at night he forgets
track you down
under that blanket
to drift away
By now here in Wisconsin, our first snow is a long distant memory — I think we’re about on our ninth. But “first snow” sounds, you know, more poetic than “ninth snow.” Although now that I have written this I think I will go off and write some haiku about snows other than first snows, because they deserve a little attention too.
nearly full moon not nearly enough
I went too far again a slice off the moon
and again I apologize for the moon
dead broke but there’s the moon
with or without you the moon
I fail again at trying the moon
all the time I’ve spent being someone else the moon
don’t kid yourself you’ll never be the moon
so we were driving out to the East Coast for Christmas (which takes eighteen hours) and as usual I just sat in the car and looked out the window and napped and daydreamed and didn’t read or write or talk or do much of anything else, until suddenly around 10:00 p.m. I decided it would be a good idea to haul out my little all-purpose notebook (it’s a score pad! it’s a grocery list! it’s a sketchbook! it’s a haiku repository!) and write haiku in the dark and hope they would be legible in the morning.
and the moon was incredibly cool, just off full and shooting around in and out of the clouds, so most of what I wrote was about the moon, like fifty-something haiku in just over an hour, and you know what that means? most of them were crap. but that’s okay, it was fun, and a few of them were pretty good, and several were not bad, and a reasonable number were all right in a sort of a limited way for an off night (apologies to Paul Simon), which is mostly the kind I have posted here because the ones that were better I am still trying to make even better and the ones that were worse I wouldn’t inflict on you.
anyway, as you can see, the moon makes me happy even when I am slightly depressed, so I guess it’s good that I’m a haiku poet because then no one blinks twice if I write about the moon constantly and they even patiently read all my tedious little moon poems, or if they don’t they’re too nice to tell me about it.
that’s my story. and I’m sticking to it.
So. Christmas is over. Did everyone make it through okay? I’m always interested to hear how other people celebrate Christmas, or don’t celebrate it as the case may be, so if you want to leave me a comment about that or write me a descriptive haiku or something, that would be awesome. No pressure, though.
(Although you do know I am giving away a book to a random commenter this week, though, right? And not even a book by me, but a good book. So you might want to rethink your “nah, who has time to comment?” philosophy just for this week.)
We visited my sister on the East Coast for Christmas. This involved a lot of driving — I mean, a LOT — which I kind of hate, but it was all worthwhile because my sister basically spoiled us rotten. My husband and I slept in till eleven on Christmas Day — I know, I know, but we don’t have little kids jumping on us any more to force us to get up. (Although around ten-thirty my sister and my son started playing Christmas music really loudly to encourage us to keep them company.)
My sister, who is an amazing cook, refused all offers of assistance in making Christmas dinner, so instead of slaving in the kitchen my son and I went for a run around my sister’s insanely beautiful neighborhood and then we all watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on Hulu and then it was time to eat roast beef and Yorkshire pudding (which turned out really well, unlike every Yorkshire pudding I have ever made) and red velvet cake with peppermint frosting. Red. Velvet. Cake. With. Peppermint. Frosting. Um, YEAH.
Then we played “Clue” and my son won and gave his evil overlord laugh, which I totally love, and then we all sat down and started cozily reading (my husband) and memorizing lines for a play (my son) and knitting (my sister) and writing haiku (me). And drinking lots of tea and eating red and green M&Ms and cookies with red and green M&Ms in them, trying to stay awake until midnight when my mother arrived in town on a Greyhound bus, bearing in a plastic bag a large ham and five small apple pies. We are still not sure why. But it all tasted really good.
So that was my Christmas. I don’t know why I think you care, but I like to tell long pointless stories like that and it’s my blog, so that’s how it’s going down.
Now on to why you’re actually here, which is to find out what went down in the Haikuverse this week. I am writing this while wearing the dragonfly earrings my mother gave me for Christmas, so I am totally in the Red Dragonfly spirit and am ready to fill your life with haiku-y goodness. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
So a week or so ago Google introduced its famous/infamous “Ngram viewer,” which is a database of, like, a jillion or so words culled from the gazillions of books it has been scanning for the last several years, which allows you to create graphs showing how the use of word has changed over the years. Best. Thing. Ever. I mean, if you have pet words, you can have so much fun seeing what they have been doing over the centuries.
