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Messages - Larry Bole

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I agree with those who have pointed out the risks inherent in disjunction, let alone 'extreme' disjunction. But then I'm not a big fan of disjunction in mainstream poetry either. I would add to the list of risks, the risk of artificiality. I know there are people who will find artificiality to be a desirable aesthetic stance, but I'm not one of them.

So if there is a distinction to be made between an English-language 'haiku' and an English-language 'short poem', then I think that artificiality is more lethal to an English-language 'haiku' than it even is to an English-language 'short poem'.

I would also like to offer an opinion about the assertion suggesting that Shiki made what amounts to a distinct break from 'traditional' Japanese haiku. I don't read Japanese, so I only know what I've read that's been translated from Japanese, or has been written by people who can read or who have read Japanese source material regarding the traditions of Japanese haiku. It's my understanding that Shiki modernized haiku in many ways, but that doesn't mean a complete break from tradition by any means. I also think, from what I've read, that 'shasei' is a more complex and nuanced concept than many English-language haikuists give it credit for being. One way of thinking of 'shasei' is comparing it to the French Impressionists use of 'en plein air' painting, which took painting out of the studio. Shiki wanted to take haiku out of the 'studio', where it had become stuck. Some of the better haiku poets in previous times had been very peripatetic; the haiku poets immediately preceding Shiki, not so much, at least as I understand the situation.

All artists strive to be 'new' and 'original', but it's not as easy as being disjunctive would make it seem to be.

Well, Beth, let me do a survey of David Barnrhill's translation of 724 of Basho's haiku, to see how many seem to me to be examples of Basho being explicit regarding his thoughts and feelings (I am skipping some that seem to me to be too obtuse)  (I might do this over several days):

hana ni akanu nageki ya kochi no utabukuro (1662-1669)

among blossoms:
grieving that I can't even open
my poem bag

bashoo uete mazu nikumu ogi no futaba kana (1681)

having planted the bashoo,
now I despise them:
the reed sprouts

gu ni kuraku ibara o tsukamu hotaru kana (1681)

foolishly, in the dark,
he grabs a thorn:
hunting fireflies

(in the original, gu is "folly", but that still tells us what Basho thinks about it)

monohoshi ya fukuro no uchi no tsuki to hana (1684-94)

On a portrait of Hotei

so desirable--
inside his satchel
moon and blossoms

(miscellaneous--no definitive season word)

kirishigure fuji o minu hi zo omoshiroki (1684)

misty rain,
a day with Mt. Fuji unseen:
so enchanting

(in the original, omoshiroki is "interesting," but it still tells us what Basho was thinking about it)

wata yumi ya biwa ni nagusamu take no oku (1684)

cotton-beating bow--
as consoling as a lute
deep in the bamboo

ikameshiki  oto ya arare no hinokigasa (1684-85)

so harsh--
the sound of hail
on my cypress hat

yamaji kite naniyara yukashi sumiregusa (1685)

on a mountain path,
somehow so moving:
wild violets

(in the original, yukashi means "appealing / attractive")

furusu tada aware narubeki tonaeri kana (1686)

the old nest:
so lonely it will be
next door

(Spring; "old nest" refers to a place someone has lived a long time; in the original, aware is "pathos")

hana mina karete aware o kobosu kusa no tane (1686-87)

An old garden

flowers all withered,
spilling their sadness:
seeds for grass

(in the original, aware means "pathos")

That's 10 in the first 186. That's a little more than 5%. If I remember, it was around 5% of the 800 I mentioned checking earlier. So it is not common, but it is not unheard of.


Gabi, what those categories express to me is the Japanese penchant for categorizing things, and specifically, the categorizing of poetry by key words or expressions.

By an idea of nature, I mean something more along the lines of Shinto's animism as a way of seeing nature and natural phenomena.

How does an idea of nature relate to Japanese poetry? On a simple level, I have read that at one time, the word hana, when used by itself without modification, meant plum blossoms. At some point, the meaning of the unmodified word hana shifted to mean cherry blossoms. Why did this shift occur?

I mean an idea of nature as it relates to Japanese poetry such as is explored by Kooji Kawamoto in his book The Poetics of Japanese Verse: Imagery, Structure, Meter, in the first chapter, "Autumn Dusk."

