to touch you
to touch you
for my heart
There’s nothing wrong with my heart, in case any of you are worriedly picking out “Get Well” cards to send me. This haiku is imaginary. Well, I do frequently take chewable aspirin, but only for pain and hypochondria. Otherwise, I made it all up.
A lot of my haiku are made up. I know some people think this is a no-no in haiku and you should only be writing from authentic personal experience or some such. Those people can do whatever they want, but I like my imagination and I don’t want to leave it languishing all alone while I sit around writing the scrupulously observed literal truth all day.
So what often happens when I’m writing haiku is, I’ll take some tiny little real part of my life — like my crunching on those bitter little orange tablets when I’m feeling anxious about some vague pain in my head that might be a brain tumor — and start to riff on it, hmmm, aspirin, chewing aspirin, bitter aspirin, chewable aspirin, aspirin for your heart, acetylsalicyclic acid, willow bark, willow trees, willow buds…
It’s all in my head (sort of like the imaginary tumor). I’m not looking at a damn thing except the computer screen and the pictures that scroll across my brain all day long. Pictures of stuff I’ve already seen in my life, things I’ve already done, or seen other people do, or read about. All the things that I know about in the world.
So … it’s not autobiographical. But it’s not fake, either. Imaginary things aren’t necessarily fake, just like stories aren’t necessarily lies. I like stories a lot too, especially the ones that are full of truth, which are not necessarily the ones that are most factual. I’m hoping that you agree with me that haiku drawn from the imagination can be just as full of truth as those that draw on what I like to think of as “mere reality.”
This is a completely separate issue from whether this particular haiku is any good, of course. So don’t make your decision based solely on your opinion of it. Here, for example, are some of my other haiku that are mostly not real. Maybe you’ll like some of them better. Or not.
I told someone the other day that this blog is my playground. Which doesn’t mean that I don’t take it seriously. After all, as I posted recently on my other blog (which is more like a museum):
Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.
I was still thinking about this when I wandered into a used bookstore yesterday and found a copy of Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture, written in 1944 by Johan Huizinga. I had never heard of this book before, as far as I know, but the second I picked it up and started looking through it I felt as though it had been one of my favorite books for most of my life. That happens sometimes with books. (And people.)
Huizinga says in his foreword, “For many years the conviction has grown upon me that civilization arises and unfolds in and as play.” And then he goes on to elaborate on this thesis at great and intelligent and delightful length. I haven’t read the whole book yet, which is extremely fortunate for you because I would probably feel compelled to dissect the entire thing at mind-numbing length.
But I will quote for you from the chapter on “Play and Poetry,” which, despite the fact that it is chapter 7, was the first one I read. I don’t think I’ll offer any commentary, because Huizinga is a way better writer than I am and this speaks for itself.
Let us enumerate once more the characteristics we deemed proper to play. It is an activity which proceeds within certain limits of time and space, in a visible order, according to rules freely accepted, and outside the sphere of necessity or material utility. The play-mood is one of rapture and enthusiasm, and is sacred or festive in accordance with the occasion. A feeling of exaltation and tension accompanies the action, mirth and relaxation follow.
Now it can hardly be denied that these qualities are also proper to poetic creation. In fact, the definition we have just given of play might serve as a definition of poetry. The rhythmical or symmetrical arrangement of language, the hitting of the mark by rhyme or assonance, the deliberate disguising of the sense, the artificial and artful construction of phrases — all might be so many utterances of the play spirit. To call poetry, as Paul Valery has done, a playing with words and language is no metaphor: it is the precise and literal truth.
The affinity between poetry and play is not external only; it is also apparent in the structure of creative imagination itself. In the turning of a poetic phrase, the development of a motif, the expression of a mood, there is always a play-element at work.
… What poetic language does with images is to play with them. It disposes them in style, it instils mystery into them so that every image contains the answer to an enigma.
— Johan Huizinga, “Play and Poetry” from Homo Ludens
A lot of the playing I do with the haiku form never sees the light of day, and probably properly so. But quite a bit of the playing ends up on this blog. If I post something here, it is almost never because I am sure it is a wonderful haiku, but because I think it is … something … and I’m not quite sure what. Maybe wonderful, maybe terrible, maybe just mediocre. Maybe incomprehensible. Maybe unfinished.
I don’t just put any old combinations of words here — that wouldn’t be very respectful of your time — but I do tend to use this space to get some sense of how people respond to various experiments I have made. I guess I do usually have to have some feeling that at least some readers will enjoy what I’ve done. It isn’t a game of solitaire, after all. But really, it is a game. I won’t always win, and I can accept that. I’m just trying to have fun, and ensure that my fellow players do too.
Okay. Laugh if you must. Here are some of the sillier games I’ve played lately.
in conversation with carrots a jaundiced point of view
… but it will be soon. Oh yes it will.
when the lake
ask me again
over the ice
your voice from shore
more and more cracks
in the ice
So here we are again, exhibiting the peculiar human fascination with round numbers by celebrating my 300th blog post. It’s only fair that I should do this by letting some of you get a word in edgewise for a change — after all, without you there wouldn’t be a me. Or rather, there would, of course. I think. Or is it like the tree that falls in the forest with no one to hear it?
