through the lens
of the blossoms
durch die Linse
Chrysanthemum 11, April 2012
through the lens
of the blossoms
durch die Linse
Chrysanthemum 11, April 2012
In this edition of the ________ you will find many ________ and __________. My favorite is probably the ________ by __________. I hope you ________ this post. It took me a long time to ______ it and now I’m really ______.
This week I have been ______ing and _______ing. _________ are blooming in my yard. I saw ________ the other day for the first time in a while and got very _______. I spent about _______ hours watching them hoping I would be able to write a good _______ about them, but no luck so far.
Hope you’re having a good _______. I’ve been kind of ________ myself.
Always nice to ________ with you,
Haiku (Etc.) For You
It’s fascinating to me how in every edition of the Haikuverse the haiku seem to clump themselves into themes, with very few haiku left off by themselves. I don’t know if this is because haiku do tend to be written about a fairly narrow set of subjects, or because human beings are really good at seeing patterns where there aren’t necessarily any, or both, or what. But this time I’m starting off with four haiku about various insects and ending with three haiku about debris, gravel, and pebbles. With rain and toys and lilacs holding down the fort in the middle, staunchly independent.
larva and silkworm-
once upon a time
there was a girl
— Stella Pierides, Stella Pierides
mi no naka no makkuragari no hotaru-gari
inside of me
my firefly hunt
— Biwao Kawahara, translated by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World
what does the wasp
know about the blossoms —
— Polona Oblak, Crows & Daisies
a butterfly drifts
in and out
— Laura Garrison, DailyHaiku
(Actually, I had a hard time picking just one from Laura’s seven haiku on DailyHaiku last week. It was an outstanding selection of original, thought-provoking haiku. If you don’t believe me, you can look for yourself.)
toys my father
couldn’t fix . . .
— Aubrie Cox, Yay words!
scent of lilac –
one final breath
— Paul Smith, Paper Moon
(Last week Paul celebrated acquiring the 100th follower on his blog. Really, he should have a lot more. Paper Moon is a must-read. Did you hear me? Must. Read. Go. Now.)
how fast they build up
over fields of debris
— Kuniharu Shimizu, see haiku here
yard gravel –
I build a demanding religion
from popsicle sticks
jeg bygger en krævende religion
— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 2 tongues . 2 tunger
— Philip Damian-Grint, a handful of stones
Cool Things You Can Do With Blogs: A List
1. You can write haiku and post it. Then you can add two lines to the haiku and turn it into a tanka and post that too. That’s what Angie Werren is doing this month on feathers. (And I thought she couldn’t top last month.) More people should do this. It makes me happy.
her body slipping
through the fog
I bookmark pages
with birthday photos
—Angie Werren, feathers
2. You can take other people’s fantastic haiku and turn them into digital works of art and post them on your blog. Then you can ALSO post a link to a great essay about haiku that is connected in some way to the haiku you posted, as well as an excerpt from the essay that will tempt your readers to go read it right now. You can do this every day for a month and call this brilliant feature “Spliced In.” If you do this, you will be Gillena Cox and your blog will be Lunch Break and it will be July 2011. And you will be one of my favorite people.
inte ett ljud hörs —
den nytjärade ekan
slukas av natten
Without a sound
the fresh-tarred rowing-boat
slips into the dark
— Johan Bergstad, Sweden
(To get the full effect you must go see what Gillena has done with this.)
3. You can write a series of brief, thoughtful, perceptive commentaries about individual haiku in simple, clear prose. This will make everyone happy, because there are not enough of these. From what I’ve seen so far, Jim (Sully) Sullivan’s new blog, haiku and commentary and tales, will be an excellent and much-needed addition to the Haikuverse. I’ve included a brief excerpt from one of his most interesting commentaries below.
soldier unfolding the scent of a letter
— Chad Lee Robinson
“A quick read and you think a soldier is unfolding a scented letter from a girl friend. … But on another level the haiku could be read as two distinct images.
the scent of a letter
… The beauty of this haiku is in the many interpretations. And the one line format (monostich) enhances this ambiguity; it leaves no clues to image breaks.”
— Jim Sullivan, “Soldier unfolding“
Cool Things You Can Do With Websites: Another List
1. You can be Haiku Chronicles. I have written about them before but I should keep reminding you that there is a website devoted to podcasts about haiku. And if you have not listened to any of them, say while you’re chopping leeks a la Basho or staring at cobwebs deciding not to dust them a la Issa, then why are you wasting your time reading this when you could be doing that? Go. The latest installment is Anita Virgil (on whose haiku I have a massive crush) reading the fourth in her series of essays on the four great masters of haiku: Basho, Buson, Issa, and now … ladies and gentlemen … for your edification and entertainment … Shiki.
2. You can be Bob Lucky. Okay, okay, most of us can’t be Bob Lucky, but at least we can go read Bob Lucky and the 25 tanka prose by other people that Bob Lucky (who is one of the most talented and, um, fun writers of haiku and tanka and haibun and tanka prose out there) lovingly selected for a special feature over at the website of the tanka journal Atlas Poetica. Not only are the tanka prose themselves more than worth reading, but Bob’s introductory essay on the selection and editing process is one of the most frank, funny things I’ve ever read on the subject.
