Author Topic: Field Notes 3: Life-Changing Haiku  (Read 12747 times)

Peter Yovu

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Field Notes 3: Life-Changing Haiku
« on: September 14, 2013, 07:20:43 AM »
For this third edition of Field Notes: Explorations in Haiku, we asked members of a panel of writers to consider which haiku, or which poets, strongly influenced them in some way. I think you will find it interesting, and perhaps touching, to learn the results of this inquiry, and I hope you will continue the exploration by adding a few of your own life-changing haiku.

Was there a poem which startled you, or perhaps nudged you, in the direction of writing? Was there a poet whose work overturned all your previous expectations or beliefs about haiku, and changed your approach to writing and reading?




Field Notes

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Re: Field Notes 3: Life-Changing Haiku
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2013, 07:34:34 AM »
acid rain less and less i am at one with nature*

              *less and less nature is nature

                        Marlene Mountain


I read this haiku in the third edition of The Haiku Anthology very early within my haiku existence. I was taking my first haiku course at Millikin University in 2008. Although I'd read works I enjoyed by Peggy Lyles, George Swede, Caroline Gourlay, etc, this was the poem that got to me.

This is a poem that didn't just change the way I thought about haiku; this poem changed about how I thought about my writing. Furthermore, it ultimately steered the content of a majority of my prose for the last six years.

I'd tinkered with human/nature relations in my fiction before, which is maybe what drew me to this poem in the first place. But it was often mildly political, maybe fantastical, but rarely spiritual or philosophical. Is there a spiritual component to this haiku? Maybe. Certainly a philosophical one in the trickle down effect that occurs with the form (the footnote) and within the content.

The repetition and the form caused me to read and reread this poem (it still does), and the process of rereading takes the first line and the footnote into a deeper space each time. The erosion from the acid rain and the disconnect between man (and the self) to nature... and then erosion of nature from nature... which consequently leads to the fact that the less nature is nature... the less man is man (at least in my reading). A loss of nature is a loss of the self. The acid rain becomes even harsher, foreign, even though it's also a matter of our own self-destruction.

I'd say this poem fostered kindness within me (much like haiku itself has done), even though this is not a kind poem. The lessons learned in Mountain's haiku—treat nature as yourself, identifying identity through nature, the dangers to nature (and the self)—became a part of my own poetry. The prose I mentioned earlier are a series of stories I've revised and added onto sporadicly from undergrad to graduate school, stemming from responses to haiku and focusing on mysticism and the challenges of it within a changing world.

Needless to say, I'm grateful for this poem.

Aubrie Cox

                                                     ***

This list could be much longer, but can’t, I’m sure, be any shorter. I have tried, to the best of my recall, to arrange the haiku in the order I first met them. For me, they are each an illustration of good writing and I return to them when I’m in need of a reminder of what that is.

Not life-changing so much as life-affirming. The longer I go on in haiku the broader my tastes become, although I see there is nothing particularly “modern” in the group below … yet.

scampering over saucers –
the sound of a rat.
Cold, cold

    Yosa Buson

Each line (as translated by Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite in The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse, published in 1964) is strong in its own right; together they leave us trembling with fear, revulsion and freezing cold.


summer grasses –
all that remains
of warrior’s dreams

    Matsuo Basho

Life, death, the futility of war, the power of nature … all in three lines and as applicable in 2013 as it was in the late 1600s. (Not sure where this translation comes from, but it’s my preferred version.)


dusk
up to my ears
in birdsong
               
    John O’Connor, New Zealand

How often we let the busy-ness of our minds and lives dominate. This is a haiku of redemption – letting go the artificiality and falseness of modern life and just being. And what brings this about? The beauty of birdsong. Setting the poem at dusk rather than dawn adds to the feeling of the day’s burden being lifted.


thunder-filled clouds –
over the bridge come
jingling-jangling horses

    Cyril Childs, New Zealand

I can “see” this haiku, as well as hear it. The pace and rhythm are surely those of a pair of Clydesdale horses with buffed and burnished coats, plaited manes and tails, and decked out in bells and brasses for a show or fair, stepping in unison and causing everyone they pass to stop and stare. The close heat suggested by the first line adds to the “unreal” sight of the horses. Magic.


foghorns —
we lower a kayak
into the sound

    Chistopher Herold, US

I sometimes forget haiku can be playful and I sometimes overlook the importance of word choice. Here is a perfect teacher and one of my favourites … and it all hinges on the word “sound”.


gentle as a dead friend’s hand
resting on my shoulder –
this autumn sunshine

    Nakamura Kusadao

A beautiful lament on the passing of life, both the friend’s and the poet’s. I first met the poem in The Penguin Book of Japanese verse but prefer this version from Haiku Poetry Ancient & Modern (MQ Publications, London, 2002). No translation credit was given.


river sunrise
        a girl’s shadow
                 swims from my ankles

    Lorin Ford, Australia

Yes, thank you, I know full well what my chronological age is, but on the inside … I also think of this haiku as a “return home” poem where the sunrise and river have triggered a long-dormant memory.


rain, rain ...

      we let her unborn twin
      
return to loam

    Mark Harris, US

In the midst of the deep grief expressed I sense an acceptance that bodes well. A powerful and moving haiku.

Jim Kacian’s work never does less than delight and astonish me although I find I can’t pick one from the many so this statement will have to stand as acknowledgement of the influence of his body of work.

Sandra Simpson

                                                    ***


Below are some poems that, from memory, alerted me to somewhat 'non-standard' possibilities in haiku, and in that sense made me rethink my approach around the time I was discovering and starting to publish haiku (the mid-to-late 90s).

A pair with similarly appealing pathos and humour:

missing a kick
at the icebox door
it closed anyway
- Jack Kerouac

I open the drawer with nothing in it just to see
- Hôsai Ozaki

Also Hôsai's:

I cough and am still alone

for its astonishing brevity and simplicity. Likewise, Jacques Roubaud's minimal poem (from Dors):

une branche

frotte

la fenêtre


et puis

frotte

la fenêtre


a branch

rubs

the window


and then

rubs

the window

which James Kirkup describes as 'pure haiku' in his essay 'Some Modern European Haikuesque Poets' (in the anthology A Certain State of Mind, 1995 -- a book that I found stimulating, despite its being, as David Burleigh has put it, 'carelessly assembled and [having] no overriding theme').

Another 'haikuesque' set of poems that I found fascinating was Robert Grenier's Sentences (published in the 70s). The fragmentation in many of these was suggestive of possibilities for haiku that hadn't been explored much. e.g.

except the swing bumped by the dog in passing

or the starlight on the porch since when

Martin Shea's classic

moving
           through the criteria---
                              a breeze.

was also eye-opening and memorable for its pivotal use of the unexpectedly abstract word 'criteria'.

