harvest moon –
wishing for it to fall
butter side up
Haiku Bandit Society, September Moon Viewing Party
harvest moon –
wishing for it to fall
butter side up
Haiku Bandit Society, September Moon Viewing Party
(Photo by Jay Otto)
fog d r i f t s
over the moon
over the boat
Variation on a haiku posted to the Moon Viewing Party at Haiku Bandit Society, 8/13/11
altered photograph by Rick Daddario, 19 Planets
I can’t help wishing for
a gold tooth like hers
(Haiku Bandit Society, June 2011 Moon Viewing Party)
one plate missing
from the setting
(Haiku Bandit Society, July 2011 Moon Viewing Party)
Hey…do you like writing moon haiku? Like reading moon haiku? (If you say no to either of those questions, you have to turn in your official Haiku Poet Badge, so think carefully before you answer.)
If so, you should really consider joining the party over at Haiku Bandit Society every month. It starts a few days before the full moon. Anyone can contribute a poem about the moon for those few days. Willie posts them all on the blog, and they are a blast to read. Then his dog Dottie picks out the three she likes the best and gives them the Dottie Dot Awards.
This is another one of my favorite things that people do with their blogs. I wish even more people would participate because I love moon haiku so much and there really are an endless variety of twists on them. I bet you’ve got something great up your sleeve. Think about it.
her water breaks
(I woke up for what I thought was no reason last night and then realized that I must have been wakened by the full moon, which seemed to be taking up most of my window. It reminded me of one night in September 1994 when I also woke for what seemed like no reason, except that when I stood up my water broke and fourteen hours later my son was born. So that was a good reason to wake up.)
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.
over the gable
of my ugly house
— the moon
not full enough
for the moon
brighter than ever
the moon tries
to write haiku
a handful of stones, 3/9/2011
shiki kukai, february 2011
moon viewing party, Haiku Bandit Society, 3/19/2011
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.
for the full moon
scheduled to post at 5:38 p.m. CST, when the sun stops and time starts running backward and history repeats itself and … oh, that’s not what happens? never mind, then.
Yes, it’s that time again — time to check your booster rockets, lay in a supply of freeze-dried sushi, and climb into the shuttle for a whirlwind tour of the Haikuverse.
I am going to try to make this snappy since, in anticipation of the Holiday of Boundless Capitalist Delight, I’m planning to swing back by Earth later this afternoon in an attempt to observe this planet’s December ritual of purchasing an overabundance of material goods to honor the birth of someone who spent a lot of time talking about how stupid money was. If you joined me, we could amuse ourselves by trading senryu about the foibles of our holiday-crazed fellow human beings and then repairing to a tea shop to eat cookies and regain a Zenlike state of tranquility. Wouldn’t that be fun? Oh, well, maybe next year.
If you’re as stressed out by Chrismukkwanzaa as I am, you should go check out The Haiku Foundation’s new user forums. They have kind and helpful moderators, interesting discussion topics, opportunities to get feedback on your haiku from wiser and more experienced poets, and a generally happy, relaxed atmosphere, which we can all use this time of year.
Chris Gordon from ant ant ant ant ant stopped by here this week and left a brilliant comment that made me very happy, which reminded me that I hadn’t visited his wonderful blog in a while. Lots of great poetry there, including this lovely one-liner of Chris’s from his 2007 book Echoes:
the rain warmer than the air around it I find your scar
— Chris Gordon
Fiona Robyn, who posts her own lovely writing at a small stone and other peoples’ at a handful of stones, has gotten on the “write a whole bunch of stuff in a month in the company of other people” bandwagon (see: NaNoWriMo, NaHaiWriMo).
Her version is called “International Small Stones Writing Month,” and it’s headquartered at a river of stones. In a nutshell, the idea is to sign up to write one of the tiny poems Fiona calls “small stones” every day in the month of January. This seems like it would be a lot of fun for someone who, unlike me, had some extra time on his or her hands in the month of January. So if you’re one of those people, go make Fiona happy and hop on her bandwagon.
And speaking of a handful of stones, here’s one of my favorite posts from last week:
the fog finally
lifted, revealing distant
I’ve really been enjoying the haiku that George O. Hawkins has been posting lately on Facebook and Twitter. Like this one, for instance:
the icy countenance
of a swan
— George O. Hawkins
Speaking of Twitter, CoyoteSings has created a blog featuring some of the best Twitter haiku and tanka, so if you’re wondering what’s going on over there on Twitter but you don’t want to actually get an account, you could check out Jars of Stars. Here’s a ku you might like, for instance:
I liked this Daily Haiku entry last week:
an inaudible voice
on the answering machine
— Robert Epstein
I am so glad to see that Alan Segal, who had been on hiatus from his blog for a while, is back to posting fairly regularly at old pajamas: from the dirt hut. Alan’s poetry is surreal and challenging but I like the interesting things his images do to my brain. Example:
my horse dreams
of tracing the pattern
and, ironhooved, shape,
sew his wooden kimono
— Alan Segal
I don’t pay nearly enough attention to haiga (there are only so many hours in the day) but every once in a while one really grabs me, like this illustration of a Ban’ya Natsuishi ku by Kuniharu Shimizu from see haiku here. (Go look at it. It’s a picture, see?)
