many Biku verses and dedicated it to Tanya. The new genre was well received and since my Bikus were published internationally.

Read face
Red face
Turned white

The genre got a major extension when I was invited to present Biku to the Writhing Society, a group led by Wendy Walker and Thomas La Farge, dedicated to the practice and discourse of the techniques of constrained writing, in the style and spirit of the great Parisian literary Salons. Thomas La Farge initially thought the name Biku referenced a bike; a two wheeled vehicle with a passenger. So he thought it could be the first and third lines that are the same. This enabled for a Biku to become also a Haiku…

As part of KENNY (The Israeli Experimental Writing Group) I also lead workshops about Biku Verse(including in Jerusalem’s First Station – Link in Hebrew). The best part for me about it is to have a diverse audience that assumes yet another expressive writing marathon. They expect to be asked to pour their hearts out, as they did many times before, as part of the routine, just like the daily newspaper. So at first they are confused, but as soon as they get the hang of it, they all get deep into the constraint game of (un)creativity some call poetry. At the end, they create poems that are their own no less than by using traditional methods.