“I never wanted to be an editor. I wanted to be a lumberjack. Not really, but there were days when working on this project I would wander from room to room, occasionally picking up a ukulele and singing momma, don’t let your babies grow up to be editors, while my mind wrestled with choices I had to make.”
— Bob Lucky, “TP or not TP, That is the Question“
Dead Tree News: Dead Tree Journals
What showed up in my mailbox the last couple of weeks and made me very happy. I may be a bit telegraphic here because it’s late and words are starting to fail me (or I’m starting to fail them). Just imagine I had something more profound and appreciative to say about both these publications, because I do, it’s just kind of trapped in a yawn at the moment.
Out of the U.K., glossy cover, haiku arranged thoughtfully by season (including a non-seasonal section). There are tanka and haibun too. And reviews. It’s good, you should get it.
all the bones
scattered in the cave
— Bob Lucky
[See? I told you.]
another bowl for fruit
I’ll never taste
— Thomas Powell
last night of September
a tear darkens
the facial mud pack
— Maeve O’Sullivan
winter closing in…
I visit the simplest words
in the dictionary
— Philip Rowland
holiday snapshots —
all the years
I was invisible
— Johannes Bjerg
A tanka journal, tall and thin and, naturally, red. Nice paper, nice print, pleasant to hold and look at and, oh, yes, read.
a boy leans over
with a foot raised
over the world
— David Caruso
for us all
in the dark
down the hall
— Susan Marie LaVallee
to the sound of my voice
on a recording;
are there other parts of me
that people know and I don’t?
— Adelaide Shaw
Okay, back to ________. I still have to ________ that _________ about the ________, prepare my ________ for _________, and ________. Hope you have a great ________!
Melissa Allen, haiku; Jay Otto, photograph
intensive care —
confirming the status
of the apple blossoms
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!
to see what’s sprouted
we’re separated now
by the life span
of squash and cucumbers
on the way
to see the apple blossoms —
I admire how
your story changes
with every streetlight
(Ribbons: Tanka Society of America Journal, 7:1, Spring 2011)
Tanka. I keep mentioning tanka in what I know is this extremely skeptical tone of voice. I spent a long time trying not to think about them. I think I was having a hard enough time trying to understand haiku (not that that process is or ever will be over for me) and seeing these tanka things, which looked kind of like haiku but were the wrong length and sounded very different, confused me. And kind of annoyed me, too, because a lot of them (although not, by any means, as high a percentage as I used to think) are flowery and dreamy and romantic and … I’m not. Flowery, dreamy, romantic things usually just make me want to go balance my checkbook or something. Or throw up. (Yes, I am a fun date. Thanks for asking.)
So I was all grouchy about tanka and didn’t even want to learn anything about it, which is unusual for me because generally I want to learn everything about everything, and the sooner the better. I sneered at and winced about and cast aspersions on tanka … and then, at some point this winter, I started writing it. Still without having the slightest idea what it actually was. Don’t ask me what that was all about. I think I was just having one of those days where haiku seemed too short. You know those days. Where you’re like “Seventeen syllables? Max? Give me a break.”
I wrote a bunch of these things and eyed them warily, and then heaved a weary sigh and went crawling humbly around the web to find out what I had done. I was thrilled to find this essay about the origins of tanka by Jane Reichhold, because it’s very funny and made me feel like maybe I didn’t have to worry so much about tanka but could just enjoy it:
“From tanka’s long history – over 1300 years recorded in Japan — the most famous use of the poetry form of tanka was as secret messages between lovers. Arriving home in the morning, after having dallied with a lover all night, it became the custom of well-mannered persons to write an immediate thank-you note for the pleasures of the hospitality. Stylized into a convenient five lines of 5-7-5-7-7 onji, the little poem expressing one’s feelings were sent in special paper containers, written on a fan, or knotted on a branch or stem of a single blossom. These were delivered to the lover by personal messenger who then was given something to drink along with his chance to flirt with the household staff. During this interval a responding tanka was to be written in reply to the first note which the messenger would return to his master.
Usually under some pressure – the writer had probably been either awake or engaged in strenuous activities all night – to write a verse that related, in some manner, to the previous note, that expressed (carefully) one’s feelings, and which titillated enough to cause the sender to want to return again was not an easy task. Added to this dilemma was the need to get the personal messenger on his way with a note so written that he couldn’t know exactly what was what but that the beloved would understand and appreciate. Then the giggling servants would get back to work.
“…Looking at tanka history it seems that the only infallible way of writing great tanka is to have an affair. Go ahead! Do it now. But that doesn’t mean that it must be a behind-the-bushes affair in the no-tell motel. Let yourself fall in love with anything or anyone you want to. It can be nature, a scene, a place, an activity, persons; your own kids, grandkids or even – your mate, or just life itself. Whatever feels good and right for you.
