2nd POSITION

the blogspot for The Haiku Foundation’s academic journal
Juxtapositions: A Journal of Haiku Poetics & Culture (JUXTA)

2nd POSITION

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Here’s an opening salvo for one of the lead pieces in the first issue. It should inspire debate over just what makes haiku haiku in the respective communities. For example, one could argue that, generally speaking, the kigo is hardly the exclusive province of traditional Japanese; drawing on the seasons for signs and coordinates of experience is a poetic practice familiar to anyone who reads the poetry of Wallace Stevens, among others. The real question is, just what does “generally speaking” mean in transcultural poetics?- Ed.
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The Morning After: Haiku Faces a New Century

by Richard Gilbert

The received tradition of what is called haiku (in English) is not actually haiku as it exists in Japan, as Gary Snyder has recently indicated:

I do not think we should even ‘think’ haiku in other [than Japanese] languages and cultures. We should think brief, or short poems. They can be in the moment, be observant, be condensed and meaningful, detached or not, or have many other possible qualities. . . . As I am trying to say, the haiku is a Japanese poetic form. It has elements that can indeed be developed in the poetries of other languages and cultures, but not by slavish imitation. ( “News of the Day, News of the Moment: Gary Snyder talks with Udo Wenzel,” Haiku Heute (Summer 2007); my emphasis).

In Japan, haiku at root contain unique elements of linguistic, historical and literary context—complexities which have not been translated into English and are in general untranslatable. In English the haiku form, as we know it or have named it, has some unique and powerful features as poetry—some of these features are shared in common with gendai (contemporary Japanese) haiku. However, English-language haiku is an altogether different beast from that of the Japanese tradition—most closely resembling gendai senryû, not haiku. The differences are numerous. Among the most important issues, English has no pre-existing kigo tradition; no “season-oriented literary cosmos,” a millennial tradition fundamental as a linguistic and cultural precursor to the genre. Secondly, there has been no single poet composing haiku in English recognized as a leading light within the wider literary tradition—indicative of a great gulf, in terms of cultural significance. Thirdly, it is difficult to detect any innovative contemporary school, as seen in Japan, particularly since WWII, dealing directly with questions of haiku and social (and literary) relevance: shakaisei haiku (haiku of social consciousness) and zen’ei (avant garde haiku) being two important movements of the 1950s-60s, which have spawned revolutions in contemporary Japanese haiku.

When the best English haiku are examined in terms of language issues, it is possible to observe what it is usually not: not directly philosophizing, ornamental, rhyming, discursive, narrative, verbose, dialogic, ruminative, bald, simple, talkative, casual, loose, long, rambling, or challenging as to vocabulary. Haiku in English is often minimally brief, semantically enfolded, clever, surprising, resistant, collocationally unusual or unique, mysterious, suggestive, humorous, clashing, disjunctive, irruptive, rhythmic, imagistic, sensual, and has a readily understandable vocabulary.

Although English haiku do not possess a central connection to Japanese gendai haiku, qualities of presentation are shared (barring vocabulary). Having these shared qualities in the cross-cultural genre complicates the issue of verisimilitude. Japanese haiku and English haiku may be at most kissing cousins. As Snyder indicates, the term “haiku” itself is a misnomer in English, from a scholarly point of view. Haiku in English seems in the main to be a short-form poetics, with aesthetics and stylism influenced by the Japanese haiku (and its culture). However, the literary context and poetic approaches in English haiku are all located within the evolution and concerns of modernist western poetics.

Does this mean we should abandon the term “haiku”? I do not think so—yet for scholarship, the use of a pre-existing Japanese genre term for what is so obviously a unique and divergent genre in English requires disambiguation. While there is mutual magnetism and strong dynamic interplay between the two culturo-linguistic genre forms, further academic exploration may examine how uniquely different these two short-form poetics are; how they have arisen and are currently perceived in their respective cultural contexts. By clearing the air we can more precisely inquire as to the standing of the English-language haiku form within contemporary literature, in English.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….POSITIONS is a section of the blog for The Haiku Foundation’s haiku academic journal Juxtapositions: A Journal of Haiku Poetics & Culture (JUXTA), edited by Tom D’Evelyn. The space will be used for updates and topics related to the journal. Oftentimes, the posts will be excerpts from papers scheduled to appear in the journal. It is hoped that the posts/excerpts will inspire feedback that will help the author with revision of the piece for final publication in JUXTA.

Comments

  1. says

    Subsuming Japanese haiku and Western haiku is ‘the essential haiku’. Appropriate modules are bolted onto the central engine. For example. In Japan, ‘kigo’. In the West ‘seasonal reference’. There is a profound distinction between these two terms. This difference is associated with two distinct ways of thinking. In the West we have scientific realism. In the East, mythic consciousness (magical realism) still operates significantly. There is overlap. The integration of both these states of apprehension, whilst desirable, is not possible at this time. What we need to do is appreciate what the two branches can do bench marked against the foundation of true haiku. This is the task. The West can do what Japan cannot (approach the archetype more closely, uncluttered by cultural emotion). Japan can do what the West cannot (bring cultural emotion to the table). However, we can only discriminate by identifying the core haiku technique which empowers both (bona fide) primary variants. Without this simple model to guide us, a dog chases its swift tail. Good fun maybe, in a mindless sort of a way, but essentially a waste of time.

    — jp

  2. says

    A haiku is a (true) haiku or is it something else.

    This is why we recommend that haikuesque short form word-snippets can be called ‘micropoems’. Sorted. Unless it is a magic spell, in which case this, like true haiku, would be pendant to: LITERARY MAGIC (not: ‘literary art’).

    Haiku is simply not poetry. It only *looks like poetry* because of a confusion of category. [see above] This is not a small error. [see previous comments on this thread and previous link for a fuller explanation].

    In the meanwhile, good luck with your haikuesque micropoetry, if such it be – a beautiful activity, bringing many blessings – even (if) in the shadow of authentic, transcendental haiku.

    — jp
    http://www.facebook.com/haikucrossroads

  3. says

    Today I got a quote from the DAILY TAO

    Nourishing the Essence of Life:
    The Outer, Inner, and Secret Teachings of Taoism
    Eva Wong (author)

    I quote two verses, spelling TAO in capital letters, where you might substitute HAIKU …

    The Tao embodies the sky and the earth;
    therefore, it can give birth to them.
    Sky and earth embody the ten thousand myriad things;
    therefore they can nourish all creation.
    Despite their diversity,
    all things contain the spark of the TAO.

    snip

    If you focus solely on the inside,
    you will neglect the outside.
    If you focus entirely on the outside,
    you will neglect the inside.
    This is not the way of TAO.

    snip

    The way of the sage is circular;
    therefore he leaves no trace in the world.

    http://www.amazon.com/Nourishing-Essence-Life-Secret-Teachings/dp/1590301048/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1287414638&sr=8-1

    .

  4. Adam Traynor says

    I’ll try to tie this in with the subject at hand later if I can, but for now I want to say, and not reactively, that I am quite happy to write haiku or short poems that may not be considered “true” by some or even any. I don’t need to measure myself against a standard. I have been inspired to write by the living presence I have felt in many short poems by Japanese “masters” and others and I only hope to write something that is animated by this presence. That to me is true.

    Thanks,

    Adam

  5. says

    EDIT (thanks for pointing out an ambiguity go to, Lorin Ford)

    ‘True haiku (the original model) is a fast-track dispensation of global transcendentalism for the people. The myriad degenerate forms of haiku are now populist, digitally ubiquitous and (desperately) in need of sorting out. Now is as good a time as any to begin this (thankless task) by clarifying the nature of true haiku’s sublime original and non-negotiable, template.’

    NOTE
    Please avoid weaseling by quoting *full textual context* – as below :

    “By ‘Zen’ we mean ‘zen spirit’, of course. An essentialization of Japanese Taoism / Shintoism / Mahayana Zen Buddhism (and their antecedents) .”

    Any reasonable requests for clarification-edits will be implemented (as above) and with thanks for the objective opinion, if such it be.

    — jp
    (link signature identifies this author)
    http://www.facebook.com/haikucrossroads

  6. Lorin Ford says

    “Zen haiku is the template. ” jp

    I think I’ve read this before… in ‘Wabi-Sabi for Interior Decorators’. Except the word ‘haiku’ wasn’t in it. Hmmm…perhaps it was “The template is Zen.”

    “True haiku is a fast-track dispensation of global transcendentalism for the people, which is now populist, digitally ubiquitous…” jp

    ah, so that’s what ‘true haiku’ is….another name for ‘junk haiku’.

    I have been avoiding ‘junk haiku’, but it’s interesting what re-naming can do for a product. Perhaps I should reconsider and buy shares in the company?

  7. says

    Zen haiku is the template.

    The entire haiku ethos (currently being ransacked, plundered and defiled hand over fist, here in the West,) is based on Matsuo Bashō and his mystic approach to, and formulation of, a unique use of words – now called: ‘haiku’.

    By ‘Zen’ we mean ‘Zen spirit’, of course. An essentialization of Japanese Taoism / Shintoism / Mahayana Zen Buddhism (and their antecedents) .

    True haiku is a fast-track dispensation of global transcendentalism for the people, which is now populist, digitally ubiquitous and (desperately) needs sorted out.

    The universal and perennial magic (which finds new expression and method in the original form we call ‘true haiku’) is outlined (briefly) here : http://www.facebook.com/notes/haiku-crossroads/haiku-in-the-light-of-day/155009504538038

    — jp

  8. Philip Rowland says

    jp, this has probably been said on this blog before, but seems worth saying, briefly, again: “prefixing haiku with Zen” (though isn’t that a contradiction in terms?) has been one approach; the idea that Zen is the defining characteristic of haiku has long been called into question, even discredited. Besides, doesn’t reiterating such preconceptions go against the very grain of Zen?

  9. says

    Language, like all forms of art, continually evolves to match the needs of those who currently use it to express themselves. There’s no denying there is a loose set of values and goals driving the haiku concept, but to attempt to achieve some misguided notion of “purity” contradicts what seems to be at the heart of “haiku”, namely principles of wabi-sabi, and ignores very real truths in nature, not the least of which are

    – there is no purity
    – everything changes
    – everything is on its way to somewhere else.

    “Purity” is a notion best left to the simple-minded. Human beings are continually evolving. Their art must evolve with them or they are left without a voice.

    Ultimately, it matters very little what you wish to call it or what specific form it takes. What matters is that you do it and do it with authenticity and passion. Count your syllables, insert your kigo, etc. if you must. The sky will not fall if you – or others – do otherwise.

  10. says

    “The question Richard poses challenges, not surprisingly, the still widely held notion that haiku is nature poetry, as defined, e.g., by the H.S.A. Is this still the widely held notion?
    Peter ”

    In Japan, haiku is not simply “nature poetry”, but poetry that reflects the changes of the season.
    There are many season words (kigo) in the category of humanity and observances. If you study them carefully, you will surely find hints as to incorporate many of these ideas into EHL, like your daily food, cloths, room decoration, local festivals etc.

    Your daily life matters, your society with all its problems matter in Japanese haiku.

    Gabi sending greetings from the heat of the Japanese summer

    http://wkdkigodatabase03.blogspot.com/2009/05/humanity.html

    .

  11. Peter Yovu says

    I want to set down some thoughts in response to Richard’s posting here:
    http://www.thehaikufoundation.org/2010/06/08/2nd-position/#comment-3589
    which for me makes some clear and important points, and presents significant challenges.
    First, I’ll express my gratitude, Richard, for your generosity and patience—your willingness to set make contributions here that sometimes receive scant response. Ditto to those who do participate in ways that enliven and enrich.

    I’ll highlight some of Richard’s statements, and proceed from there.

    “The question is part of a wider concern, about how we think about haiku, and how we address our era”.

    A poet, I’ll venture, is one who is open to, or permeable to, experience, as it happens. As water is to sky. As sycamore to wind, and in whom changes may occur; through whom changes are revealed as language.

    “Our era” may be thought of us as comprising many things, including social and political concerns, scientific exploration, the economy, spiritual endeavor, art, and so on. It also includes perspectives, beliefs and attitudes around “nature”.

    A question: what of my era am I open to, do I allow to effect me, and more to the point, to effect my writing? And do I see haiku as relevant in this regard—a genuine means of discovery and revelation?

    The question Richard poses challenges, not surprisingly, the still widely held notion that haiku is nature poetry, as defined, e.g., by the H.S.A. Is this still the widely held notion?

    For those of you for whom this is the case, would it be true to say that as poets, you are open to a certain range of experience, and not beyond? Maybe another way to put this would be to ask– is it true for you that haiku is nature poetry and to go beyond is to go beyond haiku?

    I have no quarrel with this, but Richard’s challenge–debatable perhaps– seems to be that haiku may be something more, and to take its place as a living and viable literature, that “more” needs to be included, different antennae need to be raised, a broader spectrum of experience attended to, and explored– as haiku.

    The follow-up question might be: for those of you for whom that last statement is true, is it your contention that EL haiku can truly, as poetry to be reckoned with, “address our era”?

    Richard’s response seems to be “yes”, but “a few scattered haiku pulled into a collection is not enough”—it will take “a series of works, on the part of a number of authors who are really digging into certain poetic explorations (of relevance)”. Yet
    few poets “present a stance or strong, integral perspective of inquiry in their writing. Fewer yet grapple with profound issues, or let me say the Zeitgeist, in a deep way”.

    Many collections seem to me to be like photo albums, a number of snapshots compiled for the interest of friends and family: the “haiku community”. Perhaps we have too narrow a conception of that community. Perhaps we do not want to disturb or challenge our friends and family. Or ourselves.

    A poet, I’ll venture anew, is someone who, permeable to experience, is subject to change. Which means subject to grief and joy; subject to the era, including nature. My stance, though it may falter, is that I am capable of facing myself as I am revealed by exposure to nature and to society, and that that revelation– that change in my consciousness– is incomplete until expressed.

    So for me, it’s clear, i feel aligned with what Richard is saying here. Which doesn’t mean I don’t have doubts about what haiku can do or whether it can truly find a place outside Japan.

    In life as in art it is no small thing to achieve autonomy.

  12. says

    Hi Phil — a clarification of my July 9, 2010 post. I wrote:

    “Haiku are historically rooted in social occasion, in particular the drinking-party (kukai). In this sense, as Octavio Paz eloquently discusses (in “Conjunctions and Disjunctions,” 1969), the roots of haiku are to be found in transgression.”

    To correct my last sentence, above:

    In this sense, as Octavio Paz eloquently discusses (in “Conjunctions and Disjunctions,” 1969) his dialectical contrast of Protestantism and Tantric Buddhism, which is rooted in the concept of differences in cultural meaning and intentionality in terms of concepts of transgression, can likewise, I feel, be applied or extended: the roots of haiku are to be found in transgression.

    See the Chapter, “Eve and Prajnaparamita,” esp. pages 67-71 (Viking Hardcover 1st English ed., 1974, Helen R. Lane, trans.).

    Paz did not mention haiku — this idea is my extension of his “east-west” dialectic. I wish I could extend my brief sentence on transgression, but it would be too long. “Conjunctions and Disjunctions” is to my mind a work of genius and one which has altered and profoundly deepened my creative life. Another book at the same level of brilliance is his, “The Bow and the Lyre: The Poem, the Poetic Revelation, Poetry and History,” (Ruth L Simms, Trans., U.Texas Press, 1987). Of the several books of his collected essays floating around, “The other voice: essays on modern poetry” is worth mentioning. Hope this helps.

  13. says

    A quick clarification, in reply to your comments, :

    Carmen you wrote:
    “there are many EL haiku which have social relevance even though social relevance is not a movement in EL haiku.”

    for sure, and I’ve quoted a number of these in the past (notably, there is the the landmark work, “Knots: The Anthology of Southeastern European Haiku Poetry,” Anakiev & Kacian, eds., 1999, available: http://snipurl.com/z8oi0). My comments were not directed toward poems, however but towards intention, critical context and analysis. The question is part of a wider concern, about how we think about haiku, and how we address our era. As there really has been no intensive search or demand or even much interest, the situation begs the question, I feel.

    Mark, you wrote (& qtd.):
    “Is haiku relevant as a poetic genre in English? It’s a question needing better answers then we have so far produced. Language experimentation is not enough, technical competence is not enough. What makes haiku socially relevant these days, and what do we mean in posing the question?” By this, I think you mean our choice of subject matter is wanting (the reason I chose to cite McClintock’s poems, which you might feel are too close to shasei for your taste), or do I misunderstand?

    As I mentioned in reply to Carmen just above, I don’t think it’s a matter of individual poets and haiku examples, but of a lack of relevance concerning critical discussion. There’s a lot of work to be done in this area. The idea of “social consciousness” does not mean haiku “about” society per se — as overtly ideological or political so much as, in Kaneko Tohta’s conception, it is the duty of an author, to achieve a “stance” (taido) regarding self- and society — it’s only after gaining such a perspective, via a process combining intellect and “rawness” — for want of a better ‘quickie’ term in English — that an author’s works may achieve relevance — defined here (again in brief) as a level of insight and depth via which cultural (social) critique is successfully achieved. Kaneko himself seems a good example of what he’s mentoring here.

    Mark, you also wrote:
    “What would a socially relevant haiku poetics look like? How might a haiku poet achieve a perspective from which they were in a position adequate to the task of critiquing society?” You’ve suggested a roadmap in your various essays, but I’d enjoy reading your current take on the answers to your questions. Would an engaged elh poetics of the sort you envision look something like Michael McClintock’s Vietnam poems from 1971 and 1973?

    I’m not sure what it would look like, but do feel that to achieve greater social relevance EL haiku would need to become more critically insistent — as has happened in Japan — on the topic of relevance. First we need to have some frank discussions about haiku and relevance. Of course, we have many good EL haiku — but here was are talking about approach, and perhaps a movement.

    As I said, technical competence and language play is not enough. I think the issue of social relevance is begin answered all the time in various works by various authors, but there is no critical discussion, no articulation of an author’s stance in this regard.

    On another note, a few scattered haiku pulled into a collection is not enough. I would like to see a series of works, pn the part of a number of authors who are really digging into certain poetic explorations (of relevance). About the only sustained work of power I’ve read recently that really strikes me has been Jim Kacian’s “long after.” Though I’ve not caught up with everything printed.

    It might be a problem in part of the lack of venues for longer publications of book length, combined with the preponderance of journals and the net, which bias authors toward usually not more than 3-5 works begin seen together. In Japan, by contrast I would say a haiku author is really defined and judged by his or her books, and it’s typical no find literally hundreds of haiku, at a sustained level of excellence, therein.

    I find that many poets are able to achieve excellence now and again, but very few indeed in EL haiku have produced excellent books containing even 100 haiku. And fewer still present a stance or strong, integral perspective of inquiry in their writing. I include myself in this camp. Fewer yet grapple with profound issues, or let me say the Zeitgeist, in a deep way.

    So if not exactly a manifesto — and we probably need one or two about now — certainly a call for enlargement, more engagement, and what I think of as coherent progression.

    Where is the critical intention to bring something new to literature, to the genre? I think the answer must primarily come from poet-critics, and encourage everyone here to give a shot at articulating their stance, vis-a-vis self and world, as a haiku journey, or such.

  14. Philip Rowland says

    Important questions, Richard, to keep in mind and ask continually. The writing of poetry relevant to the era is, as you say, a kind of “quest”; and surely no poet who is on that quest would ever judge him- or herself to have done “brilliantly” (except, perhaps, during the “drinking-party”).

    If you have it to hand, could you point me to the passage in Conjunctions and Disjunctions which discusses how “the roots of haiku are to be found in transgression”? I have the book (have yet to do more than dip into it), but flipping through and checking the index, could find no mention of haiku. I know only the essay on “The Tradition of the Haiku” in Convergences, which – skimming through – reminded me of the “Renga” of 1969 by Paz, Sanguinetti, Tomlinson and Roubaud. Which is not at all like the renga we find in haiku journals, though Paz describes it as “in its own way, a real translation: not of a text but of a method of composing texts”. Has much, or anything, been written of Paz et al’s experiment?

    There’s an essay by Hill, by the way, “Poetry as ‘Menace’ and ‘Atonement'”, which may be somewhat relevant in the western literary context. The opening of the essay, where Hill begins to ‘situate’ his essay, may be to the point when it comes to discussion of the kinds of questions – the ‘big questions’ – you raise:

    “My title may well strike you as exemplary in a fashion, being at once assertive and non-committal. The quotation-marks around ‘menace’ and ‘atonement’ look a bit like raised eyebrows. ‘Menace’ from what, and to whom? ‘Atonement’ by whom, and for what? Is one perhaps offering to atone for the menace of one’s own jargon? In fact, though my title may appear ‘challenging’, it presents little more than a conflation of two modernist cliches. That is does so is an act of choice but the choice is exercised in order to demonstrate the closeness of a constraint. Behind the facade of challenge is the real challenge: that of resisting the attraction of terminology itself, a power at once supportive and coercive.”

    More simply, here’s a poem which sums up the quest for social relevance, the problem of the individual in relation to the collective, from the “selected unpublished poems” in Oppen’s New Collected:

    SEMANTIC

    There is that one word
    Which one must
    Define for oneself, the word
    Us
    [‘Us’ in italics]

  15. Mark Harris says

    Richard, you write:

    “Is haiku relevant as a poetic genre in English? It’s a question needing better answers then we have so far produced. Language experimentation is not enough, technical competence is not enough. What makes haiku socially relevant these days, and what do we mean in posing the question?”

    By this, I think you mean our choice of subject matter is wanting (the reason I chose to cite McClintock’s poems, which you might feel are too close to shasei for your taste), or do I misunderstand?

  16. Carmen Sterba says

    Richard, I appreciate that you know the heart of many gendai haiku poets in Japan and share that with the EL poets. This is a needed international and cross-cultural exchange.

    Nevertheless, there are many EL haiku which have social relevance even though social relevance is not a movement in EL haiku. Many haiku express the pain of war and discrimination and have since the 1960s (We could start with marlene mountain, Ruth Yarrow and Nick Virgilio). Even our general focus on nature has great social relevance in connection with the value of our natural ecosystems, powerful healing from being in touch with nature, and of the year-round lessons from nature for the poet, gardener and farmer in all of us. Well, this may be a given in most haiku, but it’s a very essential voice in society today.

    Certainly, a challenge to bring more varied and relevant topics to the haiku table is worthy of consideration by individual poets and groups.

    lapping shore water–
    the things we take
    for granted

    Carmen Sterba, Museum of Haiku Literature Award, Frogpond 33:2, 2010

  17. Mark Harris says

    Richard

    You pose a daunting series of questions. I look forward to responses from those who might have ready answers. I’ll probably have to mull over your challenge too long to rejoin the conversation in a timely way, so I want to share my initial reaction. You write:

    “What would a socially relevant haiku poetics look like? How might a haiku poet achieve a perspective from which they were in a position adequate to the task of critiquing society?”

    You’ve suggested a roadmap in your various essays, but I’d enjoy reading your current take on the answers to your questions. Would an engaged elh poetics of the sort you envision look something like Michael McClintock’s Vietnam poems from 1971 and 1973? Examples:

    boom
    go the guns,
    bowels

    the dead
    come apart:
    downpour

    You will probably say, yes, and what went wrong, why did we travel here from there?

    I would also be curious to hear commentary from anyone who has written haiku then to now. Can you illuminate the path taken?

