Tag: Jim Kacian

ephemera

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Ephemera given away by poets at Haiku North American 2013

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I’ve worked in several archives and I can tell you that one of the best words you will encounter there is “ephemera.” This refers to printed material that is (naturally) meant to be ephemeral, to serve a specific purpose and then be discarded — or, as the case may be, preserved in a scrapbook or collected or hoarded or pounced upon by some archivist who perceives historical value in it and tucks it neatly into an acid-free folder and gives it an accession number. Tickets, for instance, are ephemera. Menus. Playbills. Business cards. Dance cards. (Dance cards? What, are we partying like it’s 1899?)

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by moonlight
a sheet of stickers
with unreadable faces

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These objects above might or might not be classified as ephemera, depending on how likely you thought it was that their creators wanted or intended them to be preserved. What they are is giveaways from various poets at last month’s Haiku North America — samples, if you will, of their work. “Samples” sounds a bit ephemeral, but really, these lovely objects don’t look as if they were meant to be discarded. They look like art. Which they are.

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light years can’t explain how we got here

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From top left, clockwise and into center:

  • Postcard by Sandra Simpson
  • a primer of organic forms, booklet by Jim Kacian
  • Art trading card by Linda Papanicolaou
  • Bookmark by Lee Gurga
  • Brochure with map of Japan by Susan Diridoni
  • Pamphlet by Lidia Rozmus

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last day of summer
the wrong words
to the right song

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I would say that they’re going into my personal archives, except that mine is not maintained in a way any self-respecting archivist would ever approve of. For instance I have already used Lee’s bookmark as a bookmark and I’ve been pawing through Jim’s amazing little book while eating spaghetti so it may or may not have some extraneous material attached to it now. I think what I’ll actually do is pile these things in a basket on top of the bookcase I keep my Haiku Stuff in, so they can be Haiku Stuff too. All of it both ephemeral and eternal.

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between two hills the rest of my life

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Haiku in English

Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years

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I’ve spent a couple of weeks swimming around dazedly in this, which was officially published a couple of weeks ago, to coincide with Haiku North America. You probably want to get it if you haven’t already, though warning: it’s thick. Well, it’s a century’s worth of haiku. In chronological order, no less, so you can watch English-language haiku evolving before your very eyes.

As with all anthologies, it’s almost as much fun deciding what you would put in it instead of what the editors put in it (like me…what? what am I doing in here? still trying to figure that one out) as it is actually reading the poems. But in the end there’s not much to quarrel with. The fact that you could probably replace half of these haiku with other haiku and have an equally strong anthology is really just an indication of how many good haiku have been published since Ezra Pound did his thing with the metro station and the wet black bough.

At HNA there was a reading of the anthology, straight through, one poem to a poet. Those poets who were in attendance (there were a few dozen of us, which was kind of … amazing and terrifying, considering there are only 200-odd poets in the anthology) read their own work, and the absent poets had their work read by Sandra Simpson and Ron Moss. In case you don’t know, Sandra is from New Zealand and Ron from Tasmania, so to American ears they have lovely but exotic accents that made these poems, many of which are very, very familiar to us, seem fresh and new. The reading took an hour or so and it was a little like flying, high and fast, over the vast and varied terrain of English-language haiku, catching your breath every once in a while when you saw something particularly lovely.

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Sandra Simpson and Ron Moss read from "Haiku in English" at Haiku North America in August 2013.

(That’s Sandra and Ron up there reading and Jim Kacian emceeing and the Queen Mary being very regal and intimidating all around us.)

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To my dismay, the poem that I read has suddenly become timely again of late:

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radiation leak moonlight on the fuel rods

(written 3/13/2011, originally published in Haijinx IV:1, reprinted in Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years, 2013)

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(bittersweet)

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bittersweet our talk of stamen and pistil

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Modern Haiku 43.3

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The new issue of Modern Haiku came in the mail the other day, so that was basically all anyone heard from me for the rest of the night. Among other good things there was an essay by Jim Kacian about haiku that are not three lines long.  It’s interesting to think about why three lines sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. It’s interesting that it works so often. The question is whether it works because we make it work — because we think of ourselves as writing three-line poems — or because there is something intrinsically haiku-ish about three lines. I haven’t answered that question to my satisfaction yet.

There’s so much good stuff in Modern Haiku. I gave a little talk this week at the university here about the history of English-language haiku (which was a blast, partly because I had a great audience), and I ended up talking a lot about Modern Haiku, because you can’t talk about the history of English-language haiku without talking a lot about Modern Haiku. They’ve been around almost the same amount of time. Pretty much everything that is in English-language haiku shows up in Modern Haiku at some point.

Here’s some of what I liked the most this time around.

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morning light
the little pile of snow
before the keyhole

— Marilyn Appl Walker

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new moon
someone else will hear
my words for you

— Petar Tchouhov

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midnight
the gender gap
closed

— Dietmar Tauchner

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my home burning down in the curve of her hips autumn night

— Mike Spikes

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an oak living that long without a center

— Neil Moylan

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dead of winter
making stock
from the bones

— Jayne Miller

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in tune with its obstacles, rain

— Eve Luckring

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leaves on the river bank beginning dialysis

— Scott Glander

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dawn crows the scuffle of nomenclature

— Cherie Hunter Day

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Across the Haikuverse, No. 23: Back to School Edition

My kindergarten teacher was worried about me because I liked to read. In those days kindergarteners were supposed to occupy themselves only with playing, and socializing, and coloring in the letters of the alphabet on worksheets just to familiarize themselves with the shapes that they would be introduced to more thoroughly in first grade. But I could already read and I was tantalized by the books on the shelves behind the teacher’s desk, which she read aloud to us before naptime. When the teacher’s back was turned I scrambled up on a stepstool and grabbed books and ran off with them to a corner to devour them before she could find me and take the books away and scold me for reading and send me back to play with dolls or something else I had no interest in. I felt like a criminal. I felt like a rebel. I felt like a five-year-old who was sick with love for stories and kept having her heart broken, day after day, by never being able to find out what the ending was.

Sometimes I dreamed the endings. Sometimes I wonder whether my own endings or the real ones were more satisfying.

first day of school —
out of time to decipher
the cicada’s drone

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Haiku, Tanka, Haiga From All Over

I broke one of my own unwritten rules this edition. I usually try not to feature more than one poem per poet per edition, but I nearly went mad deciding which of the below three haiku by Johannes S.H. Bjerg I should include, so in the end I said the hell with it and decided to inflict them all on you. Please address any complaints to my alter ego, Ms. I.N. DeCision.

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still air –
will a dead butterfly
become a butterfly?

stille luft –
vil en død sommerfugl
blive til en sommerfugl?

— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 2 tongues/2 tunger

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swallows leaving youshouldhavesaidsomething

svalerne forsvinder duskullehavesagtnoget

— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 2 tongues/2 tunger

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yoshino cherry tree—
it was never a question
of if

— Johannes S. H. Bjerg, Tinywords

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high heat index–
my mosquito bite
the size of a fat raindrop

— Kathy Nguyen, Origami Lotus Stones

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off key crooning
in the darkness:
a neighbor braces for fall

— Gene Myers, genemyers.com

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All I can do
most days
is point and say
this
this

— Kris Lindbeck, haiku etc.

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pale moon—
sugar crystals travelling
south

— Stella Pierides, Stella Pierides

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eastern daylight time
she leaves
another voicemail

(this is a wonderful haiga; please go check it out)

— Angie Werren, feathers

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from the beginning —
the moon &
love note after love note

— Patricia Nelson, Moon Viewing Party, Haiku Bandit Society

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広島や卵食ふとき口ひらく   西東三鬼

hiroshima ya tamago kû toki kuchi hiraku

Hiroshima—
to eat an egg
I open my mouth

— Sanki Saito, translated by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World

Fay’s Note:  This haiku does not have a kigo, but it is one of 8 haiku titled ‘Famous City’ by Sanki Saito (1900-1962).  Soon after an atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima, Sanki visited the city. When he started to eat a boiled egg for lunch, he noticed that was the first time he opened his mouth that day. He had been speechless with what he saw.

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wet rain . . .
you keep telling me things
i already know

[Modern Haiku 40.1]

— David Caruso, DavidHaiku.com

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Web Wide World

I’m just going to snap a bunch of links at you real quick like a bunny with a minimum of commentary because, you know, school’s starting soon and I should be doing stuff like buying textbooks and notebooks and sharpening my pencils and polishing shiny red apples to put on the desks of all my professors on the first day so they will be favorably disposed toward me and hopefully forgive me for scribbling haiku in the margins of all my notebooks around my notes on Electronic Resource Management. Ready? Here we go.

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A Brief Survey of Senryu by Women, by Hiroaki Sato

This essay, published in Modern Haiku 34.1 in spring 2003, first makes a quick stab at trying to define how senryu differs from haiku, with a note that “the senryû is expected to deal with matters of human and social nature, often in a playful, satirical, or knowing manner” but also acknowledging that the line between haiku and senryu these days can be blurry in the extreme. Most of the piece, however, is taken up by samples of modern (mainly twentieth century) senryu by Japanese women, which are absolutely fascinating — not least because many of them make no attempt to be funny at all, in fact can be quite serious, and I suspect would not be considered senryu by most American haiku poets. They are powerful, compelling poetry, however, and I keep coming back to read them over and over. They seem to me to painfully and eloquently express the difficulties and limitations of many women’s lives.

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The moment it blooms with full force it’s cut

— Inoue Noboku

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The snow’s falling the snow’s falling these two breasts

— Kuwano Akiko

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He leaves and I put away the lonesome sound

— Saigo Kanojo

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Okay, so here’s something that’s genuinely funny. One workshop I was sorry I had to miss at Haiku North America was Jessica Tremblay’s session about her well-known “Old Pond” comics based on haiku. The next best thing, though, was discovering that Jessica had drawn a series of strips about her experiences at HNA. I laughed and laughed with recognition at so many of these and if you were there, or have read my reports from the conference, I guarantee you will get at least a chuckle out of them as well.