Because of their original use as a way of privately expressing emotion and especially between friends and lovers unhappy because they are separated, the feelings expressed in traditional tanka were usually either longing for better time, more faithful lovers, younger years or grief because of old age, lack of lovers, or hard times. You get the picture. When reading a great many tanka you realize you are hearing a lot of bitching. For some writers this is just the outlet for which they have been looking.”
— Jane Reichhold, “Tanka for the Memory“
So that was my first tanka breakthrough. My second happened when I humbly sent a bunch of my lame tanka off to be edited by Aubrie Cox, who graciously refrained from telling me I had no idea what I was doing and with her magical touch lightly and deftly transformed the least lame of them into something that a tanka editor might not be too appalled to see appearing in his or her inbox. The two above are the first I had accepted for publication. It felt pretty weird, I have to tell you. “Wait — I’m not a tanka poet. Am I? Oh God. I guess I am. Can I go throw up now?”
I’ve gotten over it, though. For one thing, I’ve actually read a lot of tanka since then, and a lot of it I like a lot. Also, some of my best friends are wonderful tanka poets, so I’ve really had to force myself to examine my unwarranted prejudices. If you get this issue of Ribbons, for instance (which I highly recommend you do), you will find the following stupendous tanka by my buddy Margaret Dornaus of haiku-doodle gracing the back cover, and being wonderfully and lovingly dissected inside the journal by its editor, Dave Bacharach:
at Toad Suck
I contemplate syllables
and old ponds
like a child puddle-jumping
loudly through soft falling rain
— Margaret Dornaus
And right next to it you will find another stupendous tanka by Jeffrey Woodward (Haibun Today editor extraordinaire), which Bacharach has deliberately placed in counterpoint with Margaret’s:
but with a slight tang,
and twisted little
apples of Winesburg
— Jeffrey Woodward
Even I have to admit that there is nothing romantic, dreamy, etc. about either of these tanka, and that they are, in fact, quite brilliant and thought-provoking poems that just happen to be two lines longer than your typical haiku and to be attempting something rather different though not entirely unconnected. If you’re looking for a better explanation than I or probably anyone else but R.H. Blyth could provide of what exactly that something is, check out this essay by Don Wentworth over at Issa’s Untidy Hut, which gives us plenty of Blyth for our delectation.
For even more tanka information, Tanka Online and American Tanka are good places to look, and Charlotte Digregorio has recently written an essay on her blog that is a good, brief introduction to the subject. Besides Ribbons, the print journals Moonbathing, Eucalypt, and red lights publish tanka exclusively; bottle rockets publishes it among other Japanese verse forms, and so does the online journal Notes from the Gean. I’m probably forgetting someone. As I so often do. Feel free, as always, to tell me what I’m missing.
[Note: If you subscribe to this blog, you are not imagining things. Another version of this essay appeared a few days ago. It was an accident — it wasn’t finished yet — and I promptly deleted it. Sorry about the confusion.]
So. It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. (That’s a line from some song we sang at our third-grade choral concert. Amazing that I still remember it.)
This is how long it was: Have you ever had one of those dreams where the whole time you knew something really great was about to happen, something really fantastic you could hardly wait for, and the dream went on and on and all kinds of other humdrum, boring things happened, and you were thinking, “Okay, isn’t it about time the really great thing happened now?”, and then it was just about to happen, oh man, and … you woke up. And it never happened.
Yeah. I was seriously afraid this winter was going to turn out to be like one of those dreams. There was the cold. And the snow. And the more cold. And the unrelenting brownness and grayness. … Did I mention the cold? All through March. All through April. Into May. May!
Everyone else in the world (it seemed) was writing these cheerful blossom haiku and I kept looking out my window wondering if this was one of those dreams after all. Cold rain. Bare branches. Me shivering in my sweaters and occasionally even long underwear still, the grass like straw, the cold! so painful it felt like some kind of bone disease! (Should I go to the doctor?)
Well. So okay, it was still only about fifty degrees today with a stiff breeze. But there was sun! There’s supposed to be sun all week. And there are flowers everywhere. There are blossoms! There are lilacs! The grass is green, the leaves are green. …It finally happened!
Not only that, but I handed in my last assignments of the semester last week. Another thing I thought would never happen. And my son finally got his driver’s license, which means I don’t have to drive him everywhere anymore. [Though he will kill me if I don’t mention that he’s been getting himself practically everywhere on his bike since he was like ten, so it’s not like I’ve been a slave to his transportation.]
