Author Topic: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion  (Read 11958 times)

Field Notes

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Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
« on: August 06, 2014, 03:29:12 PM »
It is both inevitable and desirable that Field Notes should stimulate discussion, some of it "off-topic".
To foster such conversation, I've opened a separate (but related) subject area. If you wish to open a discussion prompted by but not directly relating to the main subject-- challenge-- this is the place to do it.

PY
 

Field Notes

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2014, 06:11:24 PM »
I have copied a conversation between Paul Miller and Alan Summers below. It was prompted by Paul's
post in FN 7: Challenge. It is an open conversation. As always, you are welcome to participate.

PY


*****


ALAN SUMMERS

Hi Paul,

I just wanted to say that this "verse" really moved me when I first read it. In Britain the remembrance of the First World War (where Japan were allies with Britain) there was were many cold mathematical calculations by British Generals to burn a few thousand British soldiers for the sake of a few feet of earth won.

Quote:
     
war dead
exit out of a blue mathematics

     -- Sugimura Seirinshi (trans. Richard Gilbert and Ito Yuki)

I have pondered and pondered this haiku, approaching it from a number of angles, and I think it fails. It is a bunch of twenty-five cent words when five cent words would have done. One challenge in this poem is to stand up to the new orthodoxy and point out its lack of pants.

--Paul Miller



The Second World War was a different set of mathematics e.g. the Nazi experiments with killing large numbers of Jewish, homosexual, Gypsy, and mentally ill people from those first dark bikes to showers and ovens.  Whatever Sugimura Seirinshi meant, I don't know, but it strikes a strong chord with me, whenever I read this haiku.

Weblinks:

Modern Haiku
MH Essay—"From Haiku to the Short Poem" by Philip Rowland
http://www.modernhaiku.org/essays/RowlandFromHaikuToShortPoem.html


New Rising Haiku:

戦死者が青き数学より出たり                  杉村聖林子
sennsisha ga aoki suugaku yori detari                                   Sumimura Seirinshi

war dead
exit out of a blue mathematics
 
Simply Haiku:
http://www.simplyhaiku.com/SHv5n4/features/Ito.html


Nazi Euthanasia
Each expert placed a + mark in red pencil or - mark in blue pencil under the term "treatment" on a special form. A red plus mark meant a decision to kill the child. A blue minus sign meant meant a decision against killing. Three plus symbols resulted in a euthanasia warrant being issued and the transfer of the child to a 'Children's Specialty Department' for death by injection or gradual starvation.
http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/euthanasia.htm


I am sure the blue pencil was utilised for various record keeping and mathematics on more than one side of the war, for example:

Stalin’s Deadly Blue Pencil
The editor is the unseen hand with the power to change meaning and message, even the course of history. Back when copy-proofs were still manually cut, pasted, and photographed before printing, a blue pencil was the instrument of choice for editors because blue was not visible when photographed. The editorial intervention was invisible by design.

At a meeting with Winston Churchill a few months later, the British prime minister watched as Stalin “took his blue pencil and made a large tick” indicating his approval of the “percentages agreement” for the division of Europe into Western and Soviet spheres of influence after the war.
http://punditfromanotherplanet.com/2013/10/07/stalins-blue-pencil/


Of course I'm seeing this subjectively, and emotionally.  As a child I watched many war films including several dealing with the Nazi Concentration Camps. 

Only a couple of years ago, I discovered that a relative, although not blood related as I'm adopted, died in a concentration camp.  Not being Jewish I never felt I'd come to know a relative died there, it touches us all, as does 911 despite not being American.

I just wanted to say how much, however much I misread that haiku, it has touched me to the quick.

Alan Summers

p.s.

I just want to [end with a]  quote from Michelle Tennison's post as it moved me so much:

war dead
exit out of a blue mathematics

-- Sugimura Seirinshi (trans. Richard Gilbert and Ito Yuki)

This last haiku is in itself an effective argument for experimentation in art.  Didn’t the French Surrealism of the 1920s grow, at least in part, out of the existential insanity of WWI, which many of its originators had experienced first hand? They were witness to the extremes of the “mathematics” of our rational minds, that has everything neatly identified, categorized, and tied up, i.e. our linear, left-brain culture run amok, that can lead to such violence upon ourselves and our world. The harsh light of war can help us to recognize that we are perhaps never more dangerous than when we know everything there is to know.

This kind of radical experimentation, although demanding for the reader, is healthy and has infused contemporary haiku with new vitality. It often forces us to engage more intuitive channels in order to relate. There is value, and life, and courage in tripping up the habitual mind (and habitual form) just enough to bypass ego and reason, if only temporarily, so that new realities can be allowed to penetrate awareness. The intelligence of the heart can recognize truth even when the mind cannot (and can help us transcend the sometime arrogance of reason). 

To sum up, “We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.” (Anais Nin). I live for that moment when observation, external and internal, is allowed to newly inform my being-in-the-world. What about the moments when we do see the world a little bit more as it is, and it raises our consciousness, lifts us up and informs our choices and perceptions? What happens when we take the risks necessary to see something new that might actually change us? This is a personal challenge, and it is one of haiku’s greatest gifts.