  18. Richard Gilbert says

    Some background/links to my previous post, below:

    “Modern Haiku: A Second-Class Art” by Kuwabara Takeo, Translated by Mark Jewel
    http://www.simplyhaiku.com/SHv4n1/features/Kuwabara.html
    (Simply Haiku Journal, Spring 2006, vol 4 no 1)

    “Kaneko Tōta’s ‘fluorescent squid’: Interpretive Translation and Commentary” by Itō Yûki and Richard Gilbert
    http://www.roadrunnerjournal.net/pages92/specialfeature92.htm
    (Roadrunner Haiku Journal, May 2009 Issue IX:2)

    “Gendai Haiku Translations”
    translated by Richard Gilbert and Itô Yûki
    http://www.roadrunnerjournal.net/pages72/translation72.htm
    (Roadrunner Haiku Journal, May 2007 Issue VII:2)

    “NEW RISING HAIKU — The Evolution of Modern Japanese Haiku and the Haiku Persecution Incident” by Itô Yûki
    http://simplyhaiku.com/SHv5n4/features/Ito.html
    (Monograph: Red Moon Press , Spring 2007; ISBN 978-1-893959-64-4; also, Simply Haiku Journal, Winter 2007, vol 5 no 4)

    “Forgive, But Do Not Forget: Modern Haiku and Totalitarianism”
    Itô Yûki talks with Udo Wenzel
    http://snipurl.com/z7m1c
    (Haiku Heute, December 2007)

    (In German: “Vergeben, nicht vergessen: Modernes Haiku und Totalitarismus”: http://www.haiku-heute.de/Archiv/Ito_Yuki_2007-12/ito_yuki_2007-12.html)
    (Haiku Heute, December 2007)

  19. says

    Phil,
    quotes Alex Pestell discussing Geoffrey Hill, in part:

    “A trope he constantly returns to in his essays is that of the poet finding himself amidst the contingencies of a particular situation, of being situated, and thus in a particular way circumscribed or limited…. [Thus] he finds it necessary to quote with such frequency in his essays, and, by extension, in his poetry: in his engagement with his circumstances, the incorporation of those circumstances into his text is the responsible way to proceed.”
    Phil’s comment in part: “What has this to do with haiku? On the one hand, haiku tends to be quite open-ended, hardly aiming for ‘self-sufficiency’ in terms of ideas…”

    Interesting, Pestell’s “responsible” at the end, which poses a moral imperative as solution to “a particular situation” resulting in “a particular [manner of being] “circumscribed or limited.” Suggesting a poet must take responsibility for situational limitations (locale, locus, genre, self, society?), ergo “contingencies of a particular situation.”

    A problem here may be (as seen in much haiku criticism of the “how to” and “what it is” variety) the subvert prescriptivism. Another has to do with a term like “situated,” which conceals as much as it reveals — I’ll take the term a kind of shorthand. With these caveats, I like that Pestell offers a quest: perhaps as a western insistence: poetry as program, advance, indicating a shedding of the insignificant. Poetry as a key, to the way out or way in.

    In the history of haiku/hokku stylism in Japan, the key feature of its poetic etiology lies in an entirely different orientation, one as distant from this quest as Stalin from Orwell, Christian from Buddhist. Haiku are historically rooted in social occasion, in particular the drinking-party (kukai). In this sense, as Octavio Paz eloquently discusses (in “Conjunctions and Disjunctions,” 1969), the roots of haiku are to be found in transgression.

    This sense is precisely what has been left out of Pestell, who seems puritan, by contrast. “haiku jiyu” — that most quotable epithet of the Japanese genre:

    “haiku is for freedom”

    The key to this poetics is the monk’s cell broken apart by the insistence of night; intoxication and resistance; pleasure and responsibility (“giri to ninjo”). To jump ahead in the millennial arc from renga to postwar gendai haiku, its main concerns and activities stem from these haikai roots.

    From the early 1950s, urgent questions were posed (which we have yet to ask): Is haiku relevant, a socially relevant poetics? Why continue working in this form of poetry, when other, more extensible poetic forms are available? What would a socially relevant haiku poetics look like? How might a haiku poet achieve a perspective from which they were in a position adequate to the task of critiquing society?

    These were some of the concerns which inspired the Kansai (Osaka area) haiku poets to re-inscribe their poetics as something more than a “second-class art,” an idea advanced in 1946 by Kawamoto (trans. here by Mark Jewel), its conclusions taken seriously. If you have not read this essay, it’s one that strikes to the heart of the problem of haiku as a second-rate “hobby art.” A point largely unaddressed in English-language criticism.

    I wonder if anyone’s up to Kawamoto’s challenge, which challenges the basis of the whole haiku program? The question of social relevance, on the part of a group, in the flow of kukai, talking, discussing, eating, drinking, sharing works, daily, weekly—searching out questions of how self knowledge, poetic knowledge and language might relate with relevance to society — these activities, occurring alongside Bikini Island nuclear tests, bomb-site radiation victims, the nauseating aftertaste of Imperial-fascism, rural hunger; questions at every level, concerning truth and identity, racism, women’s rights, discrimination, ethnicity, violence – one’s feels the force of poetic need, and the dawning of a brilliant poetic era in haiku.

    Via the intensity and deeply impassioned efforts of the Kansai-related groups, including poets such as Kaneko Tohta, Yagi Mikajo, Hirahata Seito, Sanki Saito, and many others, postwar gendai haiku was re-situated and relevance addressed through avant-garde experiment and quest — questions relevant to modernity; and more precisely, to the era.

    In this manner, strong poems and poets become universal. I feel the question of relevance, particularly that of social relevance keenly, in considering haiku as a genre in English — I feel there are important discussions yet to be had, critical limitations needing address. The modern has passed us by, territorially fenced in by garden variety shasei, built upon 19th century ideas of objective realism, and a quasi-Zen puritanical sophistry. As a genre, EL haiku have in the main been avoidant of the century.

    By haiku, I mean our poetic society, our preoccupations, our self-described needs and necessities. Is haiku relevant as a poetic genre in English? It’s a question needing better answers then we have so far produced. Language experimentation is not enough, technical competence is not enough. What makes haiku socially relevant these days, and what do we mean in posing the question?

    Relevance is not a question Alex Pestell (discussing Geoffrey Hill) needs to pose directly, as it’s a given — which gives some indication of the gulf between EL haiku and other contemporary poetic genres (themselves under threat or duress or exhausted) — though the question of relevance is posed in a different way, as,

    “[Hill] finds it necessary to quote with such frequency … in his poetry.”

    Hill’s agon (as Pestell has it) is that of a poetics devolving upon “particular [circumscribed] situation(s),” hence the imprimatur of (moral) responsibility necessary to enlarge its self-structured confines via meetings with and mixings (through quotation, etc.) with society at large.

    Perhaps my polemic is overzealous. Yet it seems fair to ask, are we participating in a covertly avoidant poetics? And if so, to what benefit? Would that we find ourselves, “amidst the contingencies of a particular situation.”

  20. Lorin Ford says

    “Even Bloom’s sweeping statement that “Great poetry is always difficult” doesn’t imply that difficulty is to be valued for its own sake, or identified with inaccessibility.” – Philip

    ;-) ah, well that’s all right, then. That’s what I was concerned about, not ‘difficult’ in itself, since that will always be ‘difficult for whom?’. and the judgment ‘difficult’ might sometimes come from nothing more than unfamiliarity and lack of interest in going beyond one’s comfort zone. The ‘Scottish Play’ is difficult at first for year 10 boys from tough areas (for a start it’s written in weird, old-fashioned English “that nobody understands”) but not (as I have happily proved to the satisfaction of everyone concerned) at all inaccessible.

    Thank you for introducing me to Geoffrey Hill. From what I read, he is certainly good at the craft, but as you indicate, avoids the ‘slick’ . Even here, in this short, lyrical poem below, there is no succumbing to ‘epiphany by numbers’. There is a scrupulousness which allows for tension between ‘beauty’ & ‘truth’ , between perception and doubt and there is no resolution. (Maybe the ‘no resolution’ is something in common with haiku? And maybe the ‘gap’ or disjunction in haiku can to some degree allow for a tension of this sort?)

    Before senility

    ‘dum possum volo’

    Intermezzo of sorts, something to do with gifts.
    In plainer style, or sweeter, some figment
    of gratitude and reconciliation
    with the near things, with remnancy and love:

    to measure the ownerless, worn, eighteenth-
    century tombstones realigned like ashlar;
    encompass the stark storm-severed head
    of a sunflower blazing in mire of hail.

    – Geoffrey Hill

    Had to smile at Google, though, when I pasted the Latin into the search bar (& it’s essential to the whole poem): first up in the results was a Melbourne company who offered to remove possums from my roof!

  21. Philip Rowland says

    Just to catch up a bit with the discussion of “accessibility”. Thanks, all, for the inspiring thoughts. I feel particular kinship with Peter’s: “I’m most drawn to poems that resist easy understanding and yet are, like moonlight, immediately absorbed; poems that require some form of comprehension I don’t quite get; poems that sound right to my eyes and look right to my tongue and peel the old film from my thought.”

    And Stevens’s idea of the poem as “resist[ing] the intelligence / Almost successfully” hits the nail nicely on the head. Lauren, you also cite that, though I’m not sure why you should say “I am not so sure that the more difficult the poem, the better.” Even Bloom’s sweeping statement that “Great poetry is always difficult” doesn’t imply that difficulty is to be valued for its own sake, or identified with inaccessibility. As you say, “If a poem is inaccessible, how can it lead us towards things that are themselves not easily accessible?” “Difficulty”, in this context, refers to worthwhile effort involved. At least, that’s how I read the statement with reference to Geoffrey Hill. As John Lyon wrote in the magazine Thumbscrew in 1999: “Hill writes difficult poetry about difficult subjects in difficult times. Why should we have a problem with that?” And as Hill himself has said: ““My concern is not with ‘accessibility’ so much as with the ‘naked thew and sinew of the English language.’ as Hopkins names it.”

    According to Wikipedia: “In an interview in The Paris Review (2000), which published Hill’s early poem ‘Genesis’ when he was still at Oxford, Hill defended the right of poets to difficulty as a form of resistance to the demeaning simplifications imposed by ‘maestros of the world’. Hill also argued that to be difficult is to be democratic, equating the demand for simplicity with the demands of tyrants.” Thus “Hill has been consistently drawn to morally problematic and violent episodes in British and European history. He has written poetic responses to the Holocaust in English, ‘Two Formal Elegies’, ‘September Song’ and ‘Ovid in the Third Reich’. His accounts of landscape (especially that of his native Worcestershire) are as intense as his encounters with history.”

    Could a haiku poet consistently write poems of such scope? Not, I imagine, if she confined herself to writing in that one brief form, though there’s no reason why haiku and haiku sequences needn’t be part of such a body of work.

    There’s a small selection of relatively accessible and recent poems of Hill’s here, by the way:
    http://www.newcriterion.com/author.cfm?AuthorID=119

    I find compelling the way that “Throughout his corpus Hill is uncomfortable with the muffling of truth-telling that verse designed to sound well, for its contrivances of harmony, must permit” (Wiki). Or as Alex Pestell put it in Signals, in 2005: “His commitment to poetry as a craft is accompanied by an immanent critique of that commitment. In his work, the technical accomplishment necessary to make the modernist autonomous object, the finished, self-sufficient poem, both creates this object and criticizes the motives behind the impulse to create such an object. But his criticism of the modernist impulse towards autonomy is not made from some Archimedean, morally pristine vantage point: he recognises that, as someone who has a professed stake in the poet’s craft, he is as vulnerable as anyone to the seductive power of rhetoric. A trope he constantly returns to in his essays is that of the poet finding himself amidst the contingencies of a particular situation, of being situated, and thus in a particular way circumscribed or limited. It is for this reason that he finds it necessary to quote with such frequency in his essays, and, by extension, in his poetry: in his engagement with his circumstances, the incorporation of those circumstances into his text is the responsible way to proceed.”

    What has this to do with haiku? On the one hand, haiku tends to be quite open-ended, hardly aiming for ‘self-sufficiency’ in terms of ideas or ‘content’; on the other hand, it can be worryingly ‘neat’ (as in slick). Does anyone have any thoughts on critique of commitment to craft in haiku?

  22. Mark Harris says

    Yes, round and round, and “things as they are” can never be at a fixed point, however much we might want them to be.

  23. Lorin Ford says

    ” Interesting that the thinker in the Charles Simic poem (Simic himself, one might assume) doesn’t perceive “things as they are” until the last stanza. ” – Mark

    …and then immediately, (because of language? because words are mostly metaphorical and so have a tendency to humanize things and so change things as they are into things as they are not, into things as we are? ) his ‘things as they are’ start developing some pretty funny traits: they ‘lie mute’, ‘unblinking’ , and so the circle returns to the ‘trees waiting for the night’ and the story-telling again.

    That’s the honesty and the ‘trick’ in the poem I so like: the poet seeming to catch himself right at the beginning of the process of transforming ‘things as they are’ into ‘wild storytelling’. Once we start talking (writing) about ‘seeing into the life of things’ it’s so easy to end up with ‘gods disguising themselves as hairpins’ and the like, which might be fun, too, but it’s not ‘things as they are’.

  24. Mark Harris says

    Carmen,

    Temple Grandin is extraordinary. I believe if you check your sources you will find that Grandin, as a child, reportedly displayed the symptoms of classic Kanner-type autism, which makes her achievements all the more surprising. Even now, when people have access to more effective early interventions than those available to Grandin (who was fortunate to have parents who could and would procure for her a 1 on 1 therapist) very few people with her diagnosis experience a comparable outcome.

  25. Mark Harris says

    No worries, Lorin, been caught cross-posting myself. Thanks for your kind words.

    I agree with Richard that the co-evolution of language and the brain contributes more than anything to our species’ otherness. Our brains began to become languaged (as he puts it) or symbol-centric when they were smaller and differently organized, and all these years later the key to the labyrinth has been lost and would be the wrong shape anyway.

    Interesting that the thinker in the Charles Simic poem (Simic himself, one might assume) doesn’t perceive “things as they are” until the last stanza. He is by nature inclined to search for secret meanings, as in “Gods disguising themselves/ As black hairpins, a hand-mirror,/ A comb with a tooth missing”

    As for accessibility, isn’t fun part of the equation? A person who finds wordplay exciting and stimulating might well appreciate some of the poems cited by Philip earlier on this thread. Others might not. Or they might set a poem down, go off on adventures and many years later pick it up and enjoy it.

  26. Carmen Sterba says

    “I once heard Temple Grandin talk on the radio, here. She is autistic . . . . It’s interesting that she’s said that language is her second language.” Lorin

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Grandin

    I’ve read several books by Temple Grandin. She has a doctorate in Animal Sciences and has a highly functional form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome, which is notable in geniuses who have difficulty socially. I know several people who have Aspergers and all of them have graduated from college, yet often feel isolated and struggle to keep jobs. It seems that Aspergers was not well-known until the mid 1990s and many who have Aspergers have been misdiagnosed.

  27. Lorin Ford says

    “Perhaps the most difficult art of philosophy, of poetics, lies in cognating the recursive. . . . Haiku are fantastic in this way — an art which implies what is most human.” – Richard

    I’m a layperson at most in this area, Richard, and ‘maths-challenged’ as well. I’m more at home with story, understand better through metaphor than abstractions (though I understand that abstractions are metaphor too, though of an order or at a remove that’s less accessible to me because at a further remove from the sensuous ) The symbol that ‘cognating the recursive’ throws up for me is the Ouroborus, the ‘World Snake’. It’s portrayed with its tail in its mouth, eating the tail, since it needs no sustenance beyond itself and nurtures itself on its own waste. It became a symbol of the Hermetic ‘science’, alchemy, from which the current term, ‘hermetically sealed’, derives. As with all ‘big’ symbols, we err if we think of them as representing ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’, look at them in a ‘negative’ or ‘positive’ light. The Ouroborous could as well be portrayed with the head disappearing up its own anus as the tail disappearing into its mouth.

    Is language, then, such a hermetically sealed, self-perpetuating system? Do you mean that language is what is most human? Or what makes us most human?

    I’m sincere in asking these questions. I’m a bit disturbed by the idea that our participation in language is what is most human about us. It may be so, and if it is, then it might also be something which cuts us off from the rest of life. When younger, I liked to read what was then called ‘science fiction’. A lot of it seemed to be enquiries into what it is that makes us human. Philip K. Dick’s, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, was one. The simple answer to the title question was, no, they don’t. The quality that distinguished humans from the androids was the capacity for empathy. I believe this is a quality we share with animals… animals are also capable of empathy…. so it isn’t what makes us ‘most human’ in the sense that it distinguishes us from animals. But it is something we might value as ‘most human’.

    Mark, I too, was moved by your story and struck by the power of your statement:

    “Language is my nature and yours, not hers; it’s the nature of those of us who see the world through symbols, and through symbols we must destroy ourselves or find a way in.”

    Like Richard, I feel you are right, and that language is that double-edged sword.

    I once heard Temple Grandin talk on the radio, here. She is autistic, and there’s no doubt that she has empathy and can dream of sheep, and in amazing detail and depth. It’s interesting that she’s said that language is her second language. I feel that language is ‘the human second language’, too, and although it has given us immense power, something else has been lost along the way.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Grandin

    Also, I am not so sure that the more difficult the poem, the better. Accessibility is important…if a poem is inaccessible, how can we tell if it’s brilliant or just rubbish? If a poem is inaccessible, how can it lead us towards things that are themselves not easily accessible? I do like Wallace Stevens’s ‘“The poem must resist the intelligence / Almost successfully”, though. It’s that ‘almost’, and that he says ‘intelligence’ and not ‘intellect’, therefore claiming a larger field. Here is a very accessible poem by Charles Simic, which doesn’t rely on contorting ordinary language, yet imo is a very good poem which manages to give voice to a difficulty we (or some of us, like me) have with language, and does it with wit , too.

    http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-white-room/

  28. Mark Harris says

    Richard, you write:

    “— do you feel here a process of initiation — I wonder what you mean by “destroy ourselves” — how? why?”

    Our symbol-attuned brains have made us what we are, a species with exceptional abilities to make and destroy. So often we choose the latter. We are masters of deception, yet easily deceived, and so often we deceive ourselves. Is there a way out? Perhaps one way is through our experiments with our chosen building-block symbols, letters/words. If we take our understanding of the world apart, what will we learn? How many ways can it be put back together?

    As an individual, yes, I’ve destroyed “myself” and what I believe to be true many times and will continue to do so as ruthlessly as necessary…

    I understand and appreciate the distinction you made between “wolf children” and autistic people who are part of loving families. I suspect, and this is mostly conjecture (most of the literature on the subject is conjecture, as you know) real cases of children reared among animals from near infancy are very rare, and many of the children who ended up living in the “wild” were actually autistic to begin with, and abandoned by their caregivers. Autism expert Uta Frith, for example, believes Victor of Aveyron displayed signs of autism.

    And I understand also that you are raising a near-theoretical question. It’s not one that’s distasteful to me, and it pertains to our current discussion.

  29. says

    Mark, you write:

    “I’m not actually, through my poems, crossing a gulf to my daughter. I’m crossing a gulf to my understanding of her, and my understanding of myself, and what it is to be human. . . . Language is my nature and yours, not hers; it’s the nature of those of us who see the world through symbols, and through symbols we must destroy ourselves or find a way in.

    Thanks for your reply and compassionate insight. A beautiful statement. I intuitively agree. And more, what you are saying seems true, if in often less acute or dramatic ways, among all of us. It’s interesting that you write: ” through symbols we must destroy ourselves or find a way in” — do you feel here a process of initiation — I wonder what you mean by “destroy ourselves” — how? why?

    I want to be clear though I was in no way implying a similarity between “wolf children” and autism! There seems a conceptual gulf between an autistic child receiving human care, living within the human environment, and those extraordinarily rare cases of children being nurtured in a non-human/animal environment. There is too little reliable data, and no real experts in this field anyway — and plenty of projection besides. The “wolf children” as well may not in reality be appropriate subjects, in that they were at some stage of early life abandoned, though the precise age they left human “care” (if this is even the right word) isn’t clear. And their treatment upon discovery was in only a very few cases anything like humane, so there are various complicating factors

    The main point I was musing on has to do with a near-theoretical question, if a child were held enough, bonded enough and had been nourished enough to live, yet in an entirely animal environment, what would be the result? The science we have, admittedly poor evidentially, indicates the importance of human language and human nurture in cognitive and psychological development, albeit the range of human experience being large.

    I hear what you are saying about apparent similarities, yet can’t help thinking how lucky your daughter is to have you, a caring father.

    As I was writing, some remarkable people with perceptual impairments came to mind, such as Helen Keller.

    And the amazing boy (and family) portrayed in the recent documentary “The Horse Boy.” I spent two years as a therapist working in a structured living situation with two autistic children. When I think of what it takes to parent an autistic child, “challenge” seems an understatement. There remain profound questions concerning the role of communication in human nurture, and you probably have more insight than most of us.

  30. Mark Harris says

    “Although most cases of “wolf children” (children raised by animals) have proven hoaxes, the few accepted examples offer a Sadean glimpse of the viciously curtailed intellectual and emotional impact visited upon such tragic subjects — severe limitations of facial expression, little or no emotional range/affect, primitive communication — a state of existence which not later amenable or ameliorated via intervention, input, therapy, or education.

    I was recently led to ponder such “wolf child” research, in contemplating the question, are we truly human if lacking any developmental experience of human language?”
    – Richard Gilbert

    I have spent years and tears researching the wolf children and others like them. I can tell you they were autistic, either that or so deprived of sensory stimulation and food that they display autistic symptoms. My research has not been academic. My daughter has autism.

    Don’t worry, Richard, this is not any angry rebuttal.

    You go on to say, “…are we truly human if lacking any developmental experience of human language?”

    Although my first introductions to haiku were disparate, your question (ours) has been the driving force behind my fascination, nay obsession with the genre. The contradiction in the term the wordless poem attracted and inspired me until I understood I’m not actually, through my poems, crossing a gulf to my daughter. I’m crossing a gulf to my understanding of her, and my understanding of myself, and what it is to be human. She is human, but that’s beside the point. No poet, not even john martone, can see the world as it is as well as her. If you want to witness a wordless poem, come talk to my daughter. She is a genius in that respect, and I’ve learned much from her. Language is my nature and yours, not hers; it’s the nature of those of us who see the world through symbols, and through symbols we must destroy ourselves or find a way in.

  31. says

    From Phil:
    “I’m tempted to wonder whether anyone has anything to add regarding the ‘accessibility’ of English-language haiku – which has been mentioned (as commendable) several times . . . ‘Strong poetry is always difficult’ (Harold Bloom on Geoffrey Hill; or in the words of a poem of Hill’s: ‘that which is difficult / preserves democracy; you pay respect / to the intelligence of the citizen.’)”

    The question regarding accessibility (in haiku, in poetry) is provocative to me. Language, it can be argued, *is* us, as a notion of anima mundi — we participate in language, more than it participates in us. Language is an ocean we swim in, air we breathe. Although most cases of “wolf children” (children raised by animals) have proven hoaxes, the few accepted examples offer a Sadean glimpse of the viciously curtailed intellectual and emotional impact visited upon such tragic subjects — severe limitations of facial expression, little or no emotional range/affect, primitive communication — a state of existence which not later amenable or ameliorated via intervention, input, therapy, or education.

    I was recently led to ponder such “wolf child” research, in contemplating the question, are we truly human if lacking any developmental experience of human language? Another way of saying this is that what we unconsciously consider to be human, our ability to socially communicate along a range of intellectual and emotional expression, is only partly biological. Without become sophisticated, humanly-languaged beings, it seems that what we consider human cognition either would not arise, or be severely impacted.

    Language is second-nature because it is so deeply intertwined with human nature (“human” therefore as culture, not only biology). One cannot be divested of lnguage, nor would this be advisable. The Rousseauist vision of the noble savage (a la “wolf child”) is it turns out a painful proposition.

