Oscar Pool Haiku

I worked for many years at a San Francisco law firm where one of the partners organized an office pool. You would buy a ticket for $2 and fill in a form trying to predict the winners of the Academy Awards, and whoever won would get a prize. This partner sent out invitations to the pool every year, in haiku; here is a sample (Postini was our office spam filter).

Oscar haikus are
Now coming back in fashion
Can Postini stop?

Of course it cannot.
Because this is not real spam.
Am not touting pills

Or male hair loss cure.
Merely encouraging you
To enter the Pool.

Ballot and two bucks
Should be remitted to me.
Please enter today!

I would always reply in haiku, usually in bursts, but would never fill in the form or enter the contest.

I have no idea
Who will win on Oscar Night.
I’d just be bluffing.

Here are some selections from my contributions.

Looked on your form, but
Lawrence of Arabia
Isn’t even there.

And I couldn’t name
Spencer Tracy best actor
(Bad Day at Black Rock).

And what happened to
Jessica Lange’s performance in
Frances? It’s not there.

Jennifer Hudson –
Well, OK, she’s on the list,
And Helen Mirren.

But really, we need
More scope for our selections.
Form needs revising.

One year the partner sent out Dr. Seuss-like poems instead of haiku, but then followed up with haiku anyway. I replied. (Westlaw was the legal research program I did my work on.)

I enjoyed the poems
In the style of Dr. Seuss.
But these are better.

I find these haiku
Powerfully seductive.
Wish I’d seen the flicks.

At last receptive,
I’m too far away to play!
Story of my life.

Maybe now I’ll watch.
Is sweet Mary Pickford on
The ballot this year?

Writing haiku is
Easier to start than stop.
No doubt you know this.

Tear myself away.
Turn to Westlaw. Think about
Licensing issues.

In my heart I know
William Bendix has to win
An Oscar at last.

This was my response another year (it must have been 2007, the year Blood Diamond was nominated).

How can I predict
If a film I have not seen
Will win an Oscar?

I don’t want to see
Blood Diamond with its awful
Scenes of carnage.

I don’t want to see
Pan’s Labyrinth, or Babel.
Life is sad enough.

I won’t even see
Letters from Iwo Jima
Horror, blood and death.

That’s why I haven’t
Joined in the competition.
Not that I’m lazy.

What I really want
Is for Happy Feet to win
Each category.1

There was a Hollywood writers’ strike one year.

Being a writer,
I can’t cross the picket line
To write a haiku.

Then the strike was settled.

Writers back to work.
But I still have no idea
Who’ll win the Oscars.

How can I fill out
A ballot with blind guesses?
Setup for failure.

Ask me something else.
I can name the Presidents
In the right order.

The partner liked my haiku.

Glad they amused you.
Cast no Oscar vote, but that’s
Something anyway.

Here’s another’s year’s burst.

Every year’s the same.
You send me an entry form.
I do not enter.

Pattern never fails,
Just as springtime always brings
Peony blossoms.

If I entered now,
The whole world’s careful order
Could fly in pieces.

Seasons upended,
Climate seizures, earthquakes, floods.
Darkness at noontime.

Earth jolts off its axis.
Dust storms cover the sunlight.
Worldwide extinctions.

I’d like to tell you
Who will win the Oscars, but
I just can’t risk it.

The exchange from 2009. The partner opens.

Take just a moment
And fill in the entry form.
Nothing to lose here.

The haikus won’t stop
Until you enter the Pool
So surrender now!

I am persistent,
I will not be dissuaded.
And admit, it’s fun.

My reply.

You speak to me now
In words I can understand.
Five, seven and five.

The only thing is,
I’ve not seen most of those flicks.
Seen hardly any.

How can I decide
If Mickey Rourke is better than
Brad Pitt, or isn’t?

Gotta see the films,
Otherwise I’d only guess.
What’s the point of that?

Pennies in a stream
Falling leaves, a sycamore
Moonlight in Vermont.

Wait, that’s not a film!
Got a bit diverted there.
Same rhythmic pattern.

Slumdog Millionaire
Shows people blinding a child.
No way I’ll see that.

Frozen River? Drab
Misery and poverty
In upstate New York.

I mean really, Joan.
I’ve got problems of my own.
Who has time for that?

Once again this year,
I’ll let this cup pass from me.
What else can I do?

I was trained too well.
Cautious lawyers fear to guess
What they do not know.

Her reply.

I love your haikus,
They are among the very best.
Yet you don’t enter.

My heart weeps like rain
Falling from the grey heavens.
You are so stubborn.

My reply.

Thanks for your kind words.
Who can tell, one of these days
I may surprise you.

And after the results were announced:

All’s well that ends well.
See? You didn’t need my vote
Or my two dollars.

Alison’s honored.
I’m not humiliated.
A happy ending!

My last Oscar burst.

Every year the seasons,
of planting, blooming, reaping,
of not entering.

I long to enter,
but my ox reproaches me:
Keep your furrow straight!

Before light, my fate
was cast: birth, growth, work, love, death,
but no Oscar pool.

I must walk my path.
God’s law holds that we may not
challenge destiny.

It was ever thus.
Some sail out to brave new worlds,
Some are left behind.

Keep e-mails coming.
I will watch the giddy race
silent from the shore.

  1. Happy Feet was an animated film about a dancing penguin. I saw it three or four times.