young leaf #2

by Scott Metz on July 3, 2010

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haiku presented with commentary by the Yuki Teikei Society for discussion

young leaf #2

By Patricia Machmiller & Jerry Ball

                                                                      Fourth of July—
                                                                      a line of ants
                                                                      along the parade route

                                                                                            Michael Dylan Welch

jb: A shasei haiku. There is no comment; the mention of the visual phenomena is all that’s needed. Of course this must be done in the context of the kigo, and this shows why a kigo is of such central importance. In itself a line of ants can bring an emotional effect, but on the Fourth of July ? and on a parade route? Ah, the kigo!

pjm: A little ryeness to make us smile. The poet has come to the Fourth of July parade and finds, paralleling the human parade, an ant parade. I am enjoying the light-hearted take on the ants that the poet has offered, and I could stop here. But if the poet wanted to move the writing from a light, humorous observation of ants to something that asked the reader to cogitate more, then I would offer this:

The central idea of the haiku plays with a natural behavior of ants (a summer kigo), their parade-like formations. And using the Fourth of July (also a summer kigo), which is a traditional parade venue, immediately sets the stage for the haiku. However, consider the weight of the “Fourth of July” versus the “ants.” The “ants” are totally overwhelmed by that huge fire-cracking, band-playing “Fourth of July” imagery. Also the interplay between the ants and the Fourth of July stops with the similarity of the parade aspect. But consider a march of veterans or a protest march or a gay-pride march or a marathon run. Suddenly the ants take on additional meaning. We are confronted with more than the parade-like quality; we think of how small they are, how persistent they are in the face of great odds, how unified they are, how defiant, etc. By making the ants the central and only kigo and bringing the image they are compared to into a more balanced perspective, does the possibility for additional meaning open up? What do you think?


PETER SKILLET September 28, 2010 at 4:32 pm

haiku ain’t a poem

rr ee ff ll ee tt ii nn gg pp oo nn dd

mm yy ff aa cc ee

aa nn oo ii ll ss ll ii cc kk

haiku be history

Philip Rowland September 14, 2010 at 7:46 am

“Desk haiku.” Would you care to elaborate or explain how this comment relates to the discussion? Thanks.

The Haiku Master September 8, 2010 at 5:41 pm
Michael Dylan Welch August 20, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Philip, I can appreciate how other aspects of haiku may have greater appeal or importance to you and others. All I’ve been trying to say is that the name after a poem can make a difference in how we appreciate and understand the poem, in any of various ways, such as through gender, geography, location, “branding” (reputation/expectation), and more. It’s there, and I believe it has some degree of effect on haiku poems even if readers don’t explicitly pay attention to it.


Philip Rowland August 20, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Michael, thanks for the further explanation and example. I can see how the “context” that you associate with (in this case) Randy Brooks adds to your reading of his poem. I would perhaps disagree that it makes the poem “even better”, since there is nothing in the poem itself to suggest the circumstances that you imagine (good guesswork, but still, a kind of speculation) – for example, if it said something about the way the wind blew or the surrounding snow, or if there were a location note. As you say, “we can picture” the context of Randy’s haiku “how we will”. I’m not disputing that the “fourth line” can affect our reading in the ways you indicate, only that it makes the poem better or “rounds it out”. “Fourth line” reading may lend itself more to haiku in the “young leaf” vein than more experimental (linguistically innovative or disjunctive) varieties of haiku. It does not tend to relate to the ways the words work as poetry, their complex interplay, only to the poem as a concise form of anecdote. (Which is not, of course, to suggest that you don’t value closer reading also.) There seems to be more need for other kinds of haiku criticism. Which may be another reason for my reluctance to “embrace” the “fourth line”. But I appreciate the points you’ve made, and probably should pay more attention to “the fourth line” (or “rebirth of the author”, as I’ve started to think of it), even while being more interested in other aspects of haiku.

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