And my husband finally got over whatever microbial infestation had him in its death grip for the last month, so he can do something besides sit around making exploding-lung noises. Like take me to the Arboretum to look at apple blossoms. And wait patiently while I scribble illegible things about them in a notebook. Cold and lonely no more. So glad that dream is over.
falling in love with a memory apple blossoms
Haiku of the Month: All Spring and Summer, All the Time
I’ve mentioned before how you can follow the world’s weather patterns by observing the haiku that is posted on the Internet. Well, I was looking through all the haiku I had collected over the last three weeks and noticed that not a single one referred to autumn or winter. (I must not have been hanging out on enough southern hemisphere blogs or something. I apologize to that half of the globe.)
a girl’s shadow
swims from my ankles
— Lorin Ford, Mann Library’s Daily Haiku
as it lands
the mallard shatters the house
in the river
— Polona Oblak, Crows & Daisies
the shapes of chins
in a crowd
— an’ya, DailyHaiga
(Please go visit this very lovely haiga.)
spring dusk –
the river pauses
for a moment
to take the weight
of a swan
— Paul Smith, Paper Moon
settling on all
the unfound eggs
— Pearl Nelson, Pearl Nelson
a card game called
— Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World
summer rain I’m still a fool around gravity
— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, scented dust
a careless butterfly:
lost among thousands
of heavy raindrops
— Vladimir Devide/haiga by Kuniharu Shimizu, see haiku here
“The typhoon rain seems to have stopped this morning here, but the clouds are still pretty heavy. People walking on the street are taking umbrella along. Small insects, however, are sometimes careless and venture into the pouring rain only to be slapped down on the ground.
I heard that when the tsunami was approaching, quite a few people actually went out to the pier or seaside to watch the wave. How careless I thought, but I guess that is what happens when one underestimates the real power of the nature. Being curious and being careful are both the working of the mind. It makes a big difference which working one chooses in time of danger. I certainly choose not to be a careless butterfly.”
— Kuniharu Shimizu, see haiku here
harusamu no yama no hitotsu ga hagurekeri
one of the mountains
— Shinji Saito, translated by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World
it has to end:
to cherry blossoms
— Alegria Imperial, jornales
cherry petals are falling
— Taro Kunugi, from Donna Fleischer’s Word Pond
that life owes me
– lupins !
— Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked
(I had a hard time choosing between this tanka and several others Mark posted this week that were equally wonderful. You should really go over there and decide for yourself which is your favorite.)
between tour groups
just the garden
— Sandra Simpson, DailyHaiku
open scissors beside a vase of water
— Eve Luckring, from A New Resonance : Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku, Red Moon Press, 2009, quoted on Basho’s Road
This is the toy theatre room. You’ll notice the wooden Lawyer. Took forty-two hours to get his jaw right. We’re staging Visions on Wednesday. You should come.
— Ben Pullar, a handful of stones
(You’re right, this is not a haiku. It’s a small stone, which is sometimes the same thing and sometimes not. You should let Fiona Robyn tell you about them if you don’t already know. And this reminds me — Fiona and her fiance Kaspalita, who are getting married on June 18, are asking for a wedding present of small stones written on their wedding day. They are lovely people and if you write them a poem I promise you’ll get some good karma. Shhhh. Don’t tell them I told you.)
Web Wide World
So much fun stuff to read this month, so little time…
“Understanding Modern English-Language Haiku” from Winning Writers, April 2010
This is a fascinating essay that features the editors of five haiku journals speaking about the process they go through when writing haiku in general and one specific haiku in particular. The introductory remarks feature a discussion of one of my pet peeves, how profoundly haiku is marginalized in the wider world of poetry and the serious ignorance and misunderstanding of what haiku is among mainstream poets.
It’s encouraging that this essay appears on a mainstream poetry website. I hope that the remarks of Jane Reichhold, John Stevenson, George Swede, Linda Papanicolau, and Colin Stewart Jones do something to enlighten at least a few writers about the real nature and potential of haiku.
the dashboard lights
of another car
— John Stevenson
Speaking of Colin Stewart Jones…I got the link to that last essay off his blog, serendipiku, which is very interesting, as is his static website, also, slightly confusingly, called serendipiku. (It’s called branding, I guess. I must get with the times. Nice work, Col.)
Colin is a wonderful poet and artist. His one-word bird haiga are really fun, and I especially like his graphic haibun, which are unlike any other haibun you’ve ever seen. I recommend in particular “Menu” and “Burberry” and “Midsummer Moon.” The last, about insomnia, contains one of my favorite poetic lines of the month: “Can’t even conjure up a pathetic fallacy.”A possibly crippling ailment for some writers of haiku, probably including me.
almost thirty years now
since I was
the twelve-year-old boy
looking over a high wall
— Colin Stewart Jones (originally published in Muse India 37, May/June 2011)
You can download this unpublished manuscript from 1959, by Harold J. Isaacson and Helen Shigeko Isaacson, from the Internet Archive (an amazing collection of online texts, images, and audio which if you aren’t careful will suck you into its orbit and never let you go).
It’s an excellent collection of classical haiku about insects, with commentary. What makes it really interesting, though (to me, anyway, big geek that I am), is that the translations incorporate (untranslated, because they have no real translation) the kireji or cutting words (ya, kana, and keri) that the Japanese employ in many of their haiku for emphasis and/or as a way of marking a pause between the two parts of the poem.
