Author Topic: The use of simile in haiku  (Read 18710 times)

Nu Quang

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The use of simile in haiku
« on: May 25, 2011, 10:34:04 AM »
I was reading "Bare Bones School of Haiku" Lesson Eleven by Jane Reichhold, in which she talked about Basho's haiku techniques, one of which is the use of simile. In the section Jane cited several examples that I'd like to re-quote here in order to clear my confusion of the use of simile in haiku which is quite discouraged.

Here're the haiku that used simile by Basho:

265 (the number of haiku in the book "Basho The Complete Haiku)

sprouts of horsetail
as if a legendary person is wearing
a pleated skirt

839

pine mushroom
with its ragged top it's
like a pine tree

There're a few more according to Jane.

Any thoughts? Any comments on this?

Thank you for your time and help.

Best,

Nu

AlanSummers

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Re: The use of simile in haiku
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2011, 10:50:28 AM »
Hi Nu,

I don't know who's discouraging you from using simile in haiku so I can't comment on that.  I read Jane's take on this a couple of years ago, and liked what she said. ;-)

As haiku is poetry, albeit quite different at times to what we in the West think of poetry, we are bound to experiment with simile and metaphor.

I've even held a workshop which focused on simile and metaphor, as any device that can be utlised for haiku to make it fresh is worth considering.

Here's a couple of mine that could be said to contain simile, as you know Jane does say you don't need to telegraph that it is a simile by using the infamous like a... ;-)


Pharmakós the name you scratch inside

memory of starlight wink of a one-eyed dog as it sneezes


I probably have others in three line format, but I haven't yet catalogued any, another exercise for another time. ;-)

Personal preference, and the fact that it's at the end of the line is ugly and unpoetic, would have me alter this example:

pine mushroom
with its ragged top it's
like a pine tree

to

pine mushroom
with its ragged top
it's a pine tree

The other example:

sprouts of horsetail
as if a legendary person is wearing
a pleated skirt

Makes me want to lose the first few words to:

sprouts of horsetail
a legendary person is wearing
a pleated skirt

Not happy with the two a's though. ;-)

Alan

AlanSummers

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Re: The use of simile in haiku
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2011, 11:45:21 AM »
Jane Reichhold had this to say in her Building an Excellent Birdcage article:

The Technique of Simile:
Usually in English you know a simile is coming when you spot the words “as” and “like”. Occasionally one will find in a haiku the use of a simile with these words still wrapped around it, but the Japanese have proved to us that this is totally unnecessary. From them we have learned that it is enough to put two images in juxtaposition to let the reader figure out the “as” and “like” for him/herself.

So basically the unspoken rule is that you can use simile (which the rule-sayers warn against) if you are smart enough to simply drop the “as” and “like”.

Besides, by doing this you give the reader some active part that makes him or her feel very smart when they discover the simile for him/herself.

a long journey
some cherry petals
begin to fall

Nu Quang

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Re: The use of simile in haiku
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2011, 12:49:04 PM »
Hi Alan,

Thank you for responding. Well, I think you misunderstood what I was saying here. I was NOT talking about  my own experience at the forum, I was talking about this technique of using simile which is, generally speaking, discouraged, and, after reading Jane's article, I was confused why a simile is not encouraged to use in haiku if Basho used it. As a matter of fact, I haven't used any simile in my haiku thus far. Anyway, thank you for your time and help. Your response helps clear up my confusion. And, in the future, if I use a simile in my haiku, I will feel more comfortable and confident doing it.

Many thanks for your time and help.

Best,

Nu

cat

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Re: The use of simile in haiku
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2011, 12:03:50 AM »
Hello, Nu and Alan,

Alan, I have a question.

Since a simile by definition is an explicit comparison using "like" or "as", how can you call this:

Pharmakós the name you scratch inside

or this:

memory of starlight wink of a one-eyed dog as it sneezes

or this:

a long journey
some cherry petals
begin to fall

a simile?

Your examples show relationships between dissimilar things but are not, strictly speaking, similes.  Metaphors, perhaps, juxtapositions, yes, but not similes by definition.

I would suggest that Jane's advice actually moves the comparison away from simile by dropping the "like" or "as", so even though she calls it "the technique of simile", it could more accurately be called "the technique of effaced simile", as the simile is no longer there once "like" or "as" is taken away.