    We are languaged beings. so when in say haiku we discuss being, or cutting, or gaps in language, or “aha” or now, or presence — words which connote a going beyond or a loss of language — a movement out of language — I think we need to recall the nuance of our situation — the paradox of languaged beings “losing” language. What we lose may be our notions of language, our conscious experience of language — but we cannot divest ourselves of the fact that we have become languaged.

    Yet language is beyond us, arrives, leaves us as individuals (language is a species-level phenomenon, which individuals participate in). Language is history, meaning, symbol, imagination. A proposition of cognitive science, one hypothesis, is that forms of “languaging,” operate far below conscious awareness, mediating sensory perception (raw sense data).

    Functionally then, language is poetic. By this I mean that the root-functional terms of the symbol system have no fixed or intrinsic a priori meaning. For instance, define “a” — define “red.” Define “thread.” Attempts at definition invoke additional language as a series of metaphors; additional images to describe the thing. The thing in itself, language *as such,* resists us, resists notions of “basis.” To an extent, words create themselves each time they are invoked. The surprise of a joke, the unwelcome surprise of a bad ad, news propaganda. the taste of the new in haiku.

    This is not subjective so much as a cognitive matter. In investigating notions of language we investigate cognition itself. It is not so easy to separate cognition and language — language not as words but as symbolic organizations of image-schema.

    At a very early stage of our personal existence we entered the arc of languaged being. As Pinker and others posit, our biology (evolved brain structure) universally predisposes homo sapiens to rapid language learning. This notion prompted Pinker’s book title, “The Language Instinct.”

    It seems reasonable to suggest that all poetry is a priori an investigation of language. This investigatory sense is indicated by terms like “creative,” “fresh,” “revelatory,” “imaginative,” etc. Language investigation is obviously not the raison of poetry, but lacking such, I don’t think we have poetry, or we have quite weak poetry. so I think Phil’s quote of Bloom, ‘Strong poetry is always difficult,’ indicates that strong poetry strongly challenges habitual language patterns, as an aspect of its investigation. Excellent haiku are *never* easy — they only appear so at first glance. Think of Virgilio’s “Lily” ku: the last line “out of itself” has no clear implicit solution. This ku, like all excellent haiku, investigate language itself in some way. In contrast, what Shiki termed “hackneyed, formulaic” (tsukinami) haiku, are weak poems that follow language/genre conventions and offer nothing new. They lack even curiosity, as regards language. If haiku were a language recipe you follow adding in your particular word ingredients, as eggs, flour, butter, stir, bake, your cake then would be recognizable but lacking in taste.

    Haiku investigate language. This is a given, if we agree that the haiku form constitutes a poetics. The haiku genre distinguishes itself in part via extreme brevity, truncation, “cutting.” These are some of the tools or techniques applied which yield or display how being languages itself. Quotidian being, the edges of language, seem to grace the form as a social experience.

    Perhaps the most difficult art of philosophy, of poetics, lies in cognating the recursive. The single word, quality of red, taste of water. The Haiku ply a reductio, and are concerned with reduction, as regards language. Language is both easy and difficult; more bones and skin then we may realize, yet at least in fantasy something we can depart from, exit. Haiku are fantastic in this way — an art which implies what is most human.

  32. Mark Harris says

    here are 2 that might relate to Philip’s and Peter’s line(s) of thought, or might not. Anyway, they come to mind.

    earthworm
    twists

    empti
    ness

    how
    to get
    in
    (john martone)

    rose-stock
    never
    buried

    hovers
    over

    planet
    earth
    (john martone)

    they come right after each other on page 189 of the book ksana in which he has empti/ness and never/buried in italics.

  33. Peter Yovu says

    I’m most drawn to poems that resist easy understanding and yet are, like moonlight, immediately absorbed; poems that require some form of comprehension I don’t quite get; poems that sound right to my eyes and look right to my tongue and peel the old film from my thought. From what I thought was thought. They are beautiful questions that can only answer themselves. Probably I am only riffing on what Stevens said: “The poem must resist the intelligence / Almost successfully”.

    I suppose what may be difficult about many of the poems Philip has presented is that they require a different approach, or a relaxing of the usual approach, and of expectation. I don’t think the best of these were written to be difficult, to affront, or to change the course of haiku—had they been, it would be evident. I think they were written from a country where the language they use is the native tongue.

    Can’t remember who said something about Dickinson’s ability, like Shakespeare, to travel swiftly between thought and thing, abstraction and sense, Latinate and Anglo-Saxon words. The world may or may be a thought, but human experience encompasses not only the compass but the imagination it points to, if only to the promise of rare spices. Species. Spaces.

    Bly has written about “leaping poetry”, wherein the poet moves, with sometimes dizzying speed, from one realm of experience to another, from one psychic space to another without explanation or commentary. The reader who knows where he or she is and won’t budge from that place will find such a poem incomprehensible, too difficult to bother with.

    Ashbery’s

    A blue anchor grains of grit in a tall sky sewing

    travels immense distances. There may be limits to language, but I wouldn’t say we have discovered them yet.

  34. Philip Rowland says

    There’s an essay by David Porter on Emily Dickinson’s “Strangely Abstracted Images”, or “drained images”, referring to Archibald MacLeish’s comment that some of her images are “so strangely abstracted as to be almost transparent” (a notion of transparency interesting to distinguish from beautifulisness’s). Porter quotes a passage from MacLeish (writing in 1961), from which:

    “Amethyst remembrance,” “Polar expiation.” Neither of these exists upon the retina. Neither can be brought into focus by the muscles of the eye. The “blue and gold mistake” of Indian summer seems to exist somewhere in the visible – or would if one could only get rid of that “mistake.” … But who can describe the graphic shape of “that white sustenance / Despair”? And yet all of these present themselves as images, do they not? – act as images? Where can remembrance be amethyst? Where but in the eye?

    Perhaps I digress. But the notion of “strangely abstracted images” came to mind as a way of describing the kinds of imagery that tend to appear in more ‘difficult’ haiku such as those I quoted above. What, for instance, does one see when “dazzled / by an elephant’s yawn”? How does one visualize “grains of grit in a tall sky sewing” or “the twisted pole gone in spare colors” or “the “colours / of hesitant hills”? And yet these act, effectively, as images.

    An incidental note: I chose only examples that have stayed, for long, in memory. I’m sure there are plenty more recent examples to be found – Roadrunner and Masks would be among the first places I’d look – and Mark Harris has already quoted Eve’s “metallic taste / of what / I can’t imagine / negative tide” (another idea-image). Another that I meant to quote, that has long stayed in mind, is Sugimura Seirinshi’s “war dead / exit out of a blue mathematics” (as trans. by Gilbert and Ito); in Japanese:
    戦死者が青き数学より出たり 
    senshisha ga aoki suugaku yori detari

  35. Philip Rowland says

    beautifulisness… Yes, ‘What’s so hard to understand?’ as regards the vision of haiku you describe. But there are other varieties of poems conceived by their authors as haiku or as haiku-like (sorry, for me, the use of the word ‘haiku’ as though it were something other than poetry is obscure), that do not simply do the ‘job’ you describe in your third paragraph above. Which does not necessarily mean they are wilfully obscure, but that they are doing more with – paying more homage to – language, while also, in a sense, ‘transcending’ it (a notion I’m borrowing from the Ashbery reviewer’s elaboration on Eliot’s statement, though the idea also echoes Takayanagi Shigenobu on haiku – cited somewhere above). Most of the examples of somewhat ‘difficult’ haiku that I have given do not seem to me to have much to do with the ‘logical rituals’ that you attribute to ‘would-be’ haiku other than the ‘transparent’ variety. Besides, who said haiku shouldn’t be difficult? Isn’t life?

  36. says

    Yes, haiku is all about vision.

    The use of the word ‘poetry’, in relation to haiku, obscures the visionary injunction to ‘show not tell’, which is peculiar to haiku. This is a major stumbling block for most would be haijin, particularly in the prosaic, literary and somewhat egotististcally occluded, West. Perhaps ‘visualisation’ is more apposite a term to signal a haiku. In the magical sense of conjuring an image to enter into and engage as real.

    The job of the words in a haiku is to action the pictorial capabilities of the right brain, the mediator of primordial sensory thought and intuitive understanding. “The temple on the right side.” However, the logical rituals and routines of the left cerebral hemisphere continually block this, especially in Western haiku and Western haiku debate.

    A habitual, deep rooted compulsion to explain what, clearly, should be shown. (‘Sound of water’ – NOT, ‘plop’.)

    Bashō famously remarked that a haiku ought to be like looking at a riverbed through clear, running water. The water representing the simple transparency and lightness of the words used to deliver a haiku – the latter being –essentially– a transcendental, self-explicit diorama.

    What’s so hard to understand?

    — jp
    http://tinyurl.com/10rules0

  37. Philip Rowland says

    Peter wrote: “Philip, could you provide us with an example or two of haiku which you find difficult, but worth the effort to understand?”

    Here are some that I’ve found difficult to understand in the usual sense, but at the same time find immediate and intriguing:

    A blue anchor grains of grit in a tall sky sewing

    I inch and only sometimes as far as the twisted pole gone in spare colors
    (John Ashbery)

    a pig’s memory
    it leads to colors
    of hesitant hills
    (Stanley Pelter)

    the wax filtered sounds
    earth where imagination
    spreads a boned circle
    (Tom Raworth)

    The presence of God.
    In the tunnel of birdsong
    a locked seal opens.
    (Tomas Transtromer)

    Not locking onto
    Guide-stars of controlled flywheels.
    Dust on the mirror.
    (Charles Henri Ford)

    At fertilization
    dazzled
    by an elephant’s yawn
    (Sayumi Kamakura)

    I shall help the dawn
    give birth
    to its colours
    (Alain Kervern)

    leaves blowing into a sentence
    (Bob Boldman)

    the door being pounded
    a secret amulet prayed to
    this
    rope ladder

    an elder brother
    a substitute sacrifice
    a hundred years
    beneath wet leaves
    (Takayanagi Shigenobu, trans. Masaya Saito)

    counting down the goodness of man:
    from the sixth
    obscure
    (Fumio Hoshinaga – thanks Richard)

    where the lines end and the absence begins an architecture or so

    a love letter to the butterfly gods with strategic misspellings
    (chris gordon)

    Forgive the overkill – I’ve gone beyond your requested example or two – but to ‘brainstorm’ a number seemed an interesting exercise, patterns of sorts emerging. I’m not a big fan of Ashbery’s later poetry, but a blurb on his most recent collection, Planisphere, may, in a modest way, relate to some of the examples above: “Great poetry, as T.S. Eliot said, can communicate before it is understood …”

  38. Mark Harris says

    the metallic taste
    of what
    I can’t imagine
    negative tide

    Eve Luckring

    can’t reproduce her formatting here; please see Modern Haiku 41.2

  39. Peter Yovu says

    Seems an important discussion, Philip, if only to uncover assumptions about EL haiku, one commonly held one being that it must be accessible. But what one person considers accessible, as say: direct, plain, straightforward, simple, honest… another may consider… shallow, folksy, unsubtle, unchallenging, one-dimensional, etc.

    So a question arises—accessible to what? This strikes me as significant, because I believe many writers of haiku-inspired poems write for and from a particular state of mind, which may be characterized as the state of everyday experience: nothing extraordinary, things-as-they-are.

    Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with that, and I’m sure most people would say that such work is accessible and eminently shareable. But much of the discussion here and elsewhere has been around bringing in, or allowing, other elements: allusion, history, verbal display and usages inspired by other genres, etc. Once that happens, there may be, for some, a shade less accessibility. The poem may reside at a crossroads, with subterranean rumblings.

    Yet all that may still come from and direct itself toward, the same state of mind mentioned above. It may still be leery of the subjective, of dream states, hypnagogic states, imagination, etc.

    Such forays into the uncommon may seem even less accessible, perhaps mainly because the language required to embody them will look somewhat different than the language primarily used and seen today. Some, or many, will say this is straining, or breaking the bounds of what haiku is or can do. Or should do. Perhaps.

    I am sure some find the work of gendai haijin inaccessible, or at least difficult. Some of it, and the work of writers such as Scott Metz, Richard Gilbert, Chris Gordon and others, requires a different kind of intelligence than the typical haiku we are accustomed to. Gendai, or gendai-inspired, does not equal good, necessarily, but it does attempt to open different corners of consciousness, and that will look like inaccessibility for a while.

    Philip, could you provide us with an example or two of haiku which you find difficult, but worth the effort to understand? I’ll see what I can find, too. Others?

  40. Philip Rowland says

    Harking back to the question of 英語ハイク, the opening statements in Martin Lucas’s piece here
    http://haikureality.webs.com/esejeng62.htm
    are to the point.

    I’m tempted to wonder whether anyone has anything to add regarding the “accessibility” of English-language haiku – which has been mentioned (as commendable) several times but not much discussed in this thread. Cf. “Strong poetry is always difficult” (Harold Bloom on Geoffrey Hill; or in the words of a poem of Hill’s: “that which is difficult / preserves democracy; you pay respect / to the intelligence of the citizen.”) Or perhaps there’s not much – or too much – to discuss… But I wonder whether the lack of serious interest in haiku beyond specialist publications is related to the idea of its being rather TOO accessible to be “strong poetry”.

  41. says

    Thanks to everyone,

    for so freely sharing your thoughts and comments. Reading through, I am deeply impressed by the depth of literary and philosophical knowledge and experience often hinted at in some of the comments.

    My wish is that a THF forum be created so that we could engage more fulsomely and frequently, in a more multi-threaded and creative manner.

  42. Lorin Ford says

    ‘How do you call a foreigner in Australian English?’ – Gabi

    A tourist, or if in a educational setting and one knows that they are here temporarily, an ‘international student’.

    In other words, how does one tell if a person is a ‘foreigner’ or not? Not by the language they happen to be talking into a mobile phone on the tram, that’s for certain. Not by their name. They might’ve been born here or their parents might’ve been if they’re Asian or Middle Eastern.(their great-grandparents, if they’re European) Or they might be one of the more recent immigrant groups such as Africans and Indians, who are nevertheless Australian citizens.

  43. Carmen Sterba says

    Let me give an example, Lorin. This is from the haiku by Keiji Minato (湊 圭史) translated by David G. Lanoue in Periplum:

    手荷物は劣化ウランと夏の海
    tenimotsu wa rekka uran to natsu no umi

    In my luggage
    depleted uranium
    and the summer sea

    The words baggage, depleted, summer and sea are written in kanji. Uranium (ウラン) is in katakana and there are two hiragana (は) and (の) used as prepositions. If it was written for a 4 or 5-year-old child who knows very little kanji but can read hiragana and katakana to read, it could be written in hiragana for all the words except uranium, which would again be in katakana.

    If a junior high school student is reading, this haiku would be written as is, but there might be small hiragana (called furigana) to sound out the kanji for depleted (劣化) since its kanji may not have been studied before by a young person or even an adult may have to look it up in a dictionary.

    Well, this is hard to explain and to understand
    because Japanese is the hardest writing system to learn in the world (though spoken Japanese is much easier). The Chinese have one alphabet (up to 3,000 characters) The Koreans have two; hangul and Chinese characters, but they use them separately. Japanese has three alphabets which are combined, that’s what makes it even more difficult than Chinese to learn.

    • Lorin Ford says

      Thank you, Carmen. Japanese certainly does seem a very hard language to learn to write. Your explanation is clear, though. It’s interesting that there are characters which help people with the sound of new words.

      That’s a very interesting haiku of Keiji’s! I wonder if that’s what he took back to Japan from Australia… thoughts of yellowcake and the summer sea. What a difference between the two!

      By sheer chance, I met Keiji at a poetry venue here in Melbourne and we chatted, since he was sitting next to me at the table. Very nice bloke, and I imagine he’d be an excellent teacher.

  44. Gabi Greve Japan says

    Hi Lorin,
    usually a haiku translated from English would be in “normal Japanese”, with hiragana and kanji.

    Words like BULLDUST might go simply into a “reading translation” burudasuto ブルダスト in katakana (the meaning of this word might not be known to many readers) or
    the translator might make a footnote explaining what it is (fine red desert dust in Australia) or
    from there translate it as such (which would make line 2 awfully long).

    There was once a gaijin (foreigner, alien) who wrote for McDonalds Japan all in katakana …

    Mr. James : McDonald’s Japan has a gaijin clown
    http://www.japanprobe.com/2009/08/14/mr-james-mcdonalds-japans-gaijin-clown/

    .

    • Lorin Ford says

      Thanks, Gabi. I was getting it wrong.

      My goodness, though…Maccas and their bl##dy ads! If there’s anything to be done in poor taste, Maccas will be first! There’s a clever psychology behind such ads, of course. Looks like they’ve tapped into something that both appeals to certain cultural prejudices and makes their international franchise seem dopey and harmless.

      Interesting that the word ‘foreigner’ is still in usage in Japan. It was in usage (in English of course) here when I was a kid, in the 50s, even through the 60s (I recall being embarrassed by my mother using it in the 60s after it had become ‘rude’) but it disappeared from current usage completely by the late 70s/ early 80s.

      • Gabi Greve Japan says

        “Interesting that the word ‘foreigner’ is still in usage in Japan.
        Lorin”

        Well, I am officialy an “alien”, with an
        “alien registration card”.

        Greetings from Planet Japan !

        How do you call a foreigner in Australian English?

        Gabi

  45. Lorin Ford says

    So, would I be correct in thinking that if I wrote this (as I did, except I’ve changed ‘horned’ for ‘hazy’ for my query here) and it was translated into Japanese, it would be completely in katakana:

    ploughing on
    through a storm of bulldust –
    the hazy moon

    published – paper wasp Summer 2010 , vol. 16, no. 1

    but if a Japanese person wrote it, only the one Australian word would be in katakana?

  46. Lorin Ford says

    ‘The first line is in katakana’ – Gabi

    Well, that makes sense, since it is a quotation, the title of an American song.

    I’ve just discovered a poem (free verse, containing ‘gendai’ haiku) in this book : POETIC GAMESMANSHIP, by Yuri Kageyama. It’s only in the English translation, though. Or perhaps it was written originally in English? It reads well enough to have been.

    This is just from the beginning:

    Words at their disposal like Kleenex
    The millions of white tanzuku strips
    Scribbled with allusions,
    Seasonally correct,
    Backwards and forwards from the saijiki text

    As spring arouses
    Curled, a damp antenna-less snail
    My son’s soft penis

    Count the rhythms, five-seven-five
    The haiku masters
    with their Mishima haircuts
    Flex their poetic muscle
    Here at the haiku meet

    Like raw raspberries
    His hand reaches to peel
    My hardened nipples

    “Umai — jitsuni umai– !”

    (and continued)

    and here is a short, powerful and surprising poem!

    KANA – Misao Fujimoto

    I’ve always hated kana.
    They’ve always caused me humiliation.
    Whenever I was told to write my name
    I flushed with shame, my hand trembled.
    I have been put to shame for thirty years.
    Now, our teacher teaches us kana.

    I will learn you as quickly as I can
    and use you.

  47. Gabi Greve Japan says

    鳥(bird)1965

    バイ バイ ブラックバード
    数百の鳥 数千の鳥 が飛びたっていく
    のではない いつも飛びたつのは一羽の鳥だ
    わたしの中から
    わたしのみにくい内臓をぶらさげて

    わたしは おまえをみごもるたびに
    目がつぶれる 盲目の中で世界を
    臭いで生きる
    おまえを失う時 はじめてわたしはおまえをみる
    が その時 わたしの今までは死に
    新しい盲目の生がうごきはじめる

    The rest is here

    白石かずこ(1931.2- )
    http://watanokuni.tripod.com/bungakukan/mado/gendai/kazuko/nasty.html

    The first line is in katakana

    バイ バイ ブラックバード
    bai bai burakku baado

    .

  48. Lorin Ford says

    ‘Just like Gabe said, 英語ハイク. I instantly read behind the lines and realized it meant pseudo-haiku. Unauthentic haiku.’ Carmen

    ‘That is, if not taken derogatorily. I think this is what Snyder is arguing, that we cannot use “haiku” (in kanji), but really should use katakana — that is, in Japanese the same sound (pronunciation) but from an entirely different alphabet, hence with an entirely different meaning.’- Richard

    “One can have common friends but not mutual ones,” Hitchens quotes Martin Amis’s remark , here (snipurl.com/xguev) in an earlier post of yours, Richard.

    The wit, the joke, the ambiguity in Amis’s quip relies on familiarity with the traditional English class system. The English excel in ‘taking the piss’ out of their own pretensions and traditions. Of course Dickens knew that ‘Our Mutual Friend’ is a solecism, quite as well as H.W. Fowler, but to call a friend a ‘common’ friend would be a social solecism, an indelicacy. ‘One doesn’t have common friends, but if one does it is best if they are not mutual’, that sniffy sort of thing.

    I’m not surprised to find that katakana (‘used most commonly for Japanese loan words from other languages’, as Richard says) has a discriminatory function which extends beyond the role of language classification into the area of value judgment.

    I have a book of free verse by Japanese women poets, in translation. A few have the romanji and also Japanese script, but I can’t tell kanji from katakana within them. I suppose that some of this example would be in katatana? (first line only is in italics)

    BIRD – Kasuko Shiraishi

    bye bye blackbird
    it’s not hundreds of birds not thousands of birds
    but what is flying away is a single bird
    bearing my ugly entrails
    bird
    each time I conceive you I lose my sight
    …..

    Kurusawa did a wonderful job of adapting Shakespeare into Japanese. It’d be good if someone of similar genius now could produce a home-grown, Japanese equivalent to ‘Fawlty Towers’. I’d love to see the international haiku episode.

    Anyway, all the more reason to be cheering on the JUXTA project.

  49. says

    “This has been a wonderful discussion not only because of the topics but also because of the patience of participants to wait for and/or give more explanations…. I agree with those who feel these complex topics and conundrums should be addressed in JUXTA. It’s terrific to have a sounding board like this.”

    I feel so too, Carmen. Let’s hope this future happens. Sorry to miss you in Meguro a few years ago. Our mutual friend is doing a bit better. Yes, aspects of “ma” are a daily experience. Woudl you like to expend on your teaser, concerning “pseudo-Orientalism”?

    It would make for a great critical topic I think.

    I’m not sure if readers understand the significance of “英語ハイク” (eigo ha-i-ku, with English haiku, with “haiku” in katakana, used most commonly for Japanese loan words from other languages). I interpret the term similarly as “foreign ‘haiku’ in English” with “haiku” meaning “as-if haiku,” more or less. In Japan, this 俳句 = haiku, utilizing ancient kanji. Perhaps the distinction is somewhat fair. That is, if not taken derogatorily. I think this is what Snyder is arguing, that we cannot use “haiku” (in kanji), but really should use katakana — that is, in Japanese the same sound (pronunciation) but from an entirely different alphabet, hence with an entirely different meaning. Homophones are pretty common here, and don’t you suppose, frm within the Japanese tradition, it would be odd to think of haiku outside of Japan in kanji. The katakana has been something I’ve objected to in the past, but perhaps we should own it, and wear it proudly.

    I was of three minds,
    Like a tree
    In which there are three blackbirds.

    When the blackbird flew out of sight,
    It marked the edge
    Of one of many circles.

    (Stevens, “13 Ways…”, excerpt)

    • Carmen Sterba says

      Richard and Lorin, well, it might seem sensible to use the word haiku in katakana for English-language haiku; however, I thought it was a satirical rendering because the non-Japanese co-founder of group looked down on haiku written in English. Only a few of the Japanese members thought that haiku in English was not authentic haiku, but their choice may be from a sense of aesthetics or a dash of nationalistic pride. Using haiku ハイク in katakana, instead of the kanji 俳句 could be a linguistic, aesthetic or nationalistic choice, but this is a very rare situation since katakana, in itself, does not imply any discrimination.

