Author Topic: Field Notes 2: What can haiku poets learn from other forms of poetry?  (Read 22235 times)

Peter Yovu

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You could say that Field Notes provides a sort of virtual container for discussion-- to function both as an amplifier as well as a haven-- much as the upcoming HNA conference will no doubt do, and much as retreats can do.

That's the intention at any rate. Questions that have been raised by Diane's and Michael's (and others') posts will almost certainly come up for FN exploration. I don't exactly want to steer anyone away from ongoing discussion right now, however. If it needs to happen, it will happen.

I'm sure these posts have got a few of us thinking.

PY

Philip Rowland

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An all-too-brief comment, with so much opened up by these field notes, but Don Baird’s topic of “clarity” – his thought being that “The art of writing haiku is the art of writing, living and speaking from clarity rather than chaos” – made me want to mention George Oppen, for whom, as Eliot Weinberger says in his Preface to Oppen’s New Collected Poems, clarity “was a favorite word.” In “Of Being Numerous,” for instance, Oppen writes:

Clarity

In the sense of transparence,
I don’t mean that much can be explained.

Clarity in the sense of silence.

And in “Route”:

Clarity, clarity, surely clarity is the most beautiful
            thing in the world,
A limited, limiting clarity

I have not and never did have any motive of poetry
But to achieve clarity

It seems significant that Oppen speaks of his “motive” to “achieve” clarity, as this implies the difficulty or struggle involved: that clarity must be earned. For (also from “Route”):

Words cannot be wholly transparent. And that is the
            ‘heartlessness’ of words.

Thus – Weinberger again: “Oppen’s struggle for ‘clarity’ … did not result in the kind of small perfection of unadorned speech achieved by Reznikoff and Niedecker, poems that reached what Zukofsky called ‘total rest.’ Oppen’s poems represent the struggle itself …”

Which is too big a topic to go into here, but it could be interesting to reflect on where haiku comes into this (or to compare with Don's idea of speaking "from" clarity), as well as the question of clarity, in poetry, more generally.

And to put Oppen’s sense of clarity into the perspective of the opening lines of “Of Being Numerous,” which may resonate more clearly with haiku poetics:

There are things
We live among ‘and to see them
Is to know ourselves’.

Peter Yovu

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Philip and Don,

a wonderful subject, I think-- worthy of devoting a Field Notes to. Maybe we can do both-- some discussion here, and pick it up later more formally.

I do have some thoughts about this I'd like to try out, and will come back later.


Tomdevelyn

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Right. Much ambiguity here. good! Not so clear. Perhaps objectivism rather than imagism provides the central discourse for the topic clarity. I'd rather see haiku structure as set of open analogies, clear perhaps as narrative/ situation but polyvocal in resonance, ultimately open to mystery of finite existence, that there is anything at all.
All clear!

eluckring

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All clear, Tom!!

Phil,
you brought up this quote from Rae Armantrout from an earlier Troutswirl conversation;
seems relevant here:

Rae Armantrout, speaking of metonymic work by Hejinian and Niedecker:

“Their poems may not be as easily readable as those of [Sharon] Olds … but clarity need not be equivalent to readability. How readable is the world? There is another kind of clarity that does not have to do with control, but with attention, one in which the sensorium of the world can enter as it presents itself.”

Philip Rowland

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Thanks, Eve, for reminding me of that Armantrout quote. It’s a useful distinction (between clarity and readability; or attention-based vs. controlling clarity), which chimes with Oppen’s thought and, in a way, with the general relation of Objectivism to Imagism, which Michael Davidson sums up neatly: “Objectivism served as a corrective to (not a repudiation of) Imagism’s faith in the visual by linking the phenomenal object with an experiencing, language-using subject” (Oppen, New Collected Poems, xxxvi). As Oppen himself wrote, his intention was to “construct a method of thought from the imagist technique of poetry, from the imagist intensity of vision.”

Constructing a method of thought may not sound very haikuey, and as Don says, “the intellect is a fuzz ball – a theory mongering absence of clarity – a co-creator of chaos”. I imagine Oppen would largely agree, aware of the dangerous power of the mind and the “frightening” aspect of words. But his response would also seem to be that the chaos (so much a part of our world) must be faced, and that if one keeps striving “out of poverty / to begin // again     impoverished / of tone of pose …” (“Song, The Winds of Downhill”), thinking and speaking (“constructing”) with great care and sincerity, clarity might be achieved – the words “earned,” truth restored to them. A previously uncollected poem in the New Collected articulates this faith:

A poetry of the meaning of words
And a bond with the universe

I think there is no light in the world
but the world

And I think there is light

Much as Tom describes haiku as “ultimately open to mystery of finite existence, that there is anything at all,” Oppen’s writing is marked by a strong sense of awe or amazement. His well-known “Psalm” begins:

In the small beauty of the forest
The wild deer bedding down—
That they are there!

