Author Topic: Purposes and work of haiku  (Read 1337 times)

whitedove

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Purposes and work of haiku
« on: June 17, 2012, 11:09:27 AM »
This past week during a second reading of Patricia Donegan's book, Chiyo-Ni: Woman Haiku Master, I noticed that Patricia commented on the social work that haiku did during Chiyo-Ni's age.  Haiku could function as a social tool for greeting one another, for use in diplomatic relations and as gaming, fun and entertainment.  I compose haiku for special occaisons such as weddings, births, special days and so on.  One poet I know recently mentioned that after she was approached by an acquaintance who wanted more of her poetry, she composed poems for the woman to meet her needs.  My question for discussion is do you think haiku has pragmatic functions or work to do as it interfaces with society?  I am also curious about whether or not poets use haiku in their community/family settings to commemorate special events or occaisons.

Alan Summers

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Re: Purposes and work of haiku
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2012, 03:37:46 PM »
Dear Rebecca Drouilhet aka whitedove,

I'd say a lot of people do/write/read/perform for different reasons.

Some do it for a leisurely hobby to fill up time, some pursue as serious amateurs, and gain publication credits, others to interact with others if they are housebound (not uncommon) or not able to work for other reasons.

Paul Reps attracted tens of thousands of people, Richard Wright did haiku as he was dying and not so able to write his incredible novels and other great works.

Some Japanese women did it to rebel against police gas attacks against them because of their gender in mid-20th century Japan.

Others were imprisoned, and tortured to death for their beliefs expounded in non 5/7/5-on haiku.

The list goes on.

The current President of the EU writes haiku for pleasure, and as something relaxing, sometimes directed to himself in self-mockery.  He writes good haiku in his native language but alas his publisher insisted on doing the bad translations himself.

I don't know how well Westerners can do special occasion verses as haiku, but I've seen verses that are called haiku on various greeting cards, and Hallmark own a copyright on certain ELtranslations on Basho in particular.

You said:
"Haiku could function as a social tool for greeting one another..." Of course a call and respond activity is renga or renku which is gaining ground again in Japan and highly popular in the West at present.

"...for use in diplomatic relations and as gaming, fun and entertainment."

I'm not aware of its uses for gambling, legal or otherwise, so you'll need to enlighten me although I'm not particularly into gambling.

You ask:
"My question for discussion is do you think haiku has pragmatic functions or work to do as it interfaces with society?"

I'm not sure what you personally mean, so I can only speak for myself.  I run haiku, and renga or renku courses, and activities, both as a professional poet, and someone involved with haikai literature for 20 years, for the general public; creative and non-creatives; people in prison or mental health institutions; and at festivals or other organised events.

The quotes/comments I get show that haiku and other haikai activities have meant a lot to them in their personal  development as humans, as well as writers, or would-be writers.

Although I'm a jobbing poet who does this for money, I absolutely enjoy the job, and put more into it than I am paid to do, and would not do it if I didn't learn something myself along the way.

You also say:
"I am also curious about whether or not poets use haiku in their community/family settings to commemorate special events or occaisons."

I did run haiku, tanka, and renga weekends for the Deaf Community, both the public, as well as DeafPoets, and we did create, IMHO, the world's first BSLrenga.  The first weekend of workshops and theatre performances were as part of a challenge to prove that (British) Sign Language was in fact an official language if able to be composed in authentic haiku, so it was a special occasion, but also to answer a challenge by a scientist.

I do work with families, directly, or indirectly, with haiku and renga workshops/activities at institutions or festivals, but not geared to specific celebrations such as birthdays or weddings.

Also I did compose a specific ballad in Queensland which did prevent a fight between the bride's and bridegroom's parties. :-)

I think others might better answer your questions and I will be intrigued as to how they address this aspect which is very Japanese, and not easily transferred to English Language haiku or haikai verses.

Alan





This past week during a second reading of Patricia Donegan's book, Chiyo-Ni: Woman Haiku Master, I noticed that Patricia commented on the social work that haiku did during Chiyo-Ni's age.  Haiku could function as a social tool for greeting one another, for use in diplomatic relations and as gaming, fun and entertainment.  I compose haiku for special occaisons such as weddings, births, special days and so on.  One poet I know recently mentioned that after she was approached by an acquaintance who wanted more of her poetry, she composed poems for the woman to meet her needs.  My question for discussion is do you think haiku has pragmatic functions or work to do as it interfaces with society?  I am also curious about whether or not poets use haiku in their community/family settings to commemorate special events or occaisons.
Alan Summers is a Japan Times award-winning writer for haiku and renku, and founder of With Words, a UK provider of literature, education and literacy projects, often based around the Japanese genres: www.withwords.org.uk

