a small shadow
on the star chart
I was thrilled when the following French translation of this haiku appeared on my Facebook page, courtesy of the marvelous Vincent Hoarau:
une petite ombre
sur la carte des étoiles
Merci beaucoup, Vincent!
through the moon roof
wolves howling no obstacle to finding the words
between your words the last few stars disappear
not without a last look back salt lick
There’s a new blog in town that may appeal to those of you who have always felt that three lines was about three times as long as a poem should be. It’s called Monostich (http://monostich.blogspot.com), which is a fancy word for a one-line poem. Depending on what your definition of haiku is, you may think some or all of the poems on this site are haiku and then again you may not. It doesn’t really matter. We’re having a great time writing them anyway.
Did I say “we”? Oh right…maybe I forgot to mention that this new blog has (currently) ten authors and I am one of them. The nine others are Johannes S.H. Bjerg (whose brainchild this was and who hounded, um, encouraged the rest of us to participate, which I think we’re now all very glad he did), Costis Demos, Claire Everett, Mark Holloway, Angie LaPaglia McNeill, Polona Oblak, Paul Smith, Alan Summers, and Liam Wilkinson. In case you’re not familiar with any of these poets … well, you should be, trust me.
It’s a lot of fun to share a blog, I’ve decided. Less pressure, more variety. We don’t have a formal arrangement or schedule or anything for who posts when, we all just post when and if we feel like it. Each of us, obviously, has a different style but we have enough of a shared aesthetic that the blog feels like a coherent artistic effort. I like it a lot. But then I might be biased. Let me know what you think.
the blacksmith shows me
how to judge the heat
NaHaiWriMo prompt: Fire
NaHaiWriMo prompt for April 28th:
See this post for an explanation of what this is.
See the NaHaiWriMo website.
See the NaHaiWriMo Facebook page, and contribute haiku there if you want. (It doesn’t have to have anything to do with this prompt. It’s just a suggestion.)
Glitter becomes you:
inspired, you spread a thin layer
of glue on arms and other rounded parts,
and upturn upon them the elegant jar of gold dust,
rapturously letting it describe and delimit, as it descends,
your ghostly form, previously so vague, and white, and un-wish-for-able.
You say, Get a load of this!, making muscles, inclining to accentuate curves,
giddy with the blindness you can see that you’re inflicting.
Startled, I stare, grown tired of selflessness,
wanting to own everything you possess;
I grasp your flesh, sweeping off grit in showers
of electric sparks, gravity stripping you once more bare:
grains of wheat, pearls of rice, gratings of savory cheese,
and you, goddess, just you now, and the memory of
more and more
I wonder why
15 bicycle light never stopping to let me catch up
16 multiplication tables all the things I can’t forget
17 peace pipe blowing bubbles beside the sea
18 expired passport all the nebulae I kept meaning to visit
19 protest march spring comes anyway
20 microwave platter my food comes from a dying star
21 resisting arrest unidentified weeds in the garden
Am I getting any better? … Never mind, I don’t want to know.
“To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test” (New York Times)
seven or eight sparrows count them again
For some reason, even though I wrote it in pretty much my first week of writing haiku, it is still one of my favorites of my own poems. Beginner’s luck, I guess.
Why do I like it so much? (You don’t have to ask so incredulously.) Well…first of all, there’s the whole “it’s true” thing. It’s impossible to count birds. (Impossible for me, anyway; maybe you’ve had better luck.) They keep moving. They’re transient, they’re transitory.
So many things in life are. You can’t pin them down. You look one minute and things look one way; the next minute they look entirely different. Don’t even ask about the differences between years.
But for some reason we (and by “we” I mean “I”) keep trying to get some kind of firm fix on the situation, whatever the situation is. Seven or eight sparrows? Well, does it matter? Rationally, no … but so much of life is spent trying to count those damn sparrows.
Also, I like numbers. I like numbers in general; I like arithmetic; I count things and add and subtract and multiply things all the time, just for the hell of it. Give me your phone number and I’ll tell you something interesting about the digits in, like, four seconds. “The sum of the first three digits is the product of the last two digits!” Or something. It’s a little weird. Kind of Junior Rain Man. (I do know the difference between the price of a car and the price of a candy bar, though. So your longstanding suspicion that I really should be institutionalized has not yet been entirely confirmed.)