Here are a couple of examples:
the helmet on which sleeps
a butterfly kana
— Choi, tr. Isaacson
Golden flies ya
Where on the ground has spilled
a melon’s entrails
— Chikuba, tr. Isaacson
At first I thought this manner of translation was very strange and awkward and disliked it. But now I kind of like the rhythm it gives and feel that in some ways it helps me understand better what these poems must be like in the original. I wouldn’t want these to be the only translations I read of these haiku, but I think there’s definitely a place for them in the world. That’s my final answer.
Women Poets of Japan from The Green Leaf
“The Green Leaf” has a lot on it, from mainstream poems by contemporary authors to classical haiku in translation to vast quantities of photo haiga to contemporary haiku to…the works of women poets of Japan, which is what I feel like featuring today because I just do, okay? The whole site, though, is well worth rummaging around in, though it feels incomplete and uneven (but who am I to talk) and also it does something which drives me completely out of my mind, which is fail to credit the translator of translated poems.
I hate this because it’s inconsiderate not only to the translator, who has done a very difficult job that deserves to be acknowledged, but to readers who might like to know where they can seek out (or, ahem, avoid) other translations by a particular translator or compare translations between translators. So I was feeling a strange mixture of annoyance and delight as I browsed around here. But then I came upon this tanka and forgave everything.
Gazing across the fields,
at Taketa I hear the cranes
not a space not a moment
of pause in my longing.
— Lady Otomo-no-Sakanoue (8th century)
(There’s a haiga of this poem, too, if you follow the link from the poet’s name above.)
So Jane Reichhold has done it again. Last year when I was just getting started writing haiku I used Jane’s list of 24 haiku-writing techniques to help me understand what haiku were all about and all the different ways they can be written. You can find her list here on the web and also in her excellent book, Writing and Enjoying Haiku.
Jane is great at explaining how haiku work and breaking down the process of writing them in a way even a more-or-less clueless newbie can understand, as I can attest. She does have her own particular understanding of what haiku are, which is not necessarily everyone’s understanding, but hey, who doesn’t.
Anyway, what she’s done now is create this series of fourteen quite brief lessons that take a beginner through the process of learning what a haiku is, what the various parts of a haiku are, what a good haiku looks and feels and sounds like. You could do way worse as a beginner than start with these lessons and their exercises. I really like this one, for instance:
“Find a haiku that you really admire and write it [down]. It would be kind to the author to record his or her name and where you found the poem.
Then begin to rewrite the poem. Maybe start by just changing one word. Or changing one line. Or take a phrase of image you greatly admire and see how many ways you can make it work with other images.”
— Jane Reichhold, “Bare Bones Haiku, Lesson Two: Before Writing Your Own Haiku“
(Disclaimer: Obviously, this is just an exercise for your own poetic development — you wouldn’t want to try to publish the results of this exercise or pass them off as your own poetry unless they ended up really, really, really different from the originals.)
Once again The Haiku Foundation has created a very cool resource for readers and writers of haiku, which is this archive of past winners of most of the major haiku contests. If you are looking for an online collection of excellent contemporary haiku, needless to say this would be a good place to start.
This is an older (2001) essay by Florence Vilen, discussing when and how repetition makes haiku more effective. Most of the essay is taken up by examples, which really is my favorite kind of essay. And haiku with repetition are some of my favorite kind of haiku, so this made me very happy.
the sound they make
the sound I make
— Gary Hotham
Dead Tree News
So you wanna see the most adorable haiku book ever published? Do you? Do you? You do? Yay! Okay…here’s the cover:
Yes…that is a hand-sewn Japanese binding in red thread, thanks for asking. And that is a tiny little sketch of the moon reflected in a teacup. I did say it was adorable, didn’t I?
… Not sold yet? Looking for some more substance? Okay, here are a couple of the inside pages:
… I know, right? All the pages are like that. Aubrie’s haiku are amazing, and Katie’s illustrations are awesome, and you just keep looking through the book going, “Why don’t more people write more haiku that so movingly combine the personal and the universal, that are filled with such astute and original observations of the concrete world, that are simultaneously mercilessly honest and lovingly generous?… And then why don’t they have an artist with the same rare sensibility draw touching little illustrations to go with their haiku… And then why don’t they put the whole thing together in a lovingly designed package and sew it up with red thread?”
It’s a mystery, really. But I wouldn’t spend too long agonizing over it. Just get the book and enjoy it. You’re welcome.
Sigh. No matter how much I write it always feels like I’m forgetting something. If you figure out what it is, let me know, okay? I’m getting old, I need help with these things.
what I meant to say
still folded into
On my pass through the Haikuverse the last couple of weeks I picked up a hitchhiker from another galaxy who was curious to come visit Earth and observe our peculiar poetry-writing ways. I invited him home to hang around and look over my shoulder for a few days while I swore at my computer in an effort to make better haiku appear in my word processor, which was fine for a while, if a little distracting, but then he got pushy and wanted to write the introduction and conclusion to this column.