      Richard, I think I’ll refrain from writing any more about pseudo-Orientalism or nationalistic tendencies in 俳句 versus ハイク for the time being.
      I also regret that we did not find each other that day in Shinagawa station, but it was the day before I moved from Japan to the U.S., and I would have been too exhausted to have a decent discussion.
      Getting on the train and out of the house in the brisk February air was good for me.

      • Lorin Ford says

        Thank you Carmen, I think I understand now. I guess it depends on individual people and circumstances. There are ways of cutting or slighting people in English, and I suppose in all languages. One has to be there to experience the emotional effect. Tone, in speech, is the main thing in English I think, along with body language.

  50. Carmen Sterba says

    This has been a wonderful discussion not only because of the topics but also because of the patience of participants to wait for and/or give more explanations. I just read al 100 postings today now that I’m on vacation, so I will respond as concisely as I can and hope I won’t rattle anyone excessively.

    Even if “ma” is difficult to express, I believe it is a part of human experience. As far, as those of us who have lived in Japan and/or have had Japanese spouses or significant others or studied about the culture extensively, “ma” becomes a part of our way to communicate not because it’s Japanese but because we understood intuitively and became accustomed to it. Let me give an example:

    After I returned to the U.S., my sister and I had to get reacquainted because we saw each other so seldom during my 31 years in Japan. At first, the misunderstandings were troubling for me. She was
    direct in everything she said and she did not understand my silences. Little by little she learned to gage my reactions by my silences and understood that my silences were not empty, in fact they were usually more telling than my words. I was only 18 when I first went to Japan and already an introvert, so I picked up the nuances of Japanese language and communication by osmosis and adapted them to my own communication in either language. I had always hated angry outbursts so; the Japanese silent treatment worked very well for me and still does. I was often told, “I was more Japanese than the Japanese,” by Japanese. That was part hyperbole and part true because Japanese culture and language changed while I lived there and many younger Japanese were more direct than I was. By that time I was already set in my ways.

    Now I communicate my disappointment with silences in front of my sister and she gets it. She is less direct and more accommodating. (Please note, when I write I am much more direct than when I speak).

    Is this kind of communication so rare in other cultures? I think is especially this way in High-Context cultures where there is one language and mostly one ethnic group. Don’t people who know each other well understand their silences? Or at least finish each other’s sentences? Often people in the same group start to talk alike and anticipate each other’s responses. Yes, there are many unique aspects in Japan, but every culture is unique and with study or intuitiveness we bridge the differences, at least some of the time, in small groups, if we get to know each other over a long time.

    I have a lot to say about pseudo-Orientalism. However, those of us who have studied in Asia for a long time, visited Japan many times or are Japanese need to be sensitive towards those who are genuine Japanophiles. Didn’t we go through that at? In the “International haiku community” we have so many people who came to haiku through an esthetic or spiritual or artistic affinity to Japanese culture, religion and or art. They probably derive so much satisfaction or illumination from their interpretation of Japanese arts and culture. After all, it is the kind of culture one can spend their whole life learning about. Even though I know the dark side of Japanese society, I don’t want to be insensitive to any ones love of Japan, even if it is imitative because there are so many haiku poets who are unbelievably talented in Japanese arts and sincerely devoted in one way or another.

    I could also say a lot about of how most Japanese and even some Westerners think about El haiku.
    I remember coming out of the Meguro International Haiku Circle in Tokyo and being hurt that our group name was not identified with the kanji for haiku but the Kanji for English and haiku written in katakana, which is used for foreign words. Just like Gabe said, 英語ハイク. I instantly read behind the lines and realized it meant pseudo-haiku. Unauthentic haiku.

    Nevertheless, does that mean we should stop writing the way we are? No. Haiku takes me outside of myself to a quiet place where I can rest when I read it and write it. To a place I can abandon my creativity and let it go, be one with nature or God. Maybe that’s my tremenos: a sacred place (or Jewish Sabbath) of rest, joyous abandonment and refilling. This might be the sacred art of poetry.

    That said, I agree with those who feel these complex topics and conundrums should be addressed in JUXTA. It’s terrific to have a sounding board like this.

  51. says

    Peter,

    Nice flight, “My sense, somewhat fanciful, is that haiku, emphasized by its brevity, is language in the act of being born…. that Ma arises when presence is both present and absent. But any arising is impossible to plumb.” You add, “No? Yes?”

    If mind is fundamentally metaphoric (poetic) in nature (as some claim) then for being, the deeper description is a metaphor, which itself can be described by a metaphor, which itself can be… Even things are stories. In cognitive science, Mark Turner discusses “image-schema” (micro-stories) as say “pick up the glass.” Or “turn left,” and such.

    I feel that certain poets have more to say about how mind and language work and feel than any prose writer, of whatever discipline. I sometimes with poetry were more central to culture… it’s often asked in various quarters, you know, why is poetry so difficult?

    What is language, really? “language in the act of being born…’ it is paradoxical isn’t it, that reading a poem would make you feel this way. As-if. As a metaphor. “when presence is both present and absent” does for me recall Corbin’s discussion of the midnight sun.

    Lately I have wondered, what language can be applied to sensibly describe those attributes which make haiku (EL), as a genre, unique? It’s not that there’s an exact answer, but I feel the focus is right — uniqueness resists all typing, and is non-egalitarian. Lacking uniqueness, a given haiku is so uninteresting.

    I think Stevens ends with uniqueness, in his poem “Of Mere Being, in these last lines:

    The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

    Although there has been some marvelous prose written about this poem, including these excerpts, http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/s_z/stevens/mere.htm — critics seem to waver, ending disquisitions with question marks.

    The palm at the end of the mind,
    Beyond the last thought, rises
    In the bronze decor,

    A gold-feathered bird
    Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
    Without human feeling, a foreign song.

    You know then that it is not the reason
    That makes us happy or unhappy.
    The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

    The palm stands on the edge of space.
    The wind moves slowly in the branches.
    The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

    Is the deepest level of being, of mere being, the perception of its display — if “beyond the last thought” then “a foreign song” “without human feeling” ” Its feathers shine.” — this sounds like a description of language itself.

  52. Peter Yovu says

    I have a few cutting remarks, which come not from scholarship (I am barely able to get into scholarcanoe let alone ship) but from intuition. I intuite more than I tuite, and toot even less, I hope, as I eschew ultracrepidarianism. That said, with a tongue prescient against cheekiness, I would continue that

    language itself is inhabited by cuts, on, oh, so every level. The word “plum” is cut between sound and sense; it is cut between images: my memory and your memory; it is cut between common usage and etymology, past and present, its own presence co-emerging with its own absence, and between uncertainties (is it fruit or lead?). And so on.

    Does “tundra” alone against (or under, or over, or in, or blackly as) a white field, embody a cut? Does “cor”; does “plum”?

    and is there Ma?

    My sense, somewhat fanciful, is that haiku, emphasized by its brevity, is language in the act of being born. (It is attached to silence by an umbilicus of space). A pine tree, let’s say, is itself every moment in the act of being born. It instigates language partly because I am a pine tree with etymological roots. I am bursting, to echo a Peggy Lyle’ haiku, with both pollen and plan.

    I want to say that Ma arises when presence is both present and absent. But any arising is impossible to plumb. No? Yes?

    Here’s Peggy’s poem:

    rain settles
    some of the pollen
    some of the plans

    (Pollen originally meant ‘flour’ in English).

    And what the child said: “I know how to spell banana
    I just don’t know when to stop”.

    • says

      Thanks for the invitation to rant about the Metaxy, Richard. But I save that for our blog at haikumuse.com. I just posted a reading of Metz’s ku from the current Modern Haiku. I have “ranted” there about reading Basho in light of the Metaxy. And I will continue to. For me, haiku as a literary form is patterned on the metaxic asymmetrical tensions not on dualisms or dialectics. A lot of modern gift theory is useful here (on asymmetrical exchange)– and a lot isn’t, but it’s a huge field. For those interested in “haiku,” a good formal introduction is The Poetics of Japanese Verse by Kawamoto. Philosophically, I draw on Kuang-Ming Wu’s The Butterfly as Companion as well as the works of Eric Voegelin and William Desmond. That’s bibliography, not rant.

  53. says

    On metaxy, I’d prefer to reference the school of archetypal psychology as a reasonable basis to provide scope. There is this accessible blog which has some interesting (I feel correlative) quotations and references:

    http://psyberspace.walterlogeman.com/tag/metaxy/

    Of course my point was more concerning the inexplicable as an intermediate and indeterminate realm in reader phenomenology. It sounds so much beter than “confusion” and it is, because, at least in the way I have described haiku process, inexplicability is key to coherence in haiku.

    • says

      In his post to Phil on gendaihaiku.com, Richard notes from his source: “Metaxy denotes the intermediate realm between two opposites” (1966: 379-80). As a student of metaxic philosophy, I note that this dialectical concept is not universally accepted. There is the asymmetrical ratio in which the “metaxy” is between two “others” — it is this kind of “between” that supports the “vertical” and “horizontal” concept made popular by Haruo Shirane in his important Modern Haiku article of winter-spring 2000. This metaxy has been explored in detail by Eric Voegelin and more recently William Desmond, whose work is among the most stimulating in post-modern thinking about these matters.

  54. says

    Must double-post, because the middle is somehow missing in the above (in this longer post) — please delete the (my) previous partial post if possible. Let’s see if this works …

    Phil –

    In reply,

    > Thanks for the clarification (perhaps your next book could be “7 Types of Disambiguation”) though I hope (in your closing comment) you’re not suggesting that haiku poets start saying things like “Man, there’s ma…” More seriously, when you say that we can use “these Japanese critical concepts … to language our own subjective experiences, and also to point out our subjective sense of a ku”, do you mean that while that may be so, “ma” would be less useful in critical analysis of E-L haiku? With “kire” we can speak of disjunction, but with “ma”, it seems possible only to say what it is not (even if it is fundamental, as “nuance, savor, an atmosphere”, in Japanese culture and arts). I couldn’t help thinking of the term that used to float around a lot in writing on E-L haiku: “haiku spirit”. <

    Hopefully I managed to address possibility of plying "ma" as a western critical concept (if not term) in the above, and can add I'm "spirit" phobic when it comes to "haiku spirit." I think rather "ma" may the 'grunt' in haiku, what James Brown referred to as the crucial significance of the "one" (first-beat in a measure) in funk; the key to its soul. They hit that "one"

    "Huh, I feel good…"

    it hits you so hard it hits you before you know who you are.

  55. says

    Phil –

    In reply,

    > Thanks for the clarification (perhaps your next book could be “7 Types of Disambiguation”) though I hope (in your closing comment) you’re not suggesting that haiku poets start saying things like “Man, there’s ma…” More seriously, when you say that we can use “these Japanese critical concepts … to language our own subjective experiences, and also to point out our subjective sense of a ku”, do you mean that while that may be so, “ma” would be less useful in critical analysis of E-L haiku? With “kire” we can speak of disjunction, but with “ma”, it seems possible only to say what it is not (even if it is fundamental, as “nuance, savor, an atmosphere”, in Japanese culture and arts). I couldn’t help thinking of the term that used to float around a lot in writing on E-L haiku: “haiku spirit”. <

    Hopefully I managed to address possibility of plying “ma” as a western critical concept (if not term) in the above, and can add I’m “spirit” phobic when it comes to "haiku spirit." I think rather “ma” may the ‘grunt’ in haiku, what James Brown referred to as the crucial significance of the “one” (first-beat in a measure) in funk; the key to its soul. They hit that “one”

    “Huh, I feel good…”

    it hits you so hard it hits you before you know who you are.

  56. Gabi Greve Japan says

    “So kire is something ordinary, and ma is as well. It’s not esoteric or limited to haiku, but taken together and with poetic examples speaks to sensibility.
    Richard Gilbert”

    The MA is also important in ordinary speach, in the form of “aizuchi”, when you make a pause in a discussion and give the other a moment to aknowledge what you have said so far (not necessarily agreeing with what has been said … soo desu neeee).

    A person called Ma-Nuke MANUKE まぬけ【間抜け】, literally a person who “is not keeping the MA” in a conversation, is a “blockhead” (as in the yahoo online dictionary translation).

    In my beginning days in Japan, I often missed the pause my Japanese partner was making for giving me time to insert my “aizuchi” and soon the conversation would end.
    Learning the Japanese vocabulary and grammar was certainly NOT enough to function in every-day life and communication.

    So the MA is indeed something deeply rooted in Japanese culture and our every-day life here in Japan.
    .

    • Philip Rowland says

      Thanks, Peter! Now why couldn’t I find that when I trawled through the pages? Now I can look forward to rereading those posts. Sorry for the bother, Dave.

    • says

      Henceforth I won’t use the word “kire.” It is worth noting that not all cuts are equal. There are cuts that reflect linguistic and syntactic realities. There is a “cut” — the one I’m preoccupied with — between a “vertical” gesture — the so-called kigo or seasonal reference — and the “horizontal” base. THAT ‘cut’ may or may not be reflected in the syntax of the poem. One useful distinction in this regard is the “dialectic” cited in the conversation above, which is oppositional or dualistic, and the asymmetrical “cut” of the vertical/horizontal distinction. THAT cut reflects the mystery of there being any “thatness” at all. It may be quite impossible to systematize what I am talking about because of the asymmetry. There simply are no words for some “things” we wish to speak of, and whereof we cannot speak, we just babble, or I do.

  57. says

    Lorin, your boomerang hack was a gas, thanks for posting, didn’t mean to bite your head off. Over the years and more lately I’ve seen there are significant and crucial aspects of Japanese haiku that are untranslatable — whether a feature of the four alphabets, the punning on multiple soundings of kanji, literary-historical references of kigo, the moraic nature of the spoken phrase, the 2000 year old or more 7-5 ‘heartbeat’ in literary and likely oral tradition, the depth of renga (both mushin, direct antecedent of haikai, and ushin), the social matrix at the heart of the haiku process to this day, and especially the continuity-with-extreme-dislocations of an ancient brief poetic form persisting into modernity and the contemporary. There is no analog in English lit.

    Haiku aside, thanks for the “boomerang” — it’s quite a return: “No one knows for sure how the returning boomerang was first invented, but some modern boomerang makers speculate that it developed from the flattened throwing stick, still used by the Australian Aborigines and some other tribal people around the world, including the Navajo Indians in America” (wiki).

    Kire & Kireji …

    I’d like to respond to a few comments on “kire” and disambiguate the term from kireji, based on what I’ve garnered to this point. My main purpose is to keep these terms as “open” as possible, to retain their original multivalent meanings.

    So, when Tom says:
    The kire for me is that roughly distinguished by the dialectic of being: that is, between the creative source and the singulars of experience. The distinction between these two basic categories of existence CREATES the “between” which haiku formalizes as separation of fragment and phrase.”

    In positing a definite object (“The kire”), there seems a problem, as kire is not a thing, it’s an idea with a perhaps infinite number of permutations, and an experience in reader-process. Call it a shorthand for a variety of phenomenal experiences generally covered in western poetics as “disjunction” or “irruption.” For the haiku form, at least in the gendai tradition, radical disjunction/radical omission (cutting, kire) is a central feature, as Uda Kiyoko states:

    “… the “cut” / “cut” of haiku: haiku is a literary form based on truncation, isn’t it? So, yes, haiku “cuts” explanation: this is haiku. Haiku “cuts”: scenes, actions, everything, and cuts time and language. So, though it is said that “cutting” is really omission, I think that “cutting” is at the same time the essential proposition of haiku” (http://simplyhaiku.com/SHv7n4/features/Gilbert.html).

    “Kiru” is “to cut” (the root verb-form) and “kire” is cutting. For “kireji”, the “ji is a prefix meaning letterform (like a kana graph), is used as a synonym of -on, “sound” — as sounds are counted based on the kana alphabet (in brief).

    Okay, so kireji, like “ya” “keri” “kana” also sometimes “ni” or another particle, represent a small subset of kire, right? Here is where “the” can be used: the kireji “kana” for instance, is often found at the end of hokku.

    But just because kireji exists, this doesn’t mean a ku is “cut” well. I think it’s worth quoting the master on this, which gets us closer to the psychological heart of the matter:

    “Placing kireji in hokku [haiku] is for those beginners who do not understand the nature of cutting and uncutting very well. . . . [However,] there are hokku which are well-cut without kireji. Because of their subtle qualities, [for beginners] more common theories have been founded, and taught.. . . Once, the master, Bashô, said, as an answer to the question of Jôsô [one of Bashô’s ten principal disciples. b.1662?–1704]: “In waka, after 31- on, there is kire. In hokku, after 17-on, there is kire.” Jôsô was immediately enlightened. Then, another disciple asked [on the same topic], and the master, Bashô, answered, “When you use words as kireji, every word becomes kireji. When you do not use words as kireji, there are no words which are kireji.” And the master said, “From this point, grasp the very depth of the nature of kireji on your own.” All that I have described here is what the master revealed, until the very threshold of its true secret [oral tradition], the thickness of one leaf of shoji-paper.” [1]

    From the compositional point of view, “When you use words as kireji, every word becomes kireji. When you do not use words as kireji, there are no words which are kireji.” Yes, what does it mean “to use a word as kireji”? One of the nuances of haiku is that in excellent haiku, it is a feature that kire occurs– whether through a dislocation of register, concept, rhythm, image, and all or some together — in this sense kire is a field of play. To give an example:

    teppen ya kanarazu otoko ga tachidomaru

    piled iron :
    without doubt
    men stop

    Here, in Japanese the “ya” is kireji, represented by the slightly displaced colon in English. But kireji here is not very strong, not the main focus or “power-aspect” of this ku. In English (the Japanese original has it own way), the assonance in the second line and almost cut off half-stops of the last line *combined* with the sudden question, the dislocation of “without doubt” the question of “men” — the multivalence of perspectives inscribed (including a construction site) which one also supposes is at the same time a kind of advanced (psychological) shasei.

    There is another aspect of kire, in the way heaviness cuts lightness and lightness, heaviness. In the way seriousness cuts humor and vice versa. I think “kire” is not an ultimate as regards definition. We too must stop: Kire is “cutting”: this is the beginning and end of the definition.

    There is nothing more you can squeeze out of the term. As is said in Japanese, “the ku cuts.” “It cuts”. the “what” (is cut) of the cutting is left to poets, readers and critics, there is no exact right or wrong about it. Though there is often agreed aspects of kire in excellent haiku — one can offer these examples as a way of teaching about this central attribute.

    So, a second point, I think a statement like kire is “the dialectic of being: that is, between the creative source and the singulars of experience. The distinction between these two basic categories of existence CREATES the “between” which haiku formalizes as separation of fragment and phrase”, seems over-wrought.

    “Cutting” is by its nature disjunctive, and yes there is a dialectic — but not between ‘source’ and ‘singulars’ but between the expected conjunction and irruption. The effect of kire, its action, is not really definable in particulars. In reader phenomenology there is a kind of interstice — which I can’t go into here at length (and not as if I have the answers either) — this is “ma” — nuance, savor, an atmosphere, just a hint, mysterious, a puzzle, the forgotten recalled, the past of present past, the future found before or after just after. The missing recalled unmissed until found again missing.

    “Ma” might be any of these experiences, this is just a scratch. I don’t think anyone has managed a language for the experience of “ma.” Nor has anyone managed to describe the experience of the quality of “red,” — we shouldn’t be surprised that a critical term pointing to psychologically mutative-metaphoric qualities cannot be nailed down.

    “Ma” does not arise in a specific place in a poem, it’s not a thing, but a process of chain of processes of qualities and arises in some flavor or charm as an action of “kire” — not as a result of kire — this too would be an error. Kire is just cutting — ma — well, that is up to you.

    To conclude this overlong comment , there may be some confusion when Jack says,

    “I would first suggest that when we in ELH write haiku and utilize a proxy for kire, we tend to forget that there are a number of different kinds of cutting words used in Japanese haiku: ya, ka, kana, etc. And, they do not occur in Japanese necessarily between a fragment and a phrase (at least, I don’t believe they do; indeed, I think that in Japanese there are actually no spaces between words), but sometimes occur at the beginning of the haiku or at the end.”

    So, as kire is the overarching and central aspect of what make haiku haiku (according to Uda, Hasegawa, etc.), there is no proxy for kire. Yes, kireji (actual cutting words, a subset of kire) will cut, and as Jack says, most often not a fragment/phrase. The two most common classical kireji are “kana” and “keri” — these occur at the end of the ku. We cannot emulate these effects (nor do we necessarily need to) in English.

    Japanese does not use spaces between words, but the reader reads words and there is separation, so I’m not sure of the point? English uses spaces and lineation, there are some of our tools …

    Jack continues,
    “the verbal function … of kireji is to create “ma,” which is a temporal as well as a spatial “emptiness.” He compares this process to the silences between spoken words in Japanese plays that allow for feelings to exist that cannot (?) be expressed directly.”

    A couple of points, base don my rant above — we have been very careful in our translations NOT to equate ma with “emptiness.” This would represent a Zennification (or ‘concrete’ philosophy) in English. We wrote, “a moment or moments of inexplicability”, “a psychological sense of betweeness”… Here, Japanese (and its literary critical tradition) allows for “psychological ma” as-itself, with poems as proof, not a nailed down concept or philosophy. One thing “ma” definitely in not is “emptiness.” Neither is it the Mahayana of “no concept” (being empty of the concept of emptiness, or empty of the concept of “concept”).

    When Hasegawa refers to Japanese plays, he means Noh. We translated him literally but should have provided a note on this. It’s important historically in the west, as Noh translations fired up Pound, Yeats and others. Hasegawa’s point is that the modality of emotional expression in Noh depends upon pause. It could be said that the atchitecture of the Noh allows something to occur in audience consciousness when action on stage (unexpectedly or hyper-consciously, etc.) pauses; but first one must experience Noh, delve into it I think. Once experienced the art is unforgettable. I htink Hasegawa was trying to be helpful to an international audience by chowing that “ma” is a fundamental attribute or sensibility in Japanese culture and arts.

    So kire is something ordinary, and ma is as well. It’s not esoteric or limited to haiku, but taken together and with poetic examples speaks to sensibility.

    In closing, what is wonderful to me about these Japanese critical concepts is that we can use them to language our own subjective experiences, and also to point out our subjective sense of a ku, perhaps why it’s brilliant. There may be no greater compliment of a haiku in Japan than this simple statment: “ma ga aru.”

    There is ma. Ma is.

    [1] Kyorai. (2001) ‘Kyoraishô,’ in Isao Okuda (ed.) Shinpen nihon bungaku zenshu vol 88: Renga-ron-shu, nogaku-ron-shu, hairon-shu [The new edition of the complete works of Japanese classic literature vol 88: Theories on Renga, Noh, and Haiku], (Y. Itô and R. Gilbert, trans.). Tokyo: Shogakukan, 497-99.)

    • Lorin Ford says

      Thanks, Richard. I don’t think Gary would mind being hacked on this thread in that way, since he seems to understand the connections with things that peoples closer to natural country have than we usually do, or that the Japanese seem to have, for that matter. Yes, much is untranslatable between cultures. No disrespect intended toward him or yourself, and I hope he has a sense of humour, as well.

      I think I’ll call my next haiku book, ‘How to Make an Origami Boomerang.’ The title seems to be up there with Billy Collin’s ‘Sailing Alone around the Room’. ;-)

      If I understand you rightly,what you’re calling for is a new critique of ELH in its own right and as poetry. I don’t have the experience to contribute to that, but will follow it as well as I can, with interest.

      I’ve come late to haiku and though some have alluded to ‘haiku wars’ in America, I don’t know much about it. Unfortunately back copies of Modern Haiku isn’t in the libraries here, that I can find, anyway.