And John Ashbery's pieces in haiku mode (from the 80's collection A Wave) seemed to offer a distinctive take on haiku; also marking, in some cases, a boundary of abstraction, e.g.

I inch and only sometimes as far as the twisted pole gone in spare colors

Sayumi Kamakura's collection A Singing Blue, a 'quieter' counterpart to her husband Ban'ya Natsuishi's A Future Waterfall, made at least as lasting an impression on me. e.g.,

The swimsuit on,
my soles forget
absolutely everything

The child deep
in green sleep;
the mother sleeps
in purple

Philip Rowland
                                                     

                                              ***

For me, it was, and is, the haiku of Raymond Roseliep that got me started, make me think and rethink my approach to haiku, show me possibilities
for the craft, and keep alive my faith in the genre. He was an innovator in the form during the 19870s-80s, and it was my great luck to study under one of his students, Bill Pauly, professor at Loras College in Dubuque. Roseliep's work is timeless and ageless. His style/voice is one of the reasons that I understand there are many ways to write successful, compelling, and challenging haiku, in both traditional and nontraditional practice. I am also greatly excited about Richard Gilbert's The Disjunctive Dragonfly and do believe Roseliep would embrace the variety of voices writing English-language haiku today.
 
Three from each of Roseliep's collections, Listen to Light (1980) and Rabbit in the Moon (1983):
 
 
lilyhold
on itself
before burst
 
 
the cry
is here
where I buried it
 
 
flake too quick
for a peephole
to the absolute
 
 
        bird in hand
the stirrings
       in a boy
 
 
two butterflies
love-knot
the air
 
 
your death
in the bird loud air
       no further word

Francine Banwarth

                                                  ***



What haiku changed me as a haiku poet? As a person?

This one by Peggy Willis Lyles:

winter stillness
leaves become
their veins

I heard Peggy read this in June of 2009 at The Haiku Circle in Northfield, MA. She came up from Georgia with her husband, Bill. What Southern manners. She read and we fellow poets listened. Yes, in a circle. Entranced. The nuances. The humor. The heart-felt observations of a life well-lived. And well-written.

Earlier that day, Peggy said that "a haiku is the shortest distance between two hearts." Only someone who'd spent a good part of her life writing haiku can mean something like that. Poetry, Peggy was teaching me that day, is in the art of the simply spoken truth. No more. No less. This poem helps me remember what Poetry is.

winter stillness
leaves become
their veins

Yes, they do don’t they. Death becomes life becomes death becomes the cycle of a tree, which is the cycle of us. A portrait of the disintegration of leaves with its descending order of syllables, 4-3-2 acts as a a count-down of sorts. We become our skeletal selves, it seems to say. A return to our original strength. For me, this is a lesson in the multiple levels on which even a six word poem can work, in fact, must work in order to be the most effective. Literal and figurative.

Brevity--there's even more to it than I'd thought. I started to look at poems in a new light.

Poet as cat thief: get in get out before anyone discovers what's missing.

I didn't know I'd been robbed of my emotions.  After all, it was just Peggy, a woman with her words with an image she wanted to share. No ego. No baggage. No glossary of poetic terms necessary. Her words and the order in which she placed them like carefully placed footsteps.

I began to realize that a powerful poem and specifically, a powerful haiku has to have invisible scaffolding holding it up. Let's make it an invisible trellis because it also has to be beautiful. The heart remembers a trellis.

winter stillness
leaves become
their veins

Peter Newton


                                                    ***


I first encountered the Roman poet Horace (65 – 8 BCE) in high school Latin, then more seriously in grad school. All that indirectly prepared me for a “life in letters” (to use an old phrase): teaching, writing, editing, agenting. As an undergraduate, I had a quarrel about Ezra Pound with a professor whom years later I’d learn was famous for haiku. I didn’t know anything about haiku until twenty some years later I decided to add a haiku component to a continuing education program at Brown University. But I had been prepared by Horace (and no doubt Ezra Pound), whose lapidary style (as Nietzsche called it) depends on brevity and juxtaposition. Another feature of Horace’s style is a “leap” in content prepared by often unnoticed word associations. So when I started to teach haiku (first in order to draw new students to the course, then because students demanded a haiku component), I was prepared to treat the form with great care, knowing that the form carries with it a “mind-set” or “episteme”: the kigo in Basho, in conjunction with a “realistic” scene, transforms the scene as if by magic, allowing it to express feelings otherwise muted or repressed. As for Horace, scholarship for Basho has deepened my understanding and enjoyment. My head often tracks a conversation between the Roman poet and the Japanese haijin (see my haibun Accidental Pilgrim, Single Island Press, 2008). What they have in common is vital form, a way of structuring words so that invisible “intimate universals” become visible. This expectation of vital imagery drawing on deep connections – what we may call the fertile void – leaves me dissatisfied with a lot of modern haiku. Today the new Norton anthology provides us a handy canon with which to explore the “mindsets” of modern haiku, perhaps even construct a cultural history of haiku in English. It will be fascinating to discover the tacit assumptions about reality that have reshaped haiku so that it resonates with contemporary expectations.

Tom D’Evelyn
« Last Edit: January 31, 2014, 07:23:06 AM by Peter Yovu »

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Re: Field Notes 3: Life-Changing Haiku
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2013, 07:45:00 AM »
I don’t think I can point to one poem, but I can point to one poet: Fay Aoyagi. If you look at the arc my work has taken it started out very derivative of what I was reading in Blyth, and then started to incorporate local flavors, mostly from my hikes in the various hills/peaks of California. This is also around the time I discovered John Wills and Christopher Herold, both poets who at that time tended to subsume their personality to their surroundings. There is nothing wrong with this. And frankly I found it a relief to write about the wonderful natural world I was encountering than to be yet another confessional poet. As my pseudonym implies, I know/hear enough about myself to not want to hear anymore, and at that time I couldn’t think why any other person would want to hear about me either; I delighted in writing about the other.
 
Yet, on occasion, the self and the other collide in meaningful ways. At this time (don’t ask me the date) I became familiar with Aoyagi’s work through HPNC. Never underestimate the value of groups and what other poets can teach you.  Aoyagi wrote in the wonderful Introduction to her first collection Chrysanthemum Love (see here: http://thehaikufoundation.org/diglib/aoyagi_love.pdf):
 
                I don’t write to report the weather. I write to tell my stories.
 
That was shocking. And even more shocking were her poems, which were often very modern in that the link between her observation and herself was seemingly tenuous—perhaps even too personal for me to understand. But that didn’t mean you couldn’t write it! This all came about as I was starting find my own voice and to incorporate more of myself into my poems anyway, and as Fay commented to me once, “You are always in your poems, but lurking in the background, unseen.” Her example gave me permission to step forward into my poem’s foreground, to be more overt; and occasionally as Charles Trumbull once said of my work, to be “Aesopian.” To quote Jim Carroll: “Everything is permitted.”
 
Perhaps this is obvious to many poets reading this, especially with the avant garde haiku we’re seeing in so many of the public journals these days, but it wasn’t obvious to me at that time; and I can see how it may not be obvious to some today. After all, we have any number of “gate-keepers” to get through to get our work published (I suppose I am one of them), and to do so we sometimes write what is expected or what we think is expected, rather than what truly emerges from our mind/heart/soul. I think the lesson I learned from Fay was to believe in my own voice. She will tell you that most editors at the time rejected her work; but that didn’t stop her.
 
Since this is supposed to be about poems, I’ll conclude with a few of hers:
 
migrating birds—
the weight
of my first voters’ guide
 
August waves
I tell my history
to jellyfish
 
cold rain—
my application
to become a crab
 
I particularly love the last one. No idea what it “means” but I take away a lot.

Paul Miller

                                             ***


was that a leaf
returning to its branch?
ah no! a butterfly!
 
This Moritake poem (in my rendition) primarily represents classical Japanese haiku here. And guess what? The whole phenomenon sure enough had some influence on me! This particular poem moreover convincingly evokes in me the awareness of being.
 
What does not change
is the how and why
of a dragonfly.
 
This poem primarily represents W.J. van der Molen’s haiku poetry, demonstrating how a classical Japanese tradition can merge with a western poet’s highly personal poetics. Who ever would have thought of that? Not me – at least not without examples like this.
 
stars     crickets
 
This George Swede poem demonstrates the power of evocative writing. For whatever the poet himself had in mind, I am immediately taken into a summer evening in the south of France: you can even smell it! And what’s more: it shows that form follows function, that haiku does not follow rules, but that the rules follow haiku.

Max Verhart

                                                ***



It’s rare to experience a poem that has caused me to rethink my approach. By “rethink,” I take this to mean “expand” widen my conceptual range or understanding; to become aware of new modes of possibility or approach within the form. Haiku that have catalyzed such experiences have been presented in various articles and books I’ve published since 2000.

I’d like to share a poem which has most recently caused me to see haiku in a new way. This same poem catalyzed a new category of disjunction, which I termed “forensic parthenogenesis,” and is now found as one of the newly coined “disjunctive techniques of ‘strong reader resistance’” in Disjunctive Dragonfly (Red Moon Press, August, 2013, 132 pp.). By way of explanation here is an excerpt describing this poem—with some additional examples (from pp. 98-100):

In “Forensic Parthenogenesis,” particulars of non-human sentient beings self-generate a cosmos (as environments, a wilds, expressions of nature) through strong disjunction; such beings appear as autonomous creatures (i.e. not as pets, or associated to the human body). Concerning notions of sentience, haiku that do not place themselves so strongly in alternate types, such as “misplaced anthropomorphism” or “displaced mythic resonance,” and usually utilize the genre-style of naturalist description.
     In haiku with strong parthenogenic disjunction, transformative elements, though presented as objectively descriptive fact (naturalistic), will also often be “impossibly true.” As relatively urban/nature-insulated moderns, surrounded by environments of utility and digital realities, technology, etc., haiku possessing forensic parthenogenesis reveal something about how we sense wild nature. There seems an urge or desire for new forms of mythos here being expressed — new ways of animal dreaming — that are at the same time, animals dreaming us.

inside a bat's ear
a rose
opens to a star

Eve Luckring, 2011, RR 11:3

(The haiku which inspired this category. The idea that an animal (or animal particular) provides a motif or fulcrum for a new poetic cosmos, impelled via disjunction. The poet draws the reader into a unique contemplation, from “inside a bat's ear,” within its dark auricle, drawn from a creature of darkness, colorblind, ultrasonic, navigational, acoustic — and offers a mysterium coniunctionis (“mysterious conjunction”; a final alchemical synthesis) which may represent the unification of body, soul and spirit.)


in the nucleus
   of a migrating cell
      the summer sea

               Mark Harris, 2012, MH 43.3


within mist
the blueness of a fox
falling petals death in war

                Kaneko Tohta, 2012, Selected Haiku, Part 2 (Gilbert et al, trans., RMP)


clouds in a mare’s eye the fracture beyond repair

               Clare McCotter, 2012; HIE 314


never touching
his own face
tyrannosaurus

                  John Stevenson, 2011, Acorn 27

(As Tyrannosaurus Rex couldn't even touch its mouth, with arms so short. This poem of realism forges a connection between that most terrible king of predators and our own face, by implied contrast: with the crucial difference of touch.)


ants begin to look like an idea

                 Scott Metz, 2009; lakes & now wolves (MHP, 2012)


as the world fails saxophone in the lips of a walrus

                Marlene Mountain, 2009; H21 130


Disjunctive Dragonfly: A New Approach to English-language Haiku
http://www.redmoonpress.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=32&products_id=179


Richard Gilbert

                                                   ***


Show me a haiku that changed your life--
   I wish I could say when lightning struck and what poem it was, but there is no single haiku that changed my life.  It has been like looking at a gem with many facets.   The feeling and intuition are everything. And each haiku has its truth.

   Haiku has been life changing for me because it is life affirming. It has also given me years of pleasure and companionship in the sensitivity, perceptiveness, humor and humanity of my fellow poets.

 What got you started?
    I started writing and publishing my poetry in high school, but had little exposure to haiku until college. I had read a lot of modern poetry by Elliot, Yeats, Frost, Pound, and others.  Pound’s famous haiku-like poem stood out:

Apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough 

    And I had read some of Kerouac’s experiments with haiku : Birds singing in the dark,--/Rainy dawn  and  Brighter than the night/my barn roof/of snow

   I also was intrigued by the imagery and economy of words in Chinese poetry.  Although I don’t remember specific poems, this is an example by Wang Wei
“On branch tips the hibiscus in bloom.
The mountains show off red calices.
Nobody. A silent cottage in the valley,
One by one flowers open, then fall.

    Like many older haiku poets, I started with 5-7-5,  working in isolation, not aware of any haiku groups, books on the subject, magazines, etc. And without the infinity of the internet.

     My first exposure to haiku was  Peter Pauper Press’s The Four Seasons and Harcourt, Brace, and World’s Cricket Songs.  The translations were forced into 5-7-5 pattern,  but something came through.

Leaf falling on leaf,
on mounds of leaves, rain splashing
in pools of rain… by Gyodai (Cricket Songs)

     R. H. Blyth, well known to most haiku poets today, was also an influence through his four-volume series of translations of Japanese haiku and commentaries published in the 1950s. His work helped many aspiring haiku poets gain insight into Japanese haiku. 

    Living in Japan was a major influence.  I was exposed to a society where millions of people enjoyed writing poetry and where poets were highly respected.

      In the early years in Japan , I  focused on the  classical poets  like Basho, Issa, Buson, Santoka , and others, whose work was translated and available. 

