watering the garden
as if yesterday
den Garten gießen
als wäre gestern
to his terms
My friend Eve Luckring, who is a stellar filmmaker and poet, recently told me about an extremely cool project she is working on for The Haiku Foundation. I’m very excited about it because lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that haiku in English is usually not a very oral kind of poetry — mostly we write it and read it on paper, silently, and a lot of us don’t pay that much attention to how it sounds. I wish we would pay more attention to that, because I think a poem separated from its sound is a sad, half-realized thing. Sound is part of what makes a poem a poem.
Fortunately for me, Eve and some other people feel the same way and they got the idea that we should film haiku poets speaking their work aloud and preserve it for posterity so that in the future, we won’t just have the words of great poets, we’ll have their voices as well, and we’ll know how they wanted their haiku to sound as well as look. Thus was born The Haiku Foundation Video Archive. And a cool video about The Haiku Foundation Video Archive:
The only thing is, as you may realize, video equipment is not exactly free, and so an IndieGoGo campaign was also born, to raise funds to purchase equipment and defray other expenses of the Video Archive. If you have any cash to spare, I think a donation to this campaign would be well worth it, especially since there are some pretty cool perks to go along with your donation. Here’s the link:
Thanks for considering donating to make the world a little bit noisier, in a haiku-ish kind of way.
poets in the spring all those other voices
through the lens
of the blossoms
durch die Linse
Chrysanthemum 11, April 2012
Lilliput Review #185
on the horizon
The Heron’s Nest, June 2011
It is not strictly true that there is no haiku here. There’s a bunch of haiku. There’s just a lot of other stuff too. It’s all poetry, though. Short poetry. Relatively short. It all makes me happy, okay?
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how haiku is different from other kinds of poetry and wondering how different it is, exactly, and whether and what writers of haiku can learn from other kinds of poetry about how to write haiku. I know there’s a school of thought that haiku is haiku and Western poetry is Western poetry and ne’er the twain shall meet. That Western poems employ all kinds of tricky, slippery literary devices so their meanings are hidden in a miasma of metaphor, whereas haiku are clear as water and they mean just what they say they mean.
I wonder, I wonder. I’m not sure I believe any more that any particular linguistic feature is absolutely necessary to haiku, except extreme brevity, or that any particular linguistic feature is absolutely foreign to it. I think the salient feature of haiku is an almost painfully heightened awareness of some feature of the universe. I could say something about connections, too, and about concreteness, and perhaps about some sort of sense of the existence of time.
But basically, if I don’t feel, when I read haiku, as if my chin has been grabbed and my attention insistently focused on something outside my own skull, then I don’t feel as if the poem has done its job. And you can achieve that effect with very plain and unmetaphorical language or you can achieve it with metaphor or personification or literary allusions or surrealism or wordplay or pretty much anything else in the bag of tricks that Westerners use, that anybody in the world uses, to direct the attention of the poetry-reading public.
So if you’re going to write haiku — and we are — it seems wise to be aware, to stay always aware, of the full range of options available to poets to describe the universe they experience. Even if you choose not to use many, or most, of those options, at least you know what you’re not using, and hopefully why. You also might realize that something you need to say needs to be said in not-haiku. It’s been known to happen.
Poetry. It’s All Good.
— Johannes S. H. Bjerg, 3ournals and frags
Lately Johannes has been on a roll with these parallel poems of his: two poems running side by side, intertwined but able to stand independently. If you find this one interesting I recommend you dig around over at 3ournals and frags to see what else you can find, it’s a bit of a treasure chest over there.
kuresomete niwakani kurenu umebayashi
sun starts to set…
a plum grove suddenly
—Sojo Hino, translated by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World
OCDC – mixing hard rock aesthetics with an anxiety disorder*
Not to mention three lines of lemon sherbet, each exactly 294 millimetres long, on a mirror, and a bowl of red M&Ms
[*by special request]
— Marie Marshall, kvenna rad
I found a lion’s mane in our old shed
made of string and raffia
when we were young we used to chase antelope
I have scars on my knees*
— Kaspalita, a handful of stones
the bride posin
bi the watterside – a swan
gaes intil the derk burn
the bride posing
on the riverbank – a swan
enters the dark stream
–John McDonald, zen speug
doesn’t really work
in the 1st person
–Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked
signs of spring
one day rhyming
with the next
–William Sorlien, Haiku Bandit Society
–Aditya Bahl, dipping butterflies
a red apple
a green apple
on top of the table
— Shiki, translated by Burton Watson, R’r Blog
Over on the R’r [Roadrunner] Blog, Scott Metz put together a whole applepalooza of haiku about apples, which I highly recommend you take a look at.
all the way
around the oak tree
— John Hawk, DailyHaiku 3/30/2012
— Johannes S. H. Bjerg, Scented Dust
rick of new-mown hay
someone left the gate open
a little horse flew
the wildest urgent creature
between the vault of my ribs
–Alan Segal (“old pajamas”), old pajamas: from the dirt hut
Some more words of wisdom from the R’r Blog… about cooking and haiku.