*****


PAUL MILLER

Alan, thanks for commenting. I get a meaning from the poem, and can understand how someone with a history with war could find it emotive, but it is essentially a rewrite of:

war dead
killed from calculations that I find sad

where "calculations" stands for the decisions of bureaucrats and generals.
I understand what the poet is trying to say (or I should say I get something from it) and his view is valid.

However, when I say it fails I am detaching the meaning of the haiku from its execution. I believe the writer fell in love with the phrase "blue mathematics" and wasn't prepared to get rid of it.  I think we are supposed to think it cool and clever and overlook its use. It is an awkward attempt at symbolism.


*****


ALAN SUMMERS

True, that blue mathematics has a zing, but then a lot of haiku poets do use blue other than for its natural image in nature.

It's possible many of us are influenced by the blue period of painting
perhaps:
http://pablo-picasso.paintings.name/blue-period/

But it's intriguing how, pre-computer, the blue pencil has been an instrument for what a computer user might now use strike-out or blue text etc... in a word.doc or spreadsheet etc...

True, we shouldn't be emotional when it comes to haiku, and war is business pure and simple. Perhaps that's why Mrs Bush dealt with so many anti-Gulf War poets and their careers.

I must admit I don't know:

war dead
killed from calculations that I find sad

Do you have a weblink for that?

I must admit that a large number of haiku leave me disinterested on any level, but I am interested in these short verses that somehow carry more than they should. When they act as a cipher beyond just a few conveniently placed words.

I must admit 'blue mathematics' is striking, but for me that would fail after a few readings.

I tend to multiple read a haiku when I first come across it, and multiple readings over the weeks and months.

A haiku has to go way beyond a gimmick to hook me.  But then what might
leave me indifferent, or sufficiently enticed into multiple-reads, might work for someone else.


war dead
exit out of a blue mathematics

war dead
killed from calculations that I find sad


For the Japanese the New Romantic notion of only originality is something
that is quite alien I would think. Yet do non-Japanese poets go for
total originality?

Bill Manhire's poem:
http://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/authors/manhire/originality.asp

I was lucky enough to see him at a Bath Spa University Summer event for BA
and MA students.   He was one of the best speakers and despite almost all
BA students studying novels, he was far more interesting, and amusing for them.

But it's just my personal viewpoint, perhaps seeing blue pencil in action for something I cannot recall now might have influenced me.


*****


PAUL MILLER

I may not have been as clear as I should have been. I think having an emotional reaction to a poem is the first and most important reading you should have, so for you the haiku succeeds. But for me the abstraction distances me from a real event. The advantage realism has is that the reader is forced into a real situation that they must grapple with. "blue mathematics" is just too cute and clever for me to deal with. It also makes the poem intellectual rather than emotional--for me.

Now not all haiku need to be realistic. I find Metz's blowhole haiku to be wonderful because there are so many great links between the parts that reverberate back and forth (sea = space; blood = stars; etc). I don't get those same parallels in the war dead haiku. The "blue mathematics" feels out of place, tacked on.

The reading:

war dead
killed from calculations that I find sad

is mine. That's what I think he is trying to say. I just think he is doing it in a poor way.


Richard Gilbert

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2014, 04:35:56 AM »
Dear Agent Provocateur,

Whomever you are. We kiss the golden apples that fall from your ass.

As a note, on the translation of 青き "aoki" into English. It is quite impossible. "Blue" here might actually be "green" or "natural" or "nature" or "as nature" -- we may continue to tease it. Go back far enough in haiku/Japanese poetic history, and there was no "green" only "blue" for nature. Recall even the recent "aoi yama" (green mountains -- literally, blue mountains) from Santoka. You might ask why we purposefully chose "blue" here.

We remain impersonally yours, for the blue are counted dead. You are not wrong to chose otherwise. As well you are not. Pathetically so. It's good we are not at war. Is an ocean blue? Or the sky? There is actually more in Japanese than meets the eye; no accounting for taste.

"This last haiku is in itself an effective argument for experimentation in art." (M.T.) We concur.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2014, 08:19:55 AM by Richard Gilbert »

AlanSummers

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2014, 04:52:23 AM »
Thanks Agent Provocateur (and Richard Gilbert)

It's been great to dialogue with Paul Miller, and that our last two emails are posted here.   I have to say I am still deeply moved by the blue mathematics haiku.  True, we have an intense public season of mourning and examination regarding the First World War, and how calculating British Generals and politicians were in disposing of British troops.   I'd say it was the equivalent of Corporate Manslaughter at the very least.

Here's the last email I sent to Paul:

Hi Paul,

Dealing a hand of emotive cards in such a short verse as haiku with all
its demands is not an easy task.

I think Richard Gilbert's Poems of Consciousness made me broaden my
appreciation of haiku styles, although it was fairly broad before, but
being a Virgo, my perfection is being forced open. His book really pushed
me, and also I've got to see more Japanese haiku in translation.