    I especially liked the directness and simplicity of  Santoka Taneda’s haiku:
No more sake/I stare at the moon and  All day I said nothing/The sound of the waves

   Gradually, in the 80’s and 90’s, more and more haiku by modern poets was translated into English. We could enjoy the extraordinary haiku of  Seishi Yamaguchi, Kato Shuson, Akito Arima, Takaha Shugyo, Inahata Teiko (granddaughter of Takahama Kyoshi), Yatsuka Ishihara, and  others. 
 
  Some examples of their work: Akito Arima: into the ranks/of the suits of armor/deep winter, and the Big Bang’s/afterglow yet also/first light of the year.
   Takaha Shugyo: In its mane/the grime of one whole summer--/carousel horse and Leaving the ocean/piece by glittering piece/winter Orion
 Inahata Teiko: Lightning/running down inside/lightning
 Yatsuka Ishihara:  Pulling light/from the other world…/The Milky Way

     In the 90’s, poets like  Yatsuka Ishihara, Akito Arima, Kazuo Sato, Tadashi Kondo, and Tota Kaneko, among others, stepped forward to support the internationalization of haiku.

     As the American haiku movement grew, we had William J. Higginson’s influential books and Cor van den Heuvel’s Haiku Anthology to give us an overview of the breadth and variety of haiku being written.

    In the late 90’s after leaving Japan, I found new inspiration at home in the U.S.  There were new directions in subject matter, experiments with punctuation, spacing, and more.

    Some of the haiku expressed not just gentle perceptions of nature but also  captured the loneliness and alienation of modern life in a spare  few words. Here is Jack Cain’s
 –empty elevator/opens/closes.  And Christopher Patchel’s 
winter night/the female voice/of my computer.

    Looking at American haiku, I especially admire the feeling, the authenticity, the sense of place and large spaces.  There are so many examples, but for instance, Chad Robinson’s
Buffalo Bones/a wind less than a whisper/in the summer grass;

 Lee Gurga’s winter prairie--/a diesel locomotive/throttles down in the night;

And Billie Wilson’s retreating glacier--/how long since we’ve heard/the black wolf’s song.
 
   There is even some wabi/sabi in poems like  Nicholas Virgilio’s town barberpole/stops turning/autumn nightfall.

     And there is something very close to the bone in the haiku of Roberta Beary,as she explores the complexity of human relationships:
third date--/the slow drift of the rowboat/in deep water.

   In this poem by Yu Chang, there is a mysterious connection between the two juxtaposed images: starry night/biting into a melon/full of seeds. We feel and accept the mystery of the connection, but do not really need to pin it down.

      Marlene Mountain’s striking pig and I spring rain appears to have opened the way for more one-line haiku. 

  The last line of  Kiyoko Tokutomi’s  haiku gives us a  shock of reality:  Chemotherapy/in a comfortable chair/two hours of winter.

  There are haiku describing our ordinary lives and work, as in Dee Evetts’ summer’s end/the quickening of hammers/toward dusk

Becoming dusk,--/the catfish on the stringer/swims up and down(Robert Speiss)
 
  And there are haiku that catch the moment ” live,” as in Dee Evett’s perceptive   morning sneeze/the guitar in the corner/resonates.

  Also in Glenn Coats’s house inspection/a stranger plucks/the violin.

  And there is always the pleasure of reading a haiku aloud :
    Rain in gusts/below the deadhead/troutswhirl (John Wills)
     
   So many good poets, so many good poems.  It is a legacy and a community to be proud of.     

     
Kristen Deming
« Last Edit: September 18, 2013, 09:13:12 AM by Field Notes »

Field Notes

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Re: Field Notes 3: Life-Changing Haiku
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2013, 07:54:40 AM »
In a poetry handbook (I wish I could recall which one), I encountered a translation of Bashō's striking "heron" haiku. Sam Hamill translates it like this:

A lightning flash--
and, piercing the darkness
a night heron's cry

I had been writing terse imagistic poems since 1990 and was searching for appropriate ways to render the experiences I was having while hiking and birding in and around Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. As I started to grasp what haiku might be, it seemed the perfect vehicle for helping me to achieve my goals. At the time, I was completely ignorant of all efforts to write original haiku in English except the provisionary ones of the Imagists.

A few years later, while browsing a bookstore, I stumbled upon the third edition of Cor's Haiku Anthology . . .


My early efforts, predictably, were in strict 5-7-5 form, which I then believed was "essential" to haiku. Cor's anthology supplied some excellent models along these lines, such as some of the work of James W. Hackett and O Mabson Southard.

But what was eye-opening was that most of the haiku were not composed in that form. One that instantly took me by the throat was Nick Virgilio's

bass
picking bugs
off the moon

Seven syllables, five stressed. Here was everything I was after: concreteness, suggestiveness, density, essence, relations, fidelity to experience and perception rather than mere literalness . . . a visionary naturalism that seemed to fulfill the unachieved ambitions of the Imagists and their allies. And like a faithful translation of Bashō or Buson, it wasn't 5-7-5. With such a catalyst, I was ready to evolve in my own practice.


Recently, I experienced a sense of renewed faith in the power and possibilities of the genre when I read this:

one of the wolves
shows its face
firelight

Chad Lee Robinson
South by Southeast 19.3, 2012

So much of what's important here is unstated yet implied: the darkness, the howls, the cold, the people huddled round the campfire. There's a spine-chilling atmosphere to the whole thing. This fleeting encounter, fraught with a mixture of fear, respect, and awe, presumably on both sides, possesses an elemental and timeless quality that's actually quite rare. It could have been written during the Ice Age. And yet it speaks also to the contemporary reintroduction of wolves into the United States, and in that respect it's about humans and wolves in quite another way than what's apparent on the surface. Both a cave painting and the field note of a contemporary ethologist, it reminds us that a seemingly traditional subject can be a very current one. And even as it evokes past and present realities, it might seem also like the seed out of which myth is born. It was that rare one in thousands that instantly imprinted every word on my memory.

And that firelight, do you see it principally in the wolf's eyes?

Allan Burns

                                              ***


warm rain before dawn:
my milk flows into her
unseen
            Ruth Yarrow
 
I remember seeing this haiku in the second edition of The Haiku Anthology by Cor van den Heuvel in the summer of 1992. My son just turned three. I would read and write haiku while he took his afternoon naps. This haiku opened a whole new realm for me. It granted me permission to write from very personal experience. I had nursed my son for nearly a year and it was surprising to me how my slim body produced enough milk to not only feed but fatten a baby. I remember how the let-down reflex felt as milk begins to flow. It’s a very intimate moment between mother and baby, and Ruth shared this experience. Yarrow juxtaposes the warm rain that feeds the earth with mother’s milk – the connection feels absolutely true and part of a deeper mystery. It’s celebratory. This haiku validated for me that a woman’s experience is a worthy subject for poetry. In a culture that vilifies a woman for breastfeeding in public even when hidden under a cover, this haiku clearly challenged that notion, but it does so in the most gentle and positive way. Twenty-one years later it still reverberates for me. I’m grateful to Ruth Yarrow.
 