Here’s the graph I made showing how “haiku,” “tanka,” and “senryu” have fluctuated between 1900 and 2000 (I discovered that all of these words were sufficiently rare in English before 1900 that it was hardly worth graphing them). And here’s the Basho/Issa/Buson/Shiki smackdown, once again 1900-2000. Mostly Basho has been winning, but it looks like Issa has been on the upswing lately, which I am feeling smug about.
Play around with it. And if you come up with interesting haiku-related graphs, feel free to share.
On Twitter last week, M. Kei (kujakupoet), who is compiling an apparently voluminous tanka bibliography in his spare time, started entertaining and educating us with tweets recounting the history of English-language tanka. Well worth checking out if you are interested in tanka at all.
I’ve been spending a lot more time lately over at see haiku here, which features amazing haiga of amazing haiku by Kuniharu Shimizu. Recently Shimizu wrote a very interesting commentary on “focus” in both painting and haiku, featuring Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting “Christina.”
Here’s an excerpt:
“There is a painting of a snow covered forest. Everything, trees, snow on leaves, ground, is skillfully painted. I like the quietness emanating from the whole canvas. Then I notice. Something is lacking. Something that enhances the mood already present there, is missing. I tentatively name that something a focal point.
Haiku is a very small poetry, yet it is powerful. The reason resides in its structure, juxtaposition of two things. Basho called it “Toriawase”. Placement of two unexpected but somehow related things seems to evoke new awareness, pleasant surprise, and the switch of your imagination goes on, enabling you to appreciate it to a great extent.”
– Kuniharu Shimizu, see haiku here
robotto ga robotto tsukuru fuyu-mayonaka
– Noburo Yasui, translated by Fay Aoyagi
in the red sea
— Maya Idriss
I have not even come close to examining a tiny fraction of what is in the archive of David Giacalone’s defunct blog f/k/a, but it’s a big one, and one of the things in it was that amazing long dissection of haiku by Jim Kacian that I discussed in the last Haikuverse edition, so I’m suspecting there is a lot of other great stuff in there too. Report back to me on what you find.
(And for some reason I just now noticed that the author is one Christina Nguyen, whom I follow on Twitter under the name of TinaNguyen, and who writes a lot of wonderful haiku and gogyoghka — just Google it if you don’t know what that is, I don’t have time to explain right now. Her blog is linked below.)
I read Issa
This haiga by George O. Hawkins blew me away when he posted it on Facebook last week. If you can’t see the picture, basically it’s a fancy picture of a butterfly, but the haiku … I rarely read any haiku that so perfectly and delicately combines the spirit (and content) of classical Japanese haiku with the spirit (and content) of contemporary American life. Nice work, George.
— George O. Hawkins
And Vincent Hoarau continues to stun me with so many of the French haiku he posts on Facebook, like this one from last week’s astronomical event:
solstice d’hiver -
il allume la lumière
de sa mappemonde
– vincent hoarau
Gillena Cox is having a “12 Days of Christmas” celebration at her blog Lunch Break, to which anyone can contribute haiku either by emailing them to Gillena or by posting comments on one of the 12 days. She’s up to Day Four today (theme: Four Calling Birds, or the four gospels). The first three days featured haiku by yours truly. (Never before seen! Act now!) Why don’t you head over there and see what you can come up with?
This will be the last Haikuverse of 2010, so naturally I need to discuss the last “Issa’s Sunday Service” of 2010 from last Sunday’s Issa’s Untidy Hut. The featured song is “Turn, Turn, Turn,” that sixties folk-rock standby on which I have a guilty crush. There are links to versions by both the Byrds and Judy Collins and Pete Seeger. There is also a great, thematically appropriate Issa haiku, which I would cut my right arm off with a dull penknife to have written:
a new year–
the same nonsense
piled on nonsense
– Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue
Dead Tree News: I left you with a cliffhanger last time when I discussed the first two of six chapters about the development of haikai poetry in Donald Keene’s World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era 1600-1867. I know you’ll be thrilled to hear that I have just finished chapter 3 and so you can find out what happened to haikai after it was given the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval by Matsunaga Teitoku in the seventeenth century.
Well, naturally what happened is that haikai became divided into competing schools, because that is what human beings do as soon as they invent something cool — they start to argue about what it really is and who should be in charge of it. On the plus side, this led to a lot more creative haikai as poets tried to carve out their own little niches in the haikai world:
Look at that! and that!
Is all I can say of the blossoms
At Yoshino Mountain.
Hey there, wait a moment!
Before you strike the temple bell
At the cherry blossoms.
