five books

I’ve always acquired books at an alarming rate, but in the past I also read books at an alarming rate, so my life was kept in a pleasing state of equilibrium. Now that the internets have turned me into a distracted, flighty creature with the attention span of a dragonfly, books pile up in untidy drifts around my house, often unread or even unopened, no matter how eager I was to read them when I acquired them. 

When I do manage to finish reading a book, it’s usually because it was so good I couldn’t help myself, and then, perversely, instead of moving efficiently along and reading some new book, I go back and read it again. I’m a voracious re-reader. I probably spend at least half of my reading time re-reading things, through most of the process asking myself in alternate anguish and admiration, “How did they do it?” Usually I don’t figure it out but it’s worth it, to be so amazed and delighted so much of the time.

In case some of you could use some amazement and delight, here’s a rundown of what I’ve been re-reading lately.

Welcome to the Joy Ride: Haibun, by Peter Newton

This book contains many wonderful things, among them my new favorite sentence: “A fine mist wets the garden and by garden I mean produce section.” This is the first sentence in the haibun “Daydreaming at Night,” which you have to read. (I keep wondering whether Peter had one of my favorite non-haiku poems, Allen Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California,” in mind when he wrote it — what peaches and what penumbras!) You also have to read the haibun “Welcome to the Joy Ride,” “Prayer for a Stranger,” “The Deli Clerk,” “Home Remedy,” “Unspeakable,” “Pinwheels,” “The SX-70,” “Borderline, “My America,” and okay fine, you have to read the whole thing. Peter’s style is light and deft and funny, insightful and enlightening without being heavy-handed — basically perfect for haibun, which should take itself neither too seriously nor too flippantly. Just read it, ok? and tell me if you figure out how he did it. 

Haiku 2015, ed. Lee Gurga and Scott Metz

This series is only two books old but it’s already established itself as the best way to save time if you’d like to quickly find fifty or sixty or a hundred new haiku that you really, really love. Like these:

the beach road the beach house the beach painting the rain

–Adan Breare

one dark bird in snow rummaging the invisible

–Susan Diridoni

snow through        teeth in
…….the window        a glass

–Eve Luckring

cosmos as cranium as cavern as temple as map as board game

–Michael Nickels-Wisdom

the pill I’m told to swallow
has a name
like a remote moon

–Chad Lee Robinson

This edition honors the late Martin Lucas and the principles in his classic essay “Haiku as Poetic Spell,” something else you should just go read immediately if you’ve somehow managed to miss it.

see haiku here, by Kuniharu Shimizu

When this book arrived at my house all the way from Japan, there was much rejoicing. For years I’ve been in awe of Kuni-san and his spare, beautifully designed haiga, and I got, um, slightly excited when he illustrated some of my haiku a few years ago. There are actually two volumes in this series; one contains haiga with haiku by Basho and the other are Kuni-san’s own haiku, which quite frankly stand up very well against Basho. Sometimes when I look through this book I think we probably should just hire Kuni-san full-time to illustrate All the Haiku because, you know, they look better that way. Also, they kind of force you to spend the proper amount of time that should be spent reading haiku, instead of whipping through them like a maniac the way I sometimes have a sad tendency to do. Here’s one of my favorites of Kuni-san’s own:

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Out of Translation, by Aubrie Cox

It’s true that I have a personal attachment to this chapbook because Aubrie selected and sequenced the haiku in it by lining up little slips of paper on my living room floor one day last winter. (This is the kind of thing that happens to you when half your friends are haiku poets.) However, the rest of my attachment comes from my amazement at how effectively Aubrie’s haiku transport me to and through the childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood of a girl in the countryside of central Illinois, where I have never been and, if I am being perfectly honest, never have any desire to go, except sometimes when I’m reading Aubrie’s poetry. She writes with utter simplicity and clarity and the kind of emotional honesty that can be a little heartbreaking sometimes.

rainy Monday
another crumpled
paper crane

country church
forget-me-nots
between the floorboards

spring rain
a joker taped
to the spokes

toys
my father couldn’t fix…
spring rain

opening the shed–
cigarette smoke
from last fall

Into the Light, by Harriot West

I wrote a review of this book of haibun and it appeared in Frogpond 38.2so reading that is probably the best way to find out what I think about the book (spoiler alert: I like it a lot). I think I read Into the Light at least three times before I wrote the review and I’ve probably read it another three times since, so that’s like six times in less than a year which, you do the math. I need Harriot to write some more haibun so I have something else to re-read.

