Author Topic: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2  (Read 12085 times)

Field Notes

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Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
« on: August 25, 2014, 09:57:47 AM »
George Swede has offered a new area for discussion. I will re-enter his initial post (along with a response
by Alan Summers) below, but here is a gist:

[D]iscussion [in FN7 off-topic] reveals that the theoretical underpinnings of English-language haiku are evolving as vigorously as haiku themselves.

I’m interested to learn about your views on two-word haiku.

Here are [some] of mine  . . .


firefly      violin               

fever              ants

stars              crickets

mist              semen

Of particular interest to me is how large the space, or gap, between images can become before reader interest plummets into a yawning abyss.


Of additional interest to me (PY) is just how short a text can be and still be called a poem, or still be called a haiku. What makes it so?

Thanks to George for offering some of his own work as a starting point.

Field Notes

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2014, 10:00:06 AM »
Dear Allen, Lorin, Paul, Philip, Richard, Sandra,

Your discussion reveals that the theoretical underpinnings of English-language haiku are evolving as vigorously as haiku themselves.

I’m interested to learn about your views on two-word haiku. In 1984, CURVD H&Z published bifids, my collection of such ku, and, in 1986, Wind Chimes Press published, The Space Between, an anthology of two-word ku by Eric Amann, LeRoy Gorman and me. 

Here are seven of mine from these works.  I hope one or two will kick-start a discussion. The first four were included in Thomas Lynch’s PhD thesis, An original relation to the universe: Emersonian poetics of immanence and contemporary American haiku (University of Oregon, 1989).


firefly      violin               

fever              ants

stars              crickets

mist              semen

eyelid      cloud

snowflakes      bricks

Hiroshima      Phoenix


Of particular interest to me is how large the space, or gap, between images can become before reader interest plummets into a yawning abyss.

Cheers,

George

Field Notes

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2014, 10:01:46 AM »
Dear George,

As neither Allen, Lorin, Paul, Philip, Richard nor Sandra have responded yet, I thought I'd just drop in a quick comment.

As much as I enjoy minimalist haiku, and I've read one word haiku and one word renku, I'm not sure about this extreme brevity, even shorter than the famous Japanese haiku of four characters:

陽へ病む

Ōhashi Raboku

Although as a list it is a mesmerising piece.   I would imagine reading these out aloud on a stage would create an impact.   Have you done that?

warm regards,

Alan

Tomdevelyn

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2014, 10:34:12 AM »
This exercise -- that word isn't loaded -- highlights one of the parameters of haiku practice: when is a noun an image? Firefly may be an "image" depending on your background. Contemporary Haiku -- especially in US with our objectivist culture -- alone among literary forms ASSUMES that nouns are images; most literary forms assume that an image is a conjunction of words, nouns, adjectives, etc. The history of modern poetry is all about image, and the issues raised by Pound in theory and practice are still alive (see discussions of the poetry of Geoffrey Hill, for example).  Perhaps the second word in this new form of haiku will provide that qualification, give the first noun, or "name," some texture and lived reality. Perhaps that's all that will happen in this form. (A discussion of the gap as "cut" will run into difficulties because of the weakness of the noun-as-image experience. The cut as understood traditionally is no mere pause; there is a great discussion of pause in the Penguin Classics Li Po Tu Fu volume ed by Cooper). But in terms of an exercise "generating" some texture through contexture-- by being related to another word -- well, no harm done if one realizes that what this is all about is overcoming the LACK of felt meaning in the noun itself (as opposed to the noun in a given culture, which may not be something a writer, qua writer (qua mindful communicator) should count on.

sandra

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2014, 10:36:59 PM »
I won't as yet (maybe never) reply to George's request for comment but what I will do is post some other two-word haiku.
 
    WINDSCRIBBLE
          ripples

              *

   SUNSTRAINER
          gorse


            *

     EARTH-BUR
      hedgehog

            *

      SKYBONE
         moon

- all by Alan Wells, published in the New Zealand Haiku Anthology (ed. Cyril Childs, the New Zealand Poetry Society, 1993)



Don Baird

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2014, 11:55:29 PM »
I believe "the list" as follows ...