I'm often sensitive to too much architrave, it really has to earn its
right to embellish.  As a former Painter and Decorator I've painted or
restored a few architraves in my time.  Architrave:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architrave

I have seen a lot of haiku adopt the color blue, from the famous blue
apple series:

deep underground--
the blue apple reflecting
billions of suns

Scott Metz
Ginyu 42 (2009)


blue apple
it gives birth
to a mirror

Scott Metz
Ginyu 42 (2009)


cloudless
a day balanced
on the blue apple

Scott Metz
Ginyu 42 (2009)

http://roadrunnerhaikublog.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/how-do-you-like-them-apples/



And other ways of using blue, or subverting the accepted order of
syntax/semantics etc...
http://www.shampoopoetry.com/shampoothirtyeight/metz.htm

The influence is probably all Belgian, even from the Japanese. :-)

I can't say academically why the blue mathematics connects to me, or why
the blue sharks of Kaneko, or the blood group (although I'm B Rhesus
Positive, and very much a loner and outsider at times) and perjury haiku
of Fumio means so much to me.


ni-ju oku kônen no gishyô      omae no B-gata

twenty billion light-years of perjury:      your blood type is “B”

Hoshinaga Fumio


It might hinge on injustice born out of reading DC and Marvel comics as a
child, alongside Dickens and Shakespeare.  The sense of right and wrong in
mythical places, Victorian Britain, and Italy perhaps.    I'm wired both
wrong(ly) and differently.

kindest regards,

Alan
http://area17.blogspot.com


p.s.

Also inheriting depression from my blood mother who I met just a few years
ago (explaining so much) might explain my connection to the hue of blue.



Dear Agent Provocateur,

Whoever you are. We kiss the golden apples that fall from your ass.

As a note, on the translation of 青き "aoki" into English. It is quite impossible. "Blue" here might actually be "green" or "natural" or "nature" or "as nature" -- we may continue to tease it. Go back far enough in haiku/Japanese poetic history, and there was no "green" only "blue" for nature. Recall even the recent "aoi yama" (green mountains -- literally, blue mountains) from Santoka. You might ask why we purposefully chose "blue" here.

We remain impersonally yours, for the blue are counted dead. You are not wrong to chose otherwise. As well you are not. Pathetically so. It's good we are not at war. Is an ocean blue? Or the sky? There is actually more in Japanese than meets the eye; no accounting for taste.

"This last haiku is in itself an effective argument for experimentation in art." (M.T.) We concur.

Richard Gilbert

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2014, 07:45:58 AM »
Dear Agent Provocateur,

It is rather presumptuous to use 50-cent words where 5-cent words would do. This little epithet could be made much cheaper:
Quote
We kiss the golden apples that fall from your ass.
We are talking about words. About the cost of them. We shall rate them on a cost-benefit analysis, in terms of value.

At the same time, there are complications. Let's ignore such for now, and add up the word values. Our analysis runs like this:

war = 5
dead = 5
exit = 5 (possibly 10)
out of a = freebie
blue = 5
mathematics = 25
Total word cost = 45 cents (later revised to 50 cents, see below)

Analysis: We wonder which words could be cheaper than war and dead and blue. Each monosyllabic. The cost of war is high, but war itself? This is a high-frequency common noun (and historically rife, to the present). Same with the others, really. For exit: two-syllables--should we revise 5-cents upward? Call it 50 cents. This still has to be one of the cheapest haiku around. Also it's English-typical at 12 syllables. But someone might want to cheapen it a bit, as the word-cost appears -- how can we put this delicately? Effete, elite, arrogant, in some way?

My translator chimp (I mean Gilbert) seeks a suitable primitivism, for "suugaku" (hint: mathematics) in translation. He's rather limited in symbolic vocabulary (being a chimp), but even with his lame Japanese he knows that "suugaku" means only one thing. The Faculty of Mathematics in a university has a name, "Suugaku." (As the Faculty of Letters is "Bungaku (literature+study)") 数学 = suu+gaku. You can find it in the haiku in question. Now let's visit Google Translate. Enter the kanji 数学. The cheapest and only answer = "mathematics." See this:  計算 it is the kanji for "calculation, reckoning." These kanji are not in the haiku. Actually "suugaku" can mean "mathematics" or in the appropriate context "faculty of/study of mathematics." Either way there is no other word for translation which is more literal and direct than "mathematics" for this haiku. The chimp cannot find any way around it: this is pretty much exactly what the poet said in the original. The only conclusion is that the most expensive word in this haiku is the cheapest possible.

Suugaku then, is abstract, isn't it? This is not "applied mathematics" or any sort of reckoning. That would be left to the cost-benefit analysis of the reader, concerning the war dead. Perhaps there is more than a hint of semantic brutality, in a natural/blue/simple/pure mathematics. You can mess with "blue" but not with "mathematics." Unless you want to make up your own poem, just through ignorance.