And ends:

                                     The small nouns
Crying faith
In this in which the wild deer
Startle, and stare out.

The poem also serves as a fairly straightforward example of his “linking the phenomenal object with an experiencing, language-using subject”: “Their eyes … The roots … Their paths … The small nouns …”

My impression is that contemporary (roughly speaking, 21st C?) English-language haiku tend to involve the “experiencing, language-using subject” more often or more explicitly than used to be the case. I agree with Tom: “Perhaps objectivism rather than imagism provides the central discourse for the topic clarity.” At least, I find it the more interesting and relevant discourse.

Peter Yovu

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I removed my earlier response-- too expansive for now, I feel.

What I would like to suggest is that the discussion be anchored with some examples--

haiku that derive from objectivist principles, and haiku that derive from imagism. Is this possible?

Maybe we can look at how "clarity" operates in either case-- or doesn't.

PY

Peter Yovu

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I was just moving around my room to some Afro-Celt Sound System music, reading a poem or two from Seamus Heaney’s Wintering Out (I have the Faber edition) and thinking about this subject-- or subjects really. I had some good thoughts. I’ve forgotten most of them. You had to be there, I guess.

A lot’s been set down in the small space of this brief (so far) discussion. Perhaps someone will read it and decide to write an essay about the influences of Objectivism, Imagism, modernism, post-modernism etc. on Elh. Can such a journey even be traced? Kind of a companion to Haiku in English.

I too think that what Don has said-- “The art of writing haiku is the art of writing, living and speaking from clarity rather than chaos” is worth looking at. Maybe Don will speak a bit more to what this means to him. It is possible that the thoughts that come to mind right now around this will not relate directly to his, or only glancingly. But I suppose that's what’s discussion is about--  coming to a point where one is responding to a fulness, not reacting to a perceived angle.

What I want mostly is to write poetry. This for me has always meant a process of discovery. It does not necessarily start from clarity-- or at least not one yet discerned. It starts from curiosity-- where will these words, these sounds, this image lead me? Why am I drawn to this tree? What's nagging at me from some unlit place?

It’s easier to apply this to poems longer than haiku. In very good poems, you can kind of trace the poet’s process-- maybe Oppen’s poems are good examples. I think this is one reason many poets dismiss haiku-- they don’t appear to have be written in the way I ‘m talking about. They appear to be products-- they are all too clear.

I think the problem in part, is this: reading a number of haiku that are simple and very clear-- they are easily grasped-- some people get the idea that this is something they can do. Maybe that’s a good starting point, but I think ultimately it’s a mistake. A better, more sober, more exhilarating starting point is when you realize you can’t write haiku. I can’t write haiku. Maybe I’m just being perverse here, but I think it’s not until you really feel this that you actually can. Write a poem. Haiku.

And yes I realize that with haiku much of the process-- the study, the engagement with language, with what perception is and so on--  and with everything that brings up-- remains mostly invisible. It comes prior to the poem we see. (Sidebar: Valery--  "A poem is never finished. It is only abandoned).

I'm not convinced that this needs be the case with haiku. Does the appearance in haiku of Philip's  “experiencing, language-using subject" speak to this-- bringing process into the work? I think some will say that's exactly what haiku should not do-- that it blurs rather than clarifies. Here too, examples would be helpful.

But with poems which are all too clear, which are easily grasped, which appear not to have been written but to have been constructed-- one does not sense the engagement.

A number of people have asked for concision in these posts. Hard to do sometimes when one needs to think things through a bit to discover one’s meaning. Or get a rhythm.

So, back to the music. Some I may have to face.

 
« Last Edit: September 01, 2013, 06:30:45 AM by Peter Yovu »

Philip Rowland

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Re: Field Notes 2: What can haiku poets learn from other forms of poetry? And
« Reply #23 on: September 01, 2013, 08:09:28 AM »
Peter asked whether it’s possible to give examples of ‘haiku that derive from objectivism, and haiku that derive from imagism’: Not sure that it is, clearly, except for the haiku written by poets directly involved in those movements – and even then, it’s worth remembering that ‘objectivist’ was a name that Zukofsky suggested only at the request of Harriet Monroe, the editor of Poetry magazine, for the 1931 issue in which Oppen, Reznikoff, Rakosi, Bunting, Williams, Rexroth et al appeared. (Zukofsky later wrote, ‘I said objectivist, and they [the ‘history books’ writers] said objectivism and that makes all the difference.’)