    WINDSCRIBBLE
          ripples

              *

   SUNSTRAINER
          gorse


            *

     EARTH-BUR
      hedgehog

            *

      SKYBONE
         moon


... does have a bit of the DNA of haiku but minimal. There is, within these poems, disjunction (toriawase) via the art of pairing and separation of which might bring about additional meaning to the reader. However, a second aspect of haiku DNA (as I see it) is the short poem's ability to tap into the reader's feeling (response through feeling and not just mind). This protects the genre from becoming a word game such as was being played when Basho came upon the scene; he brought out greater aesthetics and deeply admonished word-play (not that we're to answer to the "old days"). Another aspect of haiku DNA is defined by the word "memorable." Neither of these two are memorable (nothing personal to the poet; just my honest response).

SKYBONE
moon

... and I say ... so?

It is one thing to play; it is another to draw out readers to engage them with emotional response systems ... hearts ... depth ... resonance.


SUNSTRAINER
gorse

This one is clever but I can't imagine it brings out much feeling (an important aspect of the genre of haiku and its DNA, I feel).

Now compare those two with this one by Jim Kacian:

my fingerprints
on the dragonfly
in amber

This is a memorable haiku (modern yet resonates with the DNA of haiku/hokku). I realize there is no actual cut-marker but the poem is indeed cut. That isn't the argument. The poem has wonderment; it has mystery; it has imagery; it makes the impossible possible; it draws on the reader's feeling -- heart ... a wabi/sabi, if you will; and, it lingers on the mind for awhile. And though modern, it is fraught with haiku DNA.

The two-line poems I have picked as examples simply do not seem accomplish much (with me).

EARTH-BUR
hedgehog

... and once again ... so?  (I don't mean this as anything rude ... I simply mean it as ... and?) I read it; I move on. It doesn't linger in any important or interesting way, for me.


clouds seen
through clouds
seen through

Another fine haiku by Jim Kacian. There seems to be a defining difference between one word/two word short-poems and the ones of authentic seeds (DNA) of the haiku genre.

Peace,

Don


 
« Last Edit: August 28, 2014, 11:13:43 AM by Don Baird »
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Paul Miller

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2014, 02:19:18 PM »
Hi George (and all),

Your question is timely. I think an argument could be made that these are haiku (all are cut, some have season elements) and they reverberate when put together. For example, in

          firefly       violin

we find two elements that aren’t dissimilar (I might go so far as to say they are images). One is visual, one is aural, and there is a warmth to them. They have what renku writers call a “scent link.”

          Hiroshima       Phoenix

is much more powerful, and again, they share impressions: a cloud rising, a bird rising, both with flames, both with rebirth. And isn’t that reverberation what the elements of a haiku should create? 

That said, as words on their own they don’t create any kind of scene, any kind of context, so the reverberation is more intellectual than “felt.” I’m not being given the scene or picture a normal haiku usually gives me. I’m having to work a little harder. But is that bad?

I said above that I might go so far to call them images, and I’m going to hedge on that a bit. The pairing itself isn’t an image since we aren’t told how they combine and where, but the reader could create one themselves. For example, in “firefly      violin”, I could imagine this as a field in which I am seeing fireflies while a friend plays the violin. We’re having a sunset picnic.

I tend to think of haiku as a shared art, and prefer to have the reader and writer be somewhat close in their individual readings. I think expecting that shared experience in these cases is asking a lot. But I do not dismiss them. I find them very interesting.

Paul

Don Baird

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2014, 09:40:51 PM »
"That said, as words on their own they don’t create any kind of scene, any kind of context, so the reverberation is more intellectual than 'felt'.” ~ Paul Miller

Yes, this is a primary concern, I feel — "so the reverberation is more intellectual than felt" — being the antithesis of what haiku represent, historically, as a genre. There are posits from all sides of a 49-sided coin regarding haiku aesthetics; but, few disagree that "feeling" is a primary target of the haiku poet — reaching into the depths of the reader's heart/soul.

I fear that once haiku become more intellectually based, that the genre is in danger, once again, of being reduced to word-play and clever thought. Word play can be a boring sport when paired with haiku ... leaving the reader with not-much-to-ponder or carry forward. The horizontal axis of story line is one aspect; the vertical axis of meaning is another: both need to be fulfilled to form a quality haiku, as I see it.

I'm not convinced that two words can do that. And, problematically, I'm not easily swayed that one word or two ... is even a poem — to each his own.


