12 thoughts on “October 20 (Looking at stars)

    • Thanks Devika. 🙂

      It would probably be better to send your contribution by mail so as not to spoil the surprise for other readers. Thanks for participating!

  1. I really like this one, Melissa. Part of me wants to suggest “stargazing / with Google Sky,” but the way it is now feels pretty balanced. The last line really pulls it all together. Not to mention the slant rhyme is fairly discrete.

    This might be a good one for tinywords the next time around for submissions (would be the Winter issue).

    • Thanks, Aubrie. I’ll have to think about this one some more, I guess. I thought of it as pretty much a throwaway humor piece, but maybe I am deeper than I know. 🙂 (Usually it turns out that I’m shallower than I know, though. 🙂 )

      • I like the play off the cliche of “stars in your eyes” by substituting stars with pixels. It’s a commentary on how we rely more on technology, but also the use of technology rather going outside to see for ourselves.

        • Yeah … I put all that in it and I guess it is kind of a fun way of expressing it … I don’t know, it seems like such a stale insight to me though, but maybe because I spend a lot of time thinking about tech stuff living with a couple of tech geeks, it’s kind of a “so what” for me.

          I actually was inspired to write this by a tweet I got (not from a poet) who said she had been looking at the stars with Google Sky and her neighbor walking her dog looked at her funny …

          • I’m a tech geek myself, and I think that’s part of why this poem resonates with me. Digitized age–we’ve traded out nature for technology. (Granted, there’s been more haiku about nature versus technology than I can shake a stick at, but nevertheless.)

            The idea of “so what” is a dangerous line in haiku, I think. For me, haiku is very much about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary (the Imagists were getting there!). If you try to make a haiku epic, 9 times out of 10 it will fail (dare I say even 10 times out of 10). The moment must have some sort of significance, but a lot of times the significance is in noticing the mundane things–what typically goes unnoticed. I think one of the biggest reasons some people don’t appreciate haiku is because they read it and think, “So what?” The danger is that there are “so what” poems that really don’t have any sort of resonance. This, however, I don’t think is one of those cases.

            • I know what you mean, in a way. I do think I get very picky about haiku and tend to think “so what” about the vast majority of those I read (and, of course, write), and maybe that’s my impatience — I read quickly, I don’t pause long to think about what deeper resonances might be in the words or the images, so if what is there is subtle I’m sure I almost always miss it. On the other hand — I tend to think that’s my prerogative as a reader. 🙂 I like what I like, and I like haiku to be not-subtle; I like them to be so full of insight, to create so profound a connection, that my mind is blown immediately. I mean, the poem can be about something ordinary, but the insight should be extraordinary. I’m sure it’s fortunate for the state of haiku today that I am not the typical haiku reader. 🙂 I sometimes think about doing a post about my favorite haiku but then I get daunted by the idea of trying to get permission from all those poets to reprint their stuff — not that most of them would probably mind, it’s just the work of getting it done.

              But then I’m fussy about pretty much everything I read in the same way — I tend to give novels about a paragraph to hook me. 🙂 If they haven’t done something really amazing in that amount of time I figure what are the odds that they will later, especially since novel writers tend to get coached over and over to write compelling beginnings.

              • Haiku were definitely not to be read quickly, no. Remember what Lee said in his talk at Mineral Point–enjoy the flower first, then critique it. Haiku should have an instant effect, but then there are the layers that resonate and cause ripples in the pond. I suppose it depends upon how far down the rabbit hole you want to go.

                As far as talking about favorite haiku, as long as you cite where it came from (who it’s by, where it was published, year, page number if applicable), I’d think you’d be okay. It’s a bit like using something in a research paper. At least, that’s my perspective on it.

                I’m somewhat curious by your use of terms such as “amazing” and “mind blowing.” As an editor, these things make a lot of sense to me. As a writer, they almost terrify me. Could you elaborate a bit more?