 

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Across the Haikuverse, No. 31: Election Edition

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Tomorrow is Election Day in the United States, which you knew already unless you’ve been living under a rock in Antarctica the last couple of months, in which case I’m profoundly jealous of you because you have probably been having a way better time than most of us here in the U.S. Since I do my best not to expose myself to any form of commercial media and I close my eyes while driving so as not to see billboards, I probably have not suffered quite as much as my fellow Americans, but I live in a battleground state, so I’ve suffered enough.

I think I’ve responded to five polls so far. I respond to all polls I’m invited to respond to because otherwise I suspect the opinions of middle-aged lady poets who like to live in their own private world instead of attending rallies and yakking to reporters all day long would go largely unrepresented in this race. I certainly never hear anyone talking about this demographic.

Mostly I’ve coped, though, by trying to go on with life as normal, which in my case largely means reading vast quantities of everything that is not news. Here’s some of my favorites of what I’ve come across lately.

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daybreak / a whitefish, whiteness / one inch

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daybreak–
a whitefish, whiteness
one inch

— Matsuo Basho, artwork by Kuniharu Shimizu, see haiku here

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A blackbird,
his anvil call
striking I, I, I

— Marie Marshall, Kvenna Rad

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around dusk a stone offers me its free will

— Johannes S. H. Bjerg, Monostich

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the growing
impatience of the queen –
autumn deepens

— Alison Williams, miso soup

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シーソーのかたへに秋の来てゐたり   金子 敦

shîsô no katae ni aki no kiteitari

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to the opposite side
of a seesaw
autumn arrives

— Atsushi Kaneko, tr. Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World

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ils ont encore rasé
une parcelle du bois
j’ai encore maigri
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they’ve cut down
another patch of forest
I keep getting thinner

— Vincent Hoarau, La Calebasse (very bad translation: me)

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Both of them in the long grass, the haiku poet and the frog he feels compelled to ignore.

— Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked

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dark
the TV ignores
everything

— John Stevenson, R’r Blog

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evening sun
helping my dad
tend the cosmos

— Helen Buckingham, tinywords

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fish
the worm
heron
the fish
me
the heron
– glancing behind

— Bill Dennis, Last Resort Gallery

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Not long ago I was doing a thorough investigation into the history of English-language haiku and I discovered the following by John Ashbery, which I had inexplicably never encountered before.

37 Haiku

Old-fashioned shadows hanging down, that difficulty in love too soon

Some star or other went out, and you, thank you for your book and year

Something happened in the garage and I owe it for the blood traffic

Too low for nettles but it is exactly the way people think and feel

And I think there’s going to be even more but waist-high

Night occurs dimmer each time with the pieces of light smaller and squarer

You have original artworks hanging on the walls oh I said edit

You nearly undermined the brush I now place against the ball field arguing

That love was a round place and will still be there two years from now

And it is a dream sailing in a dark unprotected cove

Pirates imitate the ways of ordinary people myself for instance

Planted over and over that land has a bitter aftertaste

A blue anchor grains of grit in a tall sky sewing

He is a monster like everyone else but what do you if you’re a monster

Like him feeling him come from far away and then go down to his car

The wedding was enchanted everyone was glad to be in it

What trees, tools, why ponder socks on the premises

Come to the edge of the barn the property really begins there

In a smaller tower shuttered and put away there

You lay aside your hair like a book that is too important to read now

Why did witches pursue the beast from the eight sides of the country

A pencil on glass—shattered! The water runs down the drain

In winter sometimes you see those things and also in summer

A child must go down it must stand and last

Too late the last express passes through the dust of gardens

A vest—there is so much to tell about even in the side rooms

Hesitantly, it built up and passed quickly without unlocking

There are some places kept from the others and are separate, they never exist

I lost my ridiculous accent without acquiring another

In Buffalo, Buffalo she was praying, the nights stick together like pages in an old book

The dreams descend like cranes on gilded, forgetful wings

What is the past, what is it all for? A mental sandwich?

Did you say, hearing the schooner overhead, we turned back to the weir?

In rags and crystals, sometimes with a shred of sense, an odd dignity

The box must have known the particles fell through the house after him

All in all we were taking our time, the sea returned—no more pirates

I inch and only sometimes as far as the twisted pole gone in spare color

 — John Ashbery

I was originally going to quote only part of this, but I love, love it so much. The pieces of it are not really separable from each other. (Although, “You lay aside your hair like a book that is too important to read now”? I’m just going to lie down now and roll around in that sentence for a while. Don’t mind me.)

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And while we’re talking about stuff I can’t believe I didn’t know about before, here’s a really spectacular introduction-to-haiku website by the British Haiku Society, who apparently have a graphic designer extraordinaire on staff. I mean, look at this thing. .

furuike ya / kawazu tobikomu / mizu no oto

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There’s a slide show, too, so if it’s your turn to give a presentation at the next meeting of the Well-Meaning But Not Necessarily Well-Informed Literati of Calaveras County Club, and you’ve just about had it with explaining to someone different every month that no, haiku do not have to have seventeen syllables…here’s your chance to blow their minds.