However, for the sake of thinking out loud, these are humble attempts:


zebra        baggage


cowhand       wide-angle


zipper       dashing


beyond       mirage


envelope       silence



. . . . . a subject worth pondering.


Don





« Last Edit: August 27, 2014, 09:43:44 PM by Don Baird »
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Lorin Ford

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2014, 10:07:33 PM »
Dear Allen, Lorin, Paul, Philip, Richard, Sandra,

Your discussion reveals that the theoretical underpinnings of English-language haiku are evolving as vigorously as haiku themselves.

I’m interested to learn about your views on two-word haiku. In 1984, CURVD H&Z published bifids, my collection of such ku, and, in 1986, Wind Chimes Press published, The Space Between, an anthology of two-word ku by Eric Amann, LeRoy Gorman and me. 

Here are seven of mine from these works.  I hope one or two will kick-start a discussion. The first four were included in Thomas Lynch’s PhD thesis, An original relation to the universe: Emersonian poetics of immanence and contemporary American haiku (University of Oregon, 1989).


firefly      violin               

fever              ants

stars              crickets

mist              semen

eyelid      cloud

snowflakes      bricks

Hiroshima      Phoenix


Of particular interest to me is how large the space, or gap, between images can become before reader interest plummets into a yawning abyss.

Cheers,

George

George, I recall this of yours from early on in my reading of haiku:


stars              crickets

Wherever I came across it, it wasn't presented along with other 'pairs' and, for me, it works better presented alone or with  dissimilar compositions.

It immediately reminded me of a personal experience in the back paddock of a pub on an out-of-the- way mountain, inland in Far North Queensland. I had not seen so many stars since I wad a kid and the screeching of crickets seemed to be coming from the stars themselves. I lay there on my back (this was in my forties) totally absorbed in this powerful experience. Had I not had this experience, I don't know what I would've made of your ku.

eyelid      cloud

This doesn't take me to a personal experience, but to the famous cloud/ razor/ eye scene in Bunuel's "Un Chien Andalou" :

 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0020530/

This, surely, is no accident, since the technique you're using is an adaptation of the 'montage' technique of film editing first developed by Eisenstein and other Russian film-makers of the early C20.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montage_%28filmmaking%29

http://nofilmschool.com/2013/10/pudovkin-montage-5-editing-techniques/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_montage_theory

(I don't know how or where ' Emersonian poetics of immanence and contemporary American haiku' and Soviet montage theory meet, but it might make an interesting study for someone.  8) )

Certainly, fruitful analogies have been made between editorial cutting in film and kire/cut in haiku, but I'm with Tom d'E, here:  while it's common to refer to a photograph as an image (visual), a word in itself is not an image for me, though an image (literary image) is made of words, eg all of William Carlos Williams' 'Red Wheelbarrow' poem that follows the introductory 'it all depends upon' comprises one image, Pound's "apparition of (these) faces in a crowd" ('At A Station of the Metro' is an image, as is Yeats' "my coat upon a coat-hanger" ('The Apparitions').

"Of particular interest to me is how large the space, or gap, between images can become before reader interest plummets into a yawning abyss." - George

We are a pattern-seeking animal, from babyhood onwards. We find connections, make sense of things when we need to or want to. I don't think the problem is 'the yawning abyss' but what we as readers want from haiku, what will draw us in to make our bridges across the abyss. If we think of haiku as a very short kind of poetry, then what is it that two words in juxtaposition might often be lacking? What part does the rhythm of language play in our experience of even a very short poem? The sounds? Repetition of some kind? The sense of movement in time? Even wordplay? What draws the reader in, what enchants?

Sometimes, what minimalist ku seem to me to lack is body, a body of sound.

(and that sound may not be quite the same for all English speakers ... tomahtoes/ tomaytoes, gasp/ gahsp etc. )

- Lorin

Lorin Ford

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2014, 02:40:55 AM »
I'm wondering whether this idea of single words being images might be something that's crossed over from languages like Chinese, where words aren't made of letters in an alphabet but from abstracted visual images or 'ideograms'?