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Another HNA connection: After I saw Eve Luckring’s amazing presentation on video renku at HNA I came home and Googled her straight off because I had to know more about her work, and discovered her astounding website, filled with her photography, short films, art, and poetry, which are often combined in wildly imaginative and original ways. Please go explore, you’ll be happy you did.

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A funny and fascinating article by Marlene Mountain on English haiku poetics vis-a-vis Japanese haiku poetics made the rounds of Facebook a couple of weeks ago, provoking lots of interesting discussion: The Japanese Haiku and So On, first published at Paul Conneally’s haikumania (which is worth a look around) in 2004.

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re zen.  whatever.

— Marlene Mountain

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If you haven’t discovered the “Montage” archive at The Haiku Foundation website, you need to run right over there and check it out…for about nine months in 2009 Allan Burns put together this fascinating weekly gallery of haiku, each week featuring haiku by three different poets on a different theme. The whole thing has been turned into a book now which can be yours for a $50 donation to The Haiku Foundation, but while you’re saving up for that, you can download each week’s gallery as a PDF and enjoy yourself mightily reading some amazing poetry.

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Charlotte DiGregorio is the Midwest Regional Coordinator for the Haiku Society of America, which is my region and so I get to benefit from her energy and organizational ability as she organizes so many enjoyable and successful events for us here in flyover land. She also has a blog on which she posts many interesting musings about haiku. Quite often she invites audience participation and recently she sent out an email soliciting answers to the question, “Why do you write haiku?” The answers she got back were thoughtful, often funny, usually thought-provoking, and all over the map: well worth reading. Check them out.

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Roadrunner published a new issue a couple of weeks ago, which besides being, as usual, one of the most thought-provoking reads in the Haikuverse, is also graphically appealing this time around. Every ku is enclosed in a box with a background of a different color and with a different typeface, and with the author’s name left off — only to appear at the end of the issue in a box matching the color and typeface of his or her contribution(s). (Full disclosure: I have a ku in this issue, in a highly appropriate color, but I’m not gonna tell you what it is.)

I don’t usually think of myself as someone who is overly influenced by the famous “fourth line” in haiku, but I was amazed at how different an experience it was to read these poems without knowing who had written them. I had to force myself not to keep scrolling to the end to read those names. But I ended up wishing that more journals would do something similar. See how you feel.

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And finally, here’s an announcement for what promises to be an exciting new online journal, A Hundred Gourds:

The editorial team of ‘A Hundred Gourds’ welcomes your submissions to our first issue, which will be published online in December, 2011. 

’A Hundred Gourds’ is a new journal featuring haiku, haibun, haiga, tanka, resources (articles, commentaries, reviews and interviews) and special artwork. 

’A Hundred Gourds’ is managed by its editorial team: Lorin Ford, Melinda Hipple, John MacManus, Gene Murtha and Ray Rasmussen. Ron Moss will continue to support us in his valuable role of contributing and consulting artist. 

We are dedicated to producing a high quality journal, and look forward to your submissions. 

Books for review (hard copy only) may be sent to John McManus or the haiku, tanka, haiga or haibun editor respectively.

Submissions for the first issue of ‘A Hundred Gourds’ close on September 15th, 2011. Submissions and enquires may be addressed to : 

Lorin Ford, Haiku Editor: haikugourds@gmail.com 

; Melinda Hipple, Haiga Editor: haigagourds@gmail.com 

; John McManus, Resources Editor: jmac.ahgjournal@gmail.com 

; Gene Murtha, Tanka Editor: tankagourds@gmail.com 

; Ray Rasmussen, Haibun Editor: haibungourds@gmail.com, ray@raysweb.net

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Dead Tree News

Once again, lots of print, little time.

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Journals: Bottle Rockets, Ribbons

I love both these journals and you should too and here are some examples of why:

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From Bottle Rockets 25:

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was it the dark
we shared
or the candle

— Susan Marie La Vallee
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wet bike seat
not everything
must be a poem

— Lucas Stensland

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here with me distant train

— John Hawk

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a low stone wall
neatly topped with snow
this happiness

— Bruce Ross

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sitting out
on the concrete path
that summer

very still    with ants crawling
over my skin       I did feel loved

— Joey Jenkins

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And also in this issue of Bottle Rockets, you must read the wonderful anthology/essay by Michael Fessler, Remarkable Haiku, a collection of the author’s favorite haiku with trenchant commentary on what makes them so memorable for him.

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From Ribbons 7:2, Summer 2011:

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outside, the crickets
continue to sing,
though they would
never think of it
as singing

— Rosemary Wahtola Trommer

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oh the places
we’ll go
rather than go
straight to the place
we’re all going

— John Stevenson

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snow melt —
watching the world
shrink back
to its
usual proportions

— Paul Smith

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Books: Beyond the Reach of My Chopsticks (Fay Aoyagi); Where I Leave Off/Waar Ik Ophoud (Jim Kacian); Penguins/Pingviner (Johannes S.H. Bjerg)

I’m slowly working my way through the stacks of haiku books I bought this summer: first at Gayle Bull’s amazing bookshop in Mineral Point, Wis., The Foundry Books, which may have the best haiku book selection in the United States and is, terrifyingly, located only an hour from my house; second at Haiku North America. I’ll start with a couple of little books (little only in the physical sense) because somehow that makes them seem less intimidating, although on the inside they are as big as any haiku book ever written.

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Fay Aoyagi’s third collection of poetry, Beyond the Reach of My Chopsticks, is as thrilling as her first two, Chrysanthemum Love (2003) and In Borrowed Shoes (2006), and is even more thrilling for the fact that it includes extensive excerpts from both these books as well as a large selection of new poetry. Fay manages to employ fairly traditional haiku aesthetics — kigo, kire — in the service of extremely striking and original images and ideas, often funny and subversive.

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cauliflower —
another day without
an adventure

forced hyacinth
a congresswoman
steals my pen

July Fourth
he criticizes my graceless use
of chopsticks

in the pool
she sheds everything
she wants to shed

soft rain
a plum tree
in its third trimester

— Fay Aoyagi

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Jim Kacian’s Where I Leave Off  is both a collection of one-line haiku and an examination of the poetics of one-line haiku: When and why do they work? He briefly describes various one-line techniques (these were also the subject of the talk by Jim I attended at HNA) and gives numerous striking examples from his own work.

1. “One-line one-thought”: “Rather than a piling up of images upon the imagination, a single image is extended or elaborated into a second context, stated or implied.”

reading the time-travel novel into the next day

— Jim Kacian

2. “Sheer speed”: “The rushing of image past the imagination results in a breathless taking in of the whole…”

in this way coming to love that one

— Jim Kacian

3. “Multiple kire”: “The advantage of one-line poems is that any of several stops can be made by the reader, and a different stop each time.”

where the smoke from a chimney ends infinity

— Jim Kacian

4. And then there’s “one-bun”: “a haibun where the prose element must be contained in a single line.”

the second week

traveling by myself i cross the continental divide, and everything that once ran in one way now runs in another, down and down

on the surface of dark water my face

— Jim Kacian

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When Johannes S.H. Bjerg’s (yes, him again) new chapbook, Penguins/Pingviner, appeared in our mailbox last week, there was much rejoicing in our household, since we are all both rabid penguin fans (no, not fans of rabid penguins, for goodness’ sake) and also staunch Johannes fans. So we sat around the kitchen table reading and laughing and musing philosophically. Go ahead, try it.

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on the backside
of the moon
lurking penguins
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penguins walking
the need for bridges
of chrome and sugar

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penguins —
no respect for
top brands
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sleeping
in softdrink vending machines
guerilla penguins
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hole in the sky
penguins knead a blue scarf
into a human

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penguins
believe willingly
in all things flying

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— Johannes S.H. Bjerg

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And on that note… I think I’m going to drift off to sleep now, off to the far reaches of the Haikuverse, where the penguins fly and no one ever makes you stop reading just when you get to the good part. You’re welcome to join me, that is, when you’ve finished reading everything I tell you to. What, you thought you were gonna get out of doing your homework? Think again, kids.

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Haiku North America, Day 4

In the last installment of this thrilling diary, as you may recall, we left our heroes at a bar in the small hours of the morning. After the small hours of the morning, I’m sure you’re aware, come the large hours of the morning, and if you haven’t slept very much in between the small hours and the large hours, the large hours can be very painful.

All this is by way of excuse for my missing the first event of Saturday morning, a panel discussion by Maggie Chula, Penny Harter, Jerry Ball, and Garry Gay called, “Who Wrote That? How My Haiku Has Changed Over Three Decades.” I heard from reliable reporters that it was a fascinating discussion, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed it while holding my head and moaning. To distract you from the fact that I have nothing to report from this session, I will now present some placeholding Pretty Pictures from Around the Conference.

Ikebana 1Ikebana 2Seattle Center courtyard

Great ikebana, eh? Beautiful courtyard sculpture. Now what were we talking about?

… Oh yes. The second session of the morning. Of many tempting options I chose to attend Paul Miller‘s talk on “Stretching Western Haiku (Gendai Haiku in the West).” The question Paul posed to us was, “How far can you stretch haiku and still consider it haiku?”

I’m not sure he or any of us came to a definitive conclusion on this, but Paul did an excellent job of analyzing Japanese gendai haiku and dividing it into some broad categories, including: Haiku that are metaphors or similes; Haiku that are “fantastic transformations” (in the “fantasy” or surreal sense of the word) where one object turns into another in a way that is impossible in real life; Haiku that are “fantastic metaphors”; Haiku that are “just fantastic”; Haiku that directly tell; Haiku that are “private discourse,” depending on associations known only to the author; and Haiku that contain abstract language. In Paul’s estimation, only the second, third, and fourth categories are really effective as haiku. Here’s one from category two that most of us really liked:

After a heated argument
I go out to the street
and become a motorcycle.