    • Philip Rowland says

      Richard – Thanks for the clarification (perhaps your next book could be “7 Types of Disambiguation”) – though I hope (in your closing comment) you’re not suggesting that haiku poets start saying things like “Man, there’s ma…” More seriously, when you say that we can use “these Japanese critical concepts … to language our own subjective experiences, and also to point out our subjective sense of a ku”, do you mean that while that may be so, “ma” would be less useful in critical analysis of E-L haiku? With “kire” we can speak of disjunction, but with “ma”, it seems possible only to say what it is not (even if it is fundamental, as “nuance, savor, an atmosphere”, in Japanese culture and arts). I couldn’t help thinking of the term that used to float around a lot in writing on E-L haiku: “haiku spirit”.

    • Paul MacNeil says

      I have profited from wading through these long posts about kire, kireji, and ma. Thank you.

      I have long taught and written that “ … in some constructions in our language [English] it is in the space between the parts that haiku may be found …”

      10 or 12 years ago, the editor, teacher, and award-winning haiku poet A.C. Missias wrote:

      http://webdelsol.com/Perihelion/acmarticle.htm

      “You have perhaps noted that haiku are generally broken into two asymmetrical parts, often corresponding to one and two of the (common) 3 lines. Indeed, good haiku are seldom written in a single sentence, but tend to take the form of either “setting and action” or a juxtaposition of two images. It is at the interface of these elements that resonances arise.”
      – A.C. Missias

      Whether through some analog of kireji (punctuation) or just the force of the language (unpunctuated), a pause in a specific place in an ELH is possible. A place for the “resonance” as ACM puts it.

      [This not to say that uncut haiku are not possible, they are.]

      What I also find very useful in this discussion is the sense of “ma” in conversation as Gabi put it. This seems to me to be a better way to phrase my already held philosophical objection to periods at the end of ELH. “ma” also at the end of a haiku explains it. Thoughtful readers, if the haiku is at all successful, will reflect, perhaps rub their chins, pause, and read it again. An ELH is not over with the last word.

  58. Philip Rowland says

    I haven’t been able to the locate the post to which I wanted to respond (is it my browser – Safari? This is not the first time a post has disappeared): Mark Harris’s response to my mention of the Eagleton critique of the “concrete” (the isolated, imagist “object” as, in fact, an abstraction), as opposed to the notion of the “concrete” image rendering language transparent. Mark suggested that, while it’s reasonable to see these views as opposed, there may be a dialectic. I think that’s exactly right: haiku “work” by enacting that dialectic, creating a kind of synthesis or balance of abstraction and realism. To cite a few examples, or excerpts, off the top of my head: Kacian’s “river / the river makes / of the moon” (a favourite of Richard’s, if I remember correctly); Ashbery’s “blue anchor grains of grit in a tall sky sewing”; chris gordon’s “ceiling fans moving at different speeds”; Transtromer’s “power lines stretched / across the kingdom of frost / north of all music” (it’s the last line that clinches it for me). And so on…

  59. Matthew M. Cariello says

    Gabi
    Thanks for the variations. The different translations don’t alter the basic metaphoric map in any significant way. See my reading of Basho’s “old pond” in the current MH for more examples.

  60. Gabi Greve Japan says

    “Because, there is only Jane. Evermore.
    To change her name it would be as if Jane herself had never existed, never suffered mutilation at the hands of Conan, suffering the takers of names and namers of names, the “Deciders.” Never been given new transitive and misappropriated qualities, new forms henceforth to be known as Jane, shared as Jane, in the sacrament of Jane, the tithes and tides of Jane.
    How could and why should we give all this up?
    Richard Gilbert”

    Long live Chibi Jane Haiku Chan !
    along with Chibi Maruko chan !?
    .

  61. says

    Since my “comments page 3″ won’t work, I’ll doublepost my reply to Eve.

    I would like to preface this by mentioning that “haiku” as Snyder plies it, and “boomerang” cannot be mutual substitutes unless you wish to imply that haiku is primarily an object or tool. It may be a weapon, I’ll grant you that…

    Eve,

    I’ve been absent with work the last few days — sorry to have missed the discussion — just wanting to first partially reply to Eve’s post, above (can these posts be numbered?), on the topic of politics and names viz “haiku.”

    Eve’s comments, following the the “>” (a.k.a. “hex 3E”):

    >I both agree and disagree with Snyder. As Lorin points out, names have etymologies. For me, naming, always suggests a political act. part of me wants to re-claim the name “haiku” just as “Queer Theory” claimed the name “queer”; <

    “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet”, but what if yer apples and oranges? A rose a rose a rose (Stein) — but is it a rose to begin with at all?

    Say once upon a time, a very long time ago, Jane was born; 400 years later on the other side of the world Jane was also born; everyone who met her said she was a spitting-image Jane twin, and we knew this because her twin had preciously and continuously been described by experts, and besides, people who claimed these twins were at best dizygotic were not put in print. And it was natural to call her Jane — not even Redux Jane, or Jane Redondo.

    Decades later, we discovered some problems, because Jane was not only NOT a twin, but not actually Jane. Who was this sudden stranger? But let's call her Jane.

    We do this because in her own land she is known as Popular Jane and Significant Jane, though for scholars and serious poets here too, there is no Jane. Only schools of Jane (like Gendai Jane, and her 'Flava' Jane hip hop bands), some of which mutually disagree as to their fertilization (lineage), as far as non-identical twins are mutual,

    "It is characteristic of Martin [Amis] to have pointed out that Dickens’s title "Our Mutual Friend" contains, or is, a solecism. One can have common friends but not mutual ones," wrote Hitchens (snipurl.com/xguev). concerning Jane, I'm not sure that she is either mutual or a common friend — Snyder says definitely not.

    From our distance, though there is a composite image of Jane, built up of fragments of Jane, the Jane we killed, in order to dream of a true Jane, and wishing upon a star she came. In just a few flavas, especially Pure Zen Jane and blue blood Shasei Jane.

    For most into haiku, sweet, sweet Jane leapt out fully formed much as Athena out of the head of Zeus. In our case, R. H. Blyth. Pater parthenogenator — reading him, you can grasp the meme — his composite image of Jane indeed runs sweet and deep. Notwithstanding, though he was in the room, he probably never met her.

    Can dizygotic twins have two separate fathers? It’s rare but it happens. Dig a bit deeper, there's another sort of parent, the Imagist-schooled women poets, acting as parthenogenatrix.

    The politics is not in the name per se so much as in the image, in the projection. Since Jane does not exist. Because we keep killing her. We can decide to embrace uncertainty, plausibly disavow all knowledge, her form will fade (as will ours) to be left with ourselves and our crap western culture, as some whine.

    “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women,” Conan the Governor says. Yes who looks after Jane, when we cannot hear her lamentations? Is she but the foreign grape, the exotic taste squeezed and extracted to improve our wine? Jane Crush.

    These are some of her names; seeds of a jewel-like matrix, birthed of distant stars, translated like melting and recrystallizing apples of the moon. Those things we have forgotten are poetry. Jane neither exists nor has been annihilated—because you can’t kill what you won’t let live.

    Tempting to throw in a Cronus reference, that primal Titanic psychic deity who eats his own children, yum! In depth psychology, the conscious ego (the "Decider") eats its own potential, rather than allowing creative ideas to be autonomously born. Time is definitely not on our side. I think here of another kind of body, the body we call haiku. What have we been eating lately?

    Make no mistake there is violence, but we can subvert the old trope: through the violence of creative misreading new bodies are evoked, and as they take on identity, as they are given a name – at the moment of this second birth, this social birth — they are named

    Jane

    Some of the best poets seem strongly resistant to this second birth.

    Transitive Jane – that near hermaphrodite both Jane and not-Jane spooky half-body of Near Jane, this Partial Jane does not go down well. Guess who’s coming to dinner, knocking on the door?

    We are a social species, subject first and last to the relations and categories of language. A rose, but by any other name would smell as sweet; nonetheless we call it a rose and No thank you, for the rest. Is there something wrong with this picture? is there no name that would smell as sweet? Are they swallowed before they are truly born? What is this, haiku hell?

    Because, there is only Jane. Evermore.To change her name it would be as if Jane herself had never existed, never suffered mutilation at the hands of Conan, suffering the takers of names and namers of names, the “Deciders.” Never been given new transitive and misappropriated qualities, new forms henceforth to be known as Jane, shared as Jane, in the sacrament of Jane, the tithes and tides of Jane. How could and why should we give all this up?

    It’s a wonderfully rich poetic (and fragrantly mythological) situation, and not exactly rational. With regard to innocence (Peter), how much sophistication can we handle? And are we in love with ghosts?

    After a long day's walking
    Packing burdens to the snow
    Wake to the same old world of no names,
    No things, new as ever, rock and water,
    Cool dawn birdcalls, high jet contrails.
    A day or two or million, breathing
    A few steps back from what goes down
    In the current realm.

    (excerpt, Gary Snyder, "At Tower Peak")

    • Lorin Ford says

      ” I would like to preface this by mentioning that “haiku” as Snyder plies it, and “boomerang” cannot be mutual substitutes unless you wish to imply that haiku is primarily an object or tool. It may be a weapon, I’ll grant you that…” – Richard

      As two cultural artifacts with names which have become loan words in English, I think there is parallel. That haiku is from Japanese and boomerang is from a culture which had no written form of language makes it interesting, but both haiku and boomerang were at one time expressions of their unique cultures, weren’t they?

      • says

        Lorin,

        What do you mean by “artifact”? As I indicated in the Jane rap above, it’s not the name itself, but the baggage of identification, projections and assumptions that goes with it. You may argue that a boomerang outside of its indigenous culture is not really a boomerang — but I suspect you won’t get a lot of traction. On the other hand Snyder (and for those familiar enough with the haiku context, language and such in Japan, and I largely or nearly agree with him), to be honest that artform cannot exist in any critically similar way outside its Japanese context. There are many points of reduction and a lack of conversion — so the very identity (Janeness) of Jane, is misinformed and reduced in so many ways, in English.

        When you go back through back issues of the Modern Haiku journal you can find some heated arguments between critics on the topic of exactly what haiku is and is not. And we have the HSA “Definitions” and now the new definitions. And in all this information, from a scholarly point of view, well frankly at this point there appears a laziness in terms of inquiry. I don’t mean this to imply a given critic was personally lazy, I mean this in terms of acumen.

        So I feel that haiku in English, if it is to be given veracity, must be reframed by providing it with critical concepts in its own language and generic literary culture. At the same time, critical concepts which do not exist in quite the same way in western criticism — such as kire and ma, ba, haigo (as multiple authorial persona) — these need clear description and demonstration, and also contrast and comparison with existing western modalities of depiction, accompanied by examples.

        Even so, as soon as you appropriate say “kire” as a term, it becomes a new plaything. Rarely does anyone ask how we might discover more by sourcing new Japanese critical texts and translating them. But this is just what’s needed as a first step of clarification.

        The history of haiku in the west, when it comes to definition of the source culture, from a critical perspective, is one of too often assuming too much, getting it very wrong, cultural reduction, misappropriation (Blyth) and ignorance.

        It’s nat hard to see why Snyder can say in 2007, “haiku” is a term that can only be applied to the Japanese literary genre. Until we begin to reframe our own work and lessen our projective identification on a supposed true original tradition (in critical texts), haiku in English as a “school” or “approach” on the whole will remain perceived academically as a kind of pseudo-Orientalism.

        In fact, it is the problem of the boomerang, writ large. But at least you can hold it and throw it — but for so much of haiku criticism referencing the Japanese (90%?) there’s no there there.

        Jane

        • Gabi Greve Japan says

          “The history of haiku in the west,
          when it comes to definition of the source culture, from a critical perspective, is one of too often assuming too much, getting it very wrong, cultural reduction, misappropriation (Blyth) and ignorance.
          Jane”

          Dear “Jane” Gilbert
          I agree with your statement here !

          Yours in Japanese Haiku,
          Hanako Gabi
          (pondering about a Japanese Christmas cake full with whipped cream and strawberries )

          :O)
          .

    • Eve Luckring says

      “The politics is not in the name per se so much as in the image, in the projection.”

      Quite so, Richard. Such a rich response.

      Maybe when Jane gets home from work she’ll
      bring her rap to the party at JUXTA.

      Maybe Snyder will be sittin’ down by the fire….

      who knows how many of us will be standing on the corner.

  62. Matthew M. Cariello says

    What’s emerging in this thread is nothing less than the development of an epistemology of haiku. At the heart of this discussion thus far is whether English language haiku is a sub-form of Japanese language haiku, or an entirely different species. While an interesting question, starting there invites all sorts of problems having to do with culture and language (as Richard keeps mentioning, and Scott reinforces) that may not be central to our epistemological concerns. Might I suggest that we shift the discussion a bit from production to reception by looking at the ways in which, for instance, all readers seem to have the ability to make sense of virtually any syntactic element, even those translated from other languages. As I discuss in my essay on metaphor in haiku in the current issue of Modern Haiku, all people have a remarkable innate ability to recognize meaning in words.

    The different approaches to “western” and “eastern” literature are less important than the extraordinary consistencies in meaning making among cultures. Yes, there are specific references in Basho that I wouldn’t be able to appreciate without Google, but once those references are filled in, understanding the poem becomes merely a matter of careful close reading. For instance:

    departing autumn
    to open one’s hands
    as a chestnut burr

    In this poem, it helps to know first what a chestnut burr is (the prickly outer shell that contains the smooth chestnut), and second, that when that burr is split, it opens in two halves that look like the palms of hands. Once this knowledge is established can we create the maps and make meaning from the poem. The first map is in the seasonal reference to the end of autumn, a time of natural desolation that recalls the basic metaphor “death is departure.” At the end of autumn, even the last signs of life that remained are vanishing. The second map is in the simile Basho creates in lines two and three, and is based on the metaphor “understanding is seeing.” The burr releases the chestnut in order that it might grow in the spring. The metaphor “generic is specific” tells implied subject of the poem – whether “I’ or “you” – to “open up” in the same way and let nature take its course. Hands in the palms-up position connote supplication to a higher authority, which in this case is the larger force of nature latent in the image of the opening chestnut burr. These two maps are contiguous in the way they both invoke natural processes of death and rebirth; their juxtaposition presents an unusual recombination of common elements.

    Ask yourself this: Do we need to know every detail of Walt Whitman’s 19th century world in order to appreciate his poetry? Knowing Japanese culture and having a better understanding of how Basho was re-shaping the conventions of the form would certainly enhance my reading, but these things aren’t a necessary prelude to my basic understanding of the poem.

  63. Lorin Ford says

    ” I do not think we should even ‘think’ *boomerang* in other [than *Koori*] languages and cultures. We should think in *effective throwing devices*. They can be *ritualistic instruments, playthings, sports equipment*or have many other possible qualities *and uses*. . . . As I am trying to say, the *boomerang* is a Koori artifact. It has elements that can indeed be developed in the *arts, crafts and sports* of other languages and cultures, but not by slavish imitation.” (G.Snyder hacked by L.Ford)

    The boomerang, in Koori culture, is *far* older than haiku, hokku or even renga in the Japanese culture. Nobody, including the Japanese, seems to have a problem with calling everything from little plastic objects purchased in North American Wal-Mart stores for the dog to fetch, through an object of doubtful origin which a Japanese astronaut tossed out of a spacecraft a few years ago to some C21 hi-tech sports models by the one name – ‘boomerang’.

    Why is there such a fuss about the loan word ‘haiku’? It is a loan word like boomerang. The Japanese promoted it and it’s too late now to change that. Should we write the objects developed on the basis of the boomerang in cultures other than Koori cultures as BOO.ME.RANG? (after Gabi’s style of distinguishing between haiku and ELH) Did the Japanese astronaut have to get a doctorate in Australian Indigenous Studies and be accepted into a skin group before he was permitted to toss a plastic (?) boomerang into space?

    When the Japanese agree to write boomerang, meaning other than a real Koori boomerang, as BOO. ME. RANG, I will agree to signify haiku other than Japanese haiku as HA. I. KU. (by chance, both have the interesting quality, in English, of having ‘I’ and ‘ME’ at the centre, giving some sort of equivalence )

    Obviously one doesn’t use an heirloom boomerang or a boomerang of ritual significance to throw for the dog in the local park…a mass-produced toy will do. So ‘headline haiku’ etc. will have it’s short day of being in fashion and then be replaced with some other novelty.

    The thing about ‘real’ boomerangs is (in Koori culture) they are/were individually crafted and traceable to the part of country, to the owner and to the maker by certain markings. There are stories and traditions attached, some of which are no business of anyone’s except the story keepers’.There are different shapes of boomerang for different purposes.

    There are also, of course, ‘faux’ boomerangs made of plywood and painted with designs of kangeroos and koalas and gum leaves etc. for tourists (a bit like Japanese objects decorated with geisha’s and cherry blossoms and Zenish brushwork, I suspect) and these days these souvenir ‘boomerangs’ are mostly produced overseas.

    As there are now a range of objects claiming to be boomerangs, there are a range of short poems, in Japanese and in other languages, claiming to be haiku.

    Can we discriminate between those of value and those which are just junk? Can we come to some generalisations about the function (or functions) of haiku as poetry, Japanese and EL haiku both, and begin from there? It seems to me that is what people have been attempting to do for EL haiku for some time, and of course it’s a process. All ‘definitions’ can only be rule-of-thumb working definitions which don’t close off new possibilities.

    That’s my take on it, at present, anyway.

    …and on the position of East- West, where am I? South, probably.

  64. Peter Yovu says

    Sorry if I added to the frustration. I do not feel equipped, Richard, to help with what you are doing. The only thing I can do is write the best poems I can, and I have advocated pretty hard for breaking out of habitual and safe containers, for experimentation, exploration and play– away from imitation.

    But I will follow your efforts with keen attention and an unabridged dictionary.

  65. Mark Harris says

    Dear Fremmishly Frustrated,

    As a person who reads and thinks as widely as I can, but who is neither a scholar nor master of the specialized languages you and others have painstakingly developed to enable more in depth discussion about haiku, I can only say I’m looking forward to reading Juxta.

    Can thf improve this comment section to make it more flexible? I hope so.

    I agree with you that we should continue to go with what el poets term haiku, for several reasons, the most compelling being we already call it that. But what’s in a name? I’m thinking of changing mine to,

    Fremmishly Feeling My Limitations

    p.s. an Armantrout poem from “Necromance” followed by an Aoyagi poem from “In Borrowed Shoes”. I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m not going to try to break them down just now

    the hunter and the hunted
    a black balloon becomes
    a hole in the sky

    PRIVILEGE

    marches on
    past a shelf of
    “classic magnums.”

    Does anyone know
    which tradition
    we are trying
    to access?

    An oblong of light
    on the right side
    of each
    pink linoleum square.

    We now believe this functioned
    as a type of calendar.

    A row of doors, a
    multiplied silence.

    May 27, 1985.

    • Mark Harris says

      …and no I didn’t switch the poets names to support your point about editing…meant to say Aoyagi followed by Armantrout.

  66. says

    Ladies & Gentlemen,

    Musing on your recent posts, Jack, Peter, Mark… And going back a few pages to kire and Gabi’s comments… The trouble here (for me) are the multiple threads of subject in this single linear comment format. “Kire” needs it’s own thread, as does “temenos” to get into it. The whole scope of “my experience” + language + poetry + haiku + terminology extends in all sorts of idiosyncratic directions — I can see we perceive and approach a number of terms and concepts differently. By this I mean personal truths languaged in personal ways. I dig this, and dig in, so don’t get me wrong.

    These “Positions” are a precis for the Juxta journal. While our depths of sensibility and personally felt truths of what haiku harbors and offers are crucial, they seem to me at best starting points, prefacing a process, which would developing approaches to disquisition involving quotation from eminent critics, linkage with existing academic disciplines, awareness of history, intellectual and literary-historical.

    I feel my limitations. I have a good friend, Joseph Rowe (‘naturalchant.com/bio.htm’), who one had printed up business cards with his job description: Generalist. I think generalist, multi-disciplinary approaches relevant to interested poet-thinkers and scholars is necessary.

    This business of generalist academic approach isn’t easy. To look anew at haiku with veracity, there needs to be demonstrations of concept supported by evidence (defined as not from one’s own brain), presented in a scholarly light. This is especially true when it comes to bridging the gap between personal phenomenology and claims to “truths” or “powers” or specific qualities of haiku.

    I have been fremmishly frustrated by the achingly obsessive need to define haiku, nail it to the wall of definitional script. “First of all, haiku is THIS” — and it never works: there are all sorts of exceptions, extemporizations, caveats; the whole project seems doomed to sophistry.

    I would suggest that we need to reframe our academic ‘quest’ away from those things haiku is, and orient toward “story.” What I mean is “haiku can WORK like this.” The ‘story’ of applied techniques, extracting principles from groups or sets of haiku — and through comparison/contrast with other non-haiku works.

    Rather than definition, at the heart of the matter are examples of excellence. The poems themselves must provide the proof, the QED. At the same time it is up to the scholar to reveal how they (that particular set or series or grouping) is working.

    Personal phenomenology (experience) is not sufficient to validate the properties or qualities of haiku we are severely limited in terms of evidence, to working with existing academic approaches to literature. So, the next question,

    Where and what approaches might be utilized?

    How to take that “right sensation” (Stevens) and let it live, though conceptual containers that might typically would destroy it? i think we need to be critically well informed but likewise critically creative, and integrative.

    These personal critical limitations pushed me into studies of cognitive science, consciousness, Buddhism, archetypal psychology, literary linguistics, the Bloom, the Perloff, the Vendler, the LRB, The Guardian, the NYT, the Voice, the art of book review. Yet, returning to Stevens, the poem beckons, as a lighthouse, a dark light, a midnight sun, and the academic studies likewise beckon to the poem, because the light of study is partial, rational, and often arrogantly assuming of knowledge.

    I would like to feel that haiku offers something to the world, and it seems that only by providing evidence can this become true. EL haiku has yet to surface. Snyder, for one is calling us out. Since haiku cannot be defined, the connotations we sculpt for the genre must be carefully wrought and woven into the matrix of a larger world.

    And shall we imagine that we address Milosz, HD, Paz and Stevens, Stein and Carson, Snyder — you name your esteemed mentors and treasured enrichers of culture — to the English Lit. professor, perhaps more sympathetic than one might suppose. We need to raise our game, address the interests of literary and scholarly society.

    • Jack Galmitz says

      Richard, your point is well taken. Speaking for myself, I am not up to the task you present. Once I was. I was once a scholar-25 years ago-but have not since then engaged in scholarship. I’m pleased that my Ph.D dissertation was obtained by a library in Germany and that a German writer cited my work in his book on John Hawkes. I am also proud that my chapter on Saul Bellow was mentioned in the 1980s in the Saul Bellow Journal.
      Now, I’m old and too ill to be of significant help to you.
      But, I do agree wholeheartedly with you; haiku will remain tangential at best, ignored and scoffed at at worst, without a validation through legitimate scholarly works on the subject.
      Sorry to disappoint you. Your work on the subject is significant work on a literary genre that desparately needs analysis and accreditation within the framework of modern literary endeavors.
      You’ve taken more than a small step in that direction.

  67. Jack Galmitz says

    The temenos, for Jung, was a structure that symbolized the unification of opposites and thus was a symbol of the integrated Self. It was an archetype of the collective unconscious. The shadow, of which you speak, and find value in, was another archetype of the collective unconscious, as was the anima, wise old man, trickster, etc. The Jungian ideal was not to repress or suppress the shadow, for instance, but was to make it available to consciousness, thereby withdrawing some of its uncontrolled energy and danger. But, to achieve an integration of psychic forces was the goal: to arrive at the large Self that contained and transcended opposites, as they were understood as parts of a greater whole Self.
    Though, our judicial system (secular, true), but for an example, may be mired in inequities, perjuries, plea-bargains, deals, it is a structure that in principle allows for “Justice” to exist; without it, there would be merely events, catastrophe, randomness without reference to “Law.” The courtroom is something of a modern day and secularized temenos wherein all the unseemly, cruel, heinous acts of human beings can be presented by opposing sides and that some arbiter, jury or judge, can apply the institutional values of our society and render a verdict that epitomizes the resolution of warring opposites and there is the apotheosis of “Justice.” While we may be cynical about our justice system, because of the realities of it, I think all would agree that the structure/temenos is necessary.