So we have a very cheap haiku. Though the abstraction "mathematics" costs us dearly. But it's really worse, much, much worse. Because there is collocational neologism (an original terminological coinage, never before seen in print). You know, one of those things Shakespeare and Dickens and a (very) few other artists of repute are noted for.

戦死者が青き数学より出たり
sennsisha ga aoki suugaku yori detari 

war dead
exit out of a blue mathematics

Literally, in given word order:

戦死者 (sennsisha) = war dead (KIA)
が (ga) = (concerning [subject]: war dead)
青き数学 (aoki suugaku) = blue/natural/of nature
but! also:
unripe/unnatural (e.g. "This fruit is still "green" [unripe, not yet ready])
+ mathematics
より (yori) = showing "like" | comparison | connection
 出たり (detari) = to come out of / exit

What can we determine in our cost-benefit analysis?
青き数学 = blue mathematics. This is in no dictionary, because this collocation is the poet's neologism. If anyone wants to cheapen this poem in English, they would be wise to do away with the neologism, which is basically the same in English as in Japanese. It is true that "blue" has many added meanings in English. But then, "blue" (as "aoi") has many different meanings in Japanese, as well. In English, blue is a color of nature (ocean, sky) but also the "blue" of the blues, of sadness, tragedy, depression. In other words it (like "aoi") offers contrary, contrastive or contradictory meanings. so the use of "blue" for "blue" in Japanese is actually the only interpretive move, in the translation. The signifiers differ yet in both languages they are semantically complex and paradoxical or agonistic (polarized); a different poem is created, yet with a similar sense of agon, tension (if you can do better, talk to the gimp err, chimp).

The suggestion: "killed from calculations that I find sad" has many expensive semantic assumptions and misses entirely the creative collocation at the core -- the cornerstone of this haiku (in either language). Even a chimp can say that it is this bizzare, abstract neologism which catalyzes this poem, makes it "experimental," challenging and spare, in both languages. However in the original, it would have the added danger of alerting the Secret Police to your person, and we know the mathematics, counted in haiku poets for one, of this human cost. The poem has no "killed" (as a verb), no "calculations," no "from," no "I," and DEFINITELY no "sad." So the suggestion of

"war dead
killed from calculations that I find sad"

Is something even a chimp finds dumb. Such mistakes are expensive when it comes to recognizing the genius of a noted poet from a foreign culture. Who would turn such a work into their own kind of animal? This would be both presumptuous and aggressive. It is right and proper to question the translation. But this has not been done. There has been no questing after veracity, no attunement to questions of emulation of genre qualities or semantic or syntactical realities across cultures and languages. This is what chimps do. They work hard for the bananas.

Dear Agent Provocateur, whomever you may be, please show us your next new addition.

No speak, no see, no hear: Three monkeys
(Apparently, it's what we do.)
« Last Edit: August 07, 2014, 08:56:58 AM by Richard Gilbert »

Philip Rowland

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2014, 09:45:42 AM »
As perhaps first publisher of the "war dead" haiku with English translation (first Japanese publication sometime between 1937 and 1940, according to Ito Yuki), thought I'd chip in… In 2006 I found this haiku challenging and compelling, and still do. That "we are supposed to think it cool and clever" seems unfairly dismissive, as does reducing it to a paraphrasable message. Granted, it has been presented here in English, but some acknowledgement of its being a Japanese poem -- of the challenge of translation and what might have been lost (and gained) in the process -- is in order, as Richard has just indicated.

Probably most Japanese readers - unless they have a strong interest in modern poetry -- would be baffled by the poem; it's undoubtedly towards the abstract end of the spectrum. But "blue mathematics" doesn't seem at all "tacked on"; its cool abstraction (complicated by other connotations of "blue", in Japanese and English) is anticipated by another coolly neutral, Latinate word: "exit". "blue mathematics" strikes me as an idea-image of the kind David Porter considers in his essay on Emily Dickinson's "strangely abstracted images" (in Emily Dickinson: A Collection of Critical Essays, Prentice Hall, 1996). His essay begins by acknowledging a view akin to Paul M's on "blue mathematics":

"Abstraction, we are told repeatedly, is inimical to poetry. Yet in images that are so abstract they have given up their sensuous immediacy to pure meaning, Dickinson asserted her poetic individuality. … these peculiar figures with no light-catching body perform in her poems on occasion so audaciously as to reveal the interior moment when for her events became apprehended by language."

He later cites Archibald MacLeish's attention to her "drained images":

"'Amethyst remembrance," "Polar expiation," Neither of these exists upon the retina. Neither can be brought into focus by the muscles of the eye. … And yet all of these present themselves as images, do they not? -- act as images? Where can remembrance be amethyst? Where but in the eye?"

Whether "blue mathematics" succeeds as an image of this sort, in the context of Sugimura Seirinshi's haiku, is bound to be a more subjective matter than most, because it's a more audacious image than most in haiku -- an image that (for me) succeeds in apprehending the nearly inexpressible thought of the "war dead," and in evoking a feeling of anger or hopelessness coupled with horror. 