Maybe someone who has Japanese can answer this: Are the cited haiku overt similes in the original?  Or is this a translator's way of structuring a haiku because the original uses some other technique that doesn't lend itself to English?

It is extremely rare to see overt similes in ELH anthologies or journals.  It would seem there are other techniques that are more effective, or we'd see more simile in ELH.

cat
"Nature inspires me. I am only a messenger."  ~Kitaro

Gabi Greve

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Re: The use of simile in haiku
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2011, 01:24:58 AM »
On the Japanese side, we have some words to indicate "like"


In Japanese haiku, by using the cut marker carefully,
we can imply a comparison
without mentioning it directly.

That is one of the great tricks that gives Japanese haiku its special flavor and indirect touch. Juxtaposition (toriawase) should be studied carefully.


But in the Japanese language, we do use the direct comparison
... no gotoku ... のごとく,の如く / no gotoshi のごとし、の如し
in haiku, if the situation absolutely calls for it.



Gabi
http://wkdhaikutopics.blogspot.com/2008/07/metaphor.html
« Last Edit: May 26, 2011, 02:13:41 AM by Gabi Greve »

Gabi Greve

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Re: The use of simile in haiku
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2011, 01:44:00 AM »
sprouts of horsetail
as if a legendary person is wearing
a pleated skirt

Just found the Japanese for this one

真福田が  
袴よそふか
つくづくし 
(まふくだがはかまよそふかつくづくし)
Mafukuda ga hakama yosou ka tsukuzukushi

「眞福田」は、行基上人が前世に信仰を支援した僧侶の名前。

Mafukuda
wears his hakama ... ka
this horsetail

the "legendary person" is the young priest Mafukuda, for whom Saint Gyoki made a purple hakama (pleated trousers for men and women), but only with one leg.
(There is a purple flower called "fujibakama" (hakama like a wisteria, thoroughwort)

My bit on Gyoki, who seems at the center of this haiku, and reverence to old Basho, who knew so much in an age without googeling ...
http://darumapilgrim.blogspot.com/2005/09/gyoki-bosatsu.html

and more about the trouser-skirt hakama
http://haikutopics.blogspot.com/2006/12/trouser-skirt-hakama.html

I think I should study this more, seems it is another "haiku in context", with more background than the words will show.
.....

pine mushroom
with its ragged top it's
like a pine tree

maybe Jane can provide the Japanese for it.
Got to run for now

Gabi
« Last Edit: May 26, 2011, 02:47:05 AM by Gabi Greve »

AlanSummers

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Re: The use of simile in haiku
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2011, 02:40:43 AM »
Hi Cat,

As simile is just one thing I haven't compiled examples, but re:


Pharmakós the name you scratch inside

or this:

memory of starlight wink of a one-eyed dog as it sneezes

These weren't deliberately created as simile, and without what I feel is an almost childlike (no pun intended) something is like a something exercise, I'd say that the first one can be read as a simile.

re Pharmakós monostich
We have many self-harming young people in Britain, and those who see themselves martyrs to a cause, be it religion or civic, or purely within an abusive family relationship.

The memory of starlight on one amusing level, comes from a star that will blink out like a dog as it sneezes closing one eye.  Due to travel conditions re lightyears, we still see the memory of the star before it blinks out. ;-)

Comparision also could become a simile by default of course, by accident and not necessarily by design.

As there have been so many attempts at English-language haiku since at least the mid-1950s, there is always the need to always to look to techniques old and new, fresh rather than stale or clichéd.

Mainstream poets almost always look for a fresh metaphor and avoid now clichéd metaphors as they know they are lazy attempts to get an audience to connect; and a discerning audience certainly wouldn't.

Alan

p.s. 

Cat said:
even though she calls it "the technique of simile", it could more accurately be called "the technique of effaced simile", as the simile is no longer there once "like" or "as" is taken away.

Could you cite a weblink for effaced simile, as I could only find links to a discussion about Buddha for some bizarre reason.

Also, I find like or as clumsy in any poetry unless it's for children.  But there could be some fine examples of adult poetry where like or as is used successfully?

Perhaps metaphor is the way to go, as weak signposting words such as like or as aren't prerequisite then?


Hello, Nu and Alan,

Alan, I have a question.