— Kaneko Tota

I might not place all Paul’s examples into the same categories he did, I might not have the same categories, and I might not have the same opinions about which haiku and which categories are effective. But as he said, this is just a place to begin thinking and talking about gendai and how it works. There will certainly continue to be endless discussion in the years to come.

…And oh yeah. Charlie Trumbull didn’t announce this until later in the day on Saturday, but here would probably be a good place to report that Paul will be the next editor of Modern Haiku, starting in the spring of 2013. Congratulations to him. Here he is (he’s not this blurry in real life):

Paul Miller

Shortly after this session ended we were all shooed in the direction of the Space Needle (a few blocks from our convention center) for the HNA banquet. You know how banquets work, right? You have them in landmark buildings in rooms with spectacular views … no, wait. Usually you have them in dark, dull hotel banquet rooms with no windows. Thanks to the HNA planning committee for making ours more interesting.

View from Space Needle

We did have some more normal banquet features, such as banquet tables that everyone takes an endless time to get settled at because they’re all busy talking to each other.

HNA BanquetEve Luckring and KazJim Kacian, Marilyn Hazelton, Billie Dee, Richard GilbertAlso, a charity auction with a highly entertaining auctioneer who is also a haiku poet, named David Ash. It was called an Unsilent Auction because mostly it was a silent auction except for the part where David was talking. If you see what I mean.

Silently, I won (by cleverly bidding four dollars over the cover price) a copy of John Martone’s Ksana, which I have wanted since the moment I first heard it existed. No, you can’t borrow it.

… Oh yes. And what haiku conference would be complete without a visit from Elvis?

David Ash

Elvis with Katharine Hawkinson

Not HNA, that’s for sure. That’s Carlos Colon all dressed up there (with HNA volunteer and organizer extraordinaire Katharine Hawkinson). Without video or audio I cannot fully convey to you the brilliance of Carlos’s performance as Haiku Poet Elvis. There were many hardened poets laughing so hard that tears came to their eyes and they nearly needed to be resuscitated. If I hadn’t been laughing so hard myself I would have written down Elvis’s entire haiku repertoire, which amounted to several dozen poems, but here are a couple I managed to control myself long enough to record. These were all interspersed with appropriate Elvis-like patter. Again, it had to be seen to be believed.

Lily…
out of the water
out of her suit

jailhouse rock
it bounces off the head
of a heckler

— Carlos Colon (“Elvis”)

Carlos was a tough act to follow but unfortunately I had to follow him. Not just me, of course — me, Fay Aoyagi, Gene Myers, and Don Wentworth, who had to hustle down from the Space Needle and get back to the conference center for our presentation on Haiku Blogging. We were delayed a bit waiting for the audience members who were still in the elevator trying to get off the top of the Needle. Still, we had a fairly entertaining discussion and not a bad crowd at all considering most of them were still trying to digest banquet food and the amazing spectacle of Carlos Colon as Elvis. I don’t have any pictures, sorry, I forgot to give my phone to anyone to record me for posterity. (There are some pictures floating around Facebook, though, if you hang out there in haiku circles. I look like a tired, short woman sitting at a table.)

Far more interesting was the next presentation, by Eve Luckring, on “Video Renku: Link and Shift in Visual Language.” Eve is a photographer and filmmaker as well as a highly original haiku poet. She began by discussing the film technique of Sergei Eisenstein, including his theory of “montage” and the different visual effects that could be used by filmmakers to evoke different emotional responses. We saw numerous clips from Eisenstein films such as “Battleship Potemkin.”

Then, brilliantly, Eve drew parallels with these montage techniques and the linking techniques used in renku, such as word association and the elusive concept of “scent.” When our minds had been sufficiently blown by this comparison, she introduced an exercise: Giving us all prints of photographs, she asked us to write a renku link to them, concentrating primarily not on the subject matter of the photograph but on its visual elements (see below for Eve’s slide describing these).

It’s difficult to explain without presenting these photographs exactly how this exercise worked or how brilliantly compelling it was, but when I get home I am going to do some more of this. I found it really worked to knock loose unusual images and unexpected comparisons from my mind. This was one of my favorite presentations at the conference.

Eve Luckring
Visual language in photography

After this, I found myself once again compelled by exhaustion to miss a couple of events I would have loved to have seen and heard excellent reports of later — the folk music of La Famille Leger (Dejah Leger and her husband), and Terry Ann Carter‘s presentation on the history of haiku in Canada.

Instead, I went off and had a bite in the hotel courtyard and breathed for a while, and then came back to hear Charlie Trumbull‘s fascinating, comprehensive talk on the history of haiku in English. Can you say “forty-eleven well-designed PowerPoint slides accompanied by a well-structured, erudite, but eminently listenable speech that all must have taken Charlie the better part of forever to put together”? I thought so.

Here’s one of his slides pointing out the effect that the writings of Thoreau and Emerson had on early haiku poets in English. Obviously. Duh. I knew that.

Emerson and Thoreau

I was especially grateful for Charlie’s presentation during the next event of the evening. It was a “Haiku Bowl,” created and moderated by Charlie and Jim Kacian, and featuring two teams facing off, striving to win glory and honor by answering questions about haiku history. The Frog team featured contestants Eve Luckring, Michael Dylan Welch, David Lanoue, and Fay Aoyagi and the clacking alligators they used to signal when they knew the answer to a question. The Bird team featured contestants Emiko Miyashita, Cor van den Heuvel, Richard Gilbert, me, and our bird whistles. (I would just like to state for the record that it takes longer to produce a sound with a bird whistle than an alligator clacker.)

Rooster whistle

Mostly I sat back in amazement while the other Birds and the Frogs brought forth all kinds of obscure haiku knowledge from the depths of their powerful brains. When I knew the answer to something, it was usually because everyone did. We were all greatly helped, though, by having just attended Charlie’s lecture. Our team was further assisted by having one of the questions be “What was the title of Cor van den Heuvel’s first published book?”

It was a fun, light-hearted contest and the two teams took turns being in the lead, ending with an elegantly arranged near-tie. Okay, technically the Frogs won, but only because they had a better idea of what the population of Livermore, California is. Don’t ask. But we all had a great time, and we also all got prizes. The Frogs got a box of flies and the Birds got a box of worms.

See?

Worm box

This rip-roaring pseudo-entertainment was followed by some real entertainment by talented people — La Famille Leger once again, providing the music for a square dance. It looked the kind of thing that would be great fun if you weren’t ready to topple over with exhaustion. So I stuck around to take a few pictures and then went back to the hotel. Where I stayed up too late blogging. But hey! At least I hadn’t had any fun square dancing!

La Famille Leger

Square dancing

Square dancing circle

… And that was the end to the official conference-type activities of Haiku North America 2011. Coming tomorrow: The official tourist-type activities of Haiku North America 2011. Featuring fog, panting hikers, totem poles, and salmon. Don’t miss it.

Haiku North America, Day 2

For some reason I didn’t have quite as much energy on Day Two of HNA as I did on Day One. Which might account for why when I went to download my photos from my phone, I realized I hadn’t actually taken any pictures. Well, okay, a few. But this post will be a little less visual than yesterday’s. I’ll try to make up for it by annoyingly sticking my camera in everyone’s face all day long today. You’re welcome.

We started the day with a reading by the authors of the HNA anthology, Standing Still, which is a thing of beauty.

Standing Still, 2011 HNA Conference Anthology

That wonderful drawing on the cover is by Dejah Leger, who also did the wonderful illustrations inside, such as this one…

the fly's wings / raising / settling / the dust

There was a choice of activities after this and I chose to attend Jim Kacian‘s lecture on one-line haiku, which he is trying to get us all to call “monoku.” Hmmm. Aside from that, though, the lecture was dense with interesting information. Although I got a bit lost during his lengthy comparison of the history of tennis strokes and the history of English-language haiku, since on the few occasions I have attempted to wield a tennis racket…let’s just say that I don’t play tennis. (Jim is a tennis pro in his money-making life.)

He examined haiku with many other line lengths and then a wide variety of one-line haiku, and tried to identify the elements that make a particular haiku work as a one-liner. I won’t give you a precis of the lecture, I’m sure it will be published at some point. It worked to make me go out to the book fair and buy Jim’s book of monoku, though.

where I leave off

Naturally I bought a ton of other books as well (who buys only one book at a time?), but the one I would most like to show you is this one by my roommate here, Lidia Rozmus, the transcendent beauty of whose art (stunning, minimalist ink brush painting) and writing (haiku and haibun) are in direct proportion to the transcendent beauty of her kindness and generosity. This is a book about her emigration to the United States from Poland and her adjustment to life here.

My Journey

Here’s Lidia herself in the courtyard of the Inn at Queen Anne, where I retreated after the morning activities with a chicken salad sandwich and a bottle of hard cider to gather some energy for a busy afternoon (read: keep from fainting with exhaustion).

Lidia Rozmus

And here are some other poets who sat with us and chatted over lunch: Wanda Cook and Marilyn Hazelton.

Wanda CookMarilyn Hazelton

Another excursion in the afternoon: On the monorail downtown to (your choice) Pike Place Market or the Seattle Art Museum. I’ve been to the Market. I went to the museum. This may not have been a good idea, since as I think I have mentioned before, I have a severe mouse phobia and this was one of the first things I saw there.

Rat hovering over sleeping person

There was other art that made up for it, though. They were having a special exhibition of American landscape painting. One thing I noticed that many of the artists had in common was that they would incorporate a splash or two of something bright red (usually something man-made) into a landscape that was otherwise more drab in color.

Maybe there was something about this in the interpretive signs, I don’t know. I’m not very good about reading museum signs. It seemed to me that perhaps this was one way of asserting man’s dominion over nature: your eye was naturally drawn to that bright red, making it seem like the most important thing in the picture.