Paul Miller

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2014, 01:21:31 PM »
Dear Richard, (or Agent Provocateur or chimp (I kind of got lost in there somewhere) :)

Thanks for the better understanding of the translation. I was reading “blue” as from “the blues” so you can see where I got my sense of sadness. It seemed fitting given the war context.

That said, I have every right to question the “genius” of any poet, foreign or not. And since haiku are considered unfinished until done so by the reader (another foreign genius said that) the turning of the original into an animal of my own making is expected.

Perhaps, in this case, the matter comes down to my desire to have an immediate shared experience. Some form of communication. The phrase “war dead” to me asks for a serious reading, not to instead make those bodies into an intellectual curiosity or puzzle. Maybe that’s why I find it clever instead of heartfelt.  I simply wonder if the “blue mathematics” haiku couldn’t have been written better to give me that. This is something I struggle to say because there are times when I like an abstraction, when I welcome them. A glance at my short tenure at Modern Haiku will hopefully attest to that. So I don’t have an objection to them per se.

Sometimes, however, they seem out of place.

     A: “I’m a Sanitation Engineer.”
     B: “So you create studies of waste usage and design better methodologies for its management?”
     A: “Uh… no”
     B: “What do you do?”
     A: “I pick up the trash from in front of your house.”

Yet, I could understand Suugaku’s possible reluctance to engage the “war dead” at face value, and perhaps wish to insert a metaphor in-between for comfort… distance. To borrow from Mr. Rowland… to deal with “the nearly inexpressible” thoughts… the feelings of hopelessness. That distance is something I try to avoid in my poetry, so my reading is obviously subjective. And I recognize how easy it is for me to say that, not being in a war. However I don’t know the circumstances of this poem’s composition.

Respectfully,

Paul

sandra

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2014, 04:18:59 PM »
Where can remembrance be amethyst? Where but in the eye? - Phillip Rowland

Hi everyone,

Since this is the off-topic place, I'm just going to head off-topic for a moment! :)

"Amethyst remembrance" could very well be read as making perfect sense, if one were to consider Victorian England's mourning rituals (for the upper-classes at least).

If a woman's husband were to die, she would wear black dress and no jewellery for 18 months. There were various other rules for other members of one's family, including children, siblings, parents and in-laws. (And, of course, different rules for men!)

After 18 months, the widow could move to the "second stage" and add jet (black) jewellery and diamonds if in wedding rings. Dress was still black and without lustre. This lasted for nine months. BTW this stricture on black meant she wore black from her skin to her outer clothes, everything!

The third stage of mourning - three to six months long - saw a move back into fashionable clothes and into dull colour, often shades of purple (starting at the darkest end and moving through into lighter hues as time passed), or black with lustre. Jewellery was once again allowed and stones such as amethyst and garnet were popular as "half-mourning" jewellery.

Queen Elizabeth owns at least one set of amethyst jewellery (the "Kent amethysts") but doesn't often wear the larger pieces. It has been passed down to female monarchs or consorts from Queen Victoria's mother. Queen Mary's gorgeous amethyst tiara was sold, reputedly by the Queen Mother, and it is often recorded that neither she nor her daughter are fans of the stone. (Right, way, way off topic.)

I have read that Queen Victoria's death in 1901 was the last time that these excessive rituals of mourning were observed - the massive casualties of World War 1 put an end to the etiquette.

So, amethyst can = remembrance in a very literal sense.

Thank you for reading to the end :)

Sandra

Richard Gilbert

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2014, 06:10:05 PM »
Dear Paul,

I understand that you do not like the poem. You threw down the gauntlet when you wrote: "I have pondered and pondered this haiku . . . I think it fails. It is a bunch of twenty-five cent words when five cent words would have done. One challenge in this poem is to stand up to the new orthodoxy and point out its lack of pants."

You then re-wrote the haiku, into what struck me as a text having little to do with the original poem.

war dead
exit out of a blue mathematics

     -- Sugimura Seirinshi (trans. Richard Gilbert and Ito Yuki)

"war dead
killed from calculations that I find sad"
(English-translation, adapted, Paul Miller)

I can't consider your adaptation as haiku, as there is no cutting. You've penned an epithet, and as was pointed out, had seemingly complete disregard for the original text. We are entitled to our taste, but your critical comments: "it fails," "five cent words would have done," "lack of pants" this is another matter. It seems you are proposing your adaptation as a preferable haiku to "blue mathematics," as a way of revealing your taste and editorial position. As well, the reach of your mind, or sensibility, with regard to certain varieties of haiku. 

Any negative critique, particularly of a notable haiku (or poet), needs to be informed. It would be unconscionable, to my mind, to have the reader of your adaptation find that it in any way had to do with the original haiku. That you have put it forth as an interpretative translation -- even as haiku -- this is a matter needing to be addressed, and we have done so, above.