Here is an example of what I mean, quoting from the above-mentioned book:

Because the topic of "autumn evening" (aki no yuube), together with the seven-syllable phrase aki no yuugure (autumn dusk), is so familiar tro readers of Japanese literature, associated as it is with so many fine poems, it seems to hold a peculiarly Japanese resonance. There is thus a danger of mistakenly assuming that "autumn dusk" possesses a lengthy history. However, in actuality, this intially amorphous theme first began to attract interest relatively late in the long history of Japanese poetry. The phrase itself first appears in the Goshuuishuu anthology (1086). As a poetic topic in an imperially sponsored anthology, shuuseki (autumn evening) first appears well over a century later.

Kawamoto goes on to point out that:

With its carefully organized and systematic classification of seasonal poems, the Kokinshuu exerted a decisive influence on later attitudes towards the poetic treatment of natural phenomena.

And yet later:

According to Tsuda Sookichi, the emotions expressed in these poems are the product of pre-existing convention rather than an unmediated, individual response to the season.

Well, there is one difference between nature as it is treated in Eurocentric poetry and as it is treated in traditional Japanese poetry. Eurocentric poetry placed a higher premium on "unmediated, individual response" to nature than did traditional Japanese poetry.

Another example of the role of nature in Japanese poetry is discussed in Karatani Koojin's book, Origins of Modern Japanese Literature, in the first chapter, "The Discovery of Landscape." Koojin makes a case for the concept of 'landscape' in Japanese literature being a relatively modern one. At one point he writes:

[after discussing painting] Similarly, poets like Bashoo and Sanetomo were not looking at "landscapes." As Yanagita Kunio has said, there is not a single line of description in Bashoo's Oku no hosomichi (Narrow road to the deep north, 1694). Even what looks like description is not. If we can follow the subtle yet crucial distinction Yanagita has drawn here, we will be able to see both the process of the Japanese discovery of "landscape" and the literary "history" that paralleled that transformation of perception.

So, what I'm interested in, is how Japanese poets have perceived 'nature' through poetry, and how those perceptions of 'nature' may or may not have changed over time.


P.S. I would also like to point out that it is my understanding that using cormorants for fishing is still-practiced on several Japanese rivers as a tourist attraction, I suspect for domestic tourists as well as foreign, in spite of contemporary protests of the practice because of a modern concept that to use cormorants in this fashion is a form of animal cruelty. And I rankle at the idealized characterization of the Japanese as being somehow superior nature lovers. Buddhist tenants and nature-loving didn't stop cormorant-fishing from happening even when it appears that there was some notion of the animal cruelty involved as far back as Basho's era.

Here is something Beth wrote on this thread that I want to comment on:

I'm not sure what "nature" is really, except some left over idea from the American Transcendentalists?

Leaving the topic of American Transcendentalism aside for the time being, I would like to quote some of the first several paragraphs from the entry "NATURE"  in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (enlarged paperback edition, 1974):

To deal with n. [nature] in poetry is, in some sense, to deal with nearly the whole task of poetry. For poetry is, to paraphrase John Dryden, the "image of nature." All theories of poetry have made some allowance for both terms ("image"---a thing in itself, a construct; "nature"---what the poem imitates or speaks about), however much a given theory may stress some peculiar aspect of the many interconnections. Hence, n., both as subject and as involved in poetic theory is central in poetry.

It is symptomatic of our times, semanticism being in some measure a product of the Cartesian division and romantic doubts about n., that "nature" is so often thought of by modern writers as primarily an ambiguous word. [emphasis added] But the situation is not quite so desperate as might appear... . For the galaxy of meanings [of "nature"] ... do have a center---reality, manifested in this way or that---and the crucial differences in meaning are more ontological than semantic.

Man has puzzled much about his relation to n. throughout the history of thought. People have felt that man is in, but not of, n.; or of, but not quite in, n.; or, in any case, that he is a very special part of n. (astronomically speaking, man is the astronomer). And from the earliest semireligious, semimaterialistic speculations about the n. of things, literature and men's views about n. have been mutually though not exclusively causative, and considerably complicated.

The entry goes on, for more than four small-type pages, to outline the relationship of nature to poetry in the Eurocentric tradition, starting with Homer, and concluding by pointing out the ongoing influence of Coleridge, and making references to Suzanne Langer, I. A. Richardson, Wallace Fowlie, Herbert Read, Elizabeth Drew, Cleanth  Brooks, W. C. Williams, and Ezra Pound.