"Pound gives a brief account of it in his book The ABC of Reading (1934).[1] He explains his understanding of the way Chinese characters were formed, with the example of the character 'East' (東) being essentially a superposition of the characters for 'tree' (木) and 'sun' (日); that is, a picture of the sun tangled in a tree's branches, suggesting a sunrise (which occurs in the East). He then suggests how, with such a system where concepts are built up from concrete instances, the (abstract) concept of 'red' might be presented by putting together the (concrete) pictures of:

ROSE    CHERRY
IRON RUST    FLAMINGO


This was a key idea in the development of Imagism. "

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pound%27s_Ideogrammic_Method

Japanese:

"Kanji (漢字?) are used to write most content words of native Japanese or (historically) Chinese origin, including:

most nouns, such as 川 (kawa, "river") and 学校 (gakkō, "school")
. . .
Most kanji have more than one possible pronunciation (or "reading"), and some common kanji have many. Unusual or nonstandard readings may be glossed using furigana. Kanji compounds are sometimes given arbitrary readings for stylistic purposes. "

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_writing_system

What happens though when we juxtapose two EL words, made from letters, not visual images of things? Don's

envelope       silence

is interesting, not as a completed haiku but as sketch/ draft for a haiku ... perhaps for his now famous

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

?

- Lorin



Don Baird

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2014, 11:05:27 AM »
"What happens though when we juxtapose two EL words, made from letters, not visual images of things? Don's

envelope       silence

is interesting, not as a completed haiku but as sketch/ draft for a haiku ... perhaps for his now famous

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

?

- Lorin
"


Lorin, you nailed it exactly!   envelope     silence  . . . a core aspect of the nagasaki haiku. Very intuitive!

blessings,

Don


« Last Edit: August 28, 2014, 11:16:16 AM by Don Baird »
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gswede

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2014, 10:40:33 AM »
Dear Peter,  Alan, Tom, Sandra, Don, Paul and Lorin,

Peter, thank you for arranging this discussion.

Alan, you point out one of the toughest tests for poems, a live audience. I have read two-word haiku from a stage, but they only succeed after I give an introduction to the motivation behind them.  This requisite supports your view of their limitations.

Sandra, your examples from the work of Alan Wells are nice to know. Of course, I like to think that we (Eric, LeRoy and I) inspired him.

Tom, your perspective has put a couple of works at the top of my reading list.  I was also glad to be reminded of “felt meaning.”

Don, your use of DNA as a metaphor for the true nature of a poetic form is a reality-check. Coincidentally (?), your signature haiku, with its “felt meaning” and wit, dovetails nicely with your stated attitude.

Paul, your views come closest to mine. In fact, they would have made an empathetic and illuminating introduction to either of the two collections mentioned earlier,  bifids and The Space Between. I particularly like the way you describe the pluses and minuses of two-word haiku in terms of “shared art.”

Lorin, your critique ranged into territory outside my conscious awareness. I’ve seen Buñuel’s and Dali’s Un Chien Andalou more than once, but never connected the “cloud/razor/eye scene” to “eyelid  cloud.” Now I won’t be able to recall this two-word piece without relating it to the surrealist 1929 silent short. The same goes for Eisenstein’s montage” technique” in The Battleship Potemkin.

Thank you all for your eloquent and informative analyses.

*****

In the early1980s, I became intrigued with finding the minimum number of words for a poem/haiku. One-word poems such as tundra by Cor van den Heuvel (1963) and lighght by Aram Saroyan (1965) were treated as jokes or failed experiments by most readers and I wanted to see what would happen with two-word poems— perhaps more readers would find them acceptable.

In 1984 John Curry printed bifids, a mini-chapbook of 14 of my paired nouns. When Marshall Hryciuk wrote a rave review in Inkstone (1984, 2:2), I thought I had struck the jackpot. The tiny collection of 28 words got four pages of explication.
 
Your collective response, however, has made me wonder whether two words are really enough. Perhaps the number of words for a poem should be at least three.
 
lovers
exchanging
bacteria              (CURVD H&Z,1983, #259)

brook
sunlight
Bach                 (Modern Haiku, 2010, 41:2)


What do you all think? Are three words the sine qua non for a poem?

(The above three-word haiku and several more appear in my latest collection, micro haiku: three to nine syllables 2014.)


Peter Yovu

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2014, 03:19:07 PM »
In her book Centering, first published in 1964,  M.C. Richards included a two word poem:

POEM

      Hands


                                  birds.