I'd like to briefly comment on another matter. You write: "And since haiku are considered unfinished until done so by the reader..." The experience (reader phenomenology) of a haiku is a different matter than what exists as published text. The text itself is in black & white on the page. Because this haiku appears in English with Japanese kanji/romaji, and is penned by a noted poet, the text, in terms of translation, is treated as finished. I hope you grasp the difference.

You find this poem "clever instead of heartfelt." Others strongly disagree with you. In that there are strong polarizations of opinion on this poem, it may serve as a worthy example of important differences not only in taste but in genre-sensibility -- a broader issue than this poem in particular. Recently, I read Avant-Garde Community and the Individual Talent --The Case of Language Poetry, by Marjorie Perloff (2004).

The first half of this essay contains a comprehensive discussion of the modern literary history, and types, of "avant gardes."

Reading down to the section, “Word Order = World Order”?, the irruptive syntax and intellectual and sociopolitical intent of Language poetry is described. Perloff begins by providing a quotation of an insipid poem, as contrast (“Haitian Suite” by Orr); it seems about as hackneyed, to my sensibility, as your "adaptation." Several paragraphs down, we find:

  • Bernstein had studied Wittgenstein with Stanley Cavell at Harvard, and his notion that “there are no thoughts except through language,” is a version of Wittgenstein’s “The limits of language mean the limits of my world” (1992:§5.6), that “Language is not contiguous to anything else” (1980: 112). The articles of faith of 60’s poetry–—Olson’s “Form is never more than the extension of content” and Ginsberg’s “First thought, best thought”– were thus overturned in a new call for poetry as making, construction—the importance of each and every word and especially of word order. But unlike the New Criticism, which demanded unified and centered structure, the “aura around a bright clear centre,” as Reuben Brower called it, the constructivist aesthetic of Language poetry insisted on the making process itself, in all its anti-closure, incompletion, and indeterminacy.
and

  • Here, in a nutshell, is the animating principle of much of the poetry to come: poetic language is not a window, a transparent glass to be seen through in pursuit of the “real” objects outside it but a system of signs with its own semiological relationships. To put it another way, “Language is material and primary and what’s experienced is the tension and relationship of letters and lettristic clusters, simultaneously struggling towards, yet refusing to become, significations.”

What Perloff is alluding to here in Language poetry represents a significant difference between haiku-compositional groups, regarding sensibility. Perloff's article may be useful in that it provides historical and scholarly context to how "war dead / exit out of a blue mathematics" might be received. When the poem was originally penned, it seems doubtful that there existed an appropriate literary content, which might contain (hold, support) its soul. However we are now in a post- Language poetry era, and a number of practicing poets and critics in the haiku genre, being influenced by this and succeeding movements, utilize principles and techniques stemming from it.

My example of Language poetry here may seem excessively historicist; after all, Perloff's essay is already a decade old. Yet your interpretive comments strike me as a pernicious echo of a "poet writing his or her 'sincere,' sensitive, intimate, speech-based lyric, expressing particular nuances of emotion" -- ("killed from calculations that I find sad") -- a big step back into the "naive confessional" mode, with its passe conventions.

My thought is that while Language poetry may not have always succeeded in within individual works, its intellectual (and societal) influence has become increasingly important to our literary culture over the last three decades, within and without the university. A certain number of haiku in English represent new advances in style and approach, incorporating the history Perloff discusses -- rather than denying or avoiding it.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2014, 06:16:17 PM by Richard Gilbert »

Philip Rowland

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2014, 07:09:48 PM »
Richard -- I agree that Paul Miller's

war dead
killed from calculations that I find sad

has "little to do with the original poem," but would be very surprised if he meant it to be read as a haiku; I took it to be a slightly mocking paraphrase, deliberately poor, poetically. Well, just thought to point out that he merely (if, IMHO, misguidedly) put it forward as what he thought the poet was "trying to say." 

Richard Gilbert

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2014, 07:30:06 PM »
Phil,

You write
... that Paul Miller's

war dead
killed from calculations that I find sad

has "little to do with the original poem," but would be very surprised if he meant it to be read as a haiku
I agree in part, yet he states "it [the translated English] is essentially a rewrite of:

war dead
killed from calculations that I find sad"

It is hard to determine how unlike a haiku "essentially a rewrite" is meant to be taken. If it's not meant to approach a rewriting of a haiku, then it's merely a non sequitur. I take the implied meaning to be that

war dead
exit out of a blue mathematics

     -- Sugimura Seirinshi (trans. Richard Gilbert and Ito Yuki)

is actually of a lesser quality and value than the "essential rewrite" he penned. In this sense, I treated it as a haiku; to what extent the rewrite is meant as parody is something Paul could perhaps comment on.