I don't have much information regarding Japanese theorizing about nature and its relation to poetry. The contributors to this thread appear to have a good grasp of the difference between things found in nature and natural phenomena as topics that can be written about in haiku, vs. seasonal references in haiku, seasonal references serving the purpose of time-orientation, and sometimes emotional context (although of course there is much overlap between nature as 'thing' and 'phenomena', and 'seasonal reference').

I am hoping that Haruo Shirane's newest book, Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons: Nature, Literature, and the Arts, will provide valuable insights into this topic.


Well, as the Wikipedia entry for ma points, out, the concept behind ma is not unknown in the Eurocentric tradition, but the Eurocentric tradition hasn't privileged the concept with a label as have the Japanese, in whose artistic culture the concept plays a much more prominent role, although not an exclusive role.

I find this comment by Hasegawa Kai interesting:

This is the case with haiku as well. The "cutting" (kire) of haiku is there to create ma, and that ma is more eloquent than words.

That is a new attribute of kire to me. I'll have to think about this. Haruo Shirane, in Traces of Dreams, says that kireji can both cut and join. He says that in "English haiku, or translations into English, where the visual line remains an indispensable unit of the English poetic tradition, the visual spacing, usually units of two or three lines, carries out the cutting function that the kireji often performs in Japanese."  I recognize that there are ELH haiku practitioners who don't totally agree with this, but I, for the most part, do agree with it. I also think that certain English punctuation can serve the same purpose, although as Lorin Ford (I believe it was) pointed out, kireji have a vocal presence in Japanese haiku that punctuation doesn't have in English (unless one follows Victor Borge's example of "phonetic punctuation"-- :D).

I would like to discuss a little more the idea of "being too explicit." What does "being too explicit" mean? One dogma of ELH is to "show, not tell." Perhaps what is meant by "being too explicit" is when a haiku violates this dogma, and "tells." I suspect this frowned-upon telling is when the poet tells their thoughts and emotions in a haiku.

The problem with this ELH dogma is that I am not aware of such a restriction in the tradition of Japanese haiku. This leads me to wonder which interpreter of haiku, writing in English, decided that this dogma was a 'rule' of haiku.

William Higginson is quoted online as writing the following:

“When we compose a haiku we are saying, ‘It is hard to tell you how I am feeling. Perhaps if I share with you the event that made me aware of these feelings, you will have similar feelings of your own’.”

“. . . We know that we cannot share our feelings with others unless we share the causes of those feelings with them. . . Stating the feelings alone builds walls; stating the causes of the feelings builds paths.”

You'll notice that Higginson doesn't say it's wrong to share feelings. He just says that in sharing feelings, one needs to show the cause of those feelings as well.

When I first encountered this notion in ELH that the poet wasn't to explictily state their feelings, it came as a surprise to me since, in my reading of Japanese haiku, Japanese haiku poets sometimes do state their feelings explicitly (at least in the English translation).

This prompted me to survey the 400 haiku in Ueda's Modern Japanese Haiku and the 400 haiku in Ueda's Far  Beyond the Field, and list the haiku that explictily state, or clearly imply, a feeling / emotion. I posted this list on one of Gabi Greve's yahoo haiku groups. It was not a miniscule list.

And I will end this brief diatribe against one of the misguided dogmas of ELH by giving this what-should-be well-known example of "telling" by Basho:

omoshiroote yagate kanashiki ubune kana

so exciting
and, after a while, so sad--
cormorant fishing

--Basho, trans. Ueda

Does this explicit stating of emotions turn the reader into a passive recipient? I don't think so.  When a haiku poet explicitly states an emotion, the poet is inviting the reader to share in that emotion, and the poet attempts to persuade the reader to share in that emotion by how well the emotion has been 'earned' by "a clear-cut picture" or an allusion.  The reader can actively choose to share in the emotion, or actively choose to reject the emotion. I imagine there are some Japanese who disagreed with the sentiment of this haiku when it was first written, and who disagree with it today. Of course, that is their privilege.

Does this haiku have overtones? According to one of the commentators that Ueda quotes, it does.

This hokku draws on two sentences that appear in the noo play Ukai. One is: "The sight of cormorants catching fish one after another in rapid succession is so exciting that the thoughts of sin, retribution, and afterlife all go out of my mind." The other is: "It is so sad to see the darkness after the torchlight on the boat goes out."  --Shoogatsudoo

Now the reason for the sadness expressed in the Noh play is a little different I think than the reason for Basho's sadness. That, to me, is the 'twist' in this haiku, the "transformation of classical associations," the "recontextualization" that are used as sub-topic descriptions by Shirane under the entry for haikai in the index for Traces of Dreams.