  68. Jack Galmitz says

    Well, Peter, the temenos, as understood by Jung, was not a structure meant to withhold the analysand from assaults from the unconscious. It was a structure wherein it was possible to meet the conflicting sources of agony and offered a rsolution of opposites as its center (or central idea). It was merely a structured space wherein the god or demon could appear in such a way that the analysand was not overwhelmed with the chaos of the unconscious.
    So, Anakiev’s haiku relies on the entire previous universe of history, warfare, ethnic cleansing, as “carrier” “vehicle” to point to its systematic and completely dispassionate destruction of life; and yet, written in the lineage of haiku, the experience of a transcendence of this unawareness is created in the reader’s mind. If not for the structure, tradition of haiku (which it tends to subvert, yet still retains as structure), it becomes possible to be in a space, a position to “understand,” even if that is to be shocked into awareness. I think the temenos exists in the entire preceding history of haiku; without its existence, there would be mere chaos and the troop carrier would continue to roll on crushing everything that is in its way. As it is, the “literature” of haiku allows a perimeter, a boundary, within which the reader can experience the raw, crude, cruelty of the event. Without it, there would be mere chaos.
    As to Hosai, doesn’t the pre-existing history of haiku art also allow the experience of loneliness and the “nature” of our “nature”=”coughing” to come into play? Rather than a road at evening where a man walks alone in Autumn, even in “coughing” one can experience an awareness of a self and its existential aloneness. I think if not for the structure (and here by this I mean a structure that may not be starkly visible, but which yet exists in the reader’s mind as a topos), the haiku would have no shape and wouldn’t evoke a human condition. The temenos exists in the reader’s mind and it doesn’t exist to hold off offensive or uncomfortable materials.

  69. Peter Yovu says

    Regarding Snyder’s assertion that we should not even *think* haiku, but should think “brief, or short poems” etc.: of course I agree. But then, I started at age 17, with cummings, Hart Crane, Dylan Thomas; (that is, I started with their energies penetrating my hormones, which means I didn’t understand much; still don’t) got an MFA in 1982 and did not hear the word “haiku” once. Even today, I suspect it would be a brave act for an MFA student to present, as a requirement for graduation, a book length ms. of short poems fitting Snyder’s description. Maybe at Naropa.

    But what is Snyder’s description? I’d be curious to know what, if any, qualities one often associates with *haiku*, he feels are desirable, or necessary. Would he, would anyone here say something like: “I try to write brief poems, inevitably influenced by and contributing to my own culture, but which embody what the Japanese call “kire”, or “ma” or… “.

    I think Richard, he of puissant exquisitations, has tried admirably to provide or at least suggest a vocabulary for such ideas which doesn’t rely on (or deny) Japanese influence. Is this what is needed in order for “us” to come into our own, our autonomy, when it comes to writing short electric poems? Well yes, and what is also needed is for me (and you if you agree) to come as fully as possible into the experience (beyond theory) of, for example, a vivifying suspension of the known, and to allow that to speak– as poetry, and yes, as criticism. For me this means to start from experience and not from the idea. If someone says, “oh, you’ve experienced what the Japanese call ‘ma’”, well, that’s useful.

    And yes, I know, it may happen that the “idea” will invoke (not create) the experience.

    To relate back to the discussion under Philip’s “Position” I would say that poetry begins where the “object” ends, that is, when what is beheld (thing, or state) is not reified or relegated to fixed associations. I’m sculpting with a big chisel here, I know. And I’m not saying that poetry is only possible when these or other conditions are present. It surely is possible to write a vivid poem relating to reification if I come to it with open eyes.

    I haven’t studied Jung. I’ve been to Bly conferences where James Hillman and Marion Woodman were present. I’ve been intrigued by Jung’s concept of the “shadow” and feel that it is significant to me and my poetry. The thing about “temenos” or sanctuary (or about how it may be approached) is that one may create too impermeable a wall or holding environment and not allow more difficult, or vivid, or comfort-denying experiences to arise. One could say that “haiku” has given us a garden with many wonders, but one which often is bounded by high walls and hedges. The “wild garden” movement of 19th century England has not yet penetrated. Or the wilderness has not penetrated that. Oil blooming from the ocean floor penetrates the wilderness. And we have electricity.

    But then, Anakiev:

    troop carrier crushes a lizard

    From what quality of sanctuary does this arise?

    Hosai:

    coughing even: alone

  70. Merrill Ann Gonzales says

    Hi, guys, I just finished a haibun for Haijinx with regard to the struggle I go through to move past western poetry…(granted I may not be using very clear words here)… I had been given five minutes to write a haiku…(believe me I can only write ELH as I have enough trouble with English to even consider trying to deal with Japanese.) Immediately I was confronted with

    bird song
    how high
    the trees

    and a desire to put it into more understandable language (western poetry) but knowing it would spoil the image. To me the image carries me to many more places and levels than the more word laden and rhythmic “explanation” poem might convey. No, I am not in an “altered state of mind” but more in my normal state of mind. I’m not sure I’m explaining this properly… Anyway, it made great material for the haibun I needed to write for Haijinx (to be published on the 20th.)

    • Mark Harris says

      Merrill,

      I’m relieved to hear you are trying to resolve your personal conflict with what you call “western” poetry, but I wish you would stop using the term, as in, “…the struggle I go through to move past western poetry.”

      Here’s a quote from Jerome Silbergeld. It concludes an essay in a catalog published in conjunction with a PUAM exhibition entitled “Outside In: Chinese x American x Contemporary Art”:

      “The few fine artists being shown here have been selected as representatives, as exemplars. What they exemplify is the enormous diversity found in the arts of China today, wherever and however one locates that “Chineseness.” China’s “experimental” art is exciting, but it is just part of the excitement. Perhaps, as a self-styled avant-garde, it needs competition and conflict with tradition to define itself…Just what is and what isn’t avant-garde or experimental is no less certain and confusing than trying to determine what is or isn’t Chinese, and what is or isn’t American art today. The question of what this art is is a question that matters, but there is no simple or singular answer to it; and given the trajectory of world art today, sooner or later there may be no answer at all.”

      • Mark Harris says

        …and that’s just China. When you use the term “west” you imply an “east” that is monolithic.

        • Gabi Greve Japan says

          “…and that’s just China.
          When you use the term “west” you imply an “east” that is monolithic.”

          Makes me smile.
          When I hear WEST, I think Europa first … then America, the wild west …

          Cultural stereotypes are quite problematic.

          shall I say
          Greetings from the land of the Geisha, Mount Fuji and the Samurai ? :O)

          .

          • Mark Harris says

            Gabi,

            The order of your greeting (from the land of the Geisha, Mount Fuji and the Samurai) makes me smile.

            How to answer? Many thanks from the land of Lady Gaga, Mount McKinley and the cowboy.

  71. Jack Galmitz says

    Tom:
    I respect your analysis and justification for what we call kire in writing haiku.
    However, I would first suggest that when we in ELH write haiku and utilize a proxy for kire, we tend to forget that there are a number of different kinds of cutting words used in Japanese haiku: ya, ka, kana, etc. And, they do not occur in Japanese necessarily between a fragment and a phrase (at least, I don’t believe they do; indeed, I think that in Japanese there are actually no spaces between words), but sometimes occur at the beginning of the haiku or at the end.
    Listening to a tape of Hasegawa Kai provided by Richard Gilbert (he mentions the site earlier in this blog), Hasegawa Kai says that kireji are actually post-position particles and auxiliary verbs (they are modalities of the language) that lend “ma” or silence or unexpressed feelings to the haiku.
    In fact, according to Professor Hasegawa Kai, the verbal function (as they are in fact verbal functions) of kireji is to create “ma,” which is a temporal as well as a spatial “emptiness. He compares this process to the silences between spoken words in Japanese plays that allow for feelings to exist that cannot (?) be expressed directly.
    But, more in keeping with your analysis, he states that kireji draws the haiku to another dimension, outside of the everyday world of mere objects.
    Of course, I am paraphrasing and borrowing terms that are not inherently mine nor do I claim to essentially understand them.
    While I repect, appreciate, admire your validation of kire as a means of expressing the basic tension of existence, I also can’t help but question it.
    It’s been many-too many- years since I was a scholar. But, memory reminds me that the dichotomy you present between the creative source and the singulars of existence assumes a Logos, an infallible Presence, to which language and existence refer and from which they derive their meaning. I know you are aware that there are contrary views to this, especially those that premised on the arbitary, unmotivated nature of language, argue that language (and by extension existence) is merely a series of signifiers that derive their meaning from other signifiers in an unending search for a signified (that has no “real,” “authenticity,” in as much as all language is arbitrary.
    Also, if we look at Jung for a moment, and even at our own experience of our psyches (as well as other sources), I think we could agree that the dynamics of the psyche are such that every statement, thought, produces a counter-statement, thought. It just seems to me from decades of self examination that that is true. Whether there exists a transcendent or this dialectic I don’t know. Perhaps, you’re right to suggest that the need for this transcendent (whether it can be said to “exist,” which would immediately posit it doesn’t “exist”) creates kire-a cutting away of a place where opposites are no longer opposites, where a synthesis is “born.”
    But, isn’t this space and time already inscribed in writing, in its simultaneous presence and absence as it appears and disappears in the haiku/poem?
    And, what can we make of the fact in English that the various kinds of kireji are really Japanese language verbal modalities?
    Are there other ways that a dash, ellipsis, colon, to create a space outside of ordinary time/space? And, do these grammatical English markers actually achieve their aim?
    Just some thoughts.

    • Gabi Greve Japan says

      “And, what can we make of the fact in English that the various kinds of kireji are really Japanese language verbal modalities?
      Are there other ways that a dash, ellipsis, colon, to create a space outside of ordinary time/space?
      And, do these grammatical English markers actually achieve their aim?
      Jack Galmitz

      There is another element in the Japanese language, that might be a topic for a new POSITION, of a way to give additional meaning and mood to the 17 onji of a Japanese haiku.

      By choosing to write a word with a certain Chinese character, or the hiragana or katakana alphabet, or even use the latin letters within a haiku, the poet has a choice of adding more “information” to the poem.

      Just as by skillfully using a cut marker (kireji) of a certain kind, maybe

      old pond
      old pond !
      old pond ?
      old pond –
      old pond . . .
      OLD pond
      old POND
      Oh, this old pond ! … and so on

      Sometimes 英語ハイク is spelled with katakana, to express its “differentness” from a Japanese 俳句.
      I tend to translate this as

      English HA.I.KU

      Each language has its inherent devices to give additional meaning to words and phrases and poetry.
      I think they could all be skillfully used to enhance the power of expression.
      The emphasis is on “skillfully”.

      Hasegawa Sensei once compared the kireji to a sharp knife when cutting a dead fish for sashimi or sushi.
      If your knife is not sharp (not skillful), you get a dish with frizzleld pieces of dead meat, that is not looking very appetizing.
      Think about a tomato cut with a dull knife.
      .

      • Jack Galmitz says

        Yes, Gabi. I agree with you that skill is of the first order and search for other ways than have been used to emphasize, shift, evoke, emotions that are unstated in a haiku must be found.
        I think in the ELH world, there has been an overuse of conventions that don’t necessarily work in regard to this and this overuse has created a similitude of a similitude.

    • says

      Jack, clearly I’ve made a botch of the discussion. There’s no direct relationship between the two things separated by the ontological difference — that’s why it’s called “ontological.” I doubt this is a Platonic position; not sure Plato had a “position” on this or any metaphysical notion. The various “cuts” that can be used to make “juxtapositions” are not what I am talking about. There’s no “other dimension” in my way of thinking about haiku. Dimensions refer to the determinate world; the Other — and that has to be taken in an absolute sense — is non dimensional. I should stick to practical criticism!

  72. Gabi Greve Japan says

    “In other words, I am arguing for haiku that have no discernible kire, but which nevertheless, written, will always be a space set aside for practices other than secular, or perhaps collapsing the dichotomy between the sacred and the profane.
    I believe the Chinese ideogram for poetry contains the ideogram for temple and word, so that poetry was already considered a sacred art.
    Jack Galmitz”

    shi / uta 詩 poetry
    ji (tera) 寺 temple on the right side

    .

  73. says

    Scott wrote (nice rant!):

    “I think folks writing elh need to play more: with images, words and techniques. and that not just western poetry/poetics should be considered and sampled, but anything and everything we can get our hands on.”

    Echoed by Phil and others. Mark likewise quotes Scott, “…and that i should artistically play. that i have a world, and a world of words, available to me…”, adding:

    “Whether we agree on all points or disagree, perhaps especially if we disagree, we together develop our own versions of Shirane’s vertical and horizontal axes . . . . I often hear haiku poets praise the merits of writing what is universal and accessible, a populist attitude that reflects an admirable quality of elh. If we interpret that impulse as a license to deny the use of literary allusion, wordplay, variety of form/lineation, long words, local terminology, place names, (the list could go on) then we risk denying ourselves the rich literary context that could and already might be ours.”

    Here posed are possibilities for new openings, enlargements — yet there are ungainly conundrums. When a poet and critic with the knowledge and stature of Snyder states more or less that ‘in English it cannot be haiku,’ when literary critics look at the preponderance of haiku in haiku-specific journals disdaining comment or interest, when the poetical approach to elh is defined by way of “truths” of Basho, and misunderstandings of Japanese literary aesthetics, when there occurs a decades-long reductive reaching, regurgitations of the misinformed…

    There is a conundrum. From the critical point of view, we have a functioning community, a school of poetics if you will, a growing body of worthwhile work. On the other hand, almost the entire critical apparatus necessary to communicate approaches, influences, values, knowledge, lineages, is in disarray.

    As I stated in ‘Position 2′, I disagree with Snyder; that is, I prefer “THF” to a “T?F.” The point is, the 21st century EL haiku poet-critic may expect a “you’ve got to be kidding” (or “wtf”) coming from both within and without the haiku community.

    Since first encountering the EL haiku (as translations of Japanese works), I have been deeply intrigued at the power of their expression in English. Over the decades, and especially in works of late, I feel there is an undeniable body of original, creative work in English, and undeniably, a genre.

    Yet a school (“pre-” or “proto” to be prefixed) which has found it inherently necessary to define itself as a simulacra of a perceived poetics in another language, culture, historical era? On the face of it, “what the f*k?” seems a reasonable critical response.

    I admit to a sense of contusion at times. In my own forays — that’s all they have been — into descriptions of EL haiku, I draw on those critics who have enlarged and deepened my sense of language and poetry. I find Octavio Paz a relevant critic, in addressing the above conundrums. Likewise, Hasegawa, Hoshinaga and Uda, in English, as we find them. Stevens and Ammons likewise deepen my sense of what a haiku criticism may be, as do Stein and HD, because they have deepened my experience and understanding of haiku (leaving much more out here, as regards influence). So, it’s possible to take an academic approach to connection.

    “It is very likely that nearly every one has been very nearly certain that something that is interesting is interesting them” [1]

    We have correspondingly divergent critical influences. In any case, I an in agreement with Phil Rowland when he suggests the need for extensive reading outside the confines of the haiku climes as such, and would add that poetic criticism seems likewise an important sourcepoint. Who do you love?

    Discovering relevant criticism may be harder than finding a good poem, which is hard enough. So I hope THF transforms this blog comment section — which is horribly discussion-limited — into a full-scale forum, so we can reasonably exchange critical ideas, preserve them, reference, and search them (not to mention edit our own posts for errors and omissions after “send”).

    I feel there is a challenge at this point as to whether a relevant body of criticism can be formed, which would validate EL haiku.

    Reference.
    [1] Stein, qtd. in Gilbert, “Haiku — Take Five Brilliant Corners,” Frogpond 32.3, “www.hsa-haiku.org/frogpond/2009-issue32-3/revelationsunedited.html”

    • says

      Re: Richard’s statement that “Stevens and Ammons likewise deepen my sense of what a haiku criticism may be, as do Stein and HD, because they have deepened my experience and understanding of haiku (leaving much more out here, as regards influence). So, it’s possible to take an academic approach to connection.” These are great topics for the section titled ENCOUNTERS in JUXTA. I’d love to have some proposals! JUXTA will be as good as we make it. As this conversation suggests, there are lots of reasons to give it a try.

  74. says

    Great conversation! The kire for me is that roughly distinguished by the dialectic of being: that is, between the creative source and the singulars of experience. The distinction between these two basic categories of existence CREATES the “between” which haiku formalizes as separation of fragment and phrase. The “pop” of a haiku happens in that imaginative space. So for me “kire” is a concept that “fits” with a “Western” way; I DO think one sees the “same” — equivalent or analogous — difference in Zhuangzi. I “believe” Basho learned it there (and elsewhere) and I greatly enjoy reading Zhuangzi (and Peipei Qiu and other scholars on it). But I don’t need to refer to anything but my own study of existence in my own “western” traditions of understanding. Haiku is just a word for a very short poem that reflects the basic tension of existence. Voila! Long live haiku!

    • Mark Harris says

      “…when the mind responds, creates, recreates, it automatically uses differences (which are the essential units of speech and words) and the very nature of phrases or sentences already contain differences and components, correspondences, contradictions,etc. The sentence itself is a joining of disparate parts and so already evinces a cutting and spaces between.
      So, why necessitate a kire between two phrases in ELH haiku?”
      – Jack (Galmitz)

      “The kire for me is that roughly distinguished by the dialectic of being: that is, between the creative source and the singulars of experience. The distinction between these two basic categories of existence CREATES the “between” which haiku formalizes as separation of fragment and phrase. The “pop” of a haiku happens in that imaginative space.”
      – Tom D’Evelyn

      Agreed that the mind continually responds, creates, recreates in response to the differences between the building blocks of language (also the world around us and our understanding of it). In short, our minds are programmed and trained to make sense of the world, and we do so by simplifying, breaking it down to wholes we’re capable of conceiving in any given moment. The use of kire, designated by a word or a dash or Richard (Gilbert’s) notion of “semantic kireji” or other, pushes the building blocks apart and creates a wider difference, a space in which the dogs (sorry) of sense and sensibility are called off. Not nonsense. The mind doesn’t stop working and yet it’s released from the need for certainty and becomes open to possibility upon possibility. It might settle upon one reading, yet still and continually shuffles through the others, which flip to the fore and remain for a while before giving way to another.

      Call the space what you will (ma, the interior of a shrine) but it’s a betweeness I want to return to.

      note: I was about to hit send when Richard (Gilbert) posted the comment below. I feel this comment belongs here, and am looking forward to the responses to his…

      • Jack Galmitz says

        Your explanation of “kire” is a sound and interesting one, Mark.
        However, sometimes “kire” are “tucked into” a haiku/poem in subtle ways and are not overtly present or demonstrably “kire,” at least as that term has been conventionally used in ELH.
        Words (thought) do create the world through discreet differences, but they are always and never understood (except by those who have faith that they are more than arbitary, unmotivated signifiers in an ongoing and never ending string of signifiers that have no final resting place (substantive meaning or signified). So, I wouldn’t quickly agree that “kire” is the only means available to understand that we can never finally and fully reach or stand on or stand over or “understand” anything.
        And, I believe, that the temporal or spatial shifts that kire are meant to create, in order to create “ma,” or, meanings and places, associations, times, other than those “apparently” at hand, have been found in English language poetry, particularly in the modern and post-modern era, for quite some time.
        In other words, we have had available for some time a language philosophy in the West that decenters and already recognizes that absence in the presence of things. At its most starkly literal, just think of words spoken or written and they appear and disappear just as soon as they issue forth.

      • Jack Galmitz says

        I see Richard Gilbert’s extensive, sophisticated, and comprehensive discussion of semantic kireji, which I find extremely valuable and if not exhaustive certainly puts to rest my uneasiness with the usual ways kire are understood and used, or have been used, in ELH quarters.

        • Mark Harris says

          Yes, I think we might have similar perspectives that appear to diverge due to different understandings of the varieties and uses of kire (textually designated and not) but related emotional and conceptual (possibly in your case spiritual?) desires.

          • Jack Galmitz says

            Yes, I think that’s true, Mark.
            My desires are spiritual, but only to the extent that I seek resolution of conflict (as all human beings do).
            It’s very hard to achieve and it’s probably not something that can be achieved (perhaps it only results from a surrender).

  75. Jack Galmitz says

    I’d like to say a few words about the temenos (a word I haven’t heard anyone use since I read through the collected works of Carl Jung nearly forty years ago), but I think in terms of kire and ELH it poses an interesting dilemna (at least for me).
    A temenos is a sacred space that one can find in mandalas, tankas, shrines, temples, churches, in woods, etc. It is a space set off from a “secular” space and is an enclosure of a kind that offers protection for the psyche and its development. As in Eliade’s formulations, it is a sacred ground that is a format of creation surrounded by chaos.
    The word actually comes from a Greek word meaning to cut- it cuts off a particular land/space for the king, chief, the god/gods, and, by extension and in Jungian terms for the large Self and developing it from the small self (so to speak).
    Now, in Shintoism, and by extension Japan and haiku, this would nicely place it with kire, as the empty space between phraes in haiku as corresponding in its way to the empty space in the Shinto temple where the animating spirit resides.
    However, this kire, cutting, is quite Japanese and I don’t find it in other cultures and their concepts of temenos.
    The format of a church (whatever period or style) is a temenos; in the mandala the center is filled with a deity or image of realization of some kind of realization, but it is “filled” by an image. Likewise, in tanka you always have the Buddha at the center, the image of realization (even if this is a realization of sunyata, emptiness of an essential self).
    So, I was wondering, have always wondered, why, except for the Japanese, there is no haiku without kire.
    Frankly, I’ve never been fond of kire, as it requires a breaking, a cut in experience, which I do not find “natural” to the operations of the mind. OF course, I realize that writing or anything else of culture (and there really is nothing else) is not natural (except in some sense). Kire is, for me, in the nature of an exertion, and doesn’t seem to convey the mind at all.
    To put it differently, when the mind responds, creates, recreates, it automatically uses differences (which are the essential units of speech and words) and the very nature of phrases or sentences already contain differences and components, correspondences, contradictions,etc. The sentence itself is a joining of disparate parts and so already evinces a cutting and spaces between.
    So, why necessitate a kire between two phrases in ELH haiku? Assuming that the space of emptiness presumably that arises between the two phrasings of a haiku creates “ma,” aren’t we attempting to create a Japanese shrine in this process, a Shinto shrine with an empty space in its center?
    Temenos is a structure that contains some kind of space that allows room for the visitation of deity (however we interpret that), but it seems to me that relying on only one prescribed way (often as innocuous as a dash, ellipsis, colon to substitute for kire) is not in keeping with the collective unconscious’s many structures and symbols of temenos.
    For me the edifice of the haiku (and I recognized this a decade ago) was the creating of a sacred space, whether the haiku was traditional, modernist, whether it contained a seasonal reference to substitute for kigo or not. I suppose for me the poem as a structure invited the god to appear, which is really the mind aware of itself as it partook of being aware of itself in the poem and its operation.
    In other words, I am arguing for haiku that have no discernible kire, but which nevertheless, written, will always be a space set aside for practices other than secular, or perhaps collapsing the dichotomy between the sacred and the profane.
    I believe the Chinese ideogram for poetry contains the ideogram for temple and word, so that poetry was already considered a sacred art.