— Shigeyori (This one references a No play, which his school of haikai did a lot)
Thanks to my gazing
I got a pain from the blossoms
In the bone of my neck.
— Nishiyama Soin, founder of the Danrin school of haikai. (This one is making fun of an old waka that waxes sentimental about cherry blossoms.)
There are some amazing stories about how fast these guys could compose haikai — Saikaku wrote a thousand in a day once, which everyone was impressed by until he wrote 1600 in a day and a night, which seemed amazing until he dictated 4000 in the same amount of time, which no one thought he could top until he composed 23,500 verses in a day and a night — “too fast for the scribes to do more than tally,” says Keene. Naturally, most of them weren’t much good, but that apparently wasn’t his goal: “His poetry delighted in the present, in the rapidly shifting patterns of the ‘floating world’ where the waves formed only to break.”
Despite all the quarrels between the competing schools, Soin wrote a really interesting statement of his haikai philosophy, which I can get completely behind:
Whether in the old style, the current style, or the in-between style, a good poet is a good poet, and a bad one a bad one; there is no such thing as distinguishing which style is the correct one; the best thing is to amuse oneself by writing what one likes; it is a joke within a fantasy.
Soin did not hesitate to express this philosophy with irreverent and humorous poems that took aim at the pieties of other schools and past generations, such as:
The smoke never ceases
Over the funeral pyre.
Doesn’t it make the kites and
And that brings us almost to Basho, who was indebted to both schools of haikai for his masterpieces. Keene says, “From Teitoku he learned the importance of craftsmanship, from Soin the importance of spontaneity and of describing the present moment. Both elements were to be essential in developing the mature haikai.”
I’m feeling inspired already. On to the next chapter! Oh, and to the writing of more haiku. I hope your own work is going well in this week between holidays. It’s been a pleasure circulating the Haikuverse with you. I’ll see you again after the earth begins another trip around the sun.
he’d run out
yeah, I know, five lines. so I guess that makes this a tanka, or a gogyoghka, or something. or else a really incompetent haiku.
I really need to research tanka and gogyoghka. I have been trying not to pay attention to them because haiku are time-consuming enough, and also usually when I read tanka I have this feeling like, “This would be a really great haiku if you cut out two lines.” But so many people seem to swear by them, so maybe I should get with the program.
every year we think we’ve lost
the shepherds are guarding
the light in the stable
folding a crane to replace
the broken angel
the Wise Men never let go
of their gifts
Joseph stares out
of the window
the animals eye the manger
from the visitors
packing away the miracle
for next year
A very Merry Christmas to all my readers who are celebrating the holiday today. Thanks for all your well-wishes this season and all your support this year. Much joy to you and your families.
the grownups hang their stockings
the houses across the street
all have fireplaces
for the full moon
scheduled to post at 5:38 p.m. CST, when the sun stops and time starts running backward and history repeats itself and … oh, that’s not what happens? never mind, then.
NOTE: HNA 2011 will now NOT take place in Rochester, but in Seattle, Washington, from August 3-7.
Please check out the new details at the above link or at the HNA website!
I am only leaving this page up for archival purposes. Again, its details have been superseded by the information at the links above.
Michael Dylan Welch, the vice-president of the Haiku Society of America and an organizer of this conference, sent me this press release to post here, which I am very happy to do because I want you all to come to this.
I mean, I’m not completely sure I’m going to be able to come to it — I was definitely going to when they were planning to have it in Decatur, which is not all that far from here, but getting to Rochester will require some serious planning. And money. And luck. But if I can, I will, because I had a fantastic time at my first haiku conference and I think if anything this will be even better. And then we’ll all see each other there. Right?
New Location: Haiku North America to be Held in Rochester, New York, July 27–31, 2011
Organizers of the 2011 Haiku North America conference are pleased to announce that Rochester, New York, will now host the 2011 HNA conference, to be held July 27–31, 2011. The conference will maintain the theme of education in haiku and will take place at the Rochester Institute of Technology, cosponsored by the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, by the Postsecondary Educational Network-International funded by the Nippon Foundation of Tokyo, and by the Rochester Area Haiku Group. Led by Jerome Cushman, the local organizing committee also includes Carolyn Dancy, Deb Koen, and Deanna Tiefenthal, with local and long-distance help from Francine Banwarth, Randy Brooks, and others. Anticipated activities include an Erie Canal boat cruise, banquet, regional readings, a memorial reading, anthology, T-shirts, and possible visits to nearby cultural attractions, including the National Museum of Play and a guided tour of historic Mt. Hope Cemetery, the oldest Victorian municipal cemetery in America and burial site of Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglas, and poet Adelaide Crapsey. More details will be provided at www.haikunorthamerica.com and on the HNA Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Haiku-North-America/113127392085466 (please take a look and click Like! if you’re a Facebook member). For more information, please contact Jerome Cushman at email@example.com or Michael Dylan Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to seeing you at Haiku North America in Rochester!
