Saturday, August 11, 2012


Half the fun of being a writer is diving into new genres.  Although I mostly write mysteries, now and again I enjoy wandering into other narrative traditions.  I can’t bring myself to write a romance; I’d probably blush or get something wrong.  And my poetry skills need some work.  
So I decided to try a road test - haiku.  Traditionally, haikus are short poems written in three lines of five, seven, and five syllables.  Sounds easy right?  Well it’s not.  Here’s why: I’m an archaeologist and a college professor, and part of being these things involves reading and writing academic papers.  And academic papers have citations.  But I still had to try.
I’ve always been fascinated by ancient cultures, one of the most enigmatic of which is the Olmec.  As early as 3500 years ago, the Olmec, one of the earliest complex cultures in the new world, began crafting large stone heads called colossal heads.  For my money, it’s something that every culture should do.  
I’ve read a lot about the Olmec, so when it came time to construct my haiku, I had to pick and choose.  But when I finally got my desired syllables in order, the citations got in the way.  What could I do?  Nothing, right?  So here it is in all it’s glory, my haiku about the Olmec with in-text citations:
Style Brokers of the Gulf Coast
Formative (Flannery 1968: 79) motifs (Grove 1989:11)
altars (Grove 1973:129) and colossal heads (Drucker 1981:39)
anal (Heizer 1968:10) abstract (Coe 1989:74) vision (Graham 1981:164).
References Cited
1989 Coe, Michael D - The Olmec Heartland.  In Regional Perspectives on the Olmec.  Eidted by Robert J.  Sharer and David C. Grove.  Cambridge University Press
1981 Drucker, Philip - On the Nature of the Olmec Polity.  In The Olmec and their Neighbors.  Edited by Elizabeth Benson, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.
1968 Flannery, Kent - The Olmec and the Valley of Oaxaca.  In Dumbarton Oaks Conference on the Olmec, edited by Elizabeth Benson, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.
1981 Graham, John A. - Abaj Takalik.  In Ancient Mesoamerica: Selected Readings.  Edited by John A. Graham, University of Florida.
1973 Grove, David - Olmec Altars and Myths.  Archaeology 26: 128-135.
1989 Grove, David - Olmec: What's in a Name.  In Regional Perspectives on the Olmec.  Eidted by Robert J.  Sharer and David C. Grove.  Cambridge University Press
1968 Heizer, Robert E. - New Observations on La Venta.  In Dumbarton Oaks Conference on the Olmec, edited by Elizabeth Benson, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.
For my next project, I think a larger poem is in order.  For now though, I’d also like to announce that my new Henry Grave mystery novel, Grave Indulgence, has just been published!
It is now available at some of the larger marine-themed bookstores near you, or at -

Grave Indulgence explores crime on the high seas, and establishes a valiant and original protagonist.  Henry Grave is an investigator for the Association of Cruising Vessel Operators.  A World War II P.O.W., Henry is as cunning as he is charming, and at 85 years of age, he fits right in with his fellow passengers.
At 1200 feet long, the cruise ship Indulgence is the largest in the world.  Accommodating 5400 passengers and 2100 crew members, she is nearly as populous as the Pacific island nation of Nauru.  At 226,000 tons, she weighs as much as four and a half Titanics.  
Indulgence is anchored off Helsinki, Finland, preparing to take on passengers for her inaugural voyage when Henry comes aboard.  Indulgence is one day old, and nobody has yet been murdered on board.  The same could not be said about day two.
With the help of an Arabian prince, a voodoo priest, and a displaced band of hunter-gatherers,  Henry draws on skills honed in a Nazi prison camp to track down a killer who might have his own reasons for taking this particular cruise, reasons unrelated to the sumptuous meals, delightful shipboard activities, and exciting ports of call.
12 million people take a cruise each year.
Most have fun.
Some die.
Henry Grave investigates.


Charles Gramlich said...

I also really like exploring new genres. I'd eventually like to publish something in every genre! I have some haiku that have been published. Haven't written any in a while but I much enjoy the form.

William Doonan said...

I hear you, Charles. I think I'm going to give poetry a shot next, and then move on to pirate romance.

Patricia Gligor said...

I can hardly wait to see what you're going to do next. You amaze me! Two terrific mystery series and the fifteen million other things you've accomplished. What's your secret?

William Doonan said...

Thanks, Patricia. I get a lot done during summer vacation. Once the school year starts, it's back to the acid mines!

John Brantingham said...

I think Basho should be ashamed of his lack of citation. He'd be drummed out of any good college program!

William Doonan said...

Publish or perish, John. That's the business we're in. And that's probably why Basho never finished his Ph.D.

Eugenia O'Neal said...

That haiku was great! I find the pre-Conquest Americas fascinating, myself.

Good luck with your newest!

Liane Spicer said...

Seeing that I recently had to write haikus for a class and was the winner of the competition at the end, I feel qualified to critique yours!

1. There are six syllables in line 3, not five.
2. I did not read your references.
3. This was original and very funny! I think you should tackle a ghazal next! :D

Congratulations on the latest 'Grave' release and look forward to reading them.

William Doonan said...

A ghazal -- I love it! I'm putting it on my to do list.

Sally Carpenter said...

Bill, the poem with the citations is hilarious! Reminds me of when I was in grad school writing research papers and struggling to read books written by college profs. I decided that "academic" writing meant no one could understand it.