2nd POSITION

by Scott Metz on June 8, 2010

Bookmark and Share

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


2nd POSITION


…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
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.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….


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.




{ 162 comments }

The Haiku Master October 27, 2010 at 6:28 am

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

The Haiku Master October 18, 2010 at 7:59 pm

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

Previous post:

Next post: