ABSTRACT: Haiku and related forms, particularly haibun, by their very nature, invoke reparative ways of reading and knowing. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s haibun models (performs, even) these ways of knowing by utilizing the space between haiku and prose to queer the text, and appealing to the powering the power of dialogue in reader-writer relationships. This article highlights Sedgwick’s understanding of reparative reading as a theoretical practice, connects it to haiku aesthetics, and then identifies how these are reflected in the moving parts of Sedgwick’s A Dialogue on Love.
by Aubrie Cox Warner
Although theorist and poet Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1950 – 2009) is primarily known for her foundational work in queer, literary, and gender studies, I was first introduced to her work through my first MFA poetry workshop in a lesson on close reading. Dominant academic theory often demands a method of reading that seeks to unearth one, definitive truth within a text; within the poetry workshop, this means writers might latch onto one way to read a poem, as though a poem is a puzzle to solve. In one such instance, our professor asked us to consider the concept of reparative reading, which he explained (perhaps overly simply for our sakes) as being generous and open to multiple readings, and following the possibilities of what the text could be doing. Reparative reading, which is derived by Sedgwick’s uptake of Melanie Klein’s psychoanalytic strategy of reparation (i.e., finding pleasure out of a depressive state), struck me as complementary to haiku aesthetics — the best haiku allow for multiple readings, and the social nature of that multiplicity means that the life of the poem grows the more that it’s shared. The capacity to read and reread is what make haiku pleasurable.
In the years since this initial encounter, I’ve found myself often gravitating back to Sedgwick’s theory, but it’s only within the most recent revolution that I discovered Sedgwick’s book-length haibun A Dialogue on Love. This encouraged me to revisit reparative reading directly through a haiku aesthetic perspective. This lens is not so much about writing haiku, but rather the experience of reading through the craft and aesthetics of haiku. Haiku, and particularly haibun, by their very nature, invoke reparative ways of reading and knowing. Sedgwick’s haibun models (performs, even) these ways of knowing by utilizing the space between haiku and prose to queer the text, and appealing to the power of dialogue in reader-writer relationships.
This article will highlight Sedgwick’s understanding of reparative reading as a theoretical lens and connect it to haiku aesthetics before identifying the moving parts of Sedgwick’s A Dialogue on Love. In an effort towards transparency and accessibility, a few notes on terminology: By “ways of knowing,” I’m referring to the way we, as humans, create and access knowledge based on our positionality in the world. This is often influenced by our life experiences, senses, and beliefs. I use this term often as an umbrella for “ways of knowing and reading,” as I believe our individual ways of knowing often influence our reading experience. “Haiku aesthetics” is used as an umbrella for both haiku as genre, and related forms (senryu, renku, haibun, etc) that utilize common craft elements such as brevity, concrete image, juxtaposition, and link-and-shift (as per Tadashi Kondo and William J. Higginson and Kondo’s “Link and Shift: A Practical Guide to Renku Composition”).
Reparative Reading and Haiku Aesthetics
In the fourth essay of Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity, which is aptly named “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay Is About You,” Sedgwick introduces reparative reading as an alternative to the critically dominant paranoid reading.
Reparative reading is inspired by psychoanalyst Melanie Klein’s description of paranoid and depressive states. In response to Freudian psychology, which treats paranoia as part of a diagnosis, Klein posits it as a psychological position — practice as opposed to ideology (Sedgwick, Touching Feeling 128). Where the paranoid is anxious, raging against part-objects, the depressive position seeks to “‘repair’ the murderous part-objects into something like a whole — though I would emphasize not necessarily like any preexisting whole” (128, emphasis in original). In other words, reparation is a strategy that is achieved through the depressive state in order to bring pleasure and comfort.
From a theoretical and critical reading standpoint, paranoia, also beginning with a Freudian lens, does its best to guard against homosexuality; however, queer studies, as Sedgwick explains, realized that paranoid reading is also useful in identifying “the mechanisms of homophobic and heterosexist enforcement against it” (Touching Feeling 126). This process has been replicated by other theories, such as feminism and Marxism, though Sedgwick’s concern is that it has become the only acceptable way to critically approach a text.
Despite the potential problems with paranoid reading, it’s held in high regard because there is grounding for the theory. As an intellectual exercise, it’s a strong theory that is: “anticipating . . . reflexive and mimetic . . . a strong theory . . . of negative effects,” which, “places its faith in exposure” (Sedgwick, Touching Feeling 130). In wielding