Though I rarely write haiku as openly sensual as “warm rain before dawn:,” I admire poems that take that risk. 
 
everywhere you touch is yes     cherry blossoms

           S.B. Friedman

Cherie Hunter Day

                                                  ***

On being posed the question, “show me a haiku that changed your life,” I can’t say that it’s possible for me to narrow it down to a single haiku. I first started writing haiku fairly regularly in 1976, when I learned about this poetry in high school. I wrote perfect 5-7-5 haiku, all with glorious titles, for nearly a dozen years. Then, in July of 1987 I bought my first haiku book (a minimalist Lucien Stryk translation of Basho) and began buying other books of and about haiku. In November of that year I got a copy of the second edition of Cor van den Heuvel’s The Haiku Anthology. This book, more than any other, confronted me with my naïve presumption that haiku in English was supposed to be 5-7-5 syllables. If I could point to one poet who flew in the face of the 5-7-5 straightjacket, it was Marlene Mountain. Her visual work was especially confronting. Together with Cor’s “tundra” and other visual/aural poems in this anthology, the general fact that nearly 90 percent of the poems were not 5-7-5 (yes, I counted) radically shifted my sense of haiku. That, I think, changed my poetic life. But again, I don’t think I could point to a single poem that changed my life.
 
The larger point here is that haiku has more range than many of us might at first believe. This idea is central to the idea of “targets” for haiku rather than rules. Haiku has many possible targets, 5-7-5 being one of them, if one so chooses—although the syllable-counting target is one that comes at a cost for producing a longer poem than the seventeen sounds counted in Japanese. A given haiku might not hit the season-word target (by accident or on purpose), or might not hit the cutting word or juxtaposition target, and so on, but if a poem hits a preponderance of possible targets, then it can succeed as a haiku, or at least be a haiku. There’s a point where a poem goes too far and is no longer a haiku, and each of us will draw that line where we will. But the general point holds up, I believe, that the difference between haiku and not-haiku is whether a poem hits a preponderance of possible targets for the genre. Beyond a certain point, a poem might evoke a haiku sensibility, or beg to be considered as poetry in relation to haiku, but there’s a point on the continuum where a poem is no longer haiku. As we learn more varieties and approaches to haiku, we may add new targets to the various possibilities, and thus the threshold point may shift. Also relevant is how territorial or proprietary we want to be in saying “this is haiku” and “this is not haiku,” but the first perceptions most people have of haiku are necessarily narrow—or in some cases exceedingly broad. Exploring the possible targets for haiku is a process of expanding our reading and writing experience, of encountering the strange and uncomfortable. Those encounters don’t stop after one gets past the urban myth of 5-7-5. In this context, I suppose that any poem that one encounters along the way has the potential to change one’s life if it changes the way one draws the haiku map.
 
We can become addicted to edge haiku, though, and forget that they’re just the edges. Such poems that “change your life” do indeed tend to be on the fringes, the way Cor’s “tundra” is a fringe haiku—and one that changed my life. It’s a poem I dearly love but would not use as a central model for teaching haiku. So, not to be neglected among “boundary” haiku that might change one’s life are more centrist haiku that might not have changed anyone’s lives but are still dearly loved for aesthetic or personal reasons. Basho talked about taking the “middle way” with his poetry, and I think it’s important to remember these poems as much as the fringe poems, even if they don’t necessarily change our lives. I know some people keep notebooks where they record favourite haiku by others that have really moved them over the years. I wish I’d had such a practice, as it would be useful to see what mattered to me at certain times, and perhaps to understand why. Over time we can see how certain poems continue to stand out, whereas others might fade away. In all, I would say that what matters is not just poems that have changed your life, but poems that are your life. It’s not just one’s first and last breaths that matter, but every breath in between.
 
Michael Dylan Welch

                                                 ***


A certain deep moodiness in which tangible reality and an affective expression meet in haiku began to seep in the 1950’s by reading in the Beats and what they read and exposure to the Rochester Zen Center. Basically a realization of facets of Buddhist ideas and practice. This coupled with a fondness for nature poety, by way of the English Romantics, Whitman, Snyder, etc., and exposure to Native American culture, and later in understanding Shinto fused with the simplicity of imagist sensibility, such as in Amy Lowell. All this came together when I read Virginia Brady Young’s:

moonlight—
                a sand dune
                shifts

in “Frogpond” (1990).

Later I used this poem as an example of the so-called “haiku moment.” A kind of realization provoked on the sensibility by an occurrence in the natural world. How simple and how momentous. An opening up of consciousness.

And later still I was struck by a haiku by Burnell Lippy in “Frogpond” (2004) whose depths I have not yet totally fathomed:

deep in the sink
the great veins of chard
summer’s end

I recently understand the first two lines augur the burrowing down of the natural world, literally for flora through roots and fauna through hibernation and us through warmer clothes. They demarcate as embodied in the objective correlative of the chard’s prominent veins (the plants’ roots deep in the earth). One envisions perhaps the approaching coldness in the deep metal sink. The poet’s sensibility picks up already the beginnings of this coldness in line three which loops back or links to the objective correlative of lines one and two. I had been writing haiku based on the subtle change of seasons but this poem occurs in a subtler expression than I could have achieved up until reading it. In all, the poet is alive in a subtle sense and the haiku records the opening of broader consciousness and natural sensibility that occurred. When I read the haiku and experience the depth of the opening, as in a different modality I had with Young’s “moonlight” haiku, I am drawn into the wondrous facet of such openings as such and the conjunction of this with all the affective elements of poetry that are so appreciated in such a simple pared down manner, as if haiku were an essential metaphor, the simplest poetry in and of the world.


Bruce Ross

                                                  ***


Haiku, in general, has changed my life but I can’t identify individual haiku in this way. Here is one that changed my sense of haiku:
 
pig and i spring rain
 
               marlene mountain
 
I am grateful that this poem was already published and well known before I encountered the world of ELH. It both partakes of traditional ideas about the genre (seasonal resonance, juxtaposition, concision) and makes them new. It was, for me, an invitation to use all of my previously developed skills as a poet in this new (to me) poetry. Many other poems subsequently reinforced this point but this one might have been the first for me.

John Stevenson

                                                ***

We’ve been asked to share a haiku that influenced us or taught us something or changed the course of our writing or reading haiku.  As I mulled this over, I went to my bookshelf and picked out R.H. Blyth's four volume set, Haiku.  These books were my first introduction to haiku, and I flipped through some of the poems I recall having liked when I first read them. 

yuku ware ni todomaru nare ni aki futatsu
 
I who am going,
and you who remain
two autumns
 
When I reached this haiku by Masaoka Shiki, it overwhelmed me once again.  My muscles relax, my sense of time disappears, and I slip into a haiku vortex.  What is it about this haiku that moves me so?  And by extension, what has it taught me?  A few thoughts come to mind.
 
