Across the Haikuverse, No. 19: Summer 2011 College Tour Edition
by Melissa Allen
Forgive me if this edition is a little light. I’m running around getting ready to drag my son on a week-long two-thousand-mile college tour, because apparently while I wasn’t looking he outgrew his footie pajamas and learned to drive and do calculus and now he’s ready to light out for the territories. But I didn’t want to leave you hanging without any news from the Haikuverse until I get back.
While I’m out and about I’m planning to briefly abandon my family and drop in on the annual Haiku Circle gathering in Northfield, Massachusetts. I’m really excited about this because I’ll get to meet a whole new set of haiku poets than the wonderful Midwestern set I already know. I love being able to put faces and voices and personalities to the names of the poets I read, and I love that the haiku community is so small that it is actually possible to meet and hang out with most of the poets whose poetry makes your heart skip several beats when you read it. Maybe I’ll drop you a line from the action on Saturday.
Okay, let’s get on with it. I still have maps to print out and stuff…although not sure why I bother, I’m gonna get lost anyway.
Haikai of Note
What’s everyone been writing lately? Anything good? Is the coming of warmer weather inspiring to you or does it just make you want to go to the beach and read stupid novels and forget about subtle Japanese poetry for a while? Personally, I think I tend to write more in the winter, when it’s dark and cold and there’s nothing else to do. All this bright light is distracting.
There’s still plenty of good poetry appearing every day on the Interwebs, though, so apparently everyone isn’t affected in the same way I am. Here are some of my favorites that have showed up since the last edition.
Milky Way . . .
the way the cow path
rings a hill
— Michele Harvey, DailyHaiku
i still think of you
— Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked
mizu nonde tenjyõ kuraki natsu ashita
a dark ceiling
of a summer morning
— Hiroshi Sakai, translated by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World
shooting star -
— Stella Pierides, Stella Pierides
white and purple -
the scent of lilacs
is a ladder too
— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, scented dust
pear blossoms . . .
which one of these houses
— Laura Garrison, DailyHaiku
share a worm
— Gillena Cox, Lunch Break (This is a wonderful haiga, check it out.)
in the headache
of a high-rise
I poke a gummed nib
into Keats’s Nightingale
— Liam Wilkinson, nearaway
Haibun Today just released a really great issue for June, and I swear I am not saying that just because I am in it. Some of my favorite from this issue: Colin Stewart Jones, “Should Rules Be Broken“; Steven Carter, “Montana“; Glenn G. Coats, “Expectations“; Katherine Cudney, “This World of Dew“; Bob Lucky, “Butter-Less in Ethiopia.”
There are so many haiku journals now that even people like me who actively seek them out and spend way too much time looking at haiku on the web anyway keep stumbling over journals that have existed, in some cases, for years, but that they (meaning me) never even heard of before. The terrifying thing is that most of these seemingly invisible journals are full of really good haiku, which makes you wonder if there is an alternate dimension that opens up periodically and releases clouds of haiku … or maybe there are just a lot of really good haiku poets in the world.
Anyway, my latest stunned discovery is the online journal Mu, which has its very first issue out, filled with great poetry like this:
fence line —
the flowers belong
— Jennifer Gomoli Popolis
Web Wide World
Um, so I only have one article to share with you this week, but I think it should count for, like, ten. It’s a more-or-less mind-blowing article by Charlie Trumbull (current editor of Modern Haiku), published in Simply Haiku in 2004, called “An Analysis of Haiku in 12-Dimensional Space.” If the title makes your head hurt you should probably skip the article, but if you think it sounds like the coolest thing ever you should probably read it, because it more or less is. Set aside a little time though. And a little space in your brain. You’ll need it.
Basically, it’s what amounts to a mathematical or scientific analysis of the vast array of definitions of haiku that have been given by various commentators, owing a heavy debt to the work of research-biologist-cum-haiku-poet A.C. Missias, and incorporating several diagrams labeled “Highly Technical Figures.” But don’t let that scare you away. It’s also moving and thoughtful and funny, and I promise you don’t need any advanced scientific degrees to enjoy it, especially if you skip to the end where Charlie describes the relevant “12 dimensions” of haiku. What is your “Haiku ID”? Read and find out.
Dead Tree News
Just a little word from R.H. Blyth again this week. (I am gonna get through all four volumes of Haiku this summer if it kills me.)
One thing I desperately love about Blyth is that, unlike most commentators on haiku, he is utterly unafraid to compare and contrast haiku with Western poetry or even Western prose. People generally tend to emphasize how different haiku is from most Western writing, and of course in many ways it is quite different, but after all, Basho and Wordsworth (to name two of Blyth’s favorite writers) are members of the same species — it’s not like they have nothing in common. I think it can be too easy to get caught up in the myth that the Mystic East is a whole different world that runs according to alternate laws of nature or something. Blyth (although, yes, he does romanticize haiku in some ways) doesn’t fall prey to this particular myth.
I love this commentary of Blyth’s on a haiku of Issa’s, for instance, which has us all looking at the same sky:
assari to haru wa ki ni keri asagi-zora
Spring has come
In all simplicity:
A light yellow sky.
— Issa, translated by R.H. Blyth
“We are constantly astounded at the simplicity and complexity of Nature. An infinite number of phenomena, and we call it by a single word, spring. Spring, in all its variety, is contained in a single phenomenon, the thinness of the colour of the yellow sky. This colour is commonly found in the evening sky; it is to be seen in a well-known colour-print by Hiroshige, small billowing clouds on the horizon. This ‘yellow’ is probably the ‘green’ of Coleridge’s verse:
The green light that lingers in the west.”
– R.H. Blyth, Haiku, vol. 2, p. 38
Okay. The oil’s been changed in the car, we’ve got someone to feed the cats…what am I forgetting? Oh yeah! (Waves frantically) Bye everyone, see you next week!