You were expecting Shakespeare?
We hope not, because this is a story about a different kind of bard. Call him the bard of oy vey.
David Bader ’85 has transformed a classic poetic form into something to kvell about in his book Haikus for Jews: For You, A Little Wisdom. Using the five-syllable/seven-syllable/five-syllable format that marks the traditional Japanese poem about the beauties of the natural world, Bader has produced a book of poems reflecting his own traditions. Like that unbreakable rule, oft heard at the beach, passed down by generations of Jewish mothers:
The sparkling blue sea
Beckons me to wait one hour
after my sandwich.
Bader’s book, which has gone through multiple printings since it was published a year ago, has emerged as an Internet phenomenon, with office workers sharing their favorites (for those e-mailers, the author reminds you: Would it kill you to buy the book?). A T-shirt is in the offing, and Bader said that he could probably produce enough poems for a haiku-a-month calendar, as he continues to write them at a feverish pace.
“I am still writing haikus, unfortunately,” he said. “Someday I hope to graduate to complete sentences. Each day I force myself to write a syllable. If it’s no good, I’ll rewrite.”
Bader has not always served as a haiku master. After HLS he worked for two law firms. But the “boredom and adrenaline” that dominated the job caused him to seek other pursuits. He had written creatively prior to law school but never found the time when practicing as a lawyer. His first book, How to Be an Extremely Reform Jew, combined his interests in humor and in religion. Haikus for Jews, he said, “was a continuation on the Jewish theme and also was good for short attention spans. It also helped that it rhymed.”
He has heard variations on the theme of: “For this you went to Harvard Law School?” Writing humor books was not what he expected to do when he enrolled at HLS. But he also didn’t expect that he would not like his job practicing law. So he plans to continue writing professionally. Because even though “you can make a bad living out of it,” he said, “the hours are much better.”