First, in the original Japanese, the aural rhythm of the poem is gorgeous.  The haiku flows when I speak it aloud.  (Another haiku with perfect pitch, which also happens to be by Shiki, is one of his most famous: kaki kueba kane ga naru nari hōryūji.)  These are haiku I can sing in my head, the way I might a favorite tune.
 
So, from Shiki's yuku ware haiku, I learned to respect the aural aspect of a haiku.  A haiku isn't just about the moment or just about the message.  It's poetry.  Make it sing!
 
Another powerful aspect of Shiki's yuku ware haiku is the moment that it captures.  If haiku involves capturing a moment in time and space (I'm not saying it has to), then which moment is worthy of a haiku? Why this moment and not that moment?  A great haiku poet or a great haiku captures a moment that stirs not only the author, but also the anonymous reader.  This is not easy, given that the reader wasn't there for the original moment, and can only experience it secondhand.
 
So, the second thing I learned from Shiki's haiku is to pay heed to the moment I choose to capture.  I suppose a more accurate way of putting this is to say that I learned to throw out haiku that capture trivial moments, or moments that others cannot connect with.   
 
Finally, a third aspect of this haiku which I value is its intellectual appeal.  In addition to grabbing me on an emotional level, I like a haiku to stimulate my mind.  With a good haiku, the more I learn about the author, or about the circumstance in which it came about, or about its context, the greater my pleasure.   
 
Shiki wrote his yuku ware in 1895, upon bidding goodbye to his friend Natsume Soseki, when Shiki was leaving Matsuyama for Tokyo.  Only a few short years later, though, Shiki's tuberculosis worsened to the point where he was completely bedridden.  In 1902, at the age of 35, he died.  In his waning days, as he lay on his futon, nearing death, I wonder whether this haiku held an entirely different meaning for Shiki and for his friend Soseki:
 
I who am going,
and you who remain
two autumns

Abigail Friedman
« Last Edit: September 15, 2013, 11:24:34 AM by Field Notes »

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Re: Field Notes 3: Life-Changing Haiku
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2013, 08:15:37 AM »



     on this cold
                spring  1
             2  night  3  4
                kittens 
                 wet
                    5

                    Marlene Mountain



This haiku was the springboard for Jim Kacian’s playful and illuminating talk, called
“A Grammar of Organic Form”, at HNA this year.

I was happily reminded of the first time I read this many years ago.

For me, this is a brilliant example of how content and form can become one and the same.  What makes this poem stand out for me is how it gives shape to an event—a cat birthing kittens—that defies an easy outline.  And in the process of giving form to this experience, the poem itself is born in front of us. The poet’s process of discovery is delivered in “real time” right along with the newborn kittens. 

Like the best of any haiku, this poem does not rely on the illustration of appearance; rather it is an evocation of experience: cold, darkness, anticipation, wonder, surprise, wetness. It is resolutely concrete, deceptively simple.  Its novelty does not feel to me like it is trying to be clever; it feels like the poet is trying to communicate the perception process itself.

The Arabic numerals, their placement, their sounds, and the rhythm of their counting sequence irrupt the flow of normative reading.  The first three lines are composed of single syllable words. The sounds of the words in relationship to one another (along with the line breaks) cause them to enter the counting rhythm of the numbers.  This suspends, ever so briefly, any one-to-one mapping of word to meaning. Words and numbers point to their referents in different ways.  Are we making a list? of what? Are we counting spring nights?

With the next line, the two-syllable, one-word “kittens”, I suddenly realize what is taking form in this cold dark air.  And the next one-word line “wet”, an adjective, dangles sensually out of its proper position before the noun and lingers viscerally.  The sequence of the one-word lines “kittens”/”wet” slow the pace and visually direct me down vertically, from the moving shape of the mother’s lumpy belly to the last kitten, “5”, just out of the birth canal.  This poem is simultaneously mother, carrier of new life, and the newly born itself.

Eve Luckring

                                               ***


While I can’t find any examples of what I’m about to describe, I know I’ve encountered haiku in journals and anthologies that have provoked my thinking about the relationship between dialogue and haiku, and the ways in which haiku could incorporate the words of a particular imaginary character who is meant to be distinct from the author---say, a fantastical being or comic strip character. I’ve lately been curious as to how to create a comic strip with characters that “speak” in haiku and how such a comic would differ from the usual comic strips---that is, what limitations on dialogue would be imposed by the haiku form.  If it were an action-centered comic strip, resembling a serial with a plot, how would the narrative momentum be carried if the characters spoke in haiku? Perhaps an extended haiku comic (with dialogue) would consist of a series of present-centered observations, all revolving around a single subject, so that the contrast between perspectives would generate the interest for a reader. The value would lie less in the suspense created by a serial plot, and more in recognizing multiple perspectives on a subject, and in clashes or absurdities that might result from that. These juxtapositions would spark interest, rather than the suspense of a narrative thread (though the two need not be mutually exclusive).  But suppose the writer wished to create a haiku comic strip consisting of character dialogue with narrative pacing, and suspense--- how might this occur? That is, how would the speech of the comic strip characters generate narrative momentum yet remain true to the spirit of haiku (however that might be defined)? How would the distinctive personality of each character be developed through haiku dialogue? Perhaps each would have a particular ‘style’ of speech, defined by syllabic accent (smooth or staccato), number of syllables per haiku, a distinct vocabulary for each (such as a season word).
To offer an example, one haiku that recently reminded me of this possibility of developing dialogue in haiku between comic strip characters was Kerouac’s:

The bottoms of my shoes
    are clean
From walking in the rain

--which could be the admission of someone who’s just come out of the rain, to another, in words which sound like a prelude to further dialogue:

Great to hear---but wipe
here, in any case---floor’s dry---
been a long day. Boy!

It would be interesting to see how well the elements of the serial action-centered comic strip could be preserved if the character dialogue were re-composed in haiku format.

Rebecca Lilly

                                             ***


1974 - Silence in Fear of Words

For this Forum we were asked to write about one haiku which has impressed us and had a long lasting effect on our own haiku.  I think I have already done that with one haiku for Scott Metz’s Virals [1] when I wrote about meeting up with one of Larry Wiggin’s haiku in the 1974 edition of The Haiku Anthology edited by Cor van den Heuvel

1974 was very early in my writing life and I tell the beginning of my haiku efforts from high school in the forward, God Bless You, Mrs Maloney, Wherever You Are, to my 2010 collection, Spilled Milk: Haiku Destinies. [2] The Wiggin’s haiku didn’t show up until August of that year.