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And while we’re on the subject of appealing visual design, and the British Isles…Tzynchromesh is the latest venture of Colin Stewart Jones, poet and artist of Aberdeen. It’s a journal that will publish works of fusion..two or more art forms meshed together. Poetry, prose, painting, graphic art, photography, film, music, sound or spoken word. Go.

Colin has also started a Facebook page for people to share their fusion art, appropriately called Fusion. And while I’m on the subject of Facebook, I’d just like to mention for anyone who doesn’t spend much time there that there is a huge, thriving community of haiku poets on Facebook. I probably belong to twenty or thirty Facebook haiku pages, way more than I can possibly keep track of, let along contribute to, but there is a fascinating range of styles and approaches represented there. The granddaddy of them all, of course, still going strong with daily prompts provided by a different poet every month, is NaHaiWriMo. I like Free Haiga and One Line is new and exciting. Gabi Greve has just started Translating Japanese Haiku, which should be fun. Facebook: It’s not just for cats and politics anymore!

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So there we go: I’m back on the subject of politics. I got here via a circuitous and sneaky route, not unlike the routes that politicians take when, say, debate moderators ask them their position on the turmoil in the Middle East and they manage to turn the subject back to taxes and how bad it is that people have to pay them when they could be doing more interesting things with the money, like buying entire cities of Chinese laborers to build new and better widgets to entertain the restless American masses. I am thinking of running for office myself soon and I hope you’ll all support me, since my platform consists mainly of the sincere desire that people should spend way more time reading poetry, if only to keep themselves from spending time thinking about how they and their friends don’t have enough stuff and everyone else has way too much. God or, you know, whatever, bless America. God knows she needs it.

 

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november dawn more matter with less light

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(winter sky)

winter sky / snipping out stars / for the children

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winter sky
snipping out stars
for the children

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see haiku here, 8 January 2012

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(This haiga is a lot bigger and more impressive-looking at Kuniharu Shimizu’s blog, so click on that link up there to see it there. That way you can also see the whole sequence of haiga Kuni san did about children, and the related sequence he’s working on now, about toys.)

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Across the Haikuverse, No. 28: The On Beyond Zebra Edition

On Beyond Zebra

Sometimes 26 letters are not enough. Dr. Seuss fans will know what I’m talking about.

Anyone who writes seriously at all, I’m guessing, is frequently frustrated by the inadequacy of language to express the full range of things there are to express in the world. There aren’t words for everything. There aren’t even combinations of words for everything, although one of the things that great writers (and sometimes even we lesser writers) do is find new combinations of words to express things that haven’t been expressed before, or that have been expressed before but are in need of refreshing.

On my journeys around the Haikuverse that’s chiefly, I believe, what I’m looking for — people saying things in ways that are new, or new to me. I read a lot, I always have, so it’s not that easy for me to find words I haven’t found before. But it happens, still, many times each month. It’s one reason to keep going. There are others, but I keep coming back to words. I think language, for me, might occupy roughly the same space in my brain that religious awe occupies in the minds of many. We are endlessly finding new things to describe and inventing new ways of describing old things, as individuals, as a species; this seems like reason enough to believe in some form of eternity. Thanks to everyone who’s given me some reason to believe this month.

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Haiku

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just
kidding

you’re
not

alive –

morning rain

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driller
kun

du
lever

ikke –

morgenregn

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

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Dear Malvina,
It’s been a long time since we It’s already autumn here . . .
lonely evening

— Rafael Zabratynski, DailyHaiku, 12/21/11

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うごけば、  寒い     橋本夢道

ugokeba,        samui

if I move,                  cold

—  Mudo Hashimoto, trans. Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World

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Slime trail—
glancing back at
the glinting

—Don Wentworth, Tinywords

(Also, you should read this lengthy interview with Don from Christien Gholson’s blog.)