P.S. Sorry about the italicized section in the middle of the post. This is unintentional on my part, but I can't figure out how to un-italicize it, and I'm not going to retype the whole thing. The italicizing in that section does not signify anything out of the ordinary.

Alan's EDIT NOTE: Hi Larry, it was just after the word kire didn't have a closed italic code in:
That is a new attribute of kire to me.

Regarding the Ma (negative space) link I provided in my previous post. I c & p'd the url as I found it, but instead of taking me back to the Wikipedia entry, for some reason it takes me to an intermediate entry. When you get to that intermediate entry, you have to click on the "Did you mean: Ma (negative space) link within the entry. That will take you to the main "Ma" Wikipedia entry. Jeesh!

Or you can do a search on "Japanese ma". There are many sites about this on the internet.

Larry Bole

So much to respond to! I will have to respond in bits and pieces, as time allows.

Beth writes:

One of the things I'm interested in is how there is an interaction between the writer and the reader that could be said to co-create the experience.  That haiku is a kind of open form which places lots of demands and trust in the reader to enter the poem and fill in the blanks, thereby creating the poem upon reading.  The writer has, in this kind of poetry, to resist being too explicit.  Not that there is a puzzle, but rather that there's an effect that is better conveyed by activity on the part of the reader instead of passivity.

The first thing I would like to say is that I don't think a reader is ever TOTALLY passive when reading any poem. However, the type of active reader involvement in any given poem can range from very simple to very complex. I assume, Beth, that you are referring to the kind of haiku/poetry that requires more complex reader involvement.

I recommend, for an interesting discussion of this aspect of haiku, pages two through five from the introduction to Henderson's An Introduction to Haiku (pagination from my Anchor Book Edition: 1958).

I will try to be as brief as possible in providing some relevant passages from these pages:

Because the haiku is shorter than other forms of poetry it naturally has to depend for its effect on the power of suggestion, even more than they do. As haiku are studied further, it will be seen that they usually gain their effect not only by suggesting a mood, but also by giving a clear-cut picture [emphasis mine] which serves as a starting point for trains of thought and emotion. But, again owing to their shortness, haiku can seldom give the picture in detail. Only the outlines or important parts are drawn, and the rest the reader must fill in for himself. Haiku indeed have a very close resemblance to the "ink sketches" so dear to the hearts of the Japanese.

. . .

...haiku reading is in itself an art, and why in order really to understand a good haiku one has to read it over many times. It is not that the picture is hazy in any way, for if the author has done his work properly, the picture is quite clear. The point is that good haiku are full of overtones. The elusiveness that is one of of their chief charms comes, not from haziness, but from the fact that so much suggestion is put into so few words.

One point worth pondering is the difference between what Beth calls "being too explicit" vs. what Henderson calls "a clear-cut picture."

Here I would like to address one more comment of Beth's in a post on this thread:

What I see is something like a structural component in making the poem that deliberately makes space for the reader.

The concept of 'space' here makes me think of the Japanese concept ma. For an introduction to ma, I refer everone to the Wikipedia entry:

More to say as time allows, but right now I have to get ready to attend a seminar on the much-neglected  American poet William Bronk.

Larry Bole

Thanks, Gabi. It helps to know that the similarity is not only to the shape of the tree, but also to its bark. And now I get that kabureta is from yabureru, meaning "be torn; be ripped."

And I like your translation. Since Japanese haiku are often written in what I like to call Japanese 'shorthand', and are not always grammatically proper (or correct), I think the comparison can be implied in English without stating it with the words "they look (like)" So I would shorten your translation to:

pine mushrooms -
the more ragged their tops,
the more like red pine

One problem is that without the reader knowing what the bark of the red pine looks like, the reader might not get the connection to the bark. The question then becomes, does one save information like that for an explanation of the haiku, or does one add it to the translation, even though the word "bark" doesn't appear in the original?

pine mushrooms -
the more bark-like their tops,
the more like red pine


Sorry to be joining this discussion so late, but I find it very interesting.

Here is David Barnhill's translation:

it's become so ragged
it looks like a pine

and I found Oseko's translation online at, of all places, a Japanese confectionary site(!):

A matsutake mushroom!
With its skin scarred, it looks like
A real pine tree!

Regarding hodo: in my Random House Japanese-English dictionary, meaning #3 is given as "to (" And the online EUDict says it means "degree, extent, bounds, limit."