In 1974 I was newly married and living in Japan stationed at the U.S. Air Force base in Misawa [3] and had time or took time to keep a notebook of thoughts and attitudes about various haiku I was finding in the current haiku journals.  So in looking over the entire year it wasn’t just Wiggin’s haiku that was having significant impact on my haiku poetics.

Maybe more than now we looked to the haiku of Japanese masters for examples of what we wanted our haiku to do.  So we read what we could find in English.  In late December 1973 I received a copy of thistle brilliant morning, a booklet of translations of Shiki, Hekigodo, Santoka and Hosai by Bill Higginson. [4]  This one by Santoka resonated with me:

thistle
brilliant
morning
rain finished

Words creating or re-creating summer days I had experienced growing up in northern Maine.  So easily said.

And another by Shiki:

mums withering
on the fence socks dry
a fine day

Rather odd images to juxtapose:  mums withering and socks drying.  Neither of great significance but part of a fine day.  Simply said.

From the January issue of Dragonfly which I received in March [5] a Larry Wiggin haiku: 

scouring pans;
snow deepening
in the yard

and Michael McClintock’s

going out
into the ground mist
    on naked legs


And also in March this by Thom Szuter published in Haiku Magazine: [6]

                                                 the only
                                           noise the hunters
                                               red jackets

It was from a collection published in 1965 and probably not written as a haiku but had the power of one and certainly created a vivid moment.

And from the April Dragonfly which arrived in April this one by Karen Kayali cited in an essay by  R.E.T. Johnson:

   Doves in its branches
the pine
      grows old

And one by the mysterious Tao-Li [7]  whose non-traditional format for a haiku were creating some fascinating discussion: 

   on            the          of
   the            shadow      a
   geranium                  geranium
   leaf                  leaf

As one who finds shadows of more than passing  interest this was one to pull into my notebook.

An issue of Modern Haiku [8] arrives in May with some good haiku but this one by Foster Jewell was the one to copy into my notebook:

      Even the pond
   holds the passing of wild geese
      to the very last


And from a scholarly article, Ancient Facets of Modern Haiku, by Kaneko Tota this haiku by Nakamua Kusatao:  [9]


O falling snow/ Meiji times gone far away / sense of regret

The juxtaposition of the now with a well-know time in history was a delight.  I suspect you might have to enjoy history as I do for that.   Later that year I found what I considered a better translation by R.H. Blyth in the 2nd volume of A History of Haiku:


                                                     Snow falling;
                              The Meiji Era,---
                                                     How far off it is!

OK, I grant you, the exclamation mark is bit too much.  I don’t blame Kusatao for that.  It does have a tighter expression.

In August The Haiku Anthology: English Language Haiku by Contemporary American and Canadian Poets edited by Cor van den Heuvel arrived with a wide range of stimulating English language haiku in a variety of styles.  And in it Cor’s

hot night—
turning the pillow
to the cool side

Great simplicity.  And one haiku that has been re-done by a number of others!

And of course Larry Wiggin’s haiku of powerful simplicity:

crickets…
then
thunder

One in later years I would use to impress Robert Bly and Cid Corman with the worthiness of English language haiku. It was a try but to no avail…

In September, Janice Bostok, an Australian, who was editor of the haiku journal, Tweed,  showed up with a collection, Walking Into the Sun.  Many good ones and this one I copied into the notebook:

   pregnant again…
       the fluttering of moths
             against the window

Later in September a copy of Eric Amann’s, The Wordless Poem: A Study of Zen in Haiku, arrived. I spent some time thinking about his points and in November spent some time interacting with them in the notebook.  I would use Wiggin’s cricket haiku to argue against his thought “that the haiku poet seems to avoid words rather than display them.” [10] I think Wiggin’s haiku is a penetrating display of words.  In the case of haiku fewer words means greater attention is drawn to the ones used.  Poetry is about the effect of carefully chosen words, carefully placed. [11] Good poetry, good haiku, are the words that silence fears.

So that was some of the 1974 haiku world’s influence on my writing.

Notes:

[1] Virals 7.33, 22 April 2010, http://www.thehaikufoundation.org/2010/04/22/viral-7-3/.

[2] Based on my more detailed essay that appeared in Woodnotes #31 in 1996, edited by Michael Dylan Welch.

[[3] I found out from both Bill Higginson and R.E.T. Johnson that they also had been stationed at Misawa in the past.

[4] Published by Gerry Loose under the Byways imprint in England.


[5] At that time edited by Lorraine Ellis Harr.

[6] Now edited by Bill Higginson. The haiku from Szuter’s More Poems published in 1965.

[7] After much speculation we were later to find out was really Evelyn Tooley Hunt.

[8] Modern Haiku Vol V No.1.

[9] The Japan Quarterly, Vol XIX, No. 1, Jan-Mar 1972, pp. 66-70.  I must have found this in the base library since I did not have subscription.  We now see the essayist’s name spelled Tohta.

[10] On page six of The Wordless Poem, published as a special issue of Haiku Magazine (Vol III, No: V, 1969).

[11]  Which reminds me of what James Tipton said in the Biographies appendix of The Haiku Anthology about his interest “in the possibility of discovering new energy through words put together with precision and emotion.“

Gary Hotham

                                                  ***


Pin-pointing a poem or poet as the strongest influence over my writing in the last 15 years is a difficult deed for me.  I'm somewhat of an open channel that if I taste the salt in the air, near the ocean, I wonder if it is msg - and the wonderment changes me somehow . . . and my poetry.  

I could start with Basho, but then, there is Onitusra and his endless pursuit of truth/fact in poetry; yet, the smoothness of Buson is intriguing and then there is Virgilio who often came up with stunning, mind bending, and terrific moments in his haiku.

Yet, for the thousands of hours of my reading, studying and pondering, it is Dr. Richard Gilbert that caused me to pause, to wonder and search more for what I want to express in my haiku compositions.  It isn't that I will emulate; it isn't that I will consciously change my writing.  These are not my thoughts at all.  Rather, in some esoteric fashion, I believe that what I learn isn't learned; and, what I master isn't mastery; and yet, my palette to draw words and style continues to expand, enveloping more choices of hue and finer brushes to work with by pondering Gilbert's thoughts and poetics.

My experiences with Dr. Gilbert have been something like all of the above.  He is challenging - his mind is unusual and rich with oblique perspectives that are sensible at the core but challenging to understand.

The following poems of his . . .

what became deeper of you i let in

               R'r 12.3

deep in woods
all the dancing in
space


running forever
spring after
tragedy

   R'r 12.3

. . . are poems that create and recreate thoughts within the reader as the reader's resistance to the meanings is diminished through the gate of reading and re-reading for meaning - "misreading as meaning"1.

I'm not one to emulate style intentionally but I also do not believe anyone has written anything, ever, without at least some incidental emulation - even if the source for emulation is the extant rules of writing haiku (5/7/5 etc. et al) as purported by earlier generations. Education does affect us.