Note: Randy Brooks and Millikin University regret that they are not able to host HNA in 2011. We’re grateful for Randy’s initial work in planning HNA for 2011, and also grateful to haiku poets in Rochester, New York, for taking on the conference. Don’t miss it!
—Michael Dylan Welch, Garry Gay, and Paul Miller
Call for Proposals
If you already submitted a proposal for HNA at Millikin University, it will still be considered (no need to resend). If you would like to submit a new proposal, please send it to Michael Dylan Welch at WelchM@aol.com by January 31, 2011. The theme will be education in haiku, but proposals do not have to fit the theme. Proposals can include papers, presentations, panel discussions, readings, workshops, or other activities featuring haiku and related literature (except tanka) in North America. Please provide the following details with your proposal (directly in your email message; no attached files, please):
1. Title (as you would want it to appear in the conference program—make it catchy or provocative if appropriate).
2. A maximum of 50 words describing your presentation (as you would want it to appear in the conference program; please write to attract an audience).
3. Additional descriptions or goals of your presentation (for the benefit of conference organizers), mentioning any planned handouts or activities.
4. Special needs such as digital projection (for PowerPoint presentations), audio, whiteboard, etc.
5. Length of time needed or preferred.
I feel like giving you a present. Well, not all of you. I mean, yes, I do feel like giving you all presents, but I only have enough presents for one of you. Does that sound mean? Let me explain further.
This must be a thing left over from when I used to read a lot of craft blogs (I like to sew). Crafters are always making things and they always have spare bits and bobs and squares of fabric and darling little things they have whipped up in the middle of sleepless nights, and they are always giving them away to each other. They say on their blogs, “I happen to have this pile of darling fabric scraps and a pencil cozy I knitted last night, and I am going to give it all away to a random person who comments on this post.” It created a lot of camaraderie, plus, I imagine, it kept people coming back to read the blog in the hopes that next time they would be the one to win the pencil cozy.
Don’t worry, I don’t have any pencil cozies. What I do have is yet another book I picked up during my epic used-bookstore visit a couple of weeks ago. The thing is that I already own this book, a fact of which I was completely aware when I purchased it. This is a weird habit of mine. When I find nice used copies of books I really love, even if I already own a perfectly nice copy, even if they’re not rare, I often feel compelled to buy them anyway. Then I bring them home and stare at my bookshelves, which occupy pretty much all the spare floor space in my house and are so full I have begun stacking books horizontally on top of the vertical ones, and despair yet again of my sanity.
In this case, however, I conceived of a win-win solution to this problem: I would give away this book, which it just so happens I have written about at length on this very blog, to one of my readers. Not just because I need to get rid of a book. Not just because I like you. Not just because it’s the time of year when people traditionally give gifts to people they like.
But also because I like wrapping up books and tucking them in those cute little padded envelopes and trotting them down to the pharmacy-cum-post office on the corner and saying, “I would like to mail this, please,” which I always say even though what else would I be doing handing the people at the post office an addressed envelope? Don’t ask me why I like doing this, I just do. So you’re doing me a favor, really.
This copy of Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (in case you were too lazy to click through to the link above) is a nice little rack-sized paperback that looks as if it’s never been read. It was printed in Japan as part of the “Unesco Series of Contemporary Works,” but it’s entirely in English and includes the enlightening introduction by the translator, Edward G. Seidensticker.
So here’s the rundown: Comment on my blog. I know, you were going to do that anyway, weren’t you? Weren’t you? I will make a list of everyone who comments between now and December 31st (your name only gets to go on the list once, sorry, even if you comment every day, which I would be thrilled if you did).
Then I’ll put all the names in a hat, or something, and pull one out, and mail that person the book sometime after the New Year. It’s pretty simple, really.
(I may also include a special haiku I write just for you. You never know. Haiku don’t take up very much space in envelopes.)
constellations all the collections I’ve abandoned
everything I’ve learned
constellations it all made sense at the time