I like numbers in poetry because they are so specific. Other things being equal, generally the more specific a poem is the more powerful it is, so numbers to me seem like high-octane gas or something for poetry.
Gabi Greve, on her mindblowingly complete haiku website, has a great page about numbers in haiku. Here are a couple of my favorites of the examples she gives:
saku hana o matsu ichi ni umi ni wa sakura
waiting for the cherry blossoms
one is the sea
two is the cherry tree
— Ishihara 石原重方
bitamiinzai ichi nichi ni joo taki kooru
each day two of them –
the waterfall freezes
— Ono Shuka (Oono Shuka) 大野朱香
Also, Issa is great at haiku that feature numbers. (Does this surprise you? I thought not.) A few examples, all translated by David Lanoue (and if you want more you should go over to David’s spectacular database of Issa translations and type your favorite number in the search box):
and three or four
houses here and there
fly kites, three…four…
three or five stars
by the time I fold it…
two drops for the rice cake tub
three drops for the winnow
suddenly three people
face to face
on three or four stools…
out of four gates
entering just one
on four or five
slender blades of grass
a five or six inch
red mandarin orange…
and one of my favorites of all time —
one, two, three, four
five, six people
Interesting how many of these involve the kind of uncertainty about exact count that my own haiku does. I don’t remember whether I had read any Issa at the time I wrote it. I might have been shamelessly imitating him, or I might just have been trying to count sparrows. You try it. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
more than his fair share
of the sky
constellations all the collections I’ve abandoned
everything I’ve learned
constellations it all made sense at the time
too many ideas
as if nothing was ever
(runner-up, The Haiku Foundation Facebook contest, November 2010)
what happened before
my mother was born
looking up the answer
in my mother’s face
replanting the flowers
from my mother’s garden
Happy birthday, Mom … have a wonderful day.
Dear Fellow Travelers,
Some weeks the Haikuverse seems to stir up a lot of Deep Thoughts in me, but not this week. This week I was too busy for Thinking Deeply. (I can hear you sighing in relief. Stop that.)
So what have I got for you? Well, a lot of really great haiku (other people’s, natch), snatched out of the ether during moments stolen from homework, fiction writing, Thanksgiving dinner, and sleep. For some reason, most of them seem to relate to one of two themes: astronomical phenomena or snow.
(It’s snowing in a lot of places these days, apparently. So interesting, the sense you can get of world weather patterns by following the world’s daily haiku output.)
Anyway. To start off our journey … here are some of my favorite responses to a polite request that The Haiku Foundation’s Facebook page recently made of its followers: “Please share a haiku inspired by the onset of cold weather.” (They frequently make interesting requests like this. You should go over and oblige them occasionally. It’s nice to share.)
premières gelées blanches –
une envie soudaine
de carrot cake
…first white frosts –
…a sudden urge
for a carrot cake
— Vincent Hoarau
she pockets a large carrot
for later use
— Laura Sherman
(Yes, two carrot haiku, right next to each other. It freaked me out too.)
a ring around
— George O Hawkins
listening to myself
on the walk home
— Michael Rehling
Twitter was all cold this week too. And for some reason (okay, maybe my foreign-language fetish), it seemed very polyglot.
First of all, my Twitter friend Polona Oblak, or one cloud, whose username is cirrusdream, overheard me raving in a tweet about how much I liked foreign-language haiku and generously offered to translate some of her haiku into Slovenian, her first language. (Great quotation from Polona: “the problem is, although i’m not a native english speaker, my muse appears to be.”)
There are SO many things I love about this — first of all the fact that Slovenian is a Slavic language, so I can actually semi-follow what’s going on here. (All Slavic languages are alike, but some are more alike than others. [Whoa — Tolstoy/Orwell mashup! Didn’t see that coming.])