  76. Mark Harris says

    “…and that i should artistically play. that i have a world, and a world of words, available to me…”
    – Scott (Metz)

    “The style and approach to haikai changed significantly from period to period and from movement to movement, but certain characteristics recur. First, haikai implied the interaction of diverse languages and subcultures, particularly between the new popular cultures and the elite traditions, and the humor and interest that resulted from the sociolinguistic incongruity and difference, especially as a result of the witty or sudden movement from one world to another. Second, haikai imagination meant taking pleasure in recontextualization: in defamiliarization, in dislocating habitual, conventionalized perceptions; and in refamiliarization, in recasting established poetic topics into new languages and material cultures. Haikai imagination was also marked by a constant search for for “newness,” for both new perspectives and new sociolinguistic frontiers in contemporary Japan as well as in reconstructed versions of the Japanese and Chinese past. Last but not least, haikai imagination implied the ability to interact in a playful, lively dialogue that resulted in the communal production of culture and art and a sense of bonding across class and family lines.”
    -Haruo Shirane, from the intro to “Traces of Dreams”

    All of us here are engaging in a dialogue that produces layers of context, familiarity, culture, new frontiers. Whether we agree on all points or disagree, perhaps especially if we disagree, we together develop our own versions of Shirane’s vertical and horizontal axes, which as Richard (Gilbert) and Gary Snyder (thank you) contend, will and must be mutable and our own.

    I often hear haiku poets praise the merits of writing what is universal and accessible, a populist attitude that reflects an admirable quality of elh. If we interpret that impulse as a license to deny the use of literary allusion, wordplay, variety of form/lineation, long words, local terminology, place names, (the list could go on) then we risk denying ourselves the rich literary context that could and already might be ours. And like it or not, that context extends far beyond the haikai/haiku canon.

  77. Philip Rowland says

    ‘ ear ‘ear! I think a point worth stressing is the scope for more “symbolism and literary allusions/references” – the lack of which may be partly why so much haiku seems (as I put it in 1st Position) “thin”. I’m not suggesting that these things be contrived; an interest in literature – poetry especially – ranging well beyond haiku is likely to enable such openness. The other crucial means of achieving depth (of awareness) and density is the “disjunctive cutting” that Richard has emphasized. In mediocre haiku (speaking of my own as much as anyone else’s) the cut often seems little more than a pause or means of gentle juxtaposition.

  78. Scott Metz says

    I find the difference between Gary Snyder’s 50s (Blyth influenced) view on haiku and his 2007 view to be really interesting.

    His 50s view is, of course, steeped in the zen thang + Shiki shasei sketching; his ’07 comment though seems to me, if i’m reading it correctly, to be much different, and much more aware of the intricacy and depth that Japanese haiku inherently have regarding language, culture, poetic techniques, and literature.

    The difference, to me, seems like quite a radical change.

    I just recently finished rereading Haruo Shirane’s *Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory, and the Poetry of Basho*.

    This was a much more thorough and careful reading i think, with news eyes, and it’s left me with many feelings that directly connect to what Richard has presented.

    Two things jumped out at me about the book and about the poetry:

    1. the use of cultural, and especially literary, allusions and symbolism, as well as an overwhelming plethora of literary/poetic techniques

    2. the way poets were constantly trying to play with Japanese kigo (especially Basho), by using and utilizing them, by inverting their meaning, manipulating them, and radically twisting their traditional associations and expectations in order to constantly strive to create something new and fresh.

    All in all, i suppose, what Shirane calls “haikai imagination”; and that Japanese haiku are indeed, very much so, a word-based poetry, not the enlightenment-“moment”/zen-image-sketching-experience-based mantra so many continue to espouse and cling to. That is simply only an element of it. And so it proves Richard’s point (or one of his points) i think: that elh are merely kissing cousins at best; and, for the most part, still, “slavish imitations” of translations of what westerners *think* Japanese haiku are. Creative oversimplifications, most of which lack internal energy/dynamics. creative misreadings are cool. but i think they’ve lost their virginal glow in this case.

    As Richard points out though, even more prominently in his essay Kigo and Seasonal Reference, Japanese kigo are simply nothing like a seasonal reference in English (which is more often than not a diary entry/weather report, “naturey”, or, perhaps at their best, “environmental” and seasonal in an emotional and more imaginatively subconscious level). Yes, they might be able to create a sense or world of season for english readers, but have nothing like the cultural or linguistic depth a kigo does in Japanese.

    One direction i find interesting for elh is that of symbolism and literary allusions/references being used within them, either in a mythological way, or in a more canonically literary way. knowingly or unknowingly.

    (but then what about something like [forgive me] Basho’s frog? is an allusion to it able to become part of not just western literature but world literature? for example, on a recent episode of the Poem Talk podcast, one of Robert Grenier’s poems from his *Sentences* was brought up as being “very literary”, and compared to a Japanese poem’s “poetic condensation” and a literary allusion to Basho’s frog:

    AUTUMN

    frogs for the first time since autumn

    as Shirane points out in his book, Basho’s frog poem has so little to do with season and nature, and *so much* to do with language, culture, literature, and the radical playfulness of screwing with traditional associations.

    what else then from the Japanese literary tradition concerning kigo could in fact become part of western literary practice, or world lit? and then again, even if it does—even though the frog has—there is still a world or depth (a vertical axis of literary and cultural history) that readers and writers will still not, and never will be, aware of).

    And so when many in elh criticize certain english haiku for being “language-based/centered”, that this somehow might be a negative thing, this seems like a joke of a critique to me; it seems fine if it’s a preference, but it’s a complete historical misinterpretation if it’s seen as what haiku is, always has been, and should be. or that it is is, of all things, a purely western thing. It seems like either an “ignorance is bliss” attitude or just a copout and pure laziness—a staggering oversimplification of what Japanese hokku/haikai/haiku are and have always been: word-based art that utilizes images and objects.

    What is additionally dumfounding (in 2010) is when folks then zero in on the work and primary technique of Shiki (shasei/sketching), attracted to its image-centeredness, and, ironically, not realize that it is western art aesthetics being given back to us, then claim it as eastern otherness/exoticism, while at the same time (if not all the while) claiming an allergy to western poetry and poetic techniques (the West).
    Japanese haiku, at their root, are not simply, or only, about images at all, or moments, or “real/true” experiences—as Shirane’s *Traces of Dreams* abundantly shows—but about language and culture and literature: an intricately woven rug of all these elements.

    i think this explicitly and unequivocally shows what Richard is trying to say in his Position.

    What also strikes me after rereading Shirane’s *Traces of Dreams* is how strangely satisfied those writing elh are with their nature imagery. Considering how radical Basho and his followers were about always trying to do something new and fresh with kigo, it seems a shame, and kind of mortifying, that so many writing elh don’t try to experiment more with nature/environmental imagery. To try to turn them on their heads. To twist them. Play with them. that so few try to do something with imagery instead of repeating them like bad pop songs on some corporate radio station.

    I think folks writing elh need to play more: with images, words and techniques. and that not just western poetry/poetics should be considered and sampled, but anything and everything we can get our hands on. which is why it’s exciting to see things like “kire” and “ma” and vampires and sufism and gendai popping up. what can we do with these things?

    if Japanese haiku teaches me anything, i think it’s that haiku are not simplistically or puritanically “image-based” or “word-based”, “real” or “imaginary” but both and all. (that, esp after reading Shirane’s book, western poetry is in no way against or opposed to haiku because they actually share many elements. haiku is *condensed*).

    and that i should artistically play. that i have a world, and a world of words, available to me, and that i should play with them to create condensations. under a microscope, droplets of pond water are complicated things. raindrops too.

    • says

      Scott’s throw-away line about pop songs could be developed; it has recently occurred to me that many successful haiku are LIKE pop songs in that 1. they draw on popular fictions (which they don’t critique, test, ironize, etc, they just “depend” on them); 2, what pleases us in a pop song is a tune and a situation, or a shadow of an situation/emotion, a hummable shadow, it helps us get through a lost minute otherwise depressed or even emptier than the tune. Some pop songs are precisely empty of anything more than an allusion to a popular sense of being in a situation, a moment’s self-consciousness (when the self is really a, well, pop tune, something given by the mass culture and accepted as one’s own). Some may feel this is a “loaded comparison”: but as we go about surveying elh, it seems fair to add to the map of kinds the pop-song kind, and love them for what they are if our love is like that. So the “pop” of this kind of haiku is truly pop and perhaps no less interesting for that, to be honest.

    • Merrill Ann Gonzales says

      Scott, I have to agree with everything you said…although I find my voice in simply the image, I can only speak for what I am trying to “play” with as you put it. I enjoy those of you who have such command of the language that you can create more complex forms, allusions etc…and haiku would be poorer without them. I suppose what I’m struggling with is that point where I’ve relied so long on the image (finding the amazing way an image can create so many other worlds in other people’s viewing of it) that I am trying not to “hide bound” the image with words…

      • Philip Rowland says

        “I am trying not to “hide bound” the image with words…” This, along with Scott’s questioning the dichotomy between “image-based” and “word-based”, reminded me of a point made by Terry Eagleton, whom I quoted in an article a few years ago (http://www.modernhaiku.org/essays/RowlandFromHaikuToShortPoem.html). Skip down to the Eagleton quote if the lead-in seems boring!

        The scope for interplay between haiku and other forms of short poetry is often limited by an aesthetic approach privileging poetry that is (as Welch has put it) “rooted in the crystal image.” This approach, closely akin to the image-based haiku aesthetic, seems to imply an assumption similar to that espoused by Ted Kooser, whose theory of poetic language is cited by Lee Gurga in his introduction to the selection of Kooser poems published in Tundra 2: “reading a poem should be like passing through the printed words into a state beyond the page; no reader should be asked to pull back from this state to puzzle over the surface. This also holds for form or shape; I try to keep the poem’s form as unobtrusive as possible. Form that calls attention to itself draws the reader’s attention back to the surface of the page and away from the poem beyond it.” [9] So much for modernism (let alone the “postmodern”), one might say. Which is not to denigrate such plain-speaking, “transparent” poetry, but simply to point out that there are other varieties of short poem which also deserve our attention, and which might cross-fertilize interestingly with haiku. Besides, as Terry Eagleton explains in his book How to Read a Poem (Blackwell, 2007), “it is a mistake to equate concreteness with things. An individual object is the unique phenomenon it is because it is caught up in a mesh of relations with other objects. It is this web of relations and interactions, if you like, whic
        h is ‘concrete’, while the object considered in isolation is purely abstract” (142). Eagleton goes on to contrast Marx’s view of the abstract “not as a lofty, esoteric thing, but as a kind of rough sketch of a thing” with “the Anglo-Saxon empiricist tradition,” which

        makes the mistake of supposing that the concrete is simple and the abstract is complex. In a similar way, a poem for Yury Lotman [a semiotician described as “an eminent descendant of the Russian Formalists”] is concrete precisely because it is the product of many interacting systems. Like Imagist poetry, you can suppress a number of these systems (grammar, syntax, metre and so on) to leave the imagery standing proudly alone; but this is actually an abstraction of the imagery from its context, not the concretion it appears to be. In modern poetics, the word ‘concrete’ has done far more harm than good.

        Whether or not one is in sympathy with Eagleton’s Marxist bias, it seems worth considering the possibility that theorists of haiku in English (Western haiku being an eminent descendant of Imagist poetry), in making the same “mistake,” limit the scope for exploring the potential of haiku. Let us look at some examples of such broader scope….

        • Peter Yovu says

          Synapse alert! a whole lotta thinkin’ goin’ on!

          Reading Philip’s post reminded me Ilya Prigogine’s work on what he called “dissipative structures”. I have not understood this or metabolized it sufficiently to give a clear, context-based description, but I have found a couple of sources which, beyond Prigogine’s writing itself, may make clear why I am posting this.
          It seems unlikely to me that Richard (esp.) or Philip has not studied Prigogine. His work seems to me to provide one approach to a critical and theoretical rendering of haiku. I think that what will be evident is that what is described here as a “closed system” corresponds to what Philip, via Eagleton, is calling “an object considered in isolation…abstract”, while an “open system” is “a web of relations and interactions”. I think it will also be clear that much of what Richard writes about in describing dynamic qualities of haiku can be related to dissipative structures. Here’s what I plundered from the web.

          First, a straightforward definition:
          A dissipative system (or dissipative structure) is a thermodynamically open system which is operating far from thermodynamic equilibrium in an environment with which it exchanges energy and matter.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissipative_structures

          A system “jump” or sudden transition to a higher level of complexity or order which absorbs the energy perturbing lower levels. This is an evolutionary change.

          And this from Naropa star Anne Waldman, from her book Vow to Poetry, new to me.

          “Ilya Prigogine’s theory of dissipative structures attracts me as it explores irreversible processes in nature in the movement toward higher and higher orders of life. Prigogine believes that science is essentially ignoring time and that in Newton’s universe, time was considered on in regard to motion, as in the trajectory of a moving object. Prigogine says there are many aspects of time: decay, history, evolution, the creation of new forms, new ideas. W here is there room for the notion or act of “becoming”? Look at the way nature is saturated with the order, alive with pattern: insect colonies, cellular interactions, pulsars and quasars, DNA code, memory patterns in human minds, and the symmetrical exchanges of energy in the collision of subatomic particles. At the deepest level of nature, nothing is fixed. Patterns are in constant motion. Some forms in nature are closed systems, such as a rock or a cup of coffee, where no internal transformation of energy occurs. Open systems, on the other hand, are involved in a continual exchange of energy with the environment, such as the ovum and seed or the various life forms and structures that make up a town. Prigogine’s term for open systems is “dissipative structures”. All living things are dissipative structures. I am a dissipative structure– a flowing, apparent wholeness, highly organizes but always in process. The more complex a dissipative structure, the more energy is needed to maintain all its connections. It is exceedingly vulnerable to internal fluctuations. Connections may only be sustained by a flow of energy; the system is always in flux. The more coherent the structure, the more unstable it is. This ironic instability is the key to transformation. The dissipation of energy creates the potential for sudden reordering. This does not have to be a slow process; it allows for spontaneity. In my view this is also a potential in poetry…
          The continuous movement in a structure results in new fluctuations…. Poetry is not a closed system. The elements of old language patterns come into a new one to make new connections”.

          Much can be made of this. I will present one idea: if haiku is an “open system”, which it needs must be, then the exchange of “energy and matter” with its environment (poetry in general, for example) will result in “evolutionary change”, “sudden reordering” and “spontaneity”. Prigogine calls this “escaping into a higher order”.

          It enacts, to use another word, “becoming”. It is interesting how many recent haiku poets, gendai influenced or not, have intuited this, and use the word “become” (Aoyagi: cold rain–/ my application/ to become a crab)
          in one form or another, understanding that haiku is transformation, a “system jump”.

          Jump in.

        • Mark F. Harris says

          Philip (Rowland) quotes Terry Eagleton:

          “it is a mistake to equate concreteness with things. An individual object is the unique phenomenon it is because it is caught up in a mesh of relations with other objects. It is this web of relations and interactions, if you like, which is ‘concrete’, while the object considered in isolation is purely abstract” (142).”

          and contrasts Eagleton’s approach with that of Kooser and what he calls “the image-based haiku aesthetic.” I think it’s reasonable to argue the two approaches are opposed. When I first read the above lines in Eagleton’s book, however, it struck me that they could well describe a particularly buddhist way of perceiving, and reminded me of the zen aesthetic that has strongly influenced el haiku. A dialectic?

          • Mark Harris says

            Looks like Peter (Yovu) and I jumped in at almost the same moment. I was unaware of his comment when I posted mine.

          • Lorin Ford says

            Interesting and heady stuff, Philip, Peter and Mark. How useful metaphor is!

            Consider the Platypus, and the results of the platypus genome sequencing:

            “Because of the early divergence from the therian mammals and the low numbers of extant monotreme species, the Platypus is a frequent subject of research in evolutionary biology. . . .A draft version of the Platypus genome sequence was published in Nature on 8 May 2008, revealing both reptilian and mammalian elements, as well as two genes found previously only in birds, amphibians, and fish. More than 80% of the Platypus’ genes are common to the other mammals whose genomes have been sequenced.[58]”

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platypus

          • lambflash says

            “A draft version of the Platypus…”

            If I recall my Australian dreamtime zoology, the first draft of a platypus had a small trunk rather than a bill; it laid eggs which gave birth to eggs which then gave birth to platypi. The next draft had a nose similar to the American star-nosed mole; it also had a moon-shaped pouch, though apparently no one can say which phase of the moon. Subsequent drafts reveal the presence of cockatoo bills, kookaburra bills, drongo and bowerbird bills among others until we arrive at the present duck-billed version with which the Author is by many accounts most satisfied. Critics of this particular species, however, while convinced it is observable and occasionally bites, will not admit it is genuine or where, or indeed if, it belongs in the Universally Accepted Order of Objects.

  79. Gabi Greve Japan says

    “Japanese haiku is all about, involves a lot of cultural projection.”
    Very true, it takes a lot of cultural knowledge to get to the background of traditional Japanese haiku.
    Even the simple “firefly” is so much more than just an animal in a certain season.
    For me, KIGO as “cultural keywords” was one entry to Japanese culture .

    “We should think brief, or short poems
    in other [than Japanese] languages and cultures. ”
    I agree with Gary.
    .

  80. says

    I think the statements which conflate “enlightenment” with haiku may be suitable for dinner or religious conversation, but do not belong in an academic context. It’s simply a variety of creationism and wishful proof. It’s like saying poetry reveals love or truth. These terms are not found in academic poetics discourse as statements of veracity because they are abstract, global and entirely too mushy. “Enlightenment” viz haiku has in particular been a real problem in so-called haiku literary criticism, as the entire approach is woolly-brained. The main problem is one of definition and agreement on definitions. If a writer wishes to define the term “enlightenment” and sally forth, good luck to them. just for a start, is enlightenment a state, a condition, a moment, a path, a process, an “a” (thing), does it become, who has it, knows it, can demonstrate it, etc. etc.

    Perhaps if terms like realization and awareness are posed, we can at least ask what is realized and what are the qualities of awareness, without floating off into faux-elitist aspirations, as regards a poetics. “Mu ku is really more enlightened than yours; haiku is really more enlightened than other forms of poetry”, etc. A term like “enlightenment” is gaseous and we all just float away into the aether.

    On the topic of “ma”, which Lorin mentioned — I think suitable for another setting, a different thread, because there will be no precise delimitation or answer; more, explorations. I think Hasegawa Kai states as much, and he is a critical sourcepoint. If one wonders where or how “ma” and “kire” first appears in an academic-critical context and whats to check it all out, the two subtitled videos here are worth checking out:

    gendaihaiku.com/hasegawa/
    “Haiku Cosmos 1″ & “Haiku Cosmos 2″ — especially #2, though #1 provides some ground.

    In the main though, “ma” is not a haiku thing, but arrives in haiku with unique qualities. As “ma” is instigated by “kire” (radical disjunctive cutting), the two become phenomenal experiences for the reader. We can talk about types of “kire,” and also qualities of “ma”, why not — let’s do it!

    Anyway, Stevens, who I truly love and who has enlightened my awareness, seems a master of “ma” — he can teach us a thing or two about kire as well. Which goes back to my main point, concerning haiku as existing withing an atmosphere of western-poetic influence.

    But if possible, I would like to solicit comments regarding the main point of the “Position 2″ essay, which is given by Gary Snyder. I would like to know

    1) whether you agree or disagree with him

    2) why

    3) and how you personally react to the possibility that haiku can be defined as Japan-influenced yet predominantly western poetic form.

    4) corollary to this is that most of what we think Japanese haiku is all about, involves a lot of cultural projection. (Which to my mind is what is prompting Snyder’s pointed comments — and they are quite sharp.)

    Here is the relevant part of the quote:

    “I do not think we should even ‘think’ haiku in other [than Japanese] languages and cultures. We should think brief, or short poems. They can be in the moment, be observant, be condensed and meaningful, detached or not, or have many other possible qualities. . . . As I am trying to say, the haiku is a Japanese poetic form. It has elements that can indeed be developed in the poetries of other languages and cultures, but not by slavish imitation (Gary snyder, 2007; please note this is quite a recent statement.)

    Any takers? [place ‘wink’ emoticon here]

    • Lorin Ford says

      Really useful videos, thank you, Richard. Hasegawa is gently and painstaking clear. Such a good teacher!

      • says

        Good discussion…

        Lorin, our meeting with Hasegawa was preceded by a back-and-forth communication which nailed down topics. When we settled down, he proceeded to speak practically non-stop for some four hours. Now captured and digitized in uncompressed avi files,100s of gigs on a hard disk…

        It’s a sad fact of translation that in my experience getting it right is worse than painstaking and extremely time-consuming. For most of the poets presented at ‘gendaihaiku,com’ there are hours of interviews languishing. We have managed but a tiny — though hopefully juicy — fraction.

        Then there are the books — how about translating a top-notch book of contemporary haiku criticism written by a notable poet-critic?

        It s my hope that Juxta will stimulate new readership and research into contemporary Japanese poetics, as riches abound.

    • Eve Luckring says

      In answer to some of your questions, Richard,
      some initial thoughts…

      ****************************************************************
      “I do not think we should even ‘think’ haiku in other [than Japanese] languages and cultures. We should think brief, or short poems. They can be in the moment, be observant, be condensed and meaningful, detached or not, or have many other possible qualities. . . . As I am trying to say, the haiku is a Japanese poetic form. It has elements that can indeed be developed in the poetries of other languages and cultures, but not by slavish imitation (Gary snyder, 2007; please note this is quite a recent statement.)

      I would like to know

      1) whether you agree or disagree with him 2) why

      I both agree and disagree with Snyder.
      As Lorin points out, names have etymologies.
      For me, naming, always suggests a political act.
      I agree with Snyder that haiku in English is not the same as haiku in Japanese. In this way, Scott Metz’s proposition of “ku” is quite enticing, with it’s due reference to the genre’s origins. However, part of me wants to re-claim the name “haiku” just as “Queer Theory” claimed the name “queer”; this analogy might be far-fetched for some, but I personally feel like a haiku deviant, in that I question the “naturalness” and “immutability” of anything.
      The best literary analogy I can come up with is one that has been offered many times on this blog, that of the sonnet. I am not by any means a literary scholar, but the continuing evolution of the sonnet and its migration from culture to culture and its development over time seems a fit corollary. I do not know enough detail about the history of the sonnet though —what were the debates around its transmutations of form and application? Have there been things called a “sonnet” that are as uninformed and widely disseminated as those things that plague the word “haiku”? I both love and cringe that haiku is a name that most people “know”. In the cringing part, I understand why Snyder does not want to engage in the terminology.

      4) corollary to this is that most of what we think Japanese haiku is all about, involves a lot of cultural projection. (Which to my mind is what is prompting Snyder’s pointed comments — and they are quite sharp.)

      Later in the interview when Snyder is pressed to define haiku and what it means to “write without ego” it seems to me that he offers a more limited notion of haiku than what it has already expanded into as a literary form in Japan. So he has a very specific idea about what haiku is:

      “I have never called my brief poems “haiku” except in certain rare cases where a brief poem met what I felt were the key aesthetic requirement of a top quality haiku — which means among other things, freedom from ego.”

      I wonder what the “other things” are. And then later…

      “Non-Japanese societies can learn from this tradition and feel free to write brief poems that are strong “news of the day, news of the moment” – and fundamentally without ego.”

      and when asked what is “without ego”?