As a further note, Paul writes above: "I don’t know the circumstances of this poem’s composition." Yet, Alan Summers earlier provided a link to this article:

NEW RISING HAIKU -- The Evolution of Modern Japanese Haiku and the Haiku Persecution Incident
http://www.simplyhaiku.com/SHv5n4/features/Ito.html

which well-explains the circumstances (sociopolitical context) of the poem's composition. The poem in question, "war dead..." was first published in the context of this monograph (we translated the series of anti-war haiku found within, including "war dead" as preparation for publication). I'm unclear of the exact dates of our submission of these poems to the Noon journal--certainly Noon was the first appearance of this poem, outside of the monograph. For your information, here is the group of poems we selected (out of a number) for translation:

機関銃眉間ニ殺ス花ガ咲ク                              西東三鬼
kikanjuu miken ni korosu hana ga saku         Saitô Sanki

a machine gun
in the forehead
the killing flower blooms

 
戦死者が青き数学より出たり                        杉村聖林子
sennsisha ga aoki suugaku yori detari      Sumimura Seirinshi

war dead
exit out of a blue mathematics

 
枯れし木を離れ枯れし木として撃たれ                  杉村聖林子
tareshi ki o hanare kareshi ki toshite utare    Sugimura Seirinshi

leaving a dead tree
being shot as a dead tree

 
埋めてゐて敵なることを忘れゐたり                 波止影夫
umete ite teki naru koto o wasure itari      Hashi Kageo

during burial:
this is the enemy,
forgetting


Context is important to a deeper understanding of these haiku (the monograph by Itô Yûki is gripping -- Red Moon Press was inspired to produce the monograph, at its own expense, as I recall). At the same time, I think most would agree these haiku are effective as autonomous poems, and more, are among the most powerful haiku on war we possess, in English.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2014, 07:56:09 PM by Richard Gilbert »

Philip Rowland

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2014, 08:49:19 PM »
Hi Richard, Good to revisit the illuminating "New Rising Haiku" monograph.

Re. "I'm unclear of the exact dates of our submission of these poems to the Noon journal": it was May 2006; selections finalised in June; publication September 2006. I remember being particularly pleased to be able to include a selection of these anti-war haiku; and getting some insight into the translation difficulties in discussion of a couple of pieces I picked that don't appear in the monograph:

安死術夜戦の谷の蟹にある                  平畑静塔
anshi jutsu yasen no tani no kani ni aru      Hirahata Seito

砲音に鳥獣魚介冷え曇る                              西東三鬼
houon ni choujuu gyokai hie kumoru                  Saito Sanki

Paul Miller

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2014, 07:44:58 AM »
Dear Richard,

You write: “The experience (reader phenomenology) of a haiku is a different matter than what exists as published text. The text itself is in black & white on the page. Because this haiku appears in English with Japanese kanji/romaji, and is penned by a noted poet, the text, in terms of translation, is treated as finished. I hope you grasp the difference.”

Are you dismissing active participation with the poem by the reader? Clearly there are a number of poems here: the original, the translation, and my interpretation of the translation. All are valid poems. Since the poet has shared his version with us I believe he is giving us explicit permission to create our own reading. Phillip was correct that my “version” was a paraphrase of what I thought the poem meant—not a haiku itself (please give me some poetic credit). But frankly, your translation is a paraphrase of what you think the haiku means. The fact that you chose “blue” over “natural” proves that.

I’m perhaps more troubled by my perception that you seem to over-value process and newness than result. If someone slaps me in the face I don’t so much care that they are foreign, did it in a new way, and under the watch of a morally-corrupt government; I’m concerned about the pain. I get that you and others like this poem for a variety of interesting reasons, and I sincerely think that’s wonderful; I am just not one of those.

Paul


ps. for what it is worth, the essay “New Rising Haiku” doesn’t address the circumstance of the haiku’s composition, other than the social-political that you mention. So I don’t know if he wrote this standing over the dead body of a friend or from his apartment. I’d hardly equate the two.

Richard Gilbert

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2014, 09:47:38 AM »
Phil,

Thanks for the reminder and emendations. So the first appearance of these poems was in Noon. Most excellent. Was there ever a conclusive translation published, of those two you posted in Japanese? I don't have my Noon copies here at home. Please feel free to post these last, if you like.


Paul,

Virtually all of my published work deals with reader-phenomenology. I think my works such as The Disjunctive Dragonfly illuminate the issue; a short comment can't suffice. My mention of "text" has to do with the process of translation. There is something in your PS that strikes me as strange. You write: " I don’t know if he wrote this standing over the dead body of a friend or from his apartment. I’d hardly equate the two." By this literalistic logic, one would need to know where all the poets were, in all the haiku, in order to judge the veracity of any and every given poem. I think there's hardly a poet that doesn't re-write/edit their works, for that matter. So, for you, I assume if in his apartment, the poem is false, and if standing over a dead body of a friend, true? I guess we should all be grilled, upon submission.