                • Oh dear, I have a feeling I’m starting to come off as superficial and trivial…no, no, surely not! 🙂

                  Yeah, I am not using very precise terminology here. It is difficult for me to explain what it is I like about haiku that I like. That’s why I feel like I just want to show several dozen that I really, really like and say, “Here. Get it now?”

                  I should clarify: I read haiku quickly only to find the ones that I really like. To me, life is too damn short to read every single one really slowly. There are too many of them! You wouldn’t have time to do anything else! But when I do find one that I like, I will read it over and over again and really — I don’t know, try to completely inhabit it or something. Lots of the translations of gendai haiku that Fay Aoyagi posts are like that for me. Lots and lots and lots of Issa and Basho. If I’m reading a collection of Issa or Basho I will spend ten or fifteen minutes on a page. And of course there definitely are contemporary ELH that I think are wonderful and brilliant and I spend lots of time over them trying to figure out what makes them tick and just generally loving them. But I guess I have to feel something pretty much immediately for me to feel it’s worth my while spending time rereading a haiku. When I was in Mineral Point at the hat workshop we talked all those ku to death and discovered every scrap of layer and meaning in them and I did think it was interesting to see how much more there often was to a ku than was apparent at first sight. But I still didn’t end up loving any of them any more than I had the first time I read them, or even thinking they were significantly better than I had thought they were at first. And seriously? At my age? I really, really can’t afford to continue reading anything I don’t fall in love with at first sight. Too many books, too much poetry, too little time. There is already too much stuff I do love passionately for me to waste time on what feels mediocre or boring to me.

                  I think what I often do not like about ELH (including, always including, mine) is the preoccupation the authors so often seem to have with getting the formula right — you read them and all you can hear is this whispering that goes two images, check, showing not telling, check, kigo, kireji, nature, three lines, aha moment, check check check check check — I mean, for every poet the essential elements vary slightly, but they so often seem so — careful. So fearful, of getting it wrong somehow, being accused of not doing it right. And in the process they forget to — throw themselves into the poem. It becomes not their poem, not something that is really coming out of their soul, but some kind of device for displaying literary proficiency. It’s proficient, but it’s not real. It’s something dead on the page. It’s a nice image or a couple of images or even a nice couple of images nicely connected in some kind of meaningful way, using strong verbs and all that, but still smelling strongly of decay.

                  And then there’s Issa, in the ku David sent out today, saying:

                  simply trust,
                  simply trust!
                  cherry blossoms in bloom

                  which is ALL WRONG! Would any journal publish something like that now? But it’s perfect, it’s real, it’s Issa. It’s not the best Issa ever, but I would still rather read that over and over than 95% of what I read in any ELH journal.

                  I don’t know if I’ve gotten any farther toward explaining what I actually mean by “amazing” and “mind blowing” but maybe at least now I sound a little less like a 13-year-old discussing the boy band du jour. 🙂 And it’s past my bedtime, so I think I’ll quit before I start to completely babble …

                  • Melissa, this makes significantly more sense. Thanks for writing this out. I almost feel like it could be a blog post in and of itself. 😉

                    It’s difficult to compare ELH and Gendai, or any Japanese haiku due to the culture resonance. Though I do understand what you’re saying. I think part of it depends at who the editor is, and his or her aesthetics, who is willing to take risks in publishing, and what their definition of a haiku is.

                    • It’s true that it’s difficult to compare Japanese ku and ELH, though it does seem amazing to me that so many Japanese haiku are so much more resonant to me than most ELH despite the fact that I’m reading them only in translation and thus undoubtedly missing 95% of the point of them.

                      The haiku community here does seem very, very artistically conservative to me. To the extent that sometimes I even vow I am going to completely stop reading ELH until I can mentally free myself from the Authorized Version of ELH haiku aesthetics and stop writing nice little verses about What Falling Leaves Mean To Me. Oh dear. Don’t tell anyone I said that. 🙂

                      No…there definitely is great stuff out there, it’s just kind of buried under the mass of samey-samey … but on the other hand, probably what we’re getting in translation from Japan is the best stuff and they have just as much samey-samey as we do, so I should just shut up and work on my craft, which God knows needs it.

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