I don’t like to argue with sentient beings who can shoot actual daggers from their eyes, so I let him. Here’s what he has to say.
People of Earth:
Fear not, I come in peace. And admiration of your “poetry.” Whatever that is.
I’m feeling kind of quiet and subdued today. (Maybe because I’m not quite certain yet of your customs on this planet.)
So without further ado (I don’t know what that means but I like the sound of it), the haiku.
I’d like to start off by offering hearty congratulations to Vincent Hoarau and his wife on the recent birth of their daughter Pia.
At Vincent’s blog, La Calebasse, he’s collected together many of the haiku he wrote during Pia’s gestation and after her birth, including this one:
lune croissante –
les yeux mi-clos, elle attend
la montée de lait
— Vincent Hoarau
While we’re doing French, why don’t we move on to this piece from Temps libres (this one gets a translation, though):
passage d’oiseaux —
en route vers le nord
de ma fenêtre
passing birds —
heading to the north
of my window
— Serge Tome
(If you don’t know Serge’s website, it’s full of both his own haiku and the haiku of others that he’s translated from English to French. Both categories of poetry are wonderful, and he’s been doing this for years now so there’s a lot to browse. You’d better get on over there quickly.)
Okay, now we can get back to haiku in English. First, a couple of poets who have been following my NaHaiWriMo prompts and posting the results on their blog. Both of them are amazing poets and I look forward every day to seeing what they’ve done with my prompt.
From Stella Pierides:
when did I learn about
— Stella Pierides
From Crows and Daisies:
i go to the river
to write about a river…
its silent flow
— Polona Oblak
And some miscellaneous haiku that have nothing to do with me…
showing the way
— Jim Kacian
From Haiku Bandit Society:
even in soft spring light
I can’t read the words
thinking of father
— William Sorlien
tide fish streak the moon
— Barbara A. Taylor
From Morden Haiku:
without a taste
— Matt Morden
first light confirms the flightless bird i am
— Mark Holloway
I love this experimental series from scented dust. This is actually just part of the series, so why don’t you head on over there and read the whole thing?
in the crows eye nothing and what I want:finished looking into crows eye:what is in there? crows eye hunger black:yawn the empty emptiness in crows eye:what darkness to love crows eye:a way to fall horisontally crows eye limbo:biting whatever cracked teeth and crows eye:sorry, bro, really don’t care crows eye— Johannes S.H. Bjerg
he slips glass bangles
over my wrist
— Kala Ramesh
Kala’s poetry is featured every day this month at Mann Library’s Daily Haiku. Her poetry is wonderful, and so is her author profile at the site, featuring a fascinating discussion of Kala’s theory of haiku poetics related to her training and experience as a performer of Indian classical music. Here’s an excerpt:
“In the silences between notes, between words, between lines, the emotions that arise is rasa —the aesthetic essence— which gives poetry, music or dance, a much greater sense of depth and resonance. Something that cannot be described by words because it has taken us to a sublime plane where sounds have dropped off.
The most important aspect of rasa, the emotional quotient, is that it lingers on, long after the stimulus has been removed. We often ruminate over a haiku we’ve read for days and savour the joy of its memory. Thus, although the stimulus is transient, the rasa induced is not.
What RASA does to Indian aesthetics is exactly what MA does to renku between the verses and the juxtaposition between two images in haiku. This is my honest effort in trying to understand the Japanese concept of MA in relation to my own evaluation of Indian aesthetics.
It is these silences and pauses in haiku, and what this does in the reader’s mind, that fascinate me.”
— Kala Ramesh
I found a ton of haiga I loved the last couple of weeks. I’m putting them in their own special section because I really, really want you to notice they’re haiga and go look at the pretty pictures. Please? Come on, these people spent all this time drawing or painting or taking photos or playing with their computer graphics programs or whatever…the least you can do is a little clicking.
From Lunch Break (HAIGA):
blue bird chasing another
— Gillena Cox
From 19 Planets (HAIGA):
the imprint of a leaf
in the sidewalk
— Rick Daddario
(This haiku was originally left as a comment here and I liked it even then, but now that it is a haiga it is even better.)
From Yay words! (HAIGA):
in the neighbor’s house
— Aubrie Cox
From see haiku here (HAIGA):
how quickly it comes back…dust
— Stanford Forrester
From Haiga (HAIGA):
full moon illuminating
the steeple —
steeple pointing to the moon
— Eric L. Houck
(I’ve just discovered Eric’s site — he’s stupendous. Well worth taking a look around.)
And to go along with these, here’s a general haiga link I discovered recently…
Somehow, even though I’d heard of this, I’d managed not to actually see it before, but then Rick Daddario of 19 Planets left me a link in my comments and I blessed him fervently as I browsed around in here. There’s a monthly contest and the results are awesome.
Found in Translation
Steve Mitchell over at Heed Not Steve did the coolest thing this week — he used Google Translate to transform one of his haiku into another, related haiku by sending it through a series of translations of different languages.