“Issa’s Sunday Service,” over at Issa’s Untidy Hut keeps on making me happy. Last week there was a Grateful Dead song (“Althea”) that so, so geekily references both “Hamlet” and a 17th-century poem by Richard Lovelace (and, interesting to nobody but me, I just noticed that the version of the song linked to here was recorded in 1981, when I was twelve, at the Hartford Civic Center in Hartford, CT, about fifty miles from where I was living at the time).
Then there were several poems and ku on the subject of temple bells, including:
the praying mantis
hangs by one hand…
— Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue
Really, what’s not to like?
My personal destiny is somehow intertwined with haiku, and has been since the dawning of consciousness in adolescence. I don’t feel this with any other kind of writing, nor with any other activity with the exception of planting trees and wildflowers. But please don’t misunderstand me: this is not to say that I suppose there is anything “special” about my work, or that it is better than the writing of those differently related to haiku. But then, of course, the aim of haiku is “nothing special”—that special “nothing special” that somehow touches us at the core of our being.
— Lee Gurga
December rain —
the long night
— Paul David Mena
At Tobacco Road Poet, the “Three Questions” this week were answered by Jim Kacian, who is the founder and president of The Haiku Foundation and also one of my favorite living haiku poets. He wrote this, for example (and I had a really hard time choosing this one from among many other favorites), so you see what I mean:
as my life turns crazy
— Jim Kacian
It’s worth reading Jim’s answers to the Three Questions and also worth reading much of the copious other material by and about him that is available out there on the Interwebs. There is this index that can get you started. I love the first essay it links to, “Haiku as Anti-Story”, which starts out this way:
Haiku are not really difficult, once you are willing to take the words at their own valuation. … So why is it so hard? Why does it need explanation? Because the mother, friend, reader is looking for story. “Yes, it’s a lily, but what is it really?” Your audience is looking for story, but you’re giving them — anti-story.
— Jim Kacian, “Haiku as Anti-Story”
Oh — so hard for those of us who love stories so passionately to let go of that narrative pull. This makes me wonder if I am guilty of wanting haiku to do too much — if I want them, too often, to be tiny stories. It also makes me wonder if it’s really impossible for haiku ever to be tiny stories. So much to think about…
But if you really want to be blown away by the comprehensiveness of Jim’s thoughts about and understanding of haiku, you’ll have to set aside a little time to read his magnum opus: First Thoughts: A Haiku Primer. This covers everything about haiku, from history to form to content to technique to language, in exhaustive, sometimes exhausting, but exhilarating detail. (If for some reason you’re a little short on time this week and want to read a short excerpt to get an idea of what the Primer is all about, you could just read “How to Write Haiku.”) Try it, you’ll like it.
Dead Tree News: During the same used-bookstore visit in which I picked up the Johan Huizinga book on play I wrote about the other day, I found a thick tome by Donald Keene entitled World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era, 1600-1867. It covers poetry, fiction, and drama. I am making my way through it slowly. Very, very slowly. Okay, so I’ve only read two chapters. But they were great chapters!
These were two of six chapters on the early development of “haikai,” which are what we know today as haiku (in case you weren’t aware, no one called them that until Shiki coined the term in the nineteenth century). Keene doesn’t even get around to Basho until chapter 5, so this is the really early development of haikai.
Some of this story was familiar to me — I knew that haikai originally were the first verses of renga, a linked verse form which at the time was primarily a kind of parlor game or a form of court entertainment, often employing crude humor or at best clever word play. But I didn’t know that no one took them seriously as an independent art form until a guy named Matsunaga Teitoku came along. He wasn’t a great poet or anything and he seems to have been a little OCD-ish in insisting that everyone follow the Official Rules of Haikai, which he kind of made up himself. (Some things never change.)
However, Teitoku did haikai the great favor of saying that it was just as valid a poetic form as renga or the fancier poetry known as waka, and also of saying that it was all right to use a simpler, more ordinary vocabulary — “haigon” — in haikai, compared to the more elevated, literary vocabulary that writers of waka usually employed. Here’s what Keene says about this development:
[Teitoku’s] insistence on haigon not only enriched the vocabulary of poetry but opened up large areas of experience that could not be described except with such words. Haikai was especially popular with the merchant class which, though it retained a lingering admiration for the cherry blossoms and maple leaves of the old poetry, welcomed a variety of poetry that could describe their pleasures in an age of peace and prosperity. … [W]ithout his formal guidance haikai poetry might have remained forever on the level of the limerick.