In fact, Barnhill uses the word "extent" in his literal translation:

mushroom! / worn extent as-for / pine's appearance

Here is Reichhold's literal translation:

pine mushroom <> / scratched surface (state of being) / pine tree's shape

I was thinking of a pine tree looking like a tall triangle, narrowing to a point at the top. So I liked up "red pine" on Wikipedia. There are pictures of several varieties at the Wikipedia entry. None look like my image of a pine. I then looked up 'matsudake'. The picture of a red pine at the Wikipedia entry that most looks like the mushroom to me is the middle picture in the top row under "References", the one that is described as "Planted in a Japanese Garden."

As far as I can tell, only three translators who have published translations (outside of scholarly journals) have bothered to translate this haiku into English: Oseko, Barnhill, and Reichhold. And I can understand why--it seems a little artificial to me, although one could see in it a pointing out of an underlying unity of things, of correspondence between things. Of course, if kabureta (kabureru?) means "influenced by," or "reacting to," then I can see that. I must be missing something regarding how kabureta gets translated as "ragged" or "scarred."

Although both Barnhill and Reichhold list the haiku's date in their notes to the haiku as being in a period from 1684 to 1694, Reichhold puts it in her years 1692-94  section of translations, which would put it in Basho's 'karumi' style period. Basho started out writing often very clever, Danrin-style haiku, and I don't think a tendency to indulge in cleverness ever wholly left him, even in his 'karumi'-style period. This haiku seems to me to have a touch of that cleverness about it. Too much cleverness in poetry is not to my taste, although it is a prevalent style in contemporarly mainstream English-language poetry.


In-Depth Haiku: Free Discussion Area / Re: Basho's Haiku - Year's End
« on: March 14, 2012, 05:44:07 PM »
Dear HaikuCat,

Regarding the alleged Basho haiku:

Year's end, all
corners of this
floating world, swept.

--Tr. Stryk, version in On Love and  Barley: Haiku of Basho

I can't find this haiku in Jane Reichhold's Basho: The Complete Haiku, and I don't have Oseko's Basho's Haiku (two volumes) to check for it there. Unfortunately, at least in Stryk's Love and Barley, Stryk doesn't give a bibliography, nor does he cite his Japanese source for the haiku of  Basho that he translates.

Regarding Basho's

nari ni keri nari ni keri made toshi no kure

Reichhold translates this as:

it had to be
it had to be until
the end of the year

Reichhold's translations tend to be rather quirky sometimes, but I don't think 'nari ni keri' is easy to translate. As best as I can determine, 'nari ni keri' is a 'kireji' phrase. It is very unusual to use a kireji phrase twice in the same haiku, and to make it the substance of the haiku.

My attempt to translate it, which of course could be totally off-base, is:

it has become
it has become indeed
the end of the year

About this haiku, Reichhold comments:

1676--New Year. Basho and Yamaguchi Sodo (1642-1716) wrote two one-hundred-link renga, later published as Two Poets in Edo (Edo Ryooginshuu), that clearly show the influence of the Danrin school. The opening verses of both works honor Soin by referencing his name and by displaying the typical Danrin techniques and methods. With this work, BAsho established himself as a strong proponent of the school and hopeful standard-bearer.

I hope some of this may be of help to you.


Religio / Re: Christian Celebrations in Japanese Kigo
« on: March 11, 2012, 05:47:07 PM »
Dear Gabi,

Just thought I would post a couple of Christian-themed haiku by Japanese haiku poets. The first one is one that has been posted at one of your yahoo haiku groups:

baiburu wo yomu sabishisa yo hana no ame

reading the Bible
this loneliness--
rain on the blossoms

--Sugita Hisajo, Tr. Ueda

kugi uteru tenshu no teashi tsuyu no kaho

The Lord's hands and feet,
with the nails hammered through them---
dewdrops on blossoms.

--Seishi, Tr. Kodaira and Marks

Seishi's comment:

Composed 1927.
On a business trip to Nagasaki, in Kyuushuu, I visited the Ooura Catholic Church and the image of Jesus on the cross in the flower garden. Nails in his hands and feet. Dewdrops on the flowers in the garden. I thought of the blood flowing on his hands and feet.

Other points of interest [from Kodaira's and Marks' text]:

Nagasaki was one of the principal areas of missionary activity when Christianity was introduced to Japan in the sixteenth century. Ooura Catholic Church was built in 1864 and dedicated to 26 Christians crucified in 1597. Today the church has been designated a national treasure.