Sometimes I wonder if haiku does something similar to our experience of nature, by focusing our attention on one tiny aspect of it that a human being has noticed.

Mt. Rainier and Puget Sound

After the museum a bunch of us stumbled around looking for a place to eat, finally giving up on the tourist traps of the Market and heading back to our home base of the Queen Anne neighborhood for some Thai food. As we prepared to board the monorail,  a man noticed the excellent NaHaiWriMo-inspired T-shirt (see sample below) that Michael Dylan Welch was wearing and asked him, “So you must not like haiku?”

…Oh. You have never seen a man so happy as Michael was at that moment. The (gentle) lecture that followed started with, “Actually, I’m the first vice-president of the Haiku Society of America, and I love haiku!” and ended with the poor questioner walking away with his eyes glazed over, trying to grasp that everything he had ever thought he knew about haiku was wrong. Or else that he had just run into a pack of lunatics.

No 5-7-5 T-shirt

At the restaurant, Michael first tried to get us all to write haiku individually, and met with some pretty stiff resistance because we were all, you know, completely wiped out. But then Carlos Colon suggested the much more palatable idea of writing renku, so that’s what we did. This is one of those occasions that I really wish I had been alert enough to think of getting a picture of.

Renku participants: Katharine Hawkinson, Michael Dylan Welch, me, Carlos Colon, Marilyn Hazelton, Garry Gay. Present, but malingering: Carolyn Hall, Susan Antolin. Result: A summer junicho entitled “Racha Renku” (Racha was the name of the restaurant we were in.)

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a single cloud
the baby points at the sky

— me, verse 10 of “Racha Renku”

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The first event of the evening was a reading of haibun by featured reader Cor van den Heuvel and anyone else who cared to read haibun. I have to admit that since I was feeling utterly exhausted, I went back to my room for a quick nap and didn’t make it to this reading until quite late, but I really regret it now because I love haibun so much and the few readers that I did hear presented some outstanding examples.

Also, here is where I am going to cheat and show you a picture of Cor reading at Haiku Circle, which I attended in Northfield, Massachusetts in June. Because (naturally) I didn’t get a picture of Cor reading last night, but actually the picture of him reading outside in June is better than any picture I could have taken under the Seattle Center’s fluorescent lights.

Cor van den Heuvel

The final event of the night (at least that I attended) was a panel on haiku publishing moderated by Michael Dylan Welch and featuring Don Wentworth, Ce Rosenow, Jim Kacian, and Charlie Trumbull, all of whom run presses ranging in size from teeny-tiny to small. (Unstartling revelation of the evening: Small haiku publishers do not make any money from publishing haiku.)

There was a lot of discussion of various ways to structure manuscripts of haiku, including by subject, season, tone. And also discussion of how to submit manuscripts to publishers. (Some want you to send them a zillion haiku and let them pick out which ones they want to put in the book. Some just want you to send them a few poems and tell them what the rest of the book will be like. So ask them, I guess is the lesson.)

Don Wentworth, Ce Rosenow, Jim Kacian, Charlie Trumbull

After that panel I threw in the towel and went to bed early last night. Well…I guess it’s more accurate to say I went back to the hotel early. Then Lidia and I spent a while talking, partly about how much we love haiku poets and how happy we are to be here. There is so much talking here. You can’t get any of us to shut up. It’s as if seventeen syllables really weren’t enough to say everything after all.

Haiku North America, Day 1

I’m back in the garden of the Inn at Queen Anne. Taking a break. Writing to you. My brain is too full not to dump a little of it out onto the page. So here’s the story of yesterday.

On my way to register for HNA at the Seattle Center, I met Susan Diridoni in the courtyard…

Susan Diridoni

We talked one-line haiku and infuriating politicians. Two of our favorite subjects.

monomania the cure for wildflowers

First on the agenda after registration was a walk to the Olympic Sculpture Park down by the harbor. Michael Dylan Welch had a camera permanently attached to his face so the only picture of him I was able to get was one I took while he was taking a picture of me.

Michael Dylan Welch

Debbie Kolodji and I found ourselves reflected in one of the sculptures….

Reflections in sculpture

I’m not sure if our reflections count as “touching” in the eyes of those who wrote this warning sign. I also find it interesting to ponder the difference between visual art, which can indeed be harmed by indiscriminate touching, and haiku, which haiku poets encourage our readers to put their grubby little hands all over, knowing that will only make it more interesting.

Please Do Not Touch, Touching Can Harm the Art

It’s Fleet Week in Seattle, so there were ominous-looking ships mulling around the harbor. On the plus side, they interacted well with the sculpture.

Ships viewed past sculpture

These flowers were everywhere, growing low all over the ground. I love them. Somebody tell me what they are.

Pink flowers

This was my favorite sculpture. Anyone under the age of 35 who knows what it is gets a prize.

Sculpture

Debbie Kolodji and Carlos Colon were hard to keep up with sometimes. Especially when they were trying to avoid having their pictures taken.

Debbie Kolodji and Carlos Colon

We went in the Viviarium, where they keep a big dead tree trunk that has living stuff growing all over it (very symbolic) and where they have mushroom tiles on the walls, which made me happy.

Mushroom tile

This metal-plated tree enchanted me, if only because I don’t like to let well enough alone where nature is concerned.

Metal-plated tree

Back at the Seattle Center, Michael showed us this stone with a haiku of Basho’s engraved on it. (Rhyming couplet, awesome.)


Rock with Basho haiku engraved on it

Went out for a late lunch/early dinner with a few people, then back to the hotel, where Charlie Trumbull and Jim Kacian were scheming in the courtyard. (All their schemes were legal and ethical. I checked.)

Charlie Trumbull and Jim Kacian

Then to a dessert reception and open mic reading at the Seattle Center, where I met people at a ferocious rate.

… Wonderful people.

Lidia Rozmus, Wanda Cook, and Carlos ColonDon Wentworth and Marjorie Buettner

Marilyn Hazelton

(Lidia Rozmus [my wonderful roommate], Wanda Cook, Carlos Colon, Don Wentworth, Marjorie Buettner, Sarah and Gene Myers, Marilyn Hazelton)

David LanoueRichard Gilbert, Carolyn Hall, Jim KacianCarlos Colon, Carmen SterbaPenny Harter reading(David Lanoue, Susan Diridoni, Richard Gilbert, Carolyn Hall, Jim Kacian, Carlos Colon, Carmen Sterba, Penny Harter)

I talked until my throat got sore, and then I went off to a gendai haiku writing workshop and talked a whole bunch more.

Here we all (okay, about half of us) are listening to Emiko Miyashita telling us about gendai haiku in Japanese. (That’s Charlie Trumbull, Garry Gay, Kathy Munro, Billie Dee, Sheila Sondik, Jim Westenhaver, Emiko Miyashita)

Attendees at gendai haiku workshop

At the end we all tried our hand at writing more gendai, and I finally managed to get a picture of Michael without a camera in front of his face.

Michael Dylan Welch

It was past eleven by the time we finished. Wild and crazy haiku poets, that’s us.

A few of us had a late-night snack, and by the time I got to bed it was about three in the morning in Wisconsin. Which is the time that counts, after all.

I’ll write about today tomorrow. See how that works?

Hope you’re all having a great time whether you’re in Seattle or not.

Across the Haikuverse, No. 17: Extraterrestrial Edition

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.

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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

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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

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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.)

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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.

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From Stella Pierides:

chrysalis –
when did I learn about
Venus?

— Stella Pierides

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From Crows and Daisies:

i go to the river
to write about a river…
its silent flow

— Polona Oblak

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And some miscellaneous haiku that have nothing to do with me…

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From DailyHaiku:

dark night
imaginary bears
showing the way

— Jim Kacian

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From Haiku Bandit Society:

even in soft spring light
I can’t read the words
thinking of father

— William Sorlien

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phosphorescence
tide fish streak the moon

— Barbara A. Taylor

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From Morden Haiku:

april sun
a strawberry
without a taste

— Matt Morden

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From Beachcombing for the Landlocked:

first light confirms the flightless bird i am

— Mark Holloway

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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?

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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

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From Mann Library’s Daily Haiku:

passing clouds
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

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Haiga Corner

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.

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From Lunch Break (HAIGA):

clear skies
blue bird chasing another
bluebird

— Gillena Cox

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From 19 Planets (HAIGA):

concrete history
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.)

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From Yay words! (HAIGA):

phone ringing
in the neighbor’s house
first blossoms

— Aubrie Cox

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From see haiku here (HAIGA):

how quickly it comes back…dust

— Stanford Forrester

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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.)

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And to go along with these, here’s a general haiga link I discovered recently…

World Haiku Association Haiga Contest

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.

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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

without translation
a clatter of birdsong
sipping my coffee

to

Untranslated
Bird sounds
And my coffee

— Steve Mitchell

….but if you want to know how, exactly, you will have to go over there and take a look.

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Haiku Foundation Digital Library

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
unseen

— Ruth Yarrow, quoted in Favorite Haiku by H.F. Noyes

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The Galaxy

Wild the rolling sea!
Over which to Sado Isle
Lies the Galaxy.

— Basho, translated by Kenneth Yasuda in The Pepper-Pod

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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.

The fence
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.

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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.

Haiku North America 2011 – Seattle, Washington

Logo for the Haiku North America Conference

Okay … forget everything else you’ve heard about where and when the Haiku North America conference will be held this summer. Just wipe it from your mind. This is the final, official, ultimate announcement about the conference. Only pay attention to this one. Got it?

Here goes: the official press release from the conference organizers:

Save the date! Haiku North America 2011 will be held August 3 to 7, 2011, in Seattle, Washington.