“Tradition is everything. . . . The press . . . they love to separate avant-garde from tradition. At the end they are not two things. They are the same thing. . . . There’s only two kinds of cooking: the bad cooking and the good cooking. What happens is if we forget our traditions, if we don’t keep looking to the past, it’s very difficult to understand who you are, and even more difficult to be looking to the future.”
— José Andrés, chef and owner of minibar, Zaytinya & é & teacher, with Ferran Adrià, of culinary physics at Harvard University
To expand a little on what I wrote up top about the relationship between haiku and “regular” poetry… Ron Silliman, over on his blog about contemporary poetry, has written a very interesting consideration of contemporary haiku as seen in the pages of three books — the anthology Haiku 21 (which I’m going to review soon, I swear), John Martone’s ksana (ditto), and Jim Kacian’s long after (tritto).
Silliman is not a haiku poet — he writes long, very long poetry, as a matter of fact — but he is sympathetic to haiku, or more or less sympathetic; he eyes it a bit skeptically, but lovingly. (Entertainingly, he is very bemused that none of the poems in Haiku 21 have titles. Um, really? That’s the oddest thing about haiku for you? That ten-word poems don’t have titles? I don’t know, maybe we do have some kind of giant blind spot there and haiku could rock titles just fine, but they just seem kind of … unnecessary.)
Anyway. I feel indulgent toward Silliman because he loves John Martone and so do I — I could say more about that and I will, I will. His review is thoughtful and helpful, check it out.
David Marshall wrote a haiku every day for a while and that made me really happy, and now he’s writing weekly (or so) essays and they make me really happy too.
“When I was writing a haiku a day, I hit upon an idea I could never express properly in that form. What if every haiku about a bird, a tree, a swinging backhoe, or a boulder blocking a path set that thing aflame—what if observing it made it burn with eternal fire? What would the world look like, blazing with attention? What might be left cool and untouched?”
— David Marshall, “One Essay With Separate Titles” from Signals to Attend
Oh, Modern Haiku, how I love you…
Some meditations on light and dark from issue 43.1.
one bird sings inside another autumn dusk
— Francine Banwarth
on the edge of a forest though I tried to avoid it
— David Boyer
a Coleman lantern
lighting the compromise
— Cherie Hunter Day
all that dark matter white peony
— Billie Dee
color to the trees
— Bill Pauly
trying to switch on a light that already is late October
— Alison Williams
one road in,
one road out–
— Jeffrey Woodward
Ribbons 7.4. Tanka. Yes.
I hold a slice
of freshly cut maple
whether to lacquer the wood
or burn it to tracelessness
— hortensia anderson
it is taking
all my life
what is real —
— Marilyn Hazelton
by the maples’ red curtain
two dogs and a pending
— Christina Nguyen
during the procedure–
a tender light
wends its way
through my intestines
— Sheila Sondik
Lilliput Review #184. If you haven’t seen Lillie before, please go over and visit Don Wentworth and order a copy or two, or ten. They cost a buck, unless you buy five or more, in which case they cost even less. There is no possible way you will ever find a lower cost-to-value ratio for poetry.
white flesh peaches
— Renee Albert
Prairie Dog Spoken Here
When speaking of things
you might desire but hesitate to do,
change all your “but”s to “and”s and
all your “asteroid”s to “VW van”s.