As I find interesting Christian-themed haiku by Japanese poets, I will hopefully remember to post them here, if you'd like.


Religio / Re: Buddhist Haiku
« on: February 21, 2012, 06:31:26 AM »
P.S. And speaking of Zen not relying on concepts, I'm reminded of Krishnamurti's anecdote:

You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, "What did that man pick up?" "He picked up a piece of the truth," said the devil. "That is a very bad business for you, then," said his friend. "Oh, not at all," the devil replied, "I am going to help him organize it."

Thus we have Soto Zen, Rinzai Zen, Obaku Zen...

Religio / Re: Buddhist Haiku
« on: February 21, 2012, 06:14:14 AM »
Hi Sue,

It is refreshing to read such thoughtful responses as yours to Chiyo's haiku; responses that don't rely on labeling the haiku as being 'Zen', which I feel is used too often as an explanatory 'crutch'.

I have been reflecting on your additional comment that "borrowing metaphors without pinning them down to concepts seems to me to be all part of the Zen way of doing things." 

"The Zen way of doing things"--what a concept!

Larry   ;)

Religio / Re: Buddhist Haiku
« on: February 20, 2012, 04:50:39 PM »
Dear Sue,

If you would, please explain to me what makes those haiku of Chiyo's that you quote specifically Zen, as opposed to exemplifying Buddhist concepts common to most Buddhist sects.

Chiyo was a nun of the Jodo-Shinshu (Pure Land) sect of Buddhism. As Donegan writes in the section, "Chiyo-ni's Life," in the book Chiyo-ni: Woman Haiku Master,

The Jodo-Shinshu sect of Buddhism was founded in the thirteenth century by Shinran, espousing a simple faith in Amida Buddha (Buddha of infinite light and compassion) and using the recitation of nembutsu prayer as the way to salvation and enlightenment and rebirth in the Pure Land. This opened Buddhism up to lay people who couldn't handle the rigors of Zen monasticism. Jodo-Shinshu was often called the "easy gate," and in Chiyo-ni's day it was the most conventional form of Buddhism.

It has become common to call anything Zen that employs Buddhist concepts common to MOST ALL Buddhist sects in the Mahayana tradition, or that smack of mysteriousness in meaning. I think this does a disservice to Buddhism in general, Zen in particular, and most especially to haiku.

I'm not sure that this is the proper forum to discuss the ways in which Zen is different from other sects of Buddhism, but I'm willing to enter into such a discussion, and how those differences may or may not apply to the writing of haiku.


P.S. It was not unusual, going back at least as far as the Heian Court era, for unattached women, or for women who didn't want to depend wholly on relatives, to 'take the tonsure' and become nuns, because this afforded women in Japanese society a certain amount of freedom normally unavailable to women living more conventional lives. But this required a certain amount of renunciation, which is not to everyone's taste. And that renunciation was sometimes practiced with varying degrees of committment.

Sails / Re: Sailing 14.5 How Do You Spell Haiku?
« on: February 16, 2012, 12:24:58 AM »
After reading some of this discussion, my question is: why call the poetry being produced, when applying to the writing some of the experimentation being theorized about, 'haiku'? Many of these 'haiku' become instead simply short poems in already-existing main stream poetry genres such as 'conceptual' poetry and 'sound' poetry.

The seasonal reference in haiku is not merely window dressing, or a place-marker, as some have implied. As Koji Kawamoto points out in his book, The Poetics of Japanese Verse: Imagery, Struture, Meter, the seasonal reference 'activates' the significance of the haiku by providing a context in which the haiku's activity takes place. Often the activity taking place in the haiku has no significance without that context. The reason a seasonal reference lacks that importance to writers of ELS haiku is because ELS haikuists generally don't have a deeply conditioned response to seasonal references in the same way that Japanese haikuists do.

And the fact that Gendai Haiku needs an adjective modifier added to the word 'haiku' means that the meaning of 'haiku' is thus being changed. Change the meaning of the word 'haiku' enough, and it becomes meaningless and useless for describing anything except a historical genre of poetry that is no longer being practiced. But I suspect that the word 'haiku' is still being used by some poets to describe what they're writing because it carries with it a certain specialized cachet, without which the poets would have to compete in the larger world of mainstream poetry, where such experimentation as has been discussed in this thread has been going on for quite some time, and to greater effect.


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