For those interested in the topic of anti-war haiku and fascism in Japan during the "Wartime Period" in relation to gendai (modern, contemporary) haiku, there is a follow-up interview (done by email exchange) between Udo Wenzel and Itô Yûki, which was published in English and German, in Haiku Heute (Germany). The English version is here:

Forgive, But Do Not Forget: Modern Haiku and Totalitarianism
Itô Yûki talks with Udo Wenzel (17 December 2007)

http://www.haiku-heute.de/Archiv/Ito_Yuki_2007-12/Ito_Yuki_2007-12_e/ito_yuki_2007-12_e.html

"I feel that, wherever they are in the world, haiku poets should not limit the possibilities of the poetry, haiku, in any sense." -- Itô Yûki (2007)
« Last Edit: August 08, 2014, 10:40:05 AM by Richard Gilbert »

Richard Gilbert

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
« Reply #14 on: August 08, 2014, 09:25:28 PM »
Phil,

I'd like to draw you out a bit more, concerning your recent poet in FN7, on the topic of abstraction -- if this is even the right word. You write:

Quote
For Barthes, the quintessential haiku’s “propositions are always simple, commonplace, in a word acceptable (as we say in linguistics)”—as Ashbery’s plainly are not:

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

Commonplace? Acceptable? The apparent absence of any concrete outside reference draws attention away from the “natural world” and towards—in the poet’s own words—“the experience of experience.” Does such abstraction necessarily preclude “evocation of haiku spirit” [found in the “The Nature of English Haiku” pamphlet]? Arguably—again with reference to the terms of the [British Haiku Society] consensus—Ashbery’s work bears witness to “the continuous flow of experience” that is intrinsic to the “haiku moment” precisely by incorporating the mediation or “interference” of language in the experiencing of that flow—or as he himself puts it, “the way a happening or experience filters through to me.” This practice does of course tend to displace more concrete subject matter, but also yields flashes of particular insight into the poetic process.

I would like to know how, and follow, your thoughts in this dimension, concerning the poem under discussion,

                    war dead
                    exit out of a blue mathematics

                                  -- Sugimura Seirinshi

I find "war dead" -- particularly placed into its contextual era of wartime Japan -- to be a much more realistic poem then the Ashbery you quote. As Paul Miller points out, there is the abstraction of "blue mathematics" -- which he takes issue with, in reference to intention or motivation. As haiku, Ashbery  goes much further. You state: "Ashbery’s work bears witness to “the continuous flow of experience” that is intrinsic to the “haiku moment” precisely by incorporating the mediation or “interference” of language in the experiencing of that flow..."

How can "interference" of language relate to the "haiku moment" -- and what do you mean by "haiku moment" within this specific area of concern? Most relevantly, how would your thoughts here apply to "war dead"?

Additionally, you quote Ashbery, concerning his haiku approach (or poetic approach): “the way a happening or experience filters through to me.” There seems a world of potential obfuscation in the word "filters." I'm not sure your point (or his point) is made clear.

I do think, if I read correctly, that you are posing a dialectic between "simple / commonplace" and (language or textual) "mediation / interference" -- yet perhaps implying that both poles of this dialectic can pertain to organic (?) expression, i.e. "the way a happening or experience filters through..." into haiku.

I find for example in Paul Miller's objection to "war dead" -- particularly where he writes:
Quote
"having an emotional reaction to a poem is the first and most important reading you should have . . . for me the abstraction distances me from a real event. The advantage realism has is that the reader is forced into a real situation that they must grapple with. "blue mathematics" is just too cute and clever for me to deal with. It also makes the poem intellectual rather than emotional--for me.

-- how much cuter and cleverer is Ashbery's "I inch and only" in this regard? Paul advances the provocative proposition:

"The advantage realism has is that the reader is forced into a real situation that they must grapple with."

I think Paul is connecting "force" here with a clearly (enough) envisioned situational reality, evinced in the reader, by the haiku. For realism, "advantage" is thus pragmatically connected with emotional impact.

Yet by contrast, it's evident that many readers share a viscerally potent emotional (as well as intellectual) reaction to "war dead." In other words, Paul's proposition is one defining (in part) his sensibility, but not that of other readers. We might inquire into what others ways emotional impact is being imparted to readers, in "war dead."

This said, I wonder if even here "emotion" is actually questionable, as an axiom to hang your hat on. I doubt that the primary intent of Ashbery's "I inch" is impactful emotional reaction (certainly not that caused by a realistic situational immediacy). You conclude differently, with "flashes of particular insight into the poetic process" -- which, for those into "flashes" (like me) would be rather an emotional thing -- though I would extend your metaphor to "dwelling" within (this concept draws on a more extended sense of "home" or psychological, rather than literal/realistic landscape, evinced by the poem). Personally, by the end of the ku "gone in spare colors" I'm dis-embodied and possessed by a feeling of 'childlike disappearance into space.' I find this ku to be rather lovingly/playfully "twisted" and a big tease. Its veracity is that it exists! (Rings the bell in terms of creative uniqueness, and idiosyncracy, and yet it's a readable, scannable non-nonsense nonsense.)  With an abundance of impossibility and uniqueness, I witness a "language" statement (proposition) and a line drawn in the sand, regarding genre in haiku.

So a further question for you -- is there any sense of (genre) direction here that we might articulate in a more embodied or pragmatic way, concerning haiku?
« Last Edit: August 08, 2014, 09:41:11 PM by Richard Gilbert »

 

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