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crow watching –
the unseen tree branch suddenly
seen

— Angie Werren, feathers

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dusk at the beach
a stone and I
touch each other

Dietmar Tauchner, International Second Prize, The 15th Mainichi Haiku Contest

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冬蜂の死にどころなく歩きけり  村上鬼城

fuyu-bachi no shini-dokoro naku arukikeri

a winter bee
continues to walk
without a place to die

— Kijo Murakami, trans. Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World

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dark
the TV ignores
everything

John Stevenson, ant ant ant ant ant’s blog

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cave mouth
a scream beyond my range
of hearing

— George Swede, Mann Library Daily Haiku

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first
snowflakes

like me
made to last

till
they’re

gone

— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 3ournals and frags

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Tanka

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hour upon hour
a veil of simple snow
falling without reason
I feel an urgency
to risk everything I know

— William Sorlien, Haiku Bandit Society

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trailing my hand
through the water
for a moment
more river
than man

— Paul Smith, Paper Moon

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Haibun

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Another grey day has fallen as a pall on the new calendar as if what makes a difference really doesn’t. Only the ticking clock and the distant squawking of a crow or better yet, complaint, as well as the deep sigh of engines passing by tell the trudge goes on. I look on the cypress with a creeping sense of sorrow. The deep cold has darkened its twigs.  Gifts piled beside it now holiday debris. A black garbage bag rests folded in the bin. I gather the cards. The wishes slide off my fingers. A bag of pebbles waits to be planted on the vase. Like wishes that might take root, I would have to water them each day. But for now

blue notes waver under the lamp

— Alegria Imperial, jornales

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No, It’s Not Japanese Short-Form Poetry, But It’s My Blog And I Can Do Whatever I Want

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Almost Ready

five forty five a.m.

very cold

I move
close to a heater

night like wind

forming

itself

By god
I hear
a rooster

Crow

I had
only heard
a rooster

Crow

In the movies
before

this

To think
of the beautiful things

Your memory
has led me
into

And this poem

Almost ready!

— Aditya Bahl, dipping butterflies

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Essayed

Gene Myers, the blogger over at The Haiku Foundation, asked a bunch of poets in December what their hopes were for English-language haiku in 2012. One of my favorite answers to this question, part of which I’ve quoted below, came from Scott Metz:

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“One of my hopes is that the aesthetics and techniques—the poetics—that have become traditional (classical?), and entrenched, in English-language haiku (with all its wonderful and creative misreadings, limitations, misinterpretations and ahistorical stances) continue to flourish and intensify, and deepen. With an emphasis on transparency (and directness) of language, simplicity, plainness, literalism, direct experience, season words, and ‘ordinary reality,’ a remarkable, timeless foundation has been created.

“Another one of my hopes for English-language haiku is that it will continue to diversify and evolve; that poets will continue to play (the hai in haiku) artistically (with language, modi operandi, imagery, structure, culture, media, history, literature), go where they need to go—go where they must go—and continue to question and resist. …

“I look forward to the craft and artistry and invitations in everyone’s poems: all the doors and windows left open and/or cracked, all the lights on in the attics, all the latches and locks left undone. I hope for more of all of it and thank everyone for sharing it.”

— Scott Metz, Hopes for English-Language Haiku in the New Year

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Linked

Alan Pizzarelli and Donna Beaver, the team behind the haiku-podcast goodness of Haiku Chronicles, have once again teamed up with the astounding Anita Virgil to produce something amazing: a video exploration of the many dimensions of modern English-language haiga, narrated by Anita and set to music. You need to spend half an hour watching this: Haiga Gallery.

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Journaled

ant ant ant ant ant 12

Contact Chris Gordon at mrcr3w@yahoo.com for a copy of the most recent issue of his intermittently-published and mind-altering journal, featuring the poetry of the great Jack Galmitz. [Apologies to Jack for leaving his credit off the original version of this post. All I can say is, I need new glasses.] I highly recommend the ant ant ant ant ant blog too.

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Haiku from ant ant ant ant ant 12

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The Heron’s Nest

just how
to hold you
paper kite

— Dan Schwerin, The Heron’s Nest, Dec. 2011

Amongst the usual THN goodness in the most recent issue was this haiku? senryu? which was discussed at length at the most recent meeting of (one of) the real-life haiku groups I attend, during a session on senryu led by the great Bill Pauly. The author, Dan, a wonderful person and poet, is a member of our group — he drives two hours each way to join us every month, which makes us all feel very lucky. This poem of his is so light and deft and well-constructed that it reminds me of a paper kite; I keep expecting it to lift into the air any minute.

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bottle rockets #26

pinwheel —
as if a second thought
starts to turn it

— Satoru Kanematsu

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Booked

One day in December when I was feeling very gloomy Peter Newton’s new book showed up in my mail, with a cover illustrated by Kuniharu Shimizu and an interior designed (oh, and written, of course) by Peter, with the kind of attention to detail that one normally associates with the finer still-lifes of the Flemish Old Masters. Or, you know, something like that. What I’m trying to say, in my usual pretentious way, is that this book is a lot of fun to hold. And page through. And look at. And read. Plus, there aren’t enough orange books in the world.