Secondly the fact that in Slovenian, this haiku is so highly alliterative and even rhymes a little. English haiku needs more of that. Remind me to do some of that some time soon.
a spider weaves its web
under a neon light
pajek plete mrežo
pod neonsko lučjo
— Polona Oblak (cirrusdream)
Then, I believe the very same day, I had the incredibly thrilling experience of discovering a Twitterer who writes haiku in Esperanto. Not just any haiku. Good haiku. (Excuse me: hajko.) I am still in shock that there is a person like this in the world. I like the world better now.
pelas norda vent’ unuopajn neĝerojn… sonoriladon
north wind drives snowflakes one by one… a bell rings and rings.
— Steven D. Brewer (limako)
— David Serjeant
Watching the first one,
two, three . . . four, five, six . . . seven
snowflakes fall outside.
(And okay … I got a little sidetracked here. I have a huge weakness, for some reason, for haiku with numbers in them. In fact, one of my favorites among my own haiku is still this one that I wrote way back in, like, the first week I ever wrote haiku. I went looking for more information about these number-haiku things and ended up, naturally enough, on Gabi Greve’s territory, reading this amazing essay-full-of-inspiring-examples. I have to read it again, when I can spend more time on it.)
(And another slight detour, this one possibly even verging on Deep Thought. This quotation, from a very famous Japanese haiku poet, got in my face when I read it on someone’s Facebook page this week — I’m sorry, Facebook person, I don’t remember who you are, but thanks for posting this! It reminded me of the essay by Aubrie Cox I wrote about a couple of weeks ago:
“The reader of a haiku is indispensable to the working of ma. This person must notice the ma and sense the kokoro of the poet. A haiku is not completed by the poet. The poet creates half of the haiku, while the remaining half must wait for…the appearance of a superior reader. Haiku is literature created jointly by the poet and the reader. A Western poem is the product of the poet alone, and thus here also the way of thinking about haiku is different.”
— Hasegawa Kai
I must say, I feel very fortunate to have had the occasional “superior reader” show up here to complete my haiku, because God knows they [my haiku, that is] need all the help they can get…)
This haiku from David Marshall, at haiku streak, is an exception to this week’s astronomy-and-snow theme, but it does seem somehow to complement Hasegawa’s words. It’s called Old Friends, and don’t tell me haiku aren’t supposed to have titles. They can if they want to. It’s a free country.
Silence that ripens,
silence that stays green, silence
fallen and sere
— David Marshall
I’ll finish up with the astronomical phenomena, since this is, after all, a voyage across the Haikuverse…
long road trip —
Orion’s belt rests
on the dashboard
— Terri L. French
November sky —
I used to remember
which planet that was
— extra special bitter
As I recently mentioned to someone, I sometimes have difficulty myself even in recalling exactly which planet we are supposed to be on, so I can relate to this sentiment. You know — keeping track of where you are can get to be a challenge when you spend as much time wandering the Haikuverse as I do …
Have a great week, and don’t get lost in space.
The Haikuverse in the fourth dimension:
in the water
red as a cardinal
seen because flowers
antique geisha screenprint
It’s the end of a long, draining week. I thought we (at least we here in the U.S.) could all use some entertainment, and an opportunity to take ourselves not quite as seriously as usual.
So: The thing all these haiku have in common is that, clearly, they are not haiku. They are some of the eccentric search strings that have led people to this page from Google. I like to entertain myself by trying to imagine what was going through people’s minds when they entered these searches, and by what tortured logic the search engine directed them here in a vain attempt to fulfill their information needs.
I have a large collection of other search strings, most of which do not lend themselves so easily to being converted to pseudohaiku. Some of them are quite beautiful, though. Some are thought-provoking, probably in a way their author did not intend. Some I’m thinking of using as writing prompts in the future. (“Poems about bad wolves”? Yeah, I would read a poem about bad wolves.)