In the book there was a greater distance between the words. The space is, of course, integral. Interesting that she titled it “POEM”. Just to be sure.

Can two words be considered a haiku? Can one, or three?  I think it is possible to be clever and feelingful at the same time— why not?

The MC Richards poem above is both I would say.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2014, 06:03:00 PM by Peter Yovu »

Don Baird

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2014, 03:54:32 PM »
I ponder that a key problem in this wrestling match of ideas (what haiku finally is and is not) is possibly single fold — not everyone is attempting to identify it as a genre. I've heard numerous poets posit "I don't care if it is haiku ... it just needs to reach me," or something along that line of thought. But, there are others that believe haiku (in English and all the other languages around the world) is a genre — a practice of sorts — with reasonable expectations of its minimal requirements. My mantra has been that a waltz is a waltz and not a cha-cha.

The threshold between a free-style poem and a haiku often contains/retains a blur of lines — each crossing over into the other's bounds. I don't particularly hold that notion close to heart. I think it's a dangerous threshold to cross for the genre of haiku to no longer know what constitutes it even if that constituting is broadly presented.

hand/birds ... and once again, I think out loud, "so." There is something not striking about it, maybe more than what is striking. There is an emptiness — a lack of poetic fiber and "stay-power." What's left to think about — that is meaningful? I imagine we can leave it up to the reader. But, then again, is it haiku, short poem, or a mind game?

shoe

          feet


This little poem is a trick question. ;)

But the real question, "does it make the cut?" Is it a haiku? Some will say, "it doesn't matter, cuz I hate it." Others will say "it is a short poem" while a few will claim it to be a "brilliant two word haiku." In closing, when I'm writing poetry such as sonnets, tanka, haiku, hokku, waka, haibun, haiga, sijo and et al, I, for one, would like to understand and enjoy the knowledge and skill that begs me to write the genre well. I feel, genre counts.

One measure; does  shoe/feet  draw upon deeper feeling -- deeper emotional tugs of the reader? Is it memorable? Is it evocative? (such as Basho's summer grasses poem and a thousand others). Is it musical? Does it have a pleasing or displeasing rhythm; does it have a rhythm? Is it an empty word game — a mental toy for the linear intellect to mess with?

What is the purpose of poetry? On second thought, lets not go there. ;) I imagine this is a subject that is bigger than us all — collectively.

This FN - Off Topic exploration is interesting, well presented with keen sensibilities. I'm enjoying the thread very much. And, I appreciate everyone's efforts and differing opinions and ideas.

peace
I write haiku because they're there ...

through
the hole of a cheerio,
spring!

sandra

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Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic #2
« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2014, 07:41:46 PM »
Something I would like to say about extremely brief haiku revolves around the power of a single word.

tundra

with its need to be black letters in the middle of a white page does have an intellectual element to it (maybe half?).

I don't think we would want to see very many one-word haiku before they were "stale". It's a lot to ask of a word, to also be a poem in its own right/write.

Oddly, the two-word haiku seem to give me less pleasure than the single-word haiku, perhaps because I *have* to find something - a tension, a link - between the words to find the poetry. With a single word I can let it fill my thoughts and explore it from all sides.

Three-word haiku? This is one of my favourite haiku full-stop.

mime
lifting
fog

- Jerry Kilbride, 3rd place, Harold G Henderson awards, 1988

Is there a particular reason why you have used three lines, George? Did you consider a single line? I'd be interested to know your thinking on the two presentations.

lovers
exchanging
bacteria

lovers exchanging bacteria

Don, thank you for your thoughts on word play - I agree with you, although do think that once in a while a bit of fun doesn't go amiss. Haiku for me need to be poems, they need to do that alchemy thing.

One of the hardest things for me as a writer is to keep finding a fresh way of expressing myself, of not becoming my own cliche. With so few words it can be difficult and I see lots of em dashes at the end of first lines when checking my poem files. Editing can be as much about making the poem look fresh.

Revised: To remove the second one-word poem originally quoted (I was thinking of "core" quoted by Lorin in a post or two, thanks Lorin; the one I quoted is my own and unpublished!)

« Last Edit: August 30, 2014, 04:53:30 PM by sandra »

 

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