Members of the Haiku Northwest group have generously offered to host the 2011 conference and they have many exciting plans already in the works, including a harbor cruise. The conference itself will be held at the Seattle Center, at the foot of the Space Needle, providing easy access to haiku writing and walking opportunities such as Pike Place Market (via the monorail), the Olympic Sculpture Park, the Experience Music Project rock-and-roll museum and Science Fiction Museum, and countless other attractions—including fleet week and the Seafair festival, with the Blue Angels performing overhead.

The conference theme will be “Fifty Years of Haiku,” celebrating the past, present, and future of haiku in North America. The deadline for proposals has been extended to February 28, 2011 (http://www.haikunorthamerica.com/pages/2011.html), but sooner is better. Proposals do not have to fit the theme. If you’ve already submitted a proposal, please confirm with Michael Dylan Welch at WelchM@aol.com that you can come to Seattle on the new dates. Speakers already include Cor van den Heuvel, Richard Gilbert, David Lanoue, Carlos Colón, Fay Aoyagi, Jim Kacian, Emiko Miyashita, George Swede, and many others.

Detailed information on registration, lodging, and the conference schedule will be available in March. For further information as it becomes available, please visit http://www.haikunorthamerica.com. And check out the new HNA blog at http://haikunorthamerica.wordpress.com/.

See you in Seattle!

Garry Gay, Paul Miller, Michael Dylan Welch
Haiku North America

Across the Haikuverse, No. 9: Rabbit Edition

So. We’ve started another trip around the sun. Is everyone strapped in tightly? This planet can really get up some speed when it wants to. I have a feeling this is going to be an especially speedy year for me. So much haiku to read and write, so little time.

With that in mind — let’s start this week’s tour of the Haikuverse without further ado. This will be a long one. Go ahead, add an extra five minutes to your coffee break, I won’t tell.

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Haiku on New

I’ve mentioned before that 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit according to the Japanese calendar, and that rabbit haiku have been proliferating like, um, rabbits all over the Interwebs. If you’re interested in reading some (I make fun of them, just because I like to make fun of things — including, in all fairness, myself — but a lot of them are really good), there are a bunch of examples (and a bunch of other great New Year haiku) over at the Akita International Haiku Network blog.

Other places to read good New Year haiku (and haiga, and tanka, and gogyoghka) include the following, which is just a small sample of the pages I remembered to bookmark that had good New Year haiku and doesn’t include any of the many good New Year haiku I encountered on Facebook and Twitter in the last week or so. (You’ve got to draw the line somewhere. Don’t you?)

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Vincent Tripi/Kuniharu Shimizu (haiga), see haiku here
Gary Hotham, Mann Library’s Daily Haiku
Bill Kenney, haiku-usa
Takuya Tomita, tr. by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World
John McDonald, zen speug
Steve Mitchell, Heed Not Steve
Johannes S.H. Bjerg, scented dust
Chen-ou Liu, Stay Drunk on Writing

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Haiku Till You Drop

And on to haiku on other topics — quite a few of those were written recently too, believe it or not. We must start off with my obligatory Vincent Hoarau haiku in French. (My apologies to anyone who doesn’t know French and/or has no appreciation for the haiku of Vincent Hoarau, but he knocks my socks off. And I have somehow just managed to discover that he has a blog! so you don’t need to have a Facebook account to read his poetry after all! Though this one doesn’t seem to be on the blog at the moment.)

leur bébé dort
dans la neige
de l’échographie

— vincent hoarau

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Another new blog I’ve just discovered: Haiku by Two, where I found the following lovely offering by Alison (can’t seem to locate a last name):

whether or not
there is a god –
heavenly skies

— Alison

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This one from Blue Willow Haiku World really struck me for some reason. I was right out there on the ocean for a while after I read it. Caravels. Whales breaching. Waves, fog, salt spray. Japanese whaling ships. Guys in ruffed collars. An inundation of images, if you will.

the Age of Discovery
has ended
a whale

— Eiji Hashimoto, translated by Fay Aoyagi

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Over at The Haiku Diary, Elissa managed to perfectly capture the spirit of procrastination, especially the procrastination of us writers who can always think of some other creative thing to do that’s sort of like writing but nahhh. I should write this one down and tape it to my laptop.

To-do Listless

Gluing tiny
collages onto matchboxes
doesn’t count as “Write!”.

— Elissa

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New Year’s Resolution: Exercise

Somebody (who? who? I must remember to write these things down!) posted this link to Facebook a week or two ago. It’s “a training exercise … [that] helps condition the muscles necessary for making haiku.” The poster suggested that it would be of help to those pursuing Fiona Robyn’s a river of stones project this month, which it certainly would, but it also seems like an invaluable exercise for anyone interested in learning to write haiku, or improving the haiku they already write. If you try it, let me know how it worked out.

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Blog News

Out with the old, in with the new, isn’t that what they say this time of year? Well, right with the New Year a couple of new blogs worth watching started up and another one of my old favorites closed up shop.

First I’d like to pay tribute to the latter, David Marshall’s wonderful haiku streak. At this blog and another, David has been posting a daily haiku for five years (yes, you did read right). He says he’s giving up his streak now because he’s starting to feel that writing them is becoming a routine and he’s no longer sure of the purpose. But I have to say that practically everything he writes seems utterly inspired to me. His haiku are like no one else’s on the planet, and that kind of intense personal vision is rare.

Here’s his last entry, posted on New Year’s Eve:

Moved Out

In the empty room
an empty box—everything
inside me at last

— David Marshall

Fortunately, David is not giving up poetry altogether. I will be following him at his other poetry site, derelict satellite, where he says he plans to post weekly “haiku sonnets” — fascinating concept.

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And to console me a little, Anne Lessing and Aubrie Cox started up new blogs on the first of the year. I have been eagerly awaiting Anne’s The Haiku Challenge ever since she announced way back last May that she would be starting to write a daily haiku on 1/1/11. Anne, gloriously, is a teenager who is a relative newcomer to haiku, but not to writing, and she too has a very well-defined personal vision. I loved her first offering:

first second of a new year
and all I see is
glitter
— Anne Lessing

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Aubrie Cox, whom I met at the “Cradle of American Haiku” Festival back in September, is not new to haiku, although she too is very young. She’s a senior in college who has been studying haiku for several years now under the aegis of Randy Brooks, has published her very skillful haiku many times, and has a vast store of knowledge about the history and poetics of haiku that awes me. You can find out more about her at her personal blog, Aubrie Cox. But she’s just started up another blog called Yay Words! (which is, of course, the best blog name ever). She started it to participate in a river of stones, and also plans to use it for just generally celebrating words in all their forms. I love enthusiasm combined with knowledge (that will be the name of my next blog), so I’m sure Aubrie’s blog will become a favorite very soon. Here’s her first “small stone”:

new hat
trying to make it fit like the old one

— Aubrie Cox

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I discovered a site this week that is new to me although not to the world, and although it may be of interest to none of my readers I just had to let you know about it because I am jumping up and down in my mind with excitement whenever I think about it. It’s called Taming the Monkey Mind and it features — wait for it — Russian translations of Issa’s haiku. Yeah. I know. My life is pretty much complete now. Okay, so it doesn’t look like they’ve updated since 2008 but they have just recently started tweeting on Twitter, so I’m hoping that means that more translations are in the works. A girl can dream, can’t she?
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Another great site that I can’t believe I never discovered before is Haiku Chronicles, featuring wonderful podcasts about various aspects of haiku. I’ve only had time to listen to one, which was about a renku party and went into fascinating detail about the composition of renku in general and one renku in particular. If you listen to any others, send me reviews — I will be working my way through the rest slowly.

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Essaying Essays

I found a few essays that blew my mind this week. I’m starting to get a little tired here (this is actually the last section of this post I am writing, even though it doesn’t appear at the end — I like to jump around when I write, it makes things more interesting). So I might not go into as much detail about them as I had planned to (you are probably giving devout thanks for this right now to whatever deity floats your boat).

This is where I implore you to follow the links and read some of this stuff. Okay, I won’t lecture you any more. You probably have one or two other important things to do with your time, like making a living or raising children or growing prize orchids or something. Or, you know, writing haiku instead of reading about it. How sensible of you!

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Last week Chen-ou Liu posted on his blog Poetry in the Moment an essay called “The Ripples from a Splash: A Generic Analysis of Basho’s Frog Haiku” that might forever change the way you look at good old furuike ya. He discusses the necessity of viewing this poem in the context of the literature of its time — for instance, “frog” is a spring kigo that was “used in poems since ancient times, and had always referred to its singing and calling out to a lover.” By making the frog’s sound a splash instead of singing, Basho parodies literary convention. The poem also works, of course, on a purely literal, objective level, but this second dimension of allusion to earlier literature is usually missing from most Western translations and considerations of this poem.

Chen-ou concludes with his own poetic sequence paying tribute to this ku and to Basho and other earlier literary masters, including this verse:

this frog
crouches on a lotus leaf —
reciting Basho

— Chen-ou Liu

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At Still in the Stream there is an essay by Richard R. Powell called “Wabi-Sabi in Haiku,” which gives many examples with a detailed analysis of what makes them wabi-sabi. You will definitely want to go look at this one, if only for the wonderful examples. It’s beautifully laid out and wabi-sabi is always fascinating to contemplate.

Here’s one of the examples and a bit of Powell’s commentary to go along with it, just to whet your appetite:

wings aglow –
gulls rising above
the garbage

– Eric Houck Jr.

Yesterday while on a walk with my son we observed two herring gulls alight on a lamp pole. They seemed to be a pair and one stuck out its neck and emitted the common and recognizable call gulls everywhere make. I thought of Mr. Houck’s haiku and watched as the two birds leapt into the air and soared over us. Looking up at these birds I was struck by their clean appearance, the sharp line between the white feathers and gray ones. Their bodies, when they glide, are smooth and elegant, heads pivoting on otherwise plane-rigid bodies. I was charged with a subtle joy, not overwhelming, but hopeful.