Since a simile by definition is an explicit comparison using "like" or "as", how can you call this:

Pharmakós the name you scratch inside

or this:

memory of starlight wink of a one-eyed dog as it sneezes

or this:

a long journey
some cherry petals
begin to fall

a simile?

Your examples show relationships between dissimilar things but are not, strictly speaking, similes.  Metaphors, perhaps, juxtapositions, yes, but not similes by definition.

I would suggest that Jane's advice actually moves the comparison away from simile by dropping the "like" or "as", so even though she calls it "the technique of simile", it could more accurately be called "the technique of effaced simile", as the simile is no longer there once "like" or "as" is taken away.

Maybe someone who has Japanese can answer this: Are the cited haiku overt similes in the original?  Or is this a translator's way of structuring a haiku because the original uses some other technique that doesn't lend itself to English?

It is extremely rare to see overt similes in ELH anthologies or journals.  It would seem there are other techniques that are more effective, or we'd see more simile in ELH.

cat



New edit reasons: improve syntax and semantics and add p.s. section.





« Last Edit: May 26, 2011, 05:31:52 AM by Alan Summers »

AlanSummers

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Re: The use of simile in haiku
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2011, 02:47:45 AM »
Hi Gabi,

I feel there is a difference between straight translation, and creating a parallel (but almost new) poem out of Japanese into English, or an English-language haiku that is keen to be accepted in the mode as a Japanese haiku.


sprouts of horsetail
as if a legendary person is wearing
a pleated skirt

pine mushroom
with its ragged top it's
like a pine tree

I find these two translations clumsy, not as translations, but as the final English-language version poem

As above, I've indicated that these could move from translation models to poem.

sprouts of horsetail
the legendary person wears
a pleated skirt

pine mushroom
its ragged top
a pine tree

Syntax wise these are now cleaner, and closer to a neutral stage from where a poem may emerge in English.

I do think we should look for the poetry when translating.  It's fine to have a direct translation as Japanese is different to say, Spanish, but we really should have a final 'poetry' translation/version.

The Victorians and Victorianesque translations that abound in English from Japanese haiku have gone to the other extreme, and held back EL advancement with both serious poets and the general public.

Alan


sprouts of horsetail
as if a legendary person is wearing
a pleated skirt

Just found the Japanese for this one

真福田が  
袴よそふか
つくづくし 
(まふくだがはかまよそふかつくづくし)
Mafukuda ga hakama yosou ka tsukuzukushi

「眞福田」は、行基上人が前世に信仰を支援した僧侶の名前。

Mafukuda
wears his hakama ... ka
this horsetail

the "legendary person" is the young priest Mafukuda, for whom Saint Gyoki made a purple hakama (pleated skirt), but only with one leg.
(There is a purple flower called "fujibakama" (hakama like a wisteria, thoroughwort)

My bit on Gyoki, who seems at the center of this haiku, and reverence to old Basho, who knew so much in an age without googeling ...
http://darumapilgrim.blogspot.com/2005/09/gyoki-bosatsu.html

I think I should study this more, seems it is another "haiku in context", with more background than the words will show.
.....

pine mushroom
with its ragged top it's
like a pine tree

maybe Jane can provide the Japanese for it.
Got to run for now

Gabi

AlanSummers

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Re: The use of simile in haiku
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2011, 04:43:26 AM »


I have a question for Gabi related to her earlier posts.

re Jane Reichhold's article for Simply Haiku magazine:
http://www.simplyhaiku.com/SHv2n6/reprints/Jane_Reichhold_reprints.html

Jane says:
"Let us dare to rewrite his most famous "on a bare branch / a crow settles / autumn dusk" into:
the heavy way a crow settles on a bare branch is just like the way dusk comes in late autumn."

I say:
Now obviously Basho didn't write in English and this translation model...

on a bare branch
a crow settles
autumn dusk

...hasn't been attributed to anyone, but I'm sure someone can recognise the author of this English-language haiku version?

It's often forgotten that a translator is an author of their own version of a foreign language piece of writing and should always be attributed.

I kinda like the English-language version, it's not perfect, but it's better for not lumping in an obvious simile or is it a metaphor as this tongue-in-cheek version example by Jane:

the heavy way a crow settles on a bare branch is just like the way dusk comes in late autumn

Gabi, my question:
you will know if you read the original Japanese verse by Basho if it's a simile or not?