He got from
a clatter of birdsong
sipping my coffee
And my coffee
— Steve Mitchell
….but if you want to know how, exactly, you will have to go over there and take a look.
There’s so much amazing stuff over at The Haiku Foundation’s website, I feel like every time I start digging around over there I find something new. But this really takes the cake. Here’s the description of this project: “The Haiku Foundation Digital Library aims to make all books of English-language haiku available to all readers online.”
So what if there’s only fifteen or twenty books there now? They’re all completely amazing and you can download the PDFs and spend a fantastic Saturday afternoon reading, say, H.F. “Tom” Noyes on his Favorite Haiku (highly, highly recommended) or Kenneth Yasuda’s gloriously old-fashioned, kitschy 1947 translations of classical Japanese haiku in The Pepper-Pod, featuring titles and rhyme. Not to be missed.
warm rain before dawn;
my milk flows into her
— Ruth Yarrow, quoted in Favorite Haiku by H.F. Noyes
Wild the rolling sea!
Over which to Sado Isle
Lies the Galaxy.
— Basho, translated by Kenneth Yasuda in The Pepper-Pod
Dead Tree News
I’m very short on time this week so the extent of my dead tree musings will be to share with you this haiku and related quote from R.H. Blyth’s Haiku, vol. 2, “Spring” (so, so loving Blyth, best million dollars I ever spent), which I found a week or so ago and can’t get out of my head.
Shall be assigned
To the uguisu.
— Issa, translated by R.H. Blyth
“Bestowing what we do not possess, commanding where we have no power, this is of the essence of poetry and of Zen.”
— R.H. Blyth, Haiku, vol. 2, p. 181
Yeah. I know. It turned my brain inside out too.
Have a great week.
Back to our guest:
Thanks for your kind attention, People Who Orbit Sol. I will now quietly return to my place of habitation and share with my people what I have learned about you through your — what do you call it again? — “poetry.”
Fear not. It’s all good.
last year’s honey
on our toast
(NaHaiWriMo prompt: Sweets and sweet things)
Moving along: NaHaiWriMo prompt for April 3rd
Insects and arachnids
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.)
See Dick run … no, wait.
If you don’t have a Facebook account or don’t want to post haiku there, feel free to post them in my comments.
Or just write them down somewhere and keep them a secret.
Or don’t write anything at all. Whatever works for you.
I’ll be back tomorrow, same time, same place, with another suggestion.
no plum blossom viewing
(thanks to Gabi Greve for inspiring this haiku)
radiation leak moonlight on the fuel rods
before and after
earthquake news —
beginning to learn
Everyone have a nice Valentine’s Day? Looking forward to warmer weather? (Or cooler, if you live in the Southern Hemisphere?) Great. Glad to hear it.
Okay, got the chitchat out of the way. No time. Must be fast. Short. Abbreviated. Abridged. Yes, that’s it. This is the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books of haiku columns. Don’t let that put you off, though. It’s just my boring words that are abridged, not the haiku.
Haiku (Etc.) of the Week
(Poems I found and liked the last couple of weeks.)
I am giving pride of place this week to Amy Claire Rose Smith, the 13-year-old winner of the youth haiku contest at The Secret Lives of Poets. This haiku is not just “good for a thirteen-year-old.” I would be proud of having written it. Amy is the co-proprietor of The Spider Tribe Blog and Skimming the Water along with her mother, Claire Everett, also a fine haiku and tanka poet (I mean, she’s okay for a grownup, you know?) who has been featured in this space previously.
listeningto the brook’s riddlesa moorhen and I.— Amy Claire Rose Smith
a full breath,
a full moon
From Crows & Daisies:
— Polona Oblak
From Via Negativa:
moon in eclipse
I remember every place
I’ve seen that ember
— Dave Bonta
(The first line links to a spectacular photo by Dave, take a look.)
From Morden Haiku:
a hint of spring
— Matt Morden
From scented dust:
still winter –
a heavy book about
— Johannes S.H. Bjerg
(Johannes has also been writing a lengthy series of haiku about penguins that are delighting my son and me. A few of them are at his blog, linked above, and he’s also been tweeting a lot of them (@jshb32). Both in English and in Danish, because I asked nicely. 🙂 Thanks, Johannes.)
the auld fushwife
sits steekin –
her siller needle dertin.the old fishwife
sits sewing –
her silver needle darting.— John McDonald
From Yay words! :
late winter cold
a honey drop
— Aubrie Cox
From The Haiku Diary:
Ripeness Is All
In the produce section:
A very pregnant woman,
smelling a grapefruit.