Cover of What We Find

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standing in the middle of now here

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on my ceiling
the untraceable wanderings
of an ant
someone’s words carved deep
on a tree in my mind

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Across the Haikuverse, No. 27: Okay, So I Lied Edition

I know, I know. I said I wasn’t going to do this again for a while. But I’m so used to it! I keep reading haiku I love! And then I cut and paste them to a document and then I paste them into WordPress and then I fiddle with the formatting a little and then I press “Publish” and you get to read them. It’s not really that hard. No, really! It’s not! I totally can do it… at least one more time. Right? Please?

…Thanks!

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Haiku

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brittle moonlight
self-immolations
drawn on a map

— William Sorlien, Haiku Bandit Society

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hiding their faces well snowflakes
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de skjuler deres ansigter godt snefuggene

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

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change of seasons
I catch myself talking
to the wind

— Margaret Dornaus, Haiku-doodle

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a break
in the clouds
how small we are

— Alegria Imperial, jornales

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in the second-hand book shop, the purr of the three-legged cat

— Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked

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千の矢の描く千の弧師走空  青柳 飛

sen no ya no egaku sen no ko shiwazu-zora
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one thousand trajectories
of one thousand arrows—
December sky

Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World  (her blog’s 1000th post)

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目をつむりセーター脱げば剥製です   渡部陽子

me o tsumuri seitaa nugeba hakusei desu
.
taking off a sweater
with eyes closed
I am a stuffed specimen

— Yoko Watabe, tr. Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World

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platelets—
the trip we were planning
to plan

— Roberta Beary, Tinywords

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itallcomestogether in the darkness for the owl

— Johnny Baranski, Monostich

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longue recherche
des lunettes pour mieux voir
le brouillard

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a long search
for glasses, the better to see
the fog

— Vincent Hoarau, La Calebasse (dubious translation by me)

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Haibun

she envies her her boyfriend that never fools around and her cherry-red convertible that never needs repairs and her outfits (complete with shoes and accessories) that can be had for less than ten dollars and the perpetually-shining plastic sun outside her practically-immaculate plastic house but most of all she envies her her god-damn nearly-perfect never-faltering ability-to-smile . . .

she says
“we can’t help who we love”
to no one
in particular
“all guys are assholes”

— Eric L. Houck Jr., haiku

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Haiga

Kindly click on the links to see the haiga that are not posted here.

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mouth of the cave
we enter as eagles
exit as sparrows

— an’ya, DailyHaiga

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opening emergency door,
head-on spring moon

— Kikko Yokoyama, with haiga by Kuniharu Shimizu, see haiku here

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Wildfire in Winter

— Aubrie Cox, Yay Words! (Click on the image [or the link to Aubrie’s blog] for a larger, more legible version)

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Essayed

Chen-ou Liu posted a great essay recently on his blog Poetry in the Moment (originally published in A Hundred Gourds 1.1) about the phenomenon of “deja-ku”: “Read It Slowly, Repeatedly, and Communally.” Here’s a sample, but please go read the whole thing, it’s fascinating and there are lots of great examples.

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Today, high poetic value placed upon originality remains ingrained in the Western literary culture. This fear of unknowingly writing similar haiku or the reluctance or disuse of allusion proves that Thomas Mallon’s remark still holds true: the poets live under the “fearful legacy of the Romantics.” Could those poets or editors who are constantly worried about “not being original or fresh” imagine that a poet deliberately using a direct quote as the first two lines of his haiku can achieve a great poem?

— Chen-ou Liu, “Read It Slowly, Repeatedly, and Communally”

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Hey, thanks for indulging me. I feel better now.

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bitter night
I keep reminding myself
I’m a poet

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Across the Haikuverse, No. 25: The Necessarily Brief Edition

It’s getting to be that time of the semester. The time when you start muttering, “Oh, that’s good enough.” Not that I don’t have unwaveringly high standards of excellence. (Did you hear that, professors? Unwavering!) It’s just that… life is a matter of priorities. A balancing act. Term papers, haiku, term papers, haiku… okay, haiku, but just this once.

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poems

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however the planets align a stack of pumpkins

— Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked

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A spring evening I ride a car with an ordinary man

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Having got used to the depth of war I love a dog

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A spring evening is wound down toward the apple skin

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— Fujiki Kiyoko, translated by Hiroaki Sato on antantantantant’s blog

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針金と針金からみ秋の暮    奥坂まや
harigane to harigane karami aki no kure

a wire and a wire
twining—
autumn dusk

— Maya Okusaka, translated by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World

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the morning glories
gain the second floor
half a million dead in Iraq

— Ellis Avery, on antantantantant’s blog

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poems and pictures (please visit the links to see the pictures)

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Hear the sough of rain
I whisper a secret
so that I can get in