Blog: http://area17.blogspot.com

whitedove

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Re: Purposes and work of haiku
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2012, 05:19:49 PM »
Alan,  I enjoyed your response to my topic.  Just to clarify, when I said gaming I meant playing games.  When I read about haikai no renga, it sounds like a poetry game at a party or social function.  I find it interesting that you provided haiku for the deaf using sign language.  When I addressed the topic of the purposes and work of haiku, I was thinking about the words of a female Native American elder from the far north who I encountered on line while researching a report.  The talk turned to the many troublesome problems in modern day society, and the elder said, "The artists will save us." When I read haiku from around the world, I am frequently made aware of issues that would otherwise elude me.  I might become aware of religious persecution or the effects of war on certain populations about whom I was barely aware.  Sometimes I learn about endangered animals or the destruction of human and animal habitats.  While haiku poets aren't newscasters, the fact that they record small moments means that they sometimes bring you in with them to the places they live and the things they experience.  Sometimes haiku are playful or tongue-in-cheek, but while artists and poets are doing what they do intentionally, might they also provide the function of turning the lights on for the rest of us simply by sharing their art and their perspectives.  I don't think every haiku you read needs to have some sort of social cause to espouse, and yet in my reading I do encounter subjects that expand my awareness of things.  What I wonder is why society keeps poets around? And, I especially wonder what makes the tiny haiku so appealing to so many people around the globe? Rebecca Drouilhet

Don Baird

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Re: Purposes and work of haiku
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2012, 12:43:55 AM »
I think this link provides an extremely interesting background on one aspect of the social importance of haiku and what haiku poets in Japan, in particular, have endured:  http://www.simplyhaiku.com/SHv5n4/features/Ito.html

:)
I write haiku because they're there ...

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John McManus

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Re: Purposes and work of haiku
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2012, 01:40:35 AM »
When I tell people I write poety they genuinely seem interested, and when I tell them it's mainly haiku poetry that I write they look rather confused, and if I recite some of my haiku  for them they often ask 'Is that it?'

For some reason that escapes me it seems some people are dismissive of haiku and short poetry in general because they don't understand that a short poem can say as much as a long poem can and in some cases even more, they also assume that to write something so small is incredibly easy, which as most short-form poets could tell you is a complete fallacy.

The only way that I can think of reversing these misunderstandings is through education and exposure to good short poems whether they be haiku or not. People need to be made aware of the potential that exists in just a few words in order to truly appreciate haiku.

I personally got into haiku after writing longer poems for a few years and was amazed to find that something so small could still carry so much meaning.

warmest,
John
 

 

whitedove

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Re: Purposes and work of haiku
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2012, 01:02:18 PM »
Alan, Only after I had time to consider it did I realize how rich your post had been.  In order to be alive, haiku must be practiced and read by living people.  Only as your life work tumbles through time will it be known by the people involved how it interfaces with them in their lives and literary work and the social fabric in general.  And, from what you wrote it certainly seems that there will be many lives affected.

Don, I followed your link, and I found the information in it powerful.  Some time ago my husband and I read a brief line that said some people (in Japan) even blamed haiku for WWII.  At the time, we found that a peculiar statement.  I had no inkling that such fierce battles had been waged over haiku, and I suppose over the idealogical and historical territory that different perspectives represented.  It's hard to believe people died for their art.  Alan's comments about the Japanese women also resonate.

John,  In our writers' group, we often get blank stares after we finish reading our haiku.  Someone will usually ask, "So, is that it?"  Still the group is proud to have us as members, and they often vocalize to us that they consider us their resident haiku experts.  This is commical to us, but here we are trying to become a little more expert.  I was also interested in your take on haiku and short poetry in general.  To me, haiku has special properties because, brief as they are haiku have both words and the spaces that allow for contemplation.  I admit I haven't read a lot of short poetry except haiku, but I do find interesting essays about incorporating haiku into the bulk of poetry. A dozen years ago, I took several literature classes at a local university.  None of them taught any haiku.  Why not?

Gabi Greve

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Re: Purposes and work of haiku
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2012, 12:20:33 AM »
In Japan, one of the first things my haiku sensei teacher told me was

haiku wa kisetsu no aisatsu desu.
Haiku is a seasonal greeting.

... whereby the kigo carries the seasonal message.

All the kigo around the festivals and rituals of Japan are in a social context.
All the kigo about food, clothing and daily life (category humanity) are in a social context.

For me, they are a great way to study about Japanese culture.

And indeed, EH haiku with cultural keywords are a joy to read and learn more about the cultures of the world.
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Greetings from Japan
Gabi
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http://worldkigodatabase.blogspot.jp/2006/12/kigo-use-in-haiku.html
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whitedove

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Re: Purposes and work of haiku
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2012, 01:40:49 PM »
Hello Gabi,  I enjoyed your quote.  I knew the haiku could have a social component, but I didn't realize that they were also season greeting.  It makes sense as your post reveals it.  Thanks so much for your input.  Rebecca Drouilhet