— Donald Keene, “Matsunaga Teitoku and the Creation of Haikai Poetry” from World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era, 1600-1867
So there you have it … the next time you are writing a haiku and striving to keep it simple, stupid, you can thank Teitoku.
Okay, off to brave retail hell in the name of peace on earth. As ever, it was a joy circumnavigating the Haikuverse with you this week. I wish you many silent nights in which to read, and write, haiku, unless you are the kind of person who prefers the company of merry gentlemen this time of year, in which case, by all means, go for it.
the inflated balloon
Highlights of last night’s festival events (which I was way too dead on my feet to post about last night):
The reception that opened the festival took place in Gayle Bull’s home, which is attached to the back of her store. It’s almost as full of books as the store.
I, unfortunately, am not the ideal person to report on reception-type events, because despite the impression you may get from this blog that I am the kind of person who never shuts up, I am actually paralyzingly shy in large crowds of people. Three at a time is about my maximum. Several dozen? None of whom I’ve ever met before? Most of whom seem to know each other? Not so much.
This is not to say that people weren’t friendly. Everyone I actually managed to meet and talk to was extremely welcoming and warm. Charlotte DiGregorio, the Midwest Regional Coordinator of the Haiku Society of America, with whom I corresponded earlier this summer about the conference, gave me some great tips about starting my own haiku group in Madison, and also some pointers about submitting my haiku to journals (which I have just recently, and very tentatively, started doing). Charlie Trumbull, a wonderful haiku poet and the venerable editor of what is probably the most prominent haiku journal in America, Modern Haiku, was kind enough to endure the gushing admiration of a newbie haikuist without throwing up.
(There was also really good chocolate at the reception, including one designed for the conference (by whom? must find out) called “Haiku.” It was in the shape of a leaf and was spicy and why didn’t I get a picture of it?)
During the reception Charlie was running around handing out sheets of haiku by Robert Spiess, the late editor of Modern Haiku whom the conference was commemorating. Everyone was meant to pick two from their sheet to read in the next phase of the evening …
We moved outside to take over the microphone of the singer-guitarist who had been quietly playing country and soft-rock standards all evening in order to present remembrances of Bob Spiess. I knew pretty much nothing about Bob at the start of the evening but by the end I almost felt I’d known him personally. Everyone emphasized his kindness and generosity, including Gayle’s two daughters who remembered his frequent visits to their home and the way he doled out quarters to them (at a time when a quarter would have been a much bigger deal to a kid than it is now).
Possibly the funniest story involved the time Bob visited Japan and was riding the bullet train with some other haikuists, and was very eager to see Mount Fuji. Then he had to use the restroom. The other poets watched in dismay as Mount Fuji flashed by while he was gone. He got a haiku out of it though, a very funny one which I am going to track down and add here.
Several people read Bob’s thoughts about what haiku is or should be. Lee Gurga, another amazing haiku poet who is Bob’s literary executor and took over the editorship of Modern Haiku after his death, read Bob’s list of what annoyed him in haiku, a lot of which are the same things that annoy me in haiku, including the overuse of words like “suddenly” and “silence.”
Someone else read an observation of Bob’s which really struck me (maybe because I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately myself): “Haiku is the poetry of the healing of culture by nature.” Bob’s poetry is definitely heavy on nature imagery, which I have recently disparaged, but it feels very natural in his poetry because he has clearly spent a lot of time observing and thinking about it:
around the bend
a log lying in the stream
— the turtle’s ears
Not that he doesn’t closely observe human beings too:
some sticks and pebbles
and a place with mud
a child by himself
a high mountain path
the guide saying that monkey
tastes better than goat
He wrote a whole series of haiku, in fact — Tall River Junction, inspired, obviously, by Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology — with titles that were people’s names:
Fr. Augustine Confesso, Paris Priest
Smiles, “The pear you eat,
snitched from the tree, my neighbor boy,
be it doubly sweet.
This last poem illustrates something that I found interesting about Spiess’s haiku, which is how often it employs rhyme — and how well the rhyme works:
drifting in the skiff …
names of all the swallows now:
tree and barn and cliff
The rhyme almost always follows this pattern of the first and third line rhyming.
One of the most touching moments of the evening occurred during the reading of Spiess’s haiku. A Korean woman with a strong accent stood up and announced she was going to read only the shortest poem on her sheet because she knew her accent would be difficult for us to understand:
Then she added: “I have the pleasure to know Bob Spiess and he was the pure kindness.”