— Wayne Hogan
— George Swede
What If This Poem Didn’t Have a Title?
the wind stops
at the window
the face of
a disappointed man
for all his
to catch on
Kokako 16, April 2012
credits: spring rain, Modern Haiku 42.3; summer rain, Frogpond 35.1; autumn rain, Modern Haiku 43.1; winter rain, bottle rockets 26
a junicho renku by Melissa Allen and Aubrie Cox
flickering porch light
I offer candy
to the ghost
a bottle of pumpkin ale
from the cellar
home sick from school
he reads a book
about buried treasure
popsicle stick pirate ship beached
in the laundry basket
the glint of the moon
off her sharpened
solo dance down
the dark sidewalk
carvings in the pine
fill with sap
that will harden
my dog and his
romping through the sprouting lettuce
in the concrete
we try speaking French
to the tourists at Versailles
an arguing couple
at a riverside cafe
at day’s end
a frog leaps from lily to lily
at the moon
(that last one is also over at the March Moon Viewing Party at Haiku Bandit Society)
It’s winter dusk — a faded, in-between sort of time — and my mother and I are standing in a wallpapered hallway — a faded, in-between sort of place — accompanied by a large man who is wearing a dark suit and fluttering with apparent anxiety. We can’t take long, he tells us, and shows us a trolley on which is lying something human-shaped, covered with a sheet. His implication seems to be that this is my father, but I’m not fooled by this story; it’s the usual magician’s patter, a way to distract us from the sleight of hand being performed. I’m curious, though, about what will be there, exactly. A raft of rabbits, a drift of doves? A float of pink carnations? A thousand bright silk handkerchiefs?
in and out of winter ready or not
Abracadabra! — pulling back the sheet from my supposed father, we find him transformed into a doll, a puppet, a cold and eerily motionless replica of himself. The likeness is astounding. The things they can do with mirrors! I put a hand to his cheek. It feels as if it were made of some very soft, pliable sort of clay. Magician’s clay, perhaps they call it. I picture the page of the compendium of magic tricks in which this one is described. The Victorian illustrations, the magician wearing a handlebar moustache and a cravat. The diagram of the secret panel behind which the living man is concealed. The rotation of the chamber to present the mock man to the audience. A flourish of the wand.
reading a thin pamphlet
about the future
Through the hall window the sky has deepened to navy and the moon has begun to shine dully. The features of the father-doll recede and blur. The magician flutters at our backs. It’s time to go, he says, the show is over. This, too, doesn’t deceive me. The grand finale has yet to come — the restoration of the living man to the stage. We allow the large man to draw up the sheet, to push the trolley into another room. Soon he’ll bring it back and let us pull away the sheet again. My father will climb smilingly down; we’ll all applaud while the dark-suited man bows, no longer anxious but proud of his skill at concealment and misdirection.
last bus out of town ice moon
We’ll all walk together out of the hall and out of this stiff, formal building, discussing magic and its mysteries. Perhaps my father will tell us how the trick is performed, or perhaps he has been sworn to secrecy. He’ll smile at us mysteriously, tell us we should volunteer ourselves someday, agree to be replaced and then restored. There’s nothing frightening about it, after all, he’ll say. A little boring, maybe. You just lie there for a while, listening to voices and sensing the growing darkness. I might have dozed off for a while there, he’ll say. But I enjoyed the rest, I admit. In fact I don’t see why you had to wake me at all, he’ll joke, looking up, as we leave the house, at the first bright star in the blue-black sky.
a blaze consumes
what’s left of him
Haibun Today 6.1, March 2012
artwork by Aubrie Cox
artwork by Aubrie Cox
A Hundred Gourds 1.2, March 2012
May I direct you to Aubrie Cox’s collaborative Doodleku project? This month she’s posting one of her doodles (see above for example) every day on her blog, Yay Words!, and inviting poetic responses from her readers. And here I thought I would be free of obligatory daily poetry after the official NaHaiWriMo month ended. Ha. You are never free of obligatory daily poetry. Just so you know.
on her blue dress
(Feb. 14: nachos. Also: Valentine’s Day.)
on a rocky slope
(Feb. 20: talus)
all the rain
that didn’t touch me
(Feb. 21: umbrella)
I knew you would all be curious about how I handled “nachos” and “talus.” There is no point in pretending that I have an easier time writing haiku (or senryu) about nachos than anyone else, or that I had the faintest idea what “talus” was before this prompt was set. Also, who else thinks that Michael Dylan Welch opened the dictionary at random to find that prompt? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
It was an interesting month. (Okay, technically it’s not over yet. Can we just pretend it is? In a normal year it would be.) I never felt especially inspired. (Well, I came up with a couple of interesting things about apples, I think. That was then, this is now.) I didn’t like most of what I wrote at all. But there is value in writing things that you don’t like at all. Generally, you have to write a whole lot of things that you don’t like at all in order to write a few things that you like a lot. It’s hard to figure out what you like until you figure out what you don’t.
But I can’t say I’m sorry February is over. Forward, March!