My impression is that Imagist haiku tended to be more literary, classicist or orientalist: e.g., Pound’s metro poem and ‘Fan-Piece, for Her Imperial Lord’ (beautiful poem) and Lowell’s ‘Autumn Haze’; Objectivist haiku or haiku-like poems to be more down-to-earth, urban and contemporary, e.g. Reznikoff’s

Among the heaps of bricks and plaster lies
A girder, still itself among the rubbish

And ‘About an excavation / a flock of bright red lanterns / has settled.’

A little-known poem of Oppen’s – one that he didn’t consider worthy of inclusion in his first collection Discrete Series – can be read as a response to Pound’s metro poem:

The pigeons fly from the dark bough
              unleaved to the window ledge;
There is no face.

The ‘precious’ elements of Pound’s poem are gone: the ‘petals’, ‘the apparition of these faces’, the poised tone. Oppen also wrote: ‘The weakness of Imagism [is that] a man writes of the moon rising over a pier who knows nothing about piers and is disregarding all that he knows about the moon.’ Does this stance align him more or less closely with ELH?

There have been many strands of later poetry that owe a lot to the Objectivists: hard to imagine Theodore Enslin or Harvey Shapiro (both of whom wrote some haiku-like short poems) without Oppen, for instance; or Creeley or Grenier (some of whose ‘Sentences’, esp., could well qualify as experimental haiku), without Zukofsky -- his play with sounds and attention/weight granted to the ‘small words’. Richard Gilbert’s haiku, ‘as an and you and you and you alone in the sea’ suddenly springs to mind.

Thomas A Clark, an inheritor of the Objectivists (Basil Bunting in particular?) has written many poems closely akin to haiku. And John Martone, whose careful weighing and fracturing of words and phrases in many poems (good examples of ‘linking the phenomenal object with an experiencing, language-using subject’?) owes something to objectivism – more so than to imagism, I’d say. But this is not to claim that Martone’s haiku are ‘derived from objectivism’, just that his work is entwined with strands of the Objectivist legacy.

On the other hand, I remember reading Rae Armantrout describe her early work as ‘neo-imagist’, and her giving the following poem (co-incidentally in 17 syllables?) as an example:

                VIEW

Not the city lights. We want

    -the moon-

                       The Moon
none of our own doing!

Perhaps this resonates interestingly, or ironically, with Oppen’s point about the ‘weakness of Imagism’. At any rate, when I read the poem, rightly or wrongly, I imagine the first mention of the moon - the oddly hyphenated, lower-case one – as the actual moon (as it’s noticed, the speaker not sure at that point where the poem’s going to go, or what her ‘view’ is), re-appearing all too soon capitalized, beginning to be subject to our ‘control’, which (as the last line exclaims) is not what she wants at all.
 
I very much agree with what Peter says in his last post about wanting, mostly, just ‘to write poetry’, and starting upon a poem (with some sort of seed in mind) as a ‘process of discovery,’ working towards rather than writing ‘from’ clarity.

Excuse the mess!



Paul Miller

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Re: Field Notes 2: What can haiku poets learn from other forms of poetry? And
« Reply #24 on: September 03, 2013, 12:40:19 PM »
I find these two comments of Peter’s interesting:

"In very good poems, you can kind of trace the poet’s process-- maybe Oppen’s poems are good examples. I think this is one reason many poets dismiss haiku-- they don’t appear to have be written in the way I ‘m talking about. They appear to be products-- they are all too clear"

"But with poems which are all too clear, which are easily grasped, which appear not to have been written but to have been constructed-- one does not sense the engagement."


Seems to open up a lot of doors. Does this bring us back to the question of whether haiku must be experienced/discovered in order for them to be valid? That somehow “desk ku” which are “constructed” are less so? Or does this hinge on the word “appear” used thrice above, which throws the boiling pot into the hands of the reader. Should our “constructions” be more clouded to be taken seriously? But that seems to fly in the face of clarity.

Paul

Peter Yovu

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Re: Field Notes 2: What can haiku poets learn from other forms of poetry? And
« Reply #25 on: September 03, 2013, 04:44:33 PM »
Yes, Paul’s post is interesting and germane to the topic of clarity. If he or anyone feels that I have muddied the stream a bit here, they may well be right.

By “written” I mean a poem, regardless of its origins, which has gone through a journey of discovery to some sort of-- I can’t avoid paradox-- dynamic resting place on the page, and in the reader’s imagination.

What I mean by “constructed” refers to a poem whose parts don’t quite cohere as a felt
“whole”. It can be grasped, but not intuited.

It’s hard to talk about this, frankly, without sounding harsh or dismissive.