Mr. Houck’s poem is an excellent example of a haiku that contains karumi, the quality Basho considered to be the hallmark of his mature style.

— Richard R. Powell, “Wabi-Sabi in Haiku”

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This one isn’t really an essay, but a review. But Don Wentworth’s reviews over at Issa’s Untidy Hut are always so in-depth and thought-provoking that they give the same satisfaction to me as a well-wrought essay. This one concerns John Martone’s book of short poetry, scrittura povera. I had never heard of this poet before but I will certainly be searching out more of his work. Here’s an example:

how much time
do you need
morning glory

— John Martone

Don, a fellow Issa aficionado, says of this one (and I agree with him) that, “In terms of modern haiku, it just doesn’t get much better than this.  There is certainly a touch of Issa here, a perfect balancing between the comic and the serious. It is, as is life, both at the same time.”

I would definitely recommend that you follow the link and at least read through the example poems by Martone, even if you don’t have time to read the full review. They are all superb.

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Competition Corner

A bunch of fun competitions are in the works at the moment. As always, there are the monthly Shiki Kukai (which I wrote about a few days ago; this month’s topics still haven’t been announced but should be any day now so keep your eyes peeled, if that isn’t too painful) and Caribbean Kigo Kukai (this month’s kigo: calendar). Kukai are a great way to get your feet wet in the contest world, and they’re judged by the participants so you get to have fun picking out your favorite ku from among the entries.

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But there are also a couple of contests that don’t come around as often. You’ll have to act fast on the first one: XII bilingual Calico Cat Contest. It’s a blitz — it just started yesterday, and the deadline is tomorrow. But it’s a fun one for several reasons: It involves using one of the wonderful sumi-e paintings of Origa Olga Hooper (contest organizer) as a prompt, the prize being said sumi-e painting; and — so you know I’m definitely going to enter — all the entries will be translated into Russian (if they’re in English) or English (if they’re in Russian), and posted on the contest site in both languages for everyone to see before the judging. You can submit up to three haiku; maybe I’ll try writing one in Russian. Or not. I might have to work up to that level of bravery.

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The final contest on my list is the biggest. Just opening today, with a deadline of March 31, is The Haiku Foundation’s yearly HaikuNow contest. There are three categories: Traditional, Contemporary, and Innovative — go to the site for more explanation and examples of what exactly these categories mean. This contest gives out actual monetary awards and it’s free to enter, so there’s no downside, really. Go for it!

Full disclosure: I am helping out (on basically a peon level) with coordinating this contest. Specifically, I, along with two other helper elves, will be fetching contest entries from email, taking the authors’ names off for anonymity’s sake, and sending them off to the judges to be judged. This is a great gig for me, of course, because I get to see a lot of really cool haiku before anyone else. Sadly, I of course cannot share these really cool haiku with you or anyone else, but maybe the inspiration I derive from reading them will help make the haiku I post here a little better, which will surely improve your life.

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Dead Tree News

After I got the “Close, But No Cigar” award in The Haiku Foundation’s Facebook contest in November (basically, I was a runner-up, but Jim Kacian, the judge, invented this humorous award name to indicate that he liked the idea of my ku but was not so wild about its execution), the Foundation kindly sent me and all the other winners and runners-up a copy of where the wind turns: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku.

This turned out to be a great prize. The panel of ten editors, led by Jim, chose their favorites from the past year’s journal output and web content, and I assure you that they have excellent taste. I spent a lot of my extensive driving time over the holidays reading it. I started out marking all the stuff I liked, until I realized that I was marking pretty much every page. Want some examples? Yeah, I thought you did.

Okay, here are just a couple of the ku that blew me away. Okay, more than a couple. Really, I narrowed it down as much as I could:

autumn rain
deeper and darker
the taste of tea
— Mary Ahearn

cemetery gate
she let me
go first
— Yu Chang

new year’s day all my anxieties in alphabetical order
—Carlos Colon

leaves too small
to touch each other
spring chill
— Burnell Lippy

blue sky
maybe I don’t need
to be right
— Harriot West

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Haiku were not the only things in this anthology either. There were some amazing haibun, and in my experience amazing haibun are not all that easy to find. The most touching of these was William (Bill) Higginson’s last piece of writing before he died in 2008, “Well-Bucket Nightfall, or New Day?,” a masterly meditation on well buckets, life transitions, death, and haiku. I also commend to you Johnny Baranski’s “Gandhi’s Game” and Bob Lucky’s “Shiraz.”

And then there were the essays … oh God, the essays. I wish I had time to write essays about the essays. But most of them you can find online so you can read them yourselves. (I know most of you won’t though. Uh-oh. Starting to lecture again.)

There was a reprint of one of my longtime favorite essays, a consideration of the haiku of Fay Aoyagi (one of my favorite poets) by David Lanoue (one of my favorite translators). A very interesting meditation on haiku and capitalism (which I’m not sure I entirely understood), by Dimitar Anakiev. A fascinating essay on haiku from the World War II Japanese internment camps, by Margaret Chula (the essay doesn’t seem to be online but here’s a link to her book on the same subject).

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The only essay I would like to say a little more about is Jim Kacian’s, called So::Ba, which I am still thinking about, because it both crystallized some of the ideas that I have been having about haiku myself and also added some new information and ideas to support my previously vague, uncertain thinking. Basically, Jim takes the English sentence “So here we are” and relates it to the Japanese word “ba,” which he translates as “a pointer to a kind of awareness that something of importance is happening in time and space.” In his vision of haiku poetics, ba is essential: “Ba is the basis for pretty much everything we do in haiku. In fact, ba is the message of haiku: so here we are!”

A lot of the essay is taken up with denigration of the vast amount of “trash” haiku out there these days, and with historical notes about the development of haiku, in which Basho gets a hero’s welcome and Shiki gets piled on for his objectivism: his insistence on merely observing nature, rather than alluding to human history or culture or literature, or making use of the kind of richness of emotional expression that characterized the haiku of, among others, Basho and Buson. Jim regrets that the West encountered haiku right at the moment when Shiki was the dominant influence on haiku, since what he considers as the wrong-headed separation of Nature from Man in the minds of most haiku poets tends to persist to this day.

So how should we be thinking about haiku, according to Jim? Well, as far as I can make out, as a form of poetry that expresses a moment of the poet’s consciousness, that makes use of art and imagination as well as purely objective observation (this discussion will undoubtedly seem familiar to those of you who read my “Willow Buds” post the other day). I really love this passage from the essay in particular:

Haiku is not photography, a simple exact limning of what lies before our eyes. If it is an art, then it must be the selecting and ordering of words into a cogent form that helps lead another’s mind along the path that the poet’s has followed, with perhaps a similar reaction to be had at the end. And this rarely takes place before the butterfly’s wing, but usually in the roiling of the mind, consciously and unconsciously, whenever it can — for me that often means in the middle of the night.

And yet despite this we still retain some residual disdain for what are termed “desk haiku.” In truth, every haiku I’ve ever written has been a desk haiku. It may have had its origins in some natural spectacle, and I may even have written it on the spot. But always, some time later and in the darkness of my mind and study, I look again. It’s this revisiting that is the actual work of art — even if I don’t change a word. “Desk haiku” is another way of saying I’m a working poet.

— Jim Kacian, “So:Ba”

Lots to think about here. I hope you go and read this one if you have a spare half-hour. Jim’s thoughts are always worth encountering.

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Note: For those of you who are holding your breath, Dead Tree News will return next week to the thrilling saga of the early development of Japanese haikai (haiku), as recounted in Donald Keene’s World Within Walls. Don’t miss this exciting installment in which master Basho arrives on the scene!

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Okay. [Heaves sigh of relief.] I made it through yet another massive list of indispensable haiku-related reading for yet another week. What is the deal with you people — you keep writing too much good stuff. Or I keep reading too much good stuff. I don’t know who has the bigger problem. Is there some kind of 12-step program for people like us — oh, look, there is! (Thanks, Michael!)

Happy Rabbiting, fellow traversers of the Haikuverse. And hey, I am dying for a day off here, so don’t forget to send me your haiku for my 400th post next week!

Across the Haikuverse, No. 7: Please Don’t Make Me Go Christmas Shopping Edition

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.

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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.

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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

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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
condominiums

— @HaikuDiem

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I’ve really been enjoying the haiku that George O. Hawkins has been posting lately on Facebook and Twitter. Like this one, for instance:

open water
the icy countenance
of a swan

— George O. Hawkins

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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:

such heat
then snow

our lives

— @PerlyGates

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I liked this Daily Haiku entry last week:

first raindrops
an inaudible voice
on the answering machine
— Robert Epstein

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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
between stars…
and, ironhooved, shape,
sew his wooden kimono

— Alan Segal

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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?)

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“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…
temple bell

— Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Really, what’s not to like?

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At Haiku Bandit Society the monthly Full Moon Viewing Party is coming right up on the 21st. Go on over there and share your ku on the subject of the full moon. All the cool kids are doing it.

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On Michael Dylan Welch’s website, Graceguts, there is a great Lee Gurga interview, from 1991 but still well worth reading. (Michael reminded us of it on Facebook this week.) Here’s an excerpt:

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


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Over at extra special bitter, Paul David Mena blew me away with this one this week:

December rain —
the long night
longer

— Paul David Mena

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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:

just now
as my life turns crazy
forsythia

— 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.

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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.

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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.

Across the Haikuverse, No. 2: Only Connect Edition

In which I present for your inspection all the things I found this week while exploring the haikuverse that I thought might interest, entertain, infuriate, intrigue, or otherwise engross you. Or might not. (No. 1 in this series is here, in case you’re interested.)

This week’s theme (because I’ve been rereading Howards End): Only Connect. (Every item connects somehow to the previous item, if only by the skin of its teeth.)

1.