— Tomas Tranströmer, most recent winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, illustrated by Kuniharu Shimizu at see haiku here
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blossoming witch hazel
I pound a stuck storm window
with a Chinese dictionary

— Dave Bonta, Woodrat Photoblog

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winter sun
I think twice about
destroying this web

— Kirsten Cliff, Swimming in Lines of Haiku

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night rain –
he tells me
he slept well

— sanjuktaa, wild berries

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ʈɧɛ ųɳįѵɛŗʂɛ
ą ɖįƒƒɛŗɛɳʈ čȏɳѵɛŗʂąʈįȏɳ
įɳ ʈɧɛ ɳįǥɧʈ

— Rick Daddario, 19 Planets

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divorce finalized—
a monarch floats
among falling leaves

— Aubrie Cox, Yay Words!

(Also, written anything about tea and/or monsters lately? You might want to think about contributing to Aubrie’s Monster Mash. Deadline Oct. 29.)

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interviewed

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Not long ago Johannes S.H. Bjerg gave a wonderful interview to an Indian magazine, okiedoks. Read it here.

Excerpt:

I like to “stretch” the language, I want to take it where it almost loses sense because of its inadequacy to express exactly what is inexpressible. This sounds cryptic, and it is. Language can go only so far … but how far before it becomes sheer nonsense … It’s a bit like pricking a hole in “reality” to find another “reality.” And this is where it makes no sense talking about anymore. Only the poem can do that.

— Johannes S.H. Bjerg

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essayed

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This passage by Randy Brooks from his Modern Haiku review of Richard Gilbert’s Poems of Consciousness has been some of my favorite food for thought recently.

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It has always been my contention that the haiku community needs to get past the beginner’s mind of definitions and rules and get on with the celebration of the diversity of the genre that is rich and strong only to the extent that there is a wide range of practice, a surprising freshness of voices and perspectives. We need to embrace and celebrate haiku writers who relish dense language and the naming function of words, haiku writers who live in the woods and tap into the biodiversity of ecosystems there, haiku writers who protest injustice and go to jail, haiku writers who resist the male ego dominance of English, haiku writers who meditate and seek the quiet voice within, haiku writers who celebrate being social and the significance of being in community, haiku writers who are religious within a variety of spiritual traditions, haiku writers who are all about people, haiku writers who write senryu and don’t care about the distinction, haiku writers who are international citizens of the world using haiku to bridge cultures, haiku writers who are so local nobody but friends at the local pub understand them. This diversity of writers and approaches to haiku is the strength and rich surprise of elasticity found in this literary genre.

— Randy Brooks, Modern Haiku 40:1, Winter 2009

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Dead Tree News

I generally hate to quote and run but this time I think I’ll just toss a few of my favorites from the most recent issues of two of my favorite journals at you.

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From Frogpond 34:3

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after the argument
separating
lights and darks

— Kristen B. Deming

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after she leaves
the weight
of hanging apples

— Marsh Muirhead

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lightning strike
the mean streak in me
deepens

— Aubrie Cox

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From Modern Haiku 42:3 —

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as if each promise
carried a different weight
breaking waves

— Angela Terry

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Halbmond
die Baukräne
in Berlin
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half moon
the construction cranes
of Berlin

— Dietmar Tauchner

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summer afternoon
the salamander basking
in inattention

— Ernest Wit

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table talk
the knife resting
on the spoon

— Francine Banwarth

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imaginary mouse
i feed him
fear

— Tyrone McDonald

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the need to formulate an archival appraisal policy for born-digital materials … what was that? Oh, sorry, I opened the wrong window on my desktop again… well, while I’m here at this window I guess I’ll look at the sky for a while.

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into the fog the stars are no exception

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Across the Haikuverse, No. 22: Not Dead Yet Edition

I’ve been sick with a few different things over the last few weeks. Spent a lot of time lollygagging around in bed. Seem to be getting better now. Still don’t feel much like writing.

Somebody want to comment and let me know what you’re writing these days? It might make me feel better to know that someone in the world is not experiencing a creative slump.

Of course, there are all those people I quote down below. They seem to be doing just fine. Terrific, in fact. There are some spectacular images here. Some precise and lovely language. Some mind-altering revelations.

All of these poems are ones that made me step back when I saw them and go, “Whoa.” And then just breathe for a while, and read the poem again a few times, and feel really thankful I’d seen it.

In case you were wondering what my criteria were for choosing poems for this feature…that’s pretty much it. If a poem seems to me to be saying something that no one else in the world ever had or could say better…it’s going in.

It’s interesting to me, now that I’ve been reading haiku for a while, and have become familiar with the work of so many poets, how even in a form as short and relatively prescribed in form and content as the haiku (or tanka), there is such a wild and woolly assortment of styles possible and extant.