From a handful of stones:
Joyfulness Keeps Pushing Through
T. S. Eliot
and the Old Testament
But I can’t help it
— Carl-Henrik Björck
in the dawn light she looks like
my first love
— Bill Kenney
have you thought
of your effect on us?
full moon.— Stella Pierides.
a bit of paradefrom the sparrow …first flakes, last snow.— Ricky Barnes
まどろむの活用形に春の雪 小川楓子madoromu no katsuyôkei ni haru no yuki.
spring snow.— Fuko Ogawa, translated by Fay Aoyagi
“Class Warfare in Wisconsin: 10 Things You Should Know” (Tikkun Daily)a long day…
to the under belly of
a snail shaped moon.— Robert D. Wilson
(Normally I try to keep this blog a politics-free zone, but can I help it if Robert wrote a great tanka and Haiku News connected it to a headline about the protests in my state against the governor’s budget bill? I’m all for art for art’s sake, but if art happens to intersect with politics in an artistically pleasing way, I’m all for that too.)
The white gold moon: A Japanese haiku experience
Or how a hole in the sky turned into a pair of wings in my heart
Mutsumi and I did meet over spare egg sandwiches and coconut muffins at the 411 Seniors Centre Cafeteria. … I laid the printed sheets out on the table, two pages of ten haiku. I had noticed her wince as she read them and then, she pushed the pages away.
… She pointed to one of them and asked me, or to my mind, accused me, “Where is your heart?”
The haiku she had her forefinger on is this:
hole in dark sky?
the white moon
… “When you wrote this how did you feel?”
“Well, in the dark night sky on a full moon, I looked up and there was the moon like a white hole in the sky.”
“Seeing a hole although it was bright sort of scared me but it also delighted me because I realized it is but the moon.”
“That’s why, it can’t be a haiku. It cannot stop there. It has to stop right here,” she tapped her chest with her hand and to mine, finally a gesture which uplifted me, “in the heart, your heart.”
We plumbed the idea deeper. She focused on my delight to see the moon. What did I want to do about it? And how would I have wanted to reach the moon. I said the only I could would be “to fly”. She began to smile and latched on to the image, to the idea of flying. She asked how I would have wanted to fly. And I said with wings, of course.
“But you can’t have wings. Still you can fly with your thoughts, your thoughts of happiness,” she said. “Think of where these come from,” she urged me on.
“In my heart, of course!”
“There you are! There is your haiku!”
She took the piece of paper from my hand and began writing in Japanese, translating the characters into this:
gin-iro* tsuki no hikari*
kurai yoru watashi no kokoro
I asked what each word meant and the haiku flowed:
white gold moon
on a dark night in my heart
a pair of wings
— Alegria Imperial
Dead Tree News: Journaled
Frogpond, the venerable journal of the Haiku Society of America, edited by George Swede, came in the mail last week. First I clasped it to my heart and carried it around with me everywhere for a few days. Then I started making the difficult decisions about which tiny portion of the contents I could share with you guys. Here’s what I came up with:
First of all, I’ll mention right off the bat that there was an essay by Randy Brooks called “Where Do Haiku Come From?” that I am going to have to write a separate post about because I can’t do it justice here. So remind me about that if I haven’t come through in, say, a couple of months.
There were also a couple of interesting and related essays by Ruth Yarrow and David Grayson about bringing current events and economic realities into the writing of haiku. Ruth wrote about the recent/current financial crisis and David about homelessness. Both discussed the importance of not neglecting this aspect of our reality when we look for haiku material; David also discussed how to avoid the pitfalls of sentimentality and cliche when dealing with topics that start out with such strong emotional associations. I tend to think that the reality of the urban environment and the modern political and economic climate are seriously neglected in haiku (and I am as guilty as anyone else of neglecting them), so I was happy to see these essays here.
Second of all, here are the titles of some haibun you might want to take a look at if a copy of Frogpond falls into your path (which it will do if you join the Haiku Society of America, hint hint):
Little Changes, by Peter Newton; The First Cold Nights, by Theresa Williams; Not Amused, by Ray Rasmussen; Marry Me, by Genie Nakano; Gail, by Lynn Edge; This Strange Summer, by Aurora Antonovic; Home, by John Stevenson; Looking Back, by Roberta Beary; Koln, by David Grayson.
And lastly … the haiku. Those that particularly struck me for whatever reason:
warmth from within
— Johnette Downing
high beams visit
a small bedroom
my thin cotton life
— Dan Schwerin
coffee house babble
among all the voices
— Robert Moyer
my knotty life
— Charlotte DiGregorio
if only she had been buried wild crimson cyclamen
— Clare McCotter
wrong from every angle
— Marsh Muirhead
morning obituaries …
there i am
between the lines
— Don Korobkin
full moon —
all night the howling
— John Soules
full of faces
— Sheila Windsor
………….lets me be who I am
— Francine Banwarth
Done! Okay, for me, that really wasn’t bad.
Just wanted to say that I will probably not have another Haikuverse update for at least 3 weeks, possibly 4, since in March I will be contending vigorously with midterms, family visits, a new job, and oh, yeah, this haijinx column gig. (Send me news!) I’ll miss droning endlessly on at you guys but at least this will give you a chance to catch up with all the old columns.
apple seeds still drying
in my coffee cup
late snow on blossoms
laying on of hands
for haiku bones
apple trees in blossom
bees and I
probe for sweetness