Recently, I penned . . .

nagasaki . . .
in her belly, the sound
of unopened mail

   Haiku Now, 2013, 1st

. . . and I am sure this poem would not exist if it were not for my crossing mind-paths with Dr. Gilbert. 


all for now,

Don


1 Richard Gilbert, Poems of Consciousness, Red Moon Press, 2008

Don Baird

                                    ***


A book of haiku that changed my life and helped to confirm my desire to follow haiku as a lifetime adventure was John Wills' 1970 edition of river.  No collection of haiku up to that time had equal or greater impact, and very few since. Poems like these became a kind of scripture for me---
 
river shanty
sliding by    the faces
in the doorway
 
 
river
  just at twilight moving off
     in rain
 
 
blackbirds
on the blowing reeds
one above another
 
 
     another bend
then at last    the moon
        and all the stars
 
 
Though set in a rural world very unlike my own at that time, in Los Angeles, these and other poems in that book convinced me that haiku were possible as a way of life in a complex world, affording me a means to live well, wherever I happened to be, whatever I might be doing ---
haiku could be foundational to a life worth living, wholly sustained on its bread, fruit, and meat. It offered me the world and I took it up.  I have not been disappointed.

Michael McClintock
« Last Edit: September 14, 2013, 02:00:48 PM by Field Notes »

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Re: Field Notes 3: Life-Changing Haiku
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2013, 07:42:47 AM »
Please note that Sandra Simpson's contribution to FN3 was inadvertently curtailed.
This has been corrected. Her complete text is now available.

PY

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Re: Field Notes 3: Life-Changing Haiku
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2013, 02:22:21 AM »
As Sandra points out this amazing poem by Basho;

summer grasses –
all that remains
of warrior’s dreams ( I wonder if it should be, "warriors' dreams" or "a warrior's dreams)

Basho, who is in the present, authors a hokku regarding the past, with a deep, rich feeling of lament. "Summer grasses" is engaging the past and present simultaneously -- the "grasses" of then remain today.  The "dreams" of warriors remain today; and yet, the warriors who had the dreams are gone. 

This is a poem based primarily on Basho's imagination and wonderment.  There is nothing left for him to witness but emptiness and grasses.  His feelings/reactions to what he believes took place in the field is the basis of his poem; it's a poem about him - his psychological arrangement.  He has combined the past and present in a subtle, masterful way. There is everything: and yet there is nothing but his mind and his personal dreaming.

 



« Last Edit: September 29, 2013, 07:07:30 PM by Don Baird »
I write haiku because they're there ...

through
the hole of a cheerio,
spring!

Lorin Ford

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Re: Field Notes 3: Life-Changing Haiku
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2013, 06:11:27 PM »
For this third edition of Field Notes: Explorations in Haiku, we asked members of a panel of writers to consider which haiku, or which poets, strongly influenced them in some way. I think you will find it interesting, and perhaps touching, to learn the results of this inquiry, and I hope you will continue the exploration by adding a few of your own life-changing haiku.

Was there a poem which startled you, or perhaps nudged you, in the direction of writing? Was there a poet whose work overturned all your previous expectations or beliefs about haiku, and changed your approach to writing and reading?

Hi Peter and All,
                        I had to decline Peter's original invitation because of all kinds of life things but am now catching up on reading all of the wonderful responses... both the affirming and the challenging.

So I'm responding now by adding the couple of haiku that certainly surprised me and "nudged me in the direction of writing" haiku.

Disclosure: I was completely unaware haiku existed until about early 2004, and I wasn't interested as those haiku I heard (in my ignorance) seemed to be no more than (sometimes funny) puns or po-faced faux-profundities by annoying people who wore superior cat-like smiles and answered my queries about what haiku was with such impenetrable statements as " Haiku is Zen. Zen is haiku". Enough to put anyone interested in the experience of poetry right off.

The 'life-changing' haiku for me were the first two I came across that struck me as being poems. 

The first was Carla Sari's :

back from the war
the tap he couldn't fix
still dripping

- 2nd place, paper wasp Jack Stamm Award, 2003 :  http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/paperwasp/jackstamm2003.html

Carla read this out at an informal poetry workshop I attended, and asked for critique. I distinctly recall my response: "Ya can't have that! It reads as though it's the tap that's back from the war. It needs rephrasing. " ('tap' = 'faucet' in US English, btw) Carla pointed out that there were certain conventions that applied to reading haiku: there was a break between L1 & the rest. Ah.

The succinctness struck me, as did the metaphorical and emotional resonances of that precise, literal image in context of someone being back from 'the war'. Suddenly, I was interested.

Next, perhaps even on the same day, or perhaps not, Carla read out this haiku of Dhugal Lindsay's:

picking up a jellyfish
my lifeline
clear and deep

My reaction: instant memory of doing just that as a kid, picking up moon jellies that'd washed up on the beach, seeing through them to the lines on my palm. This haiku startled and moved me, actually reconnected me with what I liked and valued, what I felt nurtured by when I was a kid, what made me happily wonder and discover things in my world. (I had no idea, until much later, that Lindsay was a marine biologist, so didn't get that aspect of this haiku)

And, I realised, that this kind of experience was the same as what attracted me to poetry in general. Lines from 'long' poems I was long familiar with, that stand out in contrast to, break away from, the more discursive verse they are 'framed' by, occurred to me in a new light such as:

Dawn points, and another day
Prepares for heat and silence. Out at sea the dawn wind
Wrinkles and slides. I am here
Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.

from 'East Coker', Four Quartets - TS Eliot

and

 ... A barnacle goose
Far up in the stretches of night; night splits and the dawn breaks loose

from 'High Talk' , 'Last Poems' - WB Yeats

These sort of lines always seemed to me to be a breakthrough into a different kind of perception from the rest of the poem, not only a change in the register of the language.

So that's it. I began writing and reading haiku. That's the big life-change.

But now another change, and not a sudden, sunlit , illuminating one, is creeping up on me in relation to haiku and prodding me to come to terms with it.

Another disclosure: long ago I read a lot of Science Fiction, short stories & novels...and still do when I want to relax and take my mind off haiku & related, though these days it's more often re-reading. Philip K. Dick is one SF writer who's dealt a lot with perceptions of reality, co-existing realities as perceived by an unreliable mind. Others have dealt with fantastic 'what ifs', possible realities.

Yet another disclosure: Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, his last play, remains my favourite play of all time.

All of which, I would’ve thought, might’ve prepared me for this sort of sea-change:

the galactic aquarium shatters
our arms ending in starfish

- Peter Yovu

But it didn’t. You’ve blown me out of the water, Peter. I’ve yet to come to terms with this one.

- Lorin


H. Gene Murtha

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Re: Field Notes 3: Life-Changing Haiku
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2013, 10:30:19 PM »
John Wills haiku "dusk"

dusk from rock to rock a water thrush


The above haiku did it.