less light than I want
more than I need
Lilliput Review #185
Lilliput Review #185
moonlight I finally listen
the light we save by being dark
coming and going spirit moon
You know how it is: time is on your side. Then it isn’t. You cartwheel down the sidewalk one day in spring and watch yourself drive by, ten years older in the passenger seat with your head on your boyfriend’s shoulder, twenty years older in the driver’s seat carpooling to your son’s soccer game, thirty years older in the back seat of the lead car in your father’s funeral procession, your mind emptier than it’s been in years, turning your head to follow the progress of the little girl cartwheeling down the sidewalk. You never noticed her before.
the mistakes in my mirror image of myself
Well, but why should you have noticed her? Maybe she was never there before. And then again, why shouldn’t you have? Is a little girl really a less permanent feature of the landscape than the house behind her, the one that looks eerily like your childhood home? Houses fall down, streets cave in. Even hills, like this hill your car is climbing to the cemetery, even hills wear down over time, don’t they. Yes, someday someone will pick up this hill without thinking and put it in his pocket. And give it to his little girl when he gets home.
seismic movement my errors in judgment
The stars are coming out now, it’s that late in the day, the dark comes early now that it’s winter, though surely it was spring earlier today. You step out of the car and join the stream of your father’s mourners, all of you shrinking and fading as you move toward his grave in the darkness. Stars, you think: now they’re eternal — and then one winks out as you glance at it. Yes, it had a good run, but it’s cold and dark now, and everyone living on the planets that spun around it winked out themselves long ago. Time flies like an arrow, only faster. You’ve wasted time, but no need to get so upset about it, everyone does. It’s there to be wasted. And then it’s not there anymore; or more precisely, it is, but you’re not.
eight minutes later the truth finally dawns
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.
Poetry To Which Attention Must Be Paid
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
sun between clouds
the flies on a dead bird
— Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked
the water tasted like iron
from which I’m made
— Charles Easter, Tinywords
mono iruru bin mo mono iu bin mo natsu
a jar to keep things
and a jar which speaks
— Yasunobu Nakamura, translated by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World
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)
white sky –
the absent wind
with a girl’s name
hvid himmel –
den fraværende vind
med et pigenavn
— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 2 tongues/2 tunger
not feeling it
between my hands
— Sandra Simpson, DailyHaiku
— John Martone, originally published in Lilliput Review and quoted on Don Wentworth’s Issa’s Untidy Hut
everything I see
— Paul Smith, winner of the 2011 Haiku Pen Contest sponsored by Lyrical Passion E-Zine
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:
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
— 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
ciel hivernal … / ces tumeurs noires / drainant la lumière
— Svetlana Marisova, French translation by Vincent Hoarau
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“
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.
March: It’s not just about the wind.
Light from the sun reaches us
and keeps going.
Raindrops flow like glass on glass.
My son is tracing circuit diagrams
on the back of a page from Hamlet.
We all dream that way sometimes.
When you climb a mountain
it divides the day.
Spring at the bottom and
winter at the top.
I pick up the phone, put it down again.
It’s not the right season to go backward.
I wish some year I’d remember
to write down the date
I hear the first bird sing.
Once a red-tailed hawk
moved into our neighborhood
and surveyed the chipmunks for days
before deciding to move on.
Don’t tell me you’ve never been tempted
to stay too long.
I’m sure there’s a song about that.
The equinox is coming:
are you equal to it?
This is when we realize
that snow is water.
That ice is light.
That every day the sun reaches us
at a slightly different angle:
So I’m really busy this week. Really. Insanely. Busy. Right now I should be doing six other things. Going to bed being one of them. Every minute for the last week I should have been doing six other things. A lot of those minutes I spent writing poetry instead. I’m hopeless that way.
At one point I guess I decided that it wasn’t enough to jot down a haiku or two in my off minutes, I needed to write a longer poem instead, one that would require some concentrated effort and allow me to put off my much more boring tasks for as long as possible. So I wrote this. Sorry.
these lights in the tunnel and then the moon
I tried not to notice but under the moon
this one will never be back the moon
how hard it is to grow the moon
alone something in common with the moon
the way you always looked at me and the moon
your face in my mind half a moon
waiting to feel complete the moon
Somebody hide it from me, quick.
(not a narrative)
four a.m. bitterly spitting sleep out of my mouth
the speeds of light and sound meet in the storm
where they were left
the dolls sleep
at the end of the storm the birds begin again
the newspaper brought
by the car in the night
the crane cries
light reorganizes itself around the edges of the leaves
the cat crows
in my ear
a green bug climbs up
the broom handle
You’re not going crazy. I’ve revised a bunch of these since the last time you read them.
breathing the same wind
as the fireflies
I burst into flames
the year’s hottest day
is made of bees