Reading the poems of people whose work you know and love is a little bit like looking at the faces of people you know and love: so familiar, and utterly unique, and the uniqueness makes you love them even more. You smile when you see them and say, “Oh, yes, that couldn’t possibly be anyone but [for instance] John Martone.”

Yes, I’m feeling much better now. Thanks.

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Poetry To Which Attention Must Be Paid

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yes, this one,
gently close the humidor
– the smell of cedar
both dogs whining in the hall
eager to join me outside

—Steve Mitchell, Heed Not Steve

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sun between clouds
the flies on a dead bird
flash blue

— Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked

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grandma’s well
the water tasted like iron
and cold—
that darkness
from which I’m made

— Charles Easter, Tinywords

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物容るゝ壜も物言ふ壜も夏   中村安伸
mono iruru bin mo mono iu bin mo natsu

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a jar to keep things
and a jar which speaks
summer

— Yasunobu Nakamura, translated by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World

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wishing on the first star for the last time … mockingbird’s song

— Terri L. French, The Mulling Muse (Please go check out Terri’s wonderful haiga associated with this poem)

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white sky –
the absent wind
with a girl’s name

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hvid himmel –
den fraværende vind
med et pigenavn

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

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feeling it
not feeling it
the grasshopper
between my hands

— Sandra Simpson, DailyHaiku

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wind
thru

pines
thru

sleep 

— John Martone, originally published in Lilliput Review and quoted on Don Wentworth’s Issa’s Untidy Hut

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everything I see
I am…
autumn moon

— Paul Smith, winner of the 2011 Haiku Pen Contest sponsored by Lyrical Passion E-Zine

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Delicious Bloggy Goodness

Since I am giving this talk next week about blogging I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a good blog and which blogs I am devoutly grateful for (there are a lot of them). I mentioned a few in the last Haikuverse and here are a few more.

1. Kuniharu Shimizu, whose haiga on see haiku here are a marvel of nature most of the time anyway, has been posting some mind-blowing “linked haiga” lately. They’re like haiku sequences, except…they’re haiga sequences, and they are linked not only thematically but graphically. I’m just gonna stop trying to describe them now and order you to go look at them. My favorites are:

Haiku by A.C. Missias, Joann Klontz, and paul m.

Haiku by Cor van den Heuvel and Taneda Santoka

Haiku by Michael McClintock and Taneda Santoka

2. The fascinating people over at Icebox recently took a poll about which characteristics participants considered essential to haiku. Of a long list of possibilities, you were allowed to choose three. Now they have revealed and analyzed the results of some 104 responses, and it’s a fascinating read, especially if like me you find numbers a welcome break at times from all those words we’re always bandying about.

Full disclosure: I participated in this poll, and I am (I guess?) relieved to find out that my top three choices are identical to the top three vote-getters in the poll. Either I have a vague idea what I’m doing, or I just like to be exactly like everyone else. I haven’t decided yet.

3. Over at Morden Haiku, Matt Morden’s long haibun about his cycling tour of Scotland with his 18-year-old daughter (it was a school-leaving present) had me captivated every step of the way, which surprised me because I normally have very little interest in travelogue haibun. But Matt is so good at painting images in both prose and poetry. And he managed to capture the nature of the bond between him and his daughter without any overt description of it or any sentimentality.

at the end of a day
when I could not ask for more
wild orchids

— Matt Morden, Morden Haiku

4. At La Calebasse, Vincent Hoarau has written a moving and perceptive essay about the work of Svetlana Marisova, an excellent haiku poet from New Zealand. Unfortunately for many of you, it’s in French; fortunately for those same people, he quotes Svetlana’s haiku in English (as well as in his own French translation), so at least you can read those, and Svetlana’s haiku are must-reads.

I can’t really translate French so I wouldn’t inflict my garbled version of Vincent’s essay on you, but I will briefly quote one of his descriptions of Svetlana’s characteristic style, which “depends on the juxtaposition of images, on allusion, suggestion, and concision.” This might be a description of all or most good haiku, but it is true that there is more of a sense of mystery and a deeper resonance to Svetlana’s haiku than to most.

This makes it all the more painful to have to report that Svetlana has an aggressive form of brain cancer, for which she is currently being treated in Russia. I think it’s safe to say that everyone who knows Svetlana and her work is keeping her in their thoughts these days.

wintry sky …
these dark tumours
draining light

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ciel hivernal … / ces tumeurs noires / drainant la lumière

— Svetlana Marisova, French translation by Vincent Hoarau

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Essaying: Words, Words, Words

The last few weeks I kept stumbling across, or getting pointed toward, thought-provoking essays about haiku, many of which I kept constantly open as tabs in my browser so I could reread them or bits of them at stray moments when, say, Facebook was failing to completely capture my attention. After a while (sometimes I’m slow) I started to notice a common theme between several of these essays: Words.