Gabi said in her earlier post:

On the Japanese side, we have some words to indicate "like"

In Japanese haiku, by using the cut marker carefully, we can imply a comparison without mentioning it directly.

That is one of the great tricks that gives Japanese haiku its special flavor and indirect touch. Juxtaposition (toriawase) should be studied carefully.

Gabi


new edit reason: clear up syntax and semantic, and make things bold etc... for easier reading




« Last Edit: May 26, 2011, 06:34:30 AM by Alan Summers »

hairy

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Re: The use of simile in haiku
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2011, 05:54:44 AM »
Hello: To me, the key is originality. Freshness of fragment and phrase. Even the phrase "like a" "as a" are themselves overused and probably best avoided.


Al 

Gabi Greve

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Re: The use of simile in haiku
« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2011, 06:56:29 PM »
Quote
on a bare branch
a crow settles
autumn dusk

Gabi, my question:
you will know if you read the original Japanese verse by Basho if it's a simile or not?

I will look for the Japanese first

kara eda ni karasu no tomari keri
aki no kure

There is the kireji (cutting word) keri at the end of line 2

There is no word like "like" or "as" to indicate a direct simily (as Cat has remarked).

This is a good example of a cutting word used in a Japanses haiku to combine two images (toriawase), and it is up to the translator to show this relationship to poets who do not read Japanese.

Here are some more examples of translations:
http://wkdkigodatabase03.blogspot.com/2007/11/autumn-dusk-aki-no-kure.html

Gabi

.

Gabi Greve

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Re: The use of simile in haiku
« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2011, 07:03:50 PM »
pine mushroom
with its ragged top it's
like a pine tree


matsutake ya kabureta hodo wa matsu no nari

The cutting word YA at the end of line 2 helps to combine two images.

I found this explanation too

The name of the mushroom comes from the area where the mushroom grows, in a pine grove of Japanese red pines (akamatsu). But as Basho takes a closer look, he finds that the form of the mushroom itself resembles the tree. The broken parts of the hat look like the broken bark of akamatsu.


In the English given above I miss the meaning of HODO ... so I add my own translation

pine mushrooms -
the more ragged their tops
the more they look like a red pine

AAA, and have you ever tasted them? They are the hight of the "taste of autumn" in Japan.
Gabi


.

AlanSummers

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Re: The use of simile in haiku
« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2011, 05:01:15 AM »
Thanks for your input Gabi! ;-)

I'm not sure, but you are either stating or suggesting that simile is a non-Japanese invention?

If so, no worries, and non-Western haiku writers will use non-Japanese devices and techniques as that's the way of poetry as a whole.

I was really puzzled why the pine mushroom (independent hokku?) is so difficult to translate into a parallel English poem.

pine mushroom
with its ragged top it's
like a pine tree

No one surely would leave an it's dangling at the end of the line.

Your translation is good, but doesn't feel like an English-language haiku yet:

pine mushrooms -
the more ragged their tops
the more they look like a red pine

But I do get more from your's, than from the one above. ;-)

Alan


pine mushroom
with its ragged top it's
like a pine tree


matsutake ya kabureta hodo wa matsu no nari

The cutting word YA at the end of line 2 helps to combine two images.

I found this explanation too

The name of the mushroom comes from the area where the mushroom grows, in a pine grove of Japanese red pines (akamatsu). But as Basho takes a closer look, he finds that the form of the mushroom itself resembles the tree. The broken parts of the hat look like the broken bark of akamatsu.


In the English given above I miss the meaning of HODO ... so I add my own translation

pine mushrooms -
the more ragged their tops
the more they look like a red pine

AAA, and have you ever tasted them? They are the hight of the "taste of autumn" in Japan.
Gabi


.

Gabi Greve

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Re: The use of simile in haiku
« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2011, 06:06:09 AM »

Quote
I'm not sure, but you are either stating or suggesting that simile is a non-Japanese invention?

No, I am not suggesting this. Maybe you missed this part I had posted earlier:

But in the Japanese language, we do use the direct comparison  (simile)
... no gotoku ... のごとく, の如く / no gotoshi のごとし、の如し
in haiku, if the situation absolutely calls for it.

Gabi
http://wkdhaikutopics.blogspot.com/2008/07/metaphor.html