Anyway. You’re all such great listeners. And responders. The comments on this blog are like food and drink to me, and I say that as a person with more than a passing interest in food and drink. I have a suspicion I might have given up this whole crazy enterprise long ago if it weren’t for all of you, jollying me along, telling me politely what’s what, suggesting I might want to rethink one or two things, and just generally making me feel like I knew something but not too much, which is the right attitude to encourage in a blatant newcomer to any enterprise. There is some kind of charmed atmosphere around this blog which I can only attribute to the kind, thoughtful, and intelligent way all of you have received me, and each other.
These contributions were all so wonderful to read and made me feel luckier than ever. I loved seeing tanka and haiga among the contributions as well as haiku — I can’t do those things, or at least I haven’t tried yet, so it’s nice to have readers who can and are willing to share. I’ve posted all the contributions in the order they arrived in my email inbox. I hope you all enjoy.
Note: There were four haikuists who took up my (tongue-in-cheek) challenge to use the number 300 in their haiku in some way. They earn the promised bonus points, though I’m not quite sure yet what those can be redeemed for. 🙂 Congrats to Alan Summers, Steve Mitchell (tricky, that one), Max Stites, and Rick Daddario.
at the cafe . . .
caught in the firing line
of the poetry slam
(Previously published, Modern Haiku, Vol. XXX, No. 1, Winter-Spring, 1999)
— Charlotte Digregorio, charlottedigregorio.wordpress.com
was played on that New Year’s Eve
that’s all that was needed
to fall in love
from my home to Hull
a renga love verse
goodnight to the needlemouse*
as I check the stars
(Previously published, Presence magazine [September 2010] ISSN 1366-5367)
*Linguistic notes on the word “needlemouse”:
Kanji: 針鼠 or 蝟
Combination Meaning: needle ( ハリ) mouse (ネズミ)
— Alan Summers, area17.blogspot.com/
the last of his regulars
buried among fall debris–
(unpublished, inspired by the post “acorn time”)
in the bare willows —
the shape of longing
— Alegria Imperial, jornales.wordpress.com
Down this road – alone
silent, solitary, still
watching autumn fall.
(after Basho’s Kono michi ya!)
— Margaret Dornaus, haikudoodle.wordpress.com
when did my father grow
an old man’s neck?
(Previously published, Frogpond, Fall 2006)
sprinkling her ashes
on the rocks at high tide
the long walk back
(From the haibun, In the Air [Planet, The Welsh Internationalist Spring 2007])
— Lynne Rees, www.lynnerees.com
the last but the most vivid
the scent of their soft touch
on my cheek
first serial publication
when I started drinking
(Previously published, bottle rockets #22)
haiku history lecture
(Previously published, tinywords 9.1)
— Aubrie Cox, aubriecox.wordpress.com
Bird told me
— Laz Freedman, lazfreedman.wordpress.com
crow lands on post
carries a grasshopper
can’t talk now
I regard nature, but wait —
I am nature
— Steve Mitchell, heednotsteve.wordpress.com
I want to believe
the earth tugging
at my footsteps
(These two both took first place in the Shiki Kukai for the months in which they were submitted. I regard the first of them as my “signature haiku.”)
— Bill Kenney, haiku-usa.blogspot.com
seagulls gather on the beach
then fly away
(From Poems from Oostburg, Wisconsin: ellenolinger.wordpress.com)
turning the page
of a new book
branch of gold leaves
(From New Poems: Inspired by the Psalms and Nature: elingrace.wordpress.com)
— Ellen Olinger
the photo booth
becomes a grave-marker
how nice to see the sun
— Ashley Capes, ashleycapes.wordpress.com/
three hundred facebook friends when
haiku are three lines
three fluttering notes
drift through the passage to find
the player and score
— Max Stites, outspokenomphaloskeptic.wordpress.com
a solitary bird calls to the space between lightning and thunder
(Previously published, http://tinywords.com/2010/08/11/2175/)
— Angie Werren, triflings.wordpress.com/
eight syllables only
to tap your haiku
across my wall
— Lawrence Congdon, novaheart.wordpress.com
sharing full moon
with all the world’s
inspire each other
— Kerstin Neumann
overcast midday sky-
her shrill voice calling
the ducks home
— Devika Jyothi
(See this post for an explanation of what’s going on here.)
“This is a very gentle way of doing word play and getting double duty out of words. In English we have many words which function as both verbs and nouns. By constructing the poem carefully, one can utilize both aspects of such words as leaves, spots, flowers, blossoms, sprouts, greens, fall, spring, circles and hundreds more. … This is one of those cases where the reader has to decide which permissible stance the ku has taken.
the willow strings
– Jane Reichhold, Haiku Techniques
on the beach
the rain spells
come and go on
our bare backs
water on our toes
(See this post for an explanation of what’s going on here.)
“…most of the surprises of life are the contrasts, and therefore this technique is a major one for haiku.
“long hard rain
hanging in the willows
tender new leaves”
— Jane Reichhold, Haiku Techniques
warning cries of birds
hot clearing in the grass
we lie unspeaking
smell of cut grass —
on the flowerbed
before the storm
white sky turns black
flight of cardinal
rain in the night
birds and willows