We had a brief break before the next phase of the evening, which was readings from our own (or others’, if we preferred) haiku. Many poets seemed to take this opportunity to further lubricate themselves with the local beer and wine that was for sale. (I don’t drink, not because I have any moral or health objections to alcohol or am a recovering alcoholic or anything, just because I have never acquired a grownup taste for the stuff. Or for coffee, for that matter. Or liver and onions. All equally disgusting as far as I’m concerned.)
Anyway, by the time the readings began, the poets were becoming kind of rowdy. Rowdy haiku poets. Heckling each other. It was quite a scene. Lots of the haiku involved double entendres or just subtle (or frank) references to sex, which all got great reactions.
Most of the haiku that were read were frankly wonderful; I wrote lots of them down thinking I would post some of them here and then realized I really can’t do that without the permission of the authors. If I can get that, I may put some up later.
Lee Gurga read a great haiku by Peter Yovu, and some commentary about it (some of which is reproduced in the link above), and announced he’d give everything he’d ever written to have written it. Everyone was familiar with the ku before he even read it, except, of course, me. But now I am and I also love it.
I really liked the Korean guy who got up and told us about the article he’d just written about how the origins of haiku were in Korea. I believe it’s traditional for the Japanese and Koreans to argue about who invented pretty much every cultural phenomenon they share, so that was entertaining.
I chose to read my “Full Moon” sequence, although, as I announced beforehand, this was completely inappropriate because we are at or near a new moon right now. This was politely, though not wildly enthusiastically, received. We all have to start somewhere.
Which reminds me that I never actually posted a new haiku yesterday. But I did write one! I swear!
haiku poets can’t forget
when it was full
once again I forget
to look up
city haze obscures the moon uncertain dogs barking
moon caught in the trees
the neighbors gather
to watch it escape
milk and the moon stirred into our tea
drifts to the moon
the moon adds layers soon he’ll be convinced I’m right
the sheets as white
as the moon
July’s full moon the fan blows away its heat
behind me in the mirror
I’m still feeling under the weather from semi-collapsing at the end of a half-marathon I ran on Sunday in 88-degree weather (it’s Wisconsin, and it’s been a cold spring, so no snickering from you Southwesterners). Pretty much confined to the couch, since standing up for more than a few minutes makes me dizzy. There are worse things, I guess. I’m surrounded by all the books and magazines I put off reading all semester, not to mention the omnipresent, time-sucking Interweb.
I’m having a hard time following a train of thought even long enough to write a sub-seventeen-syllable poem, though. So at the moment I’m taking it easy on my fried brain by resorting to found haiku, mostly from prose by Gerard Manley Hopkins, better known as a poet — one of my all-time favorites. The first couple haiku are from poems. The rest are from his journals, which every aspiring poet should read. The man minutely observed and described everything he saw; whole paragraphs read like poems. I can’t help thinking that if he had known about haiku, he would have tried his hand at it.
I may repeat this experiment at intervals, mining the works of other poets and prose writers for haiku-like material (full credit to the original authors, of course). I agonized briefly over whether this exercise was a) cheating, or b) meaningful, but then decided I didn’t care. I enjoy it and it’s my blog. And I do think I’m learning something from this about what writing is haiku-like and what isn’t.
I’ve taken the liberty of haiku-izing Hopkins’s words by arranging them in three lines and removing some punctuation, but otherwise these are direct quotations, with no words removed or added.
the moon, dwindled and thinned
to the fringe of a fingernail
held to the candle
this air I gather
and I release
he lived on
with a not
of the ash, pencil buds
of the beech
almost think you can hear
of the swallows’ wings
over the green water
of the river passing
the slums of the town
of this tree is difficult
putting my hand up
against the sky
whilst we lay on the grass
silver mottled clouding
else like yesterday
Basel at night!
with a full moon
waking the river
the river runs so strong
that it keeps the bridge
some great star
whether Capella or not
I am not sure
two boys came down
the mountain yodelling
we saw the snow
the mountain summits
are not the place
for mountain views
the winter was called severe
there were three spells
of frost with skating
the next morning
a heavy fall
at the beginning of March
they were felling
some of the ashes in our grove
with taut tattered streaks
of crisp gritty snow
thunderstorm in the evening
first booming in gong-sounds
as at Aosta
I noticed the smell
of the big cedar
not just in passing
the comet —
I have seen it at bedtime
in the west
as we came home
the stars came out thick
I leaned back to look at them
— Gerard Manley Hopkins, from Poems and Prose of Gerard Manley Hopkins, edited by W.H. Gardner
the clock that ticks
the dream I can’t
listening to you
tapping your shoulder
to wake you
unsure whose legs