Are you feeling competitive this week? This coming Saturday is the deadline for November’s Shiki Kukai. If you don’t know about Kukai, they are haiku contests in which all the entrants vote on and choose the winners. The Shiki Kukai is a long-running contest with two categories: one that requires a particular kigo (this month: geese), and one that is free format but on a particular theme (this month: weaving). If either of those themes inspire you, check out the rules and give it a try.


2.

And for those who just can’t get enough competition … If you checked out the Haiku Foundation’s Facebook page as I advised you to do last week, you’ll know that they are now running a Facebook haiku contest. Through the end of November, anyone can enter one haiku in the contest by posting it on the page in the comment section following the contest announcement. The top three (as judged by Jim Kacian, Haiku Foundation founder) will get prizes. And glory, of course.

There are lots of entries already. Go check them out even if you’re not sure you want to enter the contest. I’ve found that this is a great forum just to get your haiku looked at by other poets and get a little feedback, so you might want to think of that as your goal rather than winning the contest. I certainly am. 🙂

3.

And more from the wonderful world of Facebook … Last week I shared with you a haiku in French by Vincent Hoarau, which he originally posted on Facebook. This week I will take mercy on the non-French-readers among you. A few days ago Vincent posted the following haiku, which he translated into English:

jour de pluie …
je pense à la mort
elle au berceau

rainy day …
i think about death
she about a cradle

4.

And while I’m on the subject of haiku in French … I recently discovered on Twitter a Belgian haiku poet, Bill Bilquin. He posts new haiku several times a week; here’s my favorite from this week (French original, English translation by Bilquin):

presque trois ans
ses mots de plus en plus précis
premières mandarines

nearly three years old
her words more and more precise
first mandarins

5.

And while I’m on the subject of haiku in foreign languages … There’s a haiku translation site called “Versions” that I discovered a few weeks ago and have been very excited about. (Warning: Serious geek territory ahead.) You can enter your own haiku in your language, which will then be available for others to translate into their language(s). You can also translate the haiku of others. It’s searchable by author, so you can go look at the haiku of a poet you like and see all the different translations that have been made on the site of their haiku. It’s a lot of fun (if, as I say, you’re a complete language geek) to compare the different “versions.”

A caveat: although in theory the site is available to writers and translators of any language, for right now most of the haiku seem to be in, and to be translated into, either English or Russian. (It’s a Russian site.) This is great for those of us who know both those languages, but if you are more into, say, German, you won’t find nearly as much on the site to interest you. However, you will be doing us all a great service if you add more haiku and translations in other languages, so give it a try.

Here’s an example of a haiku by Lee Gurga and a couple of (very) different Russian translations of it. Bear with me — even if you don’t know Russian I’ll give you some idea what they’re all about:

Lee’s original haiku:

his side of it
her side of it.
winter silence

 

(translation 1, by Versions user Боруко)

его сторона…
её сторона…
зимняя тишина

(translation 2, by Versions user A.G.)

твоё моё наше
холод молчание

The first translation is quite literal; if I saw it only in the original Russian I would probably render it back into English almost exactly as Lee originally wrote it. The second is very different — it’s more of a free interpretation, I would say, of Lee’s haiku than a translation. I might translate it back into English something like this:

yours mine ours
cold, silence

Which Lee might recognize as his haiku, and might not. Anyway, if you’re interested in translation, and especially if you know Russian (I realize that I am addressing a minuscule, possibly nonexistent, subset of my readership here, but hey, it’s my blog and I’ll geek out if I want to), you will certainly want to check this site out.

6.

And on the subject of versions of things … Bill Kenney has started a new feature on his blog haiku-usa that he calls “afters.” That is, they are haiku “after” haiku of classical haiku poets — not translations per se (Bill doesn’t know Japanese), but loose interpretations, attempts to capture something of the feeling of the original. Here’s his first:

a bit drunk
stepping lightly
in the spring wind
Ryokan (1758-1831)

7.

And more on the blog front … Andrew Phillips and I became acquainted with each other on Twitter this week and I’ve been enjoying checking out the haiku on his blog Pied Hill Prawns. An example:

telephone wires
connecting –
possum’s nightly walk

8.

And yet more bloggy matters … From Matt Holloway of Beachcombing for the Landlocked, a haiku I really enjoyed reading this week:

a tray      of stored apples      not yet a poem

9.

And while we’re in one-line haiku mode: I’ve been blown away this week by the amazing contents of Marlene Mountain’s website. In case you don’t know about Marlene, she is something of a haiku legend; she’s been writing haiku since the sixties, and she was one of the first poets to work with haiku as one line in English.

Here’s a page showing some of her early 3-line haiku, and then the same haiku later rewritten as one line. Here’s a selection of her one-line haiku. (A wonderful example: off and on i’ve thought of you off and on.) Here are scans of some pages from her notebooks, showing her revisions — I love this kind of thing, getting to see into another writer’s mind as she works. Here are some of her “ink writings,” similar to haiga. Here are some wonderful things called “unaloud haiku,” and here are some really fun things called “visually aloud” haiku. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as Marlene’s site is concerned. Enjoy!

And that’s all from the Haikuverse this week. Thanks for visiting.

On being lectured at. And enjoying it.

I really, really hate sitting and listening to lectures. Especially long lectures. It’s hard for me to sit. It’s hard for me to concentrate for long stretches of time. It’s hard for me to take in information that is spoken — I’m a reader. In college I usually gave up going to my lecture classes after a while because I fell asleep after the first half hour anyway so it was more efficient just to stay home and read the textbook. Or take a nap.

Yesterday morning, however, I sat and listened to lectures for three hours straight, and never blinked. I was totally engrossed the entire time. Apparently lectures about haiku are an exception to my lecture-hating rule.

(It didn’t hurt that these lectures took place in the newly refurbished Mineral Point Opera House, originally built in 1919 and full of lovely architectural details. If you want pictures you’ll have to check out the link, since my iPhone decided at some point during the morning to go completely dead on me [don’t worry, my son performed some kind of magic rite on it when I got home and now it’s fine].

This also means, sadly, that I don’t have pictures of any of the wonderful people I met yesterday or of the town of Mineral Point, which is as far as I’m concerned the loveliest small town in Wisconsin. Also one of the oldest, and hilliest, so it makes this New England transplant feel right at home.)

Anyway. Back to the lectures. The first was a talk by Randy Brooks (one of the few haiku professors in the country) with the wonderful title of “A Tumbly Life of Haiku: The Poetics of Robert Spiess.” He took us through a chronological selection of Spiess’ poetry, analyzing his development as a haiku writer from, essentially, more to less traditional. The early ku are mostly conventional in form and nature-based, though keenly observed:

all water turned ice:
delicately a gray squirrel
is lapping snow

the day after rain;
a reach of river bank
scattered with morels

Later Spiess experimented more with both form and subject matter:

a    square
of    water
r e f l e c t s
the    moon

making lunch for refugees —
my back turned, a child
picks through the garbage pail

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The next lecture, which really enthralled me, was Lee Gurga’s talk on “Robert Spiess’s Muse and the Future of American Haiku.” Lee managed to touch on just about every issue in the writing of contemporary haiku that most interests and concerns me, and enhanced my understanding of all these issues by about five hundred percent. Also, he was entertaining and inspiring.

I took copious notes, which I will try to distill down to a reasonable length. This may mean that I don’t represent Lee’s ideas in the order they appeared in his talk. And needless to say, apologies to Lee if I don’t get the details right or end up misrepresenting what he was saying — this was a dense and challenging lecture and I struggled to type fast enough to get it all down.

Lee started out by saying that he was currently collaborating on an anthology of haiku from current journals with Scott Metz, whom he considers the most talented haiku poet in the under-40 generation. Despite the fact that Scott’s experimental haiku are at the opposite end of the haiku spectrum from Lee’s more traditional poems, Lee thinks the future of American haiku lies with experimental and gendai poets such as Metz, Richard Gilbert and Jim Kacian. (I find these guys exciting myself and have written a couple of essays about them.)

Lee spoke about the process of editing Gilbert’s seminal essay “The Disjunctive Dragonfly” in 2004 when he, Lee, was the editor of Modern Haiku. The essay outlines Gilbert’s view of haiku poetics, which emphasizes disjunction — a complicated concept, maybe best summed up as a sort of disorientation or shift in viewpoint, intended to “erupt the complacent mind” of the reader. Traditional haiku, in contrast, tend to favor juxtaposition — a finding of commonality between disparate elements — and to emphasize clarity of language, with a goal of enlightening the reader.

Disjunction, imagistic fusion, language as language rather than a way to convey meaning — these characteristics of experimental haiku, Lee said, have “sent haiku off in all different directions”  — an exciting development. He thinks these techniques will produce haiku that are successful both as haiku and as short poems.

Lee discussed a bit about the history of English-language haiku: The early haiku translator R.H. Blythe, one of the first to introduce haiku to the English-speaking world, had a romantic vision of haiku as poems of discovery rather than of invention. In the sixties and seventies, the haiku ideal tended to be “the aha moment” — a sudden experience of enlightenment.

Gradually poets began to realize that these aha moments could take place at the time of the experience or at the time of writing. And the new experimental poets tend to think that the idea of writing about aha moments at the time of experience is a little played out. Lee himself, although he thinks this type of haiku will always be written, doesn’t think they will provide the future direction for American haiku. The new haiku poetry tends to consider words themselves the object of the poem, not experience.

If  Lee were to encapsulate in a phrase what’s different about American haiku today, it would be “the opacity of language,” contrasted with the earlier haiku ideal of transparency of language. He said, memorably, “The ideal for me is not transparency but translucency.” This means that the haiku can be read at both the literal and deeper — metaphorical or symbolic — levels. These multiple levels add richness to haiku and make them worth keeping and adding to the English literary canon.