Martin Lucas might disagree with my approach here, but I think he talks about, and with greater clarity no doubt, something similar in his essay Haiku as Poetic Spell.

He says: “ . . . poets writing original haiku in English have focused on what is said and
paid relatively little attention to how it is said”.

I would say it is this “how” which underlies writing as a journey of discovery.

Of course, to get a better sense of what Lucas is talking about, to get more context, requires reading his essay. Nonetheless, I’ll extract a bit more and say that he refers to
haiku which are “essentially rational”; which easily yield to prose paraphrase;
and which can be “analyzed in terms of information content alone” as “International Formula” haiku. (There’s more to it than that-- but again-- read the essay).

He says that haiku which are imbued with “poetic spell” on the other hand, are “essentially irrational- prose paraphrase not possible”; and they “cannot be analyzed in terms of information content alone”.

So another word for “constructed” may  be “formulaic”. The parts which go into such a poem can be taken apart with no real loss of meaning. The poem does not go beyond the author's intent.

And by “written” I’ll now say that the writer has worked with elements of prosody (among other things) under some compulsion or belief that sound and rhythm-- the contours of which need to be explored and discovered--  will yield a felt or intuited meaning, perhaps beyond any intention of the author. It cannot be taken apart, and the attempt destroys it.
 
This does not necessarily mean that “information” has no place-- just not a dominant one.

And of course there are poems, I and others who publish in R’r and elsewhere have sometimes been guilty of this, which are “clouded” to use Paul’s word-- which for me means they resist
taking any shape and mean whatever you want them to mean.

I’ll just add, though I think it belongs in another discussion, that “experience” as treated in haiku need not be determined as “outer” phenomena only, but may be of inner and equally real phenomena-- and expression of that may well appear to some as made up, imagined, or even fantastic, as it requires unusual language and juxtapositions. It may end up being dismissed as “desk ku”.

Philip Rowland

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Re: Field Notes 2: What can haiku poets learn from other forms of poetry? And
« Reply #26 on: September 03, 2013, 05:34:32 PM »
To respond to Paul’s: “Should our ‘constructions’ be more clouded to be taken seriously? But that seems to fly in the face of clarity.”

Armantrout’s suggestion, from Eve’s post above, seems to help answer that question: “but clarity need not be equivalent to readability. How readable is the world? There is another kind of clarity that does not have to do with control, but with attention, one in which the sensorium of the world can enter as it presents itself.”

If readability is not necessarily equivalent to clarity, a poem may appear to be "clouded" or difficult but prove, given our full attention, astonishingly clear.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2013, 07:22:41 PM by Philip Rowland »

Cherie Hunter Day

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Re: Field Notes 2: What can haiku poets learn from other forms of poetry? And
« Reply #27 on: September 04, 2013, 02:01:29 PM »
I don’t recall who said, “I write not so much to be understood but to be heard.” This quote would be appropriate on the back cover of Poetry magazine. It may be, in fact, where I read it. The words seem pitched for discussion. Do we write for a sense of belonging, to verify our experiences, to build consensus, to entertain? Or do we stand in the gap as a witness at the edge of the void. I’ve been a different places at different times in my writing. Honing words to a simple, clear, precise expression works in both registers—to be understood and to be heard. That aha! moment in haiku is one of clarity but it may be clarity at a picture of chaos. It looks so simple, much the same way silence may look like a vacuum waiting for words. But there is a great presence in what is not said. I agree with Mark Rothko who said, “Silence is so accurate.”

newtonp

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Re: Field Notes 2: What can haiku poets learn from other forms of poetry? And
« Reply #28 on: September 05, 2013, 06:04:33 AM »
In re-visitng this question briefly and reading the density of discussion above I am reminded what drew me to haiku in the first place--and a bit further away from the longer free verse I had been writing--clarity. Or is it a purity of language. A step away from academics toward the wilderness of life. For me, that's haiku. What can haiku poets learn from other forms of poetry? (Especially, the poetry one might encounter in the major literary journals) A quick, flip but accurate answer: What not to do.

Chris Patchel

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Re: Field Notes 2: What can haiku poets learn from other forms of poetry? And
« Reply #29 on: September 05, 2013, 10:50:36 AM »
Though I find much to concur with in the posts above I'm still not clear on where the topic is coming from or going to, or what the focus is about. Clarity of image? That's certainly the goal, except when it isn't. Clarity of meaning? Same thing. Clarity of vision, intention, execution? A more affirmative yea to that, but in the end I guess I don't have definitive thoughts or feelings about the word. I'm much more keen on the idea of 'immediacy' when it comes to haiku.

 

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