      Udo Wenzel: Who writes, if a haiku is written without ego? Would you please explain, what does it mean to write without ego. How can one recognize such a haiku? Could you give us an example?
      Gary Snyder: Hakuin Zenji’s “Song of Meditation” has the line “true nature that is no-nature, far beyond mere doctrine.” Dogen Zenji says, “We study the self to forget the self.” No nature is true nature, non-ego is the mysterious power of creation. How do you recognize such a haiku and what are examples? Just remember the great haiku from the Japanese tradition that first made you fascinated with haiku when you were fresh to the field, poems by those we call “the masters.”

      It could be the editing of the interview or it could be my mis-reading, but this highlights the difficulties of the very cultural issues that he/you pose earlier in the quote you offer, Richard. It makes me think that Snyder is taking the side door out of the issue, (understandably) and I appreciate that you are wanting to embrace the whole thing head on.

      3) and how you personally react to the possibility that haiku can be defined as Japan-influenced yet predominantly western poetic form.
      (Later you asked,) Where and what approaches might be utilized?

      I absolutely agree with Snyder that it is not by “slavish imitation” that the elements of haiku can be developed in “poetries of other languages and cultures”. So, where then might we find footing in this “predominantly western poetic form”?

      as Mark suggests through both the poems he has offered; it certainly feels slippery at the least.

      For instance, if we look at the philosophy of people like Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger, who have greatly affected “western” art, English-only readers are once again dealing with cultural issues embedded in a language that then must find some kind of expression through translation.
      Visual language is another type of translation for the uninitiated, yes? Like haiku, it uses a language that seems transparent and yet there are certainly varying levels of literacy.
      And sound…John Cage and LeMonte Young, bridging the terrains of sound and image, are for me key figures for how things can work in ELH, and yet these figures do not begin to speak to a shared tradition.
      And, am I wrong, aren’t Williams and Stein mostly studied by Americans?
      So, as you can see, I feel that anything I have to offer to the discussion is highly idiosyncratic and will not apply to the “generally speaking” issue you so provocatively and poignantly raise here.

      I applaud your interdisciplinary approach, Richard. It is something I’ve pursued in my own creative work;
      and in that way I’m daunted by your proposition.
      I feel like only now, after about 25 years, am I finding
      some ground from which to bring form to some of the central questions I’ve asked myself. True interdisciplinary work that seeks to understand something from the intersections of various approaches is quite different from “a jack of all trades”. It requires diligence and patience for it requires an investment over long, long periods of time, similar to the type of investment
      another may make deeper and deeper into a particular discipline or form. I greatly appreciate all that you have offered us in that regard.

      I like your approach; let the poems speak.:

      “Rather than definition, at the heart of the matter are examples of excellence. The poems themselves must provide the proof, the QED. At the same time it is up to the scholar to reveal how they (that particular set or series or grouping) is working.”

      Yes! Yes! Yes!

      I hope other scholars will hear your call. In the meantime it has been very important to me that there is more and more translation and discussion of the range of practices that comprise haiku/senryu in Japan, even if we must travel through the minefields of translation and cultural misunderstandings.

      Thank you for all your work in this arena.

      • Jack Galmitz says

        Eve;
        I find it odd that in one and the same breath you cite Queer Theory as a theory so-named to reclaim the word “queer” from a heterosexist hegemonic culture, and then refer to yourself and by inference the reference to Queer theory as “deviant.” It doesn’t seem to accord to me. You seem to be suggesting that you are merely using a term fraught with power politics-Queer Theory-just to make a point for yourself, but subverting the program of Queer Theory by inadvertently? defining it as “deviant.”
        So, from that point onward I had trouble with following you. You seemed to have a political point to make (that nothing is natural and immutable, which I agree with), but didn’t mind casting “queerness” into a definition-deviant-that implies “unnaturalness.
        My question is why?
        It seems a lot more important than what word we use to describe the poems we write!

        • Eve Luckring says

          Jack,
          your point is well taken. My comment was confusing.
          I did not mean to cast the term “queerness” into a definition-deviant-that implies “unnaturalness” or at all to define queer theory as deviant.
          I did not flush out the analogy with queer theory in the way needed
          to be meaningful and was casual in my appropriation of the word “deviant,” without properly addressing the idea of reclamation. I’ll let queer theory speak for itself and ask you to please excuse my sloppiness there.

      • says

        Eve,

        I’ve been absent with work the last few days — sorry to have missed the discussion — just wanting to first partially reply to Eve’s post, above (can these posts be numbered?), on the topic of politics and names viz “haiku.”

        Eve’s comments, following the the “>” (a.k.a. “hex 3E”):

        >I both agree and disagree with Snyder. As Lorin points out, names have etymologies. For me, naming, always suggests a political act. part of me wants to re-claim the name “haiku” just as “Queer Theory” claimed the name “queer”; <

        “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet”, but what if yer apples and oranges? A rose a rose a rose (Stein) — but is it a rose to begin with at all?

        Say once upon a time, a very long time ago, Jane was born; 400 years later on the other side of the world Jane was also born; everyone who met her said she was a spitting-image Jane twin, and we knew this because her twin had preciously and continuously been described by experts, and besides, people who claimed these twins were at best dizygotic were not put in print. And it was natural to call her Jane — not even Redux Jane, or Jane Redondo.

        Decades later, we discovered some problems, because Jane was not only NOT a twin, but not actually Jane. Who was this sudden stranger? But let's call her Jane.

        We do this because in her own land she is known as Popular Jane and Significant Jane, though for scholars and serious poets here too, there is no Jane. Only schools of Jane (like Gendai Jane, and her 'Flava' Jane hip hop bands), some of which mutually disagree as to their fertilization (lineage), as far as non-identical twins are mutual,

        "It is characteristic of Martin [Amis] to have pointed out that Dickens’s title "Our Mutual Friend" contains, or is, a solecism. One can have common friends but not mutual ones," wrote Hitchens (snipurl.com/xguev). concerning Jane, I'm not sure that she is either mutual or a common friend — Snyder says definitely not.

        From our distance, though there is a composite image of Jane, built up of fragments of Jane, the Jane we killed, in order to dream of a true Jane, and wishing upon a star she came. In just a few flavas, especially Pure Zen Jane and blue blood Shasei Jane.

        For most into haiku, sweet, sweet Jane leapt out fully formed much as Athena out of the head of Zeus. In our case, R. H. Blyth. Pater parthenogenator — reading him, you can grasp the meme — his composite image of Jane indeed runs sweet and deep. Notwithstanding, though he was in the room, he probably never met her.

        Can dizygotic twins have two separate fathers? It’s rare but it happens. Dig a bit deeper, there's another sort of parent, the Imagist-schooled women poets, acting as parthenogenatrix.

        The politics is not in the name per se so much as in the image, in the projection. Since Jane does not exist. Because we keep killing her. We can decide to embrace uncertainty, plausibly disavow all knowledge, her form will fade (as will ours) to be left with ourselves and our crap western culture, as some whine.

        “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women,” Conan the Governor says. Yes who looks after Jane, when we cannot hear her lamentations? Is she but the foreign grape, the exotic taste squeezed and extracted to improve our wine? Jane Crush.

        These are some of her names; seeds of a jewel-like matrix, birthed of distant stars, translated like melting and recrystallizing apples of the moon. Those things we have forgotten are poetry. Jane neither exists nor has been annihilated—because you can’t kill what you won’t let live.

        Tempting to throw in a Cronus reference, that primal Titanic psychic deity who eats his own children, yum! In depth psychology, the conscious ego (the "Decider") eats its own potential, rather than allowing creative ideas to be autonomously born. Time is definitely not on our side. I think here of another kind of body, the body we call haiku. What have we been eating lately?

        Make no mistake there is violence, but we can subvert the old trope: through the violence of creative misreading new bodies are evoked, and as they take on identity, as they are given a name – at the moment of this second birth, this social birth — they are named

        Jane

        Some of the best poets seem strongly resistant to this second birth.

        Transitive Jane – that near hermaphrodite both Jane and not-Jane spooky half-body of Near Jane, this Partial Jane does not go down well. Guess who’s coming to dinner, at least knocking on the door?

        We are a social species, subject first and last to the relations and categories of language. A rose, but by any other name would smell as sweet; nonetheless we call it a rose and No thank you, for the rest. Is there something wrong with this picture? is there no name that would smell as sweet? Are they swallowed before they are truly born? What is this, haiku hell?

        Because, there is only Jane. Evermore.To change her name it would be as if Jane herself had never existed, never suffered mutilation at the hands of Conan, suffering the takers of names and namers of names, the “Deciders.” Never been given new transitive and misappropriated qualities, new forms henceforth to be known as Jane, shared as Jane, in the sacrament of Jane, the tithes and tides of Jane. How could and why should we give all this up?

        It’s a wonderfully rich poetic (and fragrantly mythological) situation, and not exactly rational. With regard to innocence (Peter), how much sophistication can we handle? And are we in love with ghosts?

        After a long day's walking
        Packing burdens to the snow
        Wake to the same old world of no names,
        No things, new as ever, rock and water,
        Cool dawn birdcalls, high jet contrails.
        A day or two or million, breathing
        A few steps back from what goes down
        In the current realm.

        (Gary Snyder, "At Tower Peak" excerpt)

  81. Philip Rowland says

    Sorry for “cross-posting” earlier in this thread. I did so because I was responding only to Merrill’s comment, not to the main points of subsequent posts. But it does seem to make things a bit messy, so I’ll go with the temporal flow in any future posts!

    • Lorin Ford says

      Hi Philip,
      I’m one who prefers that ‘cross-posted’ post of yours where it is, because the context is clearer that way. It’s not hard to see which are the latest posts from the sidebar, so we can check back to see by clicking on the topic next to the name in the sidebar.

  82. says

    Sublimating the classic Japan haiku form is UNIVERSAL HAIKU. This archetypal criteria works anywhere in the world. The (crucial) seasonal reference is everywhere – even in the tropics! Sophism can take each cultural expression of the haiku archetype anywhere it chooses (and does). BUT. Still remaining is the sublime moment when a small enlightenment occurs. Embedded in the calendrical matrix. Thus given a meaningful address in the scheme of forever changes. We use simple, transparent words to create a magic spell. When we employ this spell, even in a thousand years, the vision is conjured, immaculate. Fresh and full of it’s original cargo. There is no need to let number-crunching vanity spoil this essential truth of haiku. Shame on those who would do such a thing – unto the seventh generation.

    — jp
    http://tinyurl.com/Marlene-Mountain

  83. says

    Just want to acknowledge Phil, who cross-posted — his reply temporally later yet positionally former than my first. But what is time, really, inside the biting (virtual) wind?

    Peter, in brief I feel in simpatico with your ethic and acknowledge the sense of temenos — a word I first encountered in a Jungian context — in succinct meaning, that psychological sense of sanctuary, from which it is possible for soul to grow. Lacking temenos, there cannot occur therapeia, an attendance upon psyche (a logos of psyche). In approaching the animate life of soul in haiku creation, a sense of temenos is created. I feel this psychic space as related to ‘ma’ — which after all is most materially, the empty space at teh center of a shinto shrine. the space between, which possess or instigates the sacred. this same architectural scene was brilliantly described by Mircea Eliade in his “Myth of Eternal Return” — there is a chapter on ‘the construction of sacred space.’ Seen as a universal act of indigenous cultures. I’ts been said in many ways and places that poetry is archaic, and the thing about poetic form is that it’s an architecture. There is a reader journey, and, in consciousness shifts, stages of initiation inherently occur (or there could be no shift).

    I mused on this as the importance of forgetting, in the second section of “Plausible Deniability,” because the exquisite puissance of haiku involves loss of pattern circuiting a crystalline architecture (sodium chloride, DNA, the structure of a star).

    At the moment I’m recalling part of Henri Corbin’s discussion in “The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism” (Corbin was one of James Hillman’s intellectual mentors, along with Gaston Bachelard, Jung, etc.), to wit,

    Concenring the Sufi roots of the images of “Black Light” or the “Midnight Sun,” this numinous darkness constitutes something akin to the “Abyss” one must cross — one must submit to annihilation, then the annihilation of annihilation…

    If in seeking the pine, then for Corbin, this involves not only poetic paradox in extremis, but language in extremis (“Black Light”, “Midnight Sun”). I think extreme, extensive paradox (“kire” in flavors and charms, by other names), requires a strong sense of temenos. This may be one reason why, when you cross a certain indefinable horizon line of form, when the form opens up too much, that outrageous yet ordinary ‘diamondlike’ cutting of architecture dissipates (the strong force becomes weak, the impossible binding of the center yields to gravity, to play with a sub-atomic metaphor — and metaphor is about all we have).

    “that unexpected animal in the clearing”

    sometimes very rude. crude. Thinking of Anakiev’s “troop carrier crushes a lizard” ku for example.

    I would say, in response, that it’s likely we all here are drawn to depth, to metaphorically a well, deep into which a mystery arises, the pure truth drunk by Tron energy bodies (sorry). It’s perhaps for this reason that this haiku by Uda Kiyoko seems, paradoxically, both obtuse and deeply knowing:

    nemuri tsutsu fukai e otosu chô no hane

    slumbering
    drops, a butterfly wing
    into a deep well

    that is psyche, and temenos …

    • Lorin Ford says

      Philip, this aside of yours is worth a lot to me:

      ‘(However “wordless” one’s state of mind in clearing the way for haiku, it is a form of written art!) ” – Philip

      ‘In approaching the animate life of soul in haiku creation, a sense of temenos is created. I feel this psychic space as related to ‘ma’ . . .’ Richard

      Richard, I’m still trying to grasp the concept of ‘ma’. Here is a Western poem which I feel lures the reader into or at least to the edge of something like what I understand so far of what you’re saying. For me it creates something like a “state of mind. . . clearing the way for haiku” (Philip) Is this related to ‘ma’?

      The Snow Man

      One must have a mind of winter
      To regard the frost and the boughs
      Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

      And have been cold a long time
      To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
      The spruces rough in the distant glitter

      Of the January sun; and not to think
      Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
      In the sound of a few leaves,

      Which is the sound of the land
      Full of the same wind
      That is blowing in the same bare place

      For the listener, who listens in the snow,
      And, nothing himself, beholds
      Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

      WALLACE STEVENS

  84. Peter Yovu says

    What follows is my non-specific response to a number of posts, though primarily to what Richard presents here. The connection may not seem all that evident, though I hope will be relevant.

    I often think that much of what I write is an attempt to recreate the original, innocent and spontaneous experience of a long ago encounter with haiku, before haiku was haiku. I cannot give you a particular poem or book for which this was true, and it is likely that this encounter was a nexus of poetry/psychology/spirituality that was true beyond words and also within them, within me. Within.

    My perspective is that a poem, even a brief poem such as we call (and I reluctantly call) haiku, is a dialog of body and soul. In a realized poem, each calls the other into being. How this may be arrived at is a mystery to me, though I think it requires some of the innocence I spoke of, if innocence is understood to mean a bowing to experience.

    Seems like years ago on this year-old-blog we were discussing two approaches to writing (and probably life): the esoteric and the exoteric. Perhaps the latter could be described as the attempt to call to and achieve a soul-state, or vivifying of consciousness via attention to form, to all the elements we talk about when we talk about haiku, including kigo, ma, and so on. The esoteric approach could be described as a feeling-state, an inchoate space longing to be filled with and enter into a body– words. From a certain perspective the approaches are aspects of the same thing.

    Yet each may be distorted, or even damaged by factors which inevitably get in the way of writing (and living). These are factors that relate, I’d suggest, to personality, personal history, preference etc., though it is also likely true that the barriers are what help us to come (back) to and understand the innocence.

    One barrier, for me, is the strict adherence to form. I recognize in myself something which longs for this, for certainty, for the rock I can carry with me forever. The difficult aspect of this is akin to fundamentalism, which at its heart wants innocence, wants the clear flame glimpsed in someone’s words or being, and in the attempt to preserve that experience builds a fortress around it and in so doing enshrines a concept.

    So with haiku and other forms and genres of poetry it is possible to arrive at a body which has all the requisite parts and no soul or spirit. Or one which is crippled, caged.

    It is what baffles me often about “literature”. What is it and where does it come from? And do I, in the realm of what I reluctantly call haiku, primarily want to fit into a larger body, a community, to feel secure there? I think there must be a clearer way to express this.

    Another angle. What is it about haiku that touches my innocence? When I say haiku I mean the very few, very brief poems I come across in the way I come across an unexpected animal in a brief clearing. I think it has nothing to do with literature or tradition, but neither does it reject these.

    I think what appeals to me about haiku is that it does not necessarily aspire to literature. To what then, does it aspire?

  85. says

    Hi Gabi & Mark —

    I cross-posted Mark; yes, what I meant, just so.

    Gabi, in my opinion, kire and ma are truly universal psychological experiences, not bound that is, not quite contained or defined by language (though instrumentally created via language).

    Kigo is an entirely different matter. I published a long answer to this question (to kigo or not to kigo), in the essay “Kigo and Seasonal Reference: Cross‑cultural Issues in Anglo‑American Haiku” (snipurl.com/x9n6l), which is also in the book Poems of Consciousness.

    The essay attempts to explain how seasonal connotation is the least meaningful aspect of kigo in Japanese haiku, in terms of literary context.

    At this point, in the gendai tradition, the kigo tradition itself is deformed. There is no doubt that the kigo tradition, spanning 2000 years — the “deep kigo” (oldest) being imported from China, along with ideogrammatic characters — is uniquely multidimensional. Kigo represent in a single instance every significant poem which has come before that instance, and their implications. In the kigo cosmos, a non-naturalist literary environment is spawned.

    This context, to my mind, cannot be created or re-created in English, and cannot be created from an industrial or post-industrial (scientific, naturalist, logical positivist, deconstructionist, etc.) worldview.

    That “kigo” are equated in English with “season word(s)” remains perhaps the most painful misapprehension of literal translation in haiku scholarship.

    As I stated in my “Position” above, EL haiku are most closely akin to gendai senryu in Japan.

    EL haiku will not in the foreseeable future gain a kigo tradition. I think it’s a non-starter, form the compositional point of view. One might more saliently inquire as to what aspects of literary context we already possess, in our literature (and how such might be applied, or be relevant).

    Season words are fine, why not? Nothing wrong with a seasonal indication (kidai). An indicative sense of environment is often desired in haiku.

    There’s another aspect to kigo and modernity in Japnese gendai haiku — the problematics of a limiting tradition. After all, kigo are collected in books published by judges, “schools” of thought, committees. All sorts of things are disallowed, like dogs. Swallows.

    Whatever of the natural and native that tends to hang around through the seasons. For this reason, the Gendai Haiku Assoc. produced a “muki kigo” (non-season season-word) dictionary-compendium. Kaneko Tohta wrote its introduction, translated here (snipurl.com/x9ntc).

    A few more kigo articles from Kumamoto University are here, if you are interested: research.gendaihaiku.com/kigo.html

    So, just to be clear, I have come to feel and would like to encourage the perhaps difficult process of removing “kigo” from our Japanese loan-word vocabulary, regarding EL haiku. It’s a misnomer in English, as regards the source culture, and becomes reductive. A further issue: if “season words” in English are inherently or baldly reductive, how might season be made more psychological, more multiple, regarding meaning? I think some of the best EL haiku are already demonstrating answers to this question.

  86. Gabi Greve Japan says

    “Without doubt technical and conceptual terms such as ‘kire’ and ‘ma’ are a significant means of inscribing EL haiku ”

    Some friends suggest to use “kigo” for Japanese kigo and “season words”, “seasonal words” for kigo outside of Japan.
    I think if we can accept the words
    HAIKU, KIRE, MA, we can also accept KIGO as a part of the EL haiku vocabulary.

    What do you think, Richard and all?
    .

  87. says

    Thanks Scott, for the ending.

    A question, for academics, what is the way forward for EL haiku. The form which Gary Snyder praised in the 50s via Kerouac’s ‘The Dharma Bums,’ with quotes drawn from Blyth — I feel we need to reframe the history of EL haiku — as if to say, “ignorance is no excuse of the law (of influence).”

    Without doubt technical and conceptual terms such as ‘kire’ and ‘ma’ are a significant means of inscribing EL haiku as well as gendai haiku/senryu — yet these terms are but a few years old in the EL haiku critical tradition. But kire and ma are not differences of kind, in terms of western poetics–there is rather a difference of usage and at times intention, that is reader- and author-intention.

  88. says

    Merrill,

    Thanks for commenting. Could you be more specific than “Western poetry” — I wonder if you are thinking of some type of western poetry. Another way of asking this is, what particularly galls you, concerning western poetry?

    In my thesis, I am arguing that haiku in English is demonstrably dissimilar to Japanese haiku — though influenced by certain aesthetic and technical concepts; EL haiku is a western poetry (sub)genre. I see the haiku form as an exploration, sometimes an expansion, but not so much a departure or break, as an emphasis on and evolution of certain western poetic techniques and concerns.

    Can you point to an author’s haiku that you feel is non-western composition or technique? I don’t think it’s possible.

    In my paper, “The Disjunctive Butterfly” (snipurl.com/x9hhd) I outlined 17 compositional techniques found in EL haiku. none of these techniques are unique to the genre, but are utilized in unique ways. One or two of them are not possible in Japanese. the techniques themselves, if you consider historical origin points, occur at various points of modernist history. That is, modern western poetic history. So, to play devil’s adccovate (which I assuredly am doing) — where exactly is the “Japanese” part? What is radically missing, which has been imported?

    The Japanese form has allowed a shape a structure of veracity, an engram of concision — yet returning to say WCW, there is, if not the precise form, technical and arguably aesthetic similitude, as in this excerpt:

    Among
    of
    green

    stiff
    old
    bright

    broken
    branch
    come

    — William Carlos Williams (“A Locust Tree in Flower” in “An Early Marytr,” 1935)

    I do not claim this as haiku, but claim EL haiku as lineal descendant.

  89. Merrill Ann Gonzales says

    I have one problem with this thesis…I find I have to move away from western poetry…to another state of being so to speak before I can capture the haiku. Western poetry gets in my way as it brings too much concentration on poetic creation and that eclipses the state of mind I must find myself in to write haiku. That may be because I think in images and it becomes an intellectual exercise to translate those things to words.

    • Mark Harris says

      Merrill,

      As I understand Richard (Gilbert’s) position statement, you and I and most people on this site write in English and therefore write “western” poetry.

      Is your cherished “another state of being” a so-called eastern state of being, or are you describing a distinctive way of seeing you associate with elh, a state reached despite or because of vagaries of translation?

    • Philip Rowland says

      Merrill, it seems there are some, like yourself, who find they need “to move away from western poetry” to write haiku; and others who don’t. As Lorin wrote in the 1st Position thread, there is room for a variety of approaches; and the best of E-L haiku will last not because it reflects a particular approach, but because of its accomplishment as poetry. (However “wordless” one’s state of mind in clearing the way for haiku, it is a form of written art!)

      To give an example of how other poetry needn’t get in the way: having just this morning started to read a book of poems by Yang Lian (Chinese-born but “westernist modernist”, according to one reviewer, and available to western readers in translation), I found myself dwelling on a line in one of the poems: “Inside the biting wind a crow is dyed even blacker by its esperanto”. This got me thinking of haiku, and even wondering how the line would sound in slightly more concise form:

      Inside the biting wind a crow dyed blacker by its esperanto

      If I’d written this, perhaps I’d consider presenting it as haiku. (Or would that be misguided?) But I’m not so much arguing for “found” haiku as, simply, that reading other kinds of poetry needn’t distance one from haiku; may even be stimulating in that respect.

      Of course, the extent to which, for some, poetry “gets in the way” of haiku may depend on the poetry they’re reading. But as I commented in 1st Position, the important thing is to be specific, not to lump together or ignore other western poetries, sweeping them aside as just too different.

      • Philip Rowland says

        Note: In the line from a poem by Yang Lian (and my adaptation of it) there should be a gap between “wind” and “a crow”.

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