Here are a few of them. Enjoy. And take a few deep breaths this weekend.
the dragonfly land on you will they bite me or sting me
garden, fog, crescent moon, and stars
full moon and sleepless nights
haiku dragon shy rock
poems about bad wolves
why are the dragonflies red
why was the moon red last night
meaning of seeing a red dragonfly
“anxiety” “rustling leaves” “simile”
caterpillar incense cedar sphinx
october stars —
lighting up the ghosts
I’ll be someday —
the leaf I can’t catch
hoping to meet
crows in autumn—
I normally have a little bit of a compulsion to write haiku sequences in odd numbers (I just like it better that way, okay?), but four is a good number of haiku about ghosts. For the Japanese, the number four signifies death. (The words are homophones, I believe. Correct me if I’m starting to sound ignorant, as so often happens.)
I’m not scared of ghosts. For one thing, I don’t believe they exist. For another, I kind of wish they did, because who wouldn’t want to talk someone who had died and find out what the scoop was on the whole afterlife thing? Especially if it was someone you’d liked while they were alive.
So these haiku are not exactly calculated to strike terror into your heart. They’re more wistful, I think. Happy All Hallows’ Eve to you all.
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
looking at stars
with Google Sky —
pixels in your eyes
Don’t forget to send me a haiku contribution for my 300th post.
stones on my tongue I try to explain the stars
we settle down to talk and suddenly wasps are everywhere
paper cuts I drop your letter and watch them bleed
In the last ten days I’ve seen five performances of “Macbeth” with four different casts. So many lines of the play have become earworms for me, especially those (and there are so many in this play) that use either sound or imagery (or both) to gorgeous effect. For instance (in no particular order):
• If the assassination could trammel up the consequence, and catch, with its surcease, success …
• Weary sennights nine times nine shall he dwindle, peak, and pine …
• Tonight we hold a solemn supper, sir …
• Stars, hold your fires; let not light see my black and deep desires …
• There’s husbandry in heaven; their candles are all out.
• It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood. Stones have been known to move and trees to speak …
• By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes. Open, locks, whoever knocks.
• Safe in a ditch he lies, with twenty trenched gashes in his head.
Some of the lines echoed in my head in the same way that some haiku does, which made me wonder if you could pummel iambic pentameter into haiku. I’m not sure how well these meet the technical definition of haiku (whatever that is), but they do seem to have something of the haiku spirit in them. And Shakespeare and Basho were (rough) contemporaries … so that must mean something.
the earth hath bubbles as the water has
the moon is down
I have not heard
the obscure bird
the livelong night
the shard-borne beetle
with his drowsy hums …
night’s yawning peal
light thickens …
the crow makes wing
to th’ rooky wood
untie the winds
and let them fight
against the churches
I have words that would be howl’d out in the desert air
I can’t remember where I got this scar, or that one, or that one.
streetlights switch on the child runs away from his mother
Cassiopeia she refuses to stand next to her lover
There are links to several other discussions of the subject, and several enlightening comments. Among other interesting points:
- The late, great Bill Higginson seemed to think that if there were spaces in your one-line haiku, it wasn’t really a one-line haiku (because you were indicating, apparently, where a line break could go, and so why not write it in more than one line). To me, this seems to ignore the visual advantage to displaying a ku all in one line — it can be scanned more rapidly by the reader so gives more of a sense of wholeness or urgency, yet sometimes you still want to give a visual cue as to where a pause should occur.
- Marlene Mountain has a page where a number of her ku are displayed both as three lines and as one, so you can decide which way you think works better.
- Jim Kacian categorizes several of the effects that can be achieved by English one-line haiku (“one line–one thought,” “speedrush” and “multi- stops”). (Click on the big X:2 on the linked page to download the issue of “Roadrunner” this essay appears in.)
- Charles Trumbull, in a July 29 comment, makes the sensible observation (I say it’s sensible because it’s what I think myself) that “[b]ecause of the internal rhythm of the material, sometimes one line works best. Period.” (He is slightly cranky about people imitating Japanese poetry or referring to historical precedent to justify their one-liners.)
I keep finding more and more that if I am having a great deal of trouble with a ku, transforming it to one line frequently instantly solves my problem. This is when I say that the ku “wanted” to be one line.
Also, I think I am still treating American sentences and one-line haiku as more or less interchangeable, though they’re not, really. I mean, number 1 above seems clearly to be an American sentence to me; the other 2 one-line haiku. Must think more about this …