No, I don’t mean that they all contain words. I mean that they all deal in one way or another with the inadequacy of mere words to convey the meaning of haiku, with the fact that in haiku it is just as often what is not said that is important. That space, wordlessness, ma … there are so many ways people have tried to explain this notion of the open-endedness of haiku, the sense of possibility it offers the reader. But these three essays have a lot to contribute to this conversation.

Ian Marshall and Megan Simpson, in an often dense discussion of the literary theory of deconstructionism as it pertains (or doesn’t pertain) to haiku, spend a lot of time trying to decide whether the words in haiku can be trusted: whether they are revealing some kind of absolute truth or faithful depiction of the world, or whether they are saying more about the mind of their author than about any objective reality.

“What I’m getting at, what I’ve been getting at, is that the supposed ideal of ‘wordlessness’ of haiku, meaning that its language can represent the natural world in such a way that it becomes fully present in language, in seventeen syllables or less, is a fiction. But the best haiku are aware of the fiction and of the difficulty or impossibility of using words to achieve no-mind, or selflessness, or wordlessness. Bringing deconstruction to bear on haiku reveals that even haiku to some extent concern themselves with the problematics of representation, and recognizing this enriches our readings of haiku.”

— Ian Marshall and Megan Simpson, “Deconstructing Haiku: A Dialogue

Randy Brooks, in a long and rich interview with Robert Wilson in the most recent issue of the journal Simply Haiku, elaborates on his vision of haiku poetics, which considers the reader to be “co-creator” with the writer of the meaning of the haiku.

“Haiku is not a closed form of verse with three lines of five-seven-five syllables, self-contained and finished by the author. Haiku is an open form of poetry in which the silences before, within and after the haiku resonate with surplus meaning. Basho called this surplus of meaning ‘yojô.’ These unfinished silences are deliberately left open to the reader, so that the reader can enter into the imagined space of the haiku as a co-creator with the author to discover the feelings, thoughts, insights, and overall significance of the haiku. This surplus meaning is shared by the writer and reader, with a playful variety of unpredictable responses. In my opinion, this is the primary joy of haiku—the writer has crafted a haiku as a creative response to nature, reality, dreams, art, imagination, or to other haiku, and the reader gets to enter into that playful haiku with his or her own creative response and imagination.”

— Randy Brooks, interviewed by Robert Wilson in Simply Haiku

And Fay Aoyagi, in a fascinating essay about the history of the moon in haiku, talks about the necessity for subtlety and ambiguity in haiku, the need to leave things out. (The first paragraph of her essay is not specifically about this idea, but it was too wonderful not to quote here.)

“If somebody asked me to choose between the sun and the moon as a place to live, I would choose the moon. In my mind, there are highways with 10 lanes on the sun, but the moon has alleys and narrow streets I can explore on foot. For me, the sun is a destination, but the moon is a gateway and a peep-hole to an unknown world. …
“One of my Japanese friends told me that she did not understand how people write haiku in English. According to her, Japanese culture, including haiku, is very subtle. She said Japanese is a more ambiguous language than English; it is a more suitable language to express feelings. Writing in Japanese, a poet can avoid too much explicitness. I am not sure I totally agree. I think English haiku can be very suggestive, as well. … Haiku is a poetry form which requires reading between the lines. I strongly believe that we can achieve subtlety in English.”

— Fay Aoyagi, “Moon in the Haiku Tradition

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Well. I think in this edition I’ve had more of a sense than most of actually going somewhere, of making some kind of journey.

I can’t help thinking back to when I first started this blog, with a light-hearted, innocent notion that I would be spending a few minutes every day composing these charming little poems. And then…the deluge.

After just a few days of surfing erratically around the Interwebs, I began to realize that the well I had fallen into was deeper and had far more at the bottom of it than I had dreamed.

I was stunned by the richness of so much of the haiku I had found, by how different it was than the haiku I had previously seen or imagined.

I was amazed by the amount and variety of writing about haiku that I discovered, and by the amount of disagreement that existed about what exactly haiku was anyway, and by the quality and profundity of thought that so many poets and scholars poured into these tiny poems.

I had a sense of having found another country. And I knew almost immediately that it was one I wanted to emigrate to permanently, and spend a lifetime exploring.

Well, why not? The scenery is astounding, the population is warm and welcoming, the cultural traditions … well, I need say no more. But sometimes I just kind of look around and think, Wow. I am so lucky to be here.

Thank you for being here too.