As Lee has been working with Scott Metz, he’s been finding that Scott also values translucency — but his haiku are more at the opaque end of the translucency spectrum, whereas Lee’s are more at the transparent end. Scott often finds more transparent poems “boring” — Lee often has the reaction “so what” to more opaque poems. Both poets, however, are beginning to open each other’s eyes to the value of ku closer to the other end of the spectrum from what they naturally prefer. (Lee entertainingly summed up his attitude: “Too opaque is not superior to too transparent, perhaps only more pretentious.”)

Lee’s goal in editing the anthology is to reflect the current state of haiku in Japan: There, three schools of haiku exist, with their own organizations and standards: the traditional, the mainstream, and the gendai (more experimental). He wants to show that something like these three schools currently exist in English language haiku as well.

Lee gave some memorable examples of experimental and mainstream haiku from current journals. From Roadrunner, the journal Scott Metz edits, he cited the following (all of which I have represented as one line; I have no idea if some actually have line breaks or where the line breaks might occur — apologies to the authors if I have misrepresented your work):

moon flower the fragrance of names

their wings like cellophane remember cellophane

his kiss deepens midnight’s throat of stars

like a mosquito or an old empire city night

where I go searching bare trees ending sentences

baby beans racing moonlight

razored through to the void raven

bird me catch me

I see the iris and its stamina and am blue

From Modern Haiku he gave these more mainstream examples (same disclaimer as before — no idea where the line breaks occur, if any):

dusk rearranging silences

small town small talk big moon

october light I open my ribs to pray

insomnia two parts doubt one part moon

a coyote’s skull reconsidering the way

when fire had sentience winter solstice

someone’s last first cicada

floating in the sonogram summer moon

sparrows pour through a blue hole into our gray world

Traditional poetry, like that of Robert Spiess, is quite easy to find in most haiku journals.

For Lee himself as a haiku poet, balance between the extremes of experimental and traditional haiku is important. He enjoys experimenting, but also sees its dangers. He cites William Ramsay from a Roadrunner essay, “How One Writes in the Haiku Moment: Mythos vs. Logos”: “The haiku that Gilbert shows as models of disjunctive technique are excellent … [but] I don’t want to write … demo haiku .. I want to write haiku” that reflect events in his life and his feelings about them.” Ramsey wants to avoid the phenomenon of “disjunctive haiku as bludgeon,” overpowering and confusing the reader.

Some of Ramsey’s own haiku, which Lee considers to achieve this balance between experimental and traditional, are:

on a white plate two figs in syrup deep winter

cool pillow stuffed with pale lives I have sloughed off

born to live I hoe and ah born to die I kiss the melon [my comment: WOW]

Lee sees an approaching bifurcation in American haiku — it will become not a single movement of like-minded poets but will be more divided into schools like the Japanese haiku movement, with journals becoming more specialized and oriented toward one school or another. He sees this development as an indication of the maturity of American haiku — leaving its adolescence behind.

Lee asks, “Haiku will survive but what will it be?” His answer: There will be a cross-fertilization between haiku and other minimalist poetry. Haiku will come to emphasize both attention to the world around us and attention to the material, the language, of the poem. Unequivocally, Lee said, “I believe this is the technique that will produce the best haiku.”

Lee does hope that the haiku of the future will not abandon completely two important elements of traditional haiku: the notion of seasons (whether of the solar year or, more metaphorically, of life), and the idea of “an invitation to the reader.” He doesn’t want haiku to lapse into narcissism or solipsism, but to reach out to its audience.

The best haiku, Lee believes, will enable us to “enrich our connection to others so that we become the best poets and the best human beings we can be.”

*
I had really been looking forward to Charles Trumbull’s talk on “Verbs in Haiku” ever since I saw the title on the program. This is because I am a big geek and really like grammar. I even got excited when Charlie announced at the beginning of his lecture, “Things will get suddenly heavy now.” Hey, I like heavy! I was not disappointed. (And once again, any idiocies in the following discussion are certainly mine and not Charlie’s.)

Charlie is actually writing a book on grammar in haiku and his talk concerned his research into the role of verbs in strengthening or weakening haiku. He started out with the question — are verbs necessary in haiku? Traditionally, haiku present two separate images, usually noun-based, so perhaps verbs can be considered optional. He presented Cor Van der Heuvel’s haiku as an example:

the shadow in the folded napkin

To answer this question, Charlie read all the previous literature on verbs in haiku (which consisted of three articles, discussed below), and also examined 200 haiku from journals in two years, 2005 and 2008. He analyzed what verbs these haiku used, if any; what tense and mood they were; whether they were active or passive, transitive or intransitive, weak or strong. He considered the role of participles and gerunds in haiku. For all these categories he presented numerous examples from his research, which were fascinating but I will mostly skip them.

There were a few concepts Charlie went into in more depth, for instance the idea, very common among traditional haiku poets, that haiku should all be in the present tense. He presented a few quotes on the subject, for instance this one by Bruce Ross: “Haiku takes place in the present. This is its special feature.” Rebecca Rust, likewise, says unequivocally, “Haiku is a record of a present moment.” Jane Reichhold offers a slightly more nuanced explanation for her preference for present-tense haiku: stories are more gripping if told in the present tense.

Charlie did find that most haiku in his sample were written in the present tense, but presented several compelling examples of ku written in other tenses:

the crow flew so fast
that he left his lonely caw
behind the fields
— Richard Wright

a woman at last!
tonight, old moon,
you will have to sleep alone.
— Jim Tipton

Charlie also discussed the use of verbs in Japanese haiku, which are often difficult to translate into English precisely:

the faces of the dolls!
though I never intended to,
I have grown old.
— Seifu-jo (tr. Blythe)

In this haiku, Charlie said, the verb in the last line indicates a completed past action and might be more accurately translated as “old age had happened” — a sudden realization of the fact of the poet’s age.

Charlie discussed the three previous articles on verbs in haiku. The first, by Ted-Larry Pebworth, disparages weak verbs in haiku, saying that “ ‘to be’ is one of the most dangerous verbs available to the haiku poet.” Charlie tends to agree, saying that in his sample he could find no uses of the verb “to be” (the copula) used to represent simple equality. “Very few respectable haiku poets use this form anymore.”

However, one acceptable reason to use the copula is to convey the idea of transformation, as in this example by Fay Aoyagi:

new year’s eve bath —
I fail to become
a swan

The second essay, by Gustave Keyser, encourages the use of strong verbs as the “key to optimum effect in haiku.” One example Keyser gives, coincidentally, is the haiku that Gayle Bull cited as her favorite by Bob Spiess during the remembrances the night before. It was written about a bush in her own yard:

of the snow that fell
some lies on a common bush
uncommonly well

Here “lies,” Keyser says, is “the precisely right verb for the mood of the poem.”

Charlie also agrees that strong verbs improve haiku and notes that the number of strong verbs increased from his 2005 to his 2008 sample.

The third essay, by Bob Spiess himself, advocates for the use of no verbs in haiku. This does not mean, Spiess says, that the haiku will not have, or need, a “verbal element,” but this function can be taken over by other words.

Charlie found that in his sample, one quarter of the haiku had no verb at all, but most did have some kind of “verbal element” obliquely indicating action. In some, a verb, whether the copula or a more active verb, seemed to be implied:

early spring walk
your hand
in my pocket
— Roberta Beary

(Here Charlie suggested that “is” is implied after “hand.”)

Nouns can also have verbal overtones:

after making love
the slow click
of her knitting needles
— Michael Overhofer

(Here “click” is a noun that implies a verb.”

Participles, obviously, can have a verbal function:

a hole
in the starling’s skull
mint gone to seed
— John Barlow

Here once again Charlie discussed the difficulty of translating haiku from the Japanese and points out that different translations of the same haiku might use a verb, a participle, or no verb at all.

To my delight, he also presented Jane Reichhold’s idea of “The Technique of Noun-Verb Exchange,” using a word that can be interpreted in the haiku as either a noun or a verb:

spring rain
the willow strings
raindrops

After all his research, Charlie feels that either a verb or some kind of verbal element is desirable in haiku — haiku that don’t have any kind of implied verb seem weaker to him. I am still thinking about whether I agree with him.

Had enough? Yeah, by this point I had too. Let’s take a break for lunch.

August 1: 1-3: Three of one

1.

I can’t remember where I got this scar, or that one, or that one.

2.

streetlights switch on        the child runs away from his mother

3.

Cassiopeia     she refuses to stand next to her lover

*

Over at Troutswirl right now there is a great discussion about one-line haiku.

There are links to several other discussions of the subject, and several enlightening comments. Among other interesting points:

  • The late, great Bill Higginson seemed to think that if there were spaces in your one-line haiku, it wasn’t really a one-line haiku (because you were indicating, apparently, where a line break could go, and so why not write it in more than one line). To me, this seems to ignore the visual advantage to displaying a ku all in one line — it can be scanned more rapidly by the reader so gives more of a sense of wholeness or urgency, yet sometimes you still want to give a visual cue as to where a pause should occur.
  • Marlene Mountain has a page where a number of her ku are displayed both as three lines and as one, so you can decide which way you think works better.
  • Jim Kacian categorizes several of the effects that can be achieved by English one-line haiku (“one line–one thought,” “speedrush” and “multi- stops”). (Click on the big X:2 on the linked page to download the issue of “Roadrunner” this essay appears in.)
  • Charles Trumbull, in a July 29 comment, makes the sensible observation (I say it’s sensible because it’s what I think myself) that “[b]ecause of the internal rhythm of the material, sometimes one line works best. Period.” (He is slightly cranky about people imitating Japanese poetry or referring to historical precedent to justify their one-liners.)

I keep finding more and more that if I am having a great deal of trouble with a ku, transforming it to one line frequently instantly solves my problem. This is when I say that the ku “wanted” to be one line.

Also, I think I am still treating American sentences and one-line haiku as more or less interchangeable, though they’re not, really. I mean, number 1 above seems clearly to be an American sentence to me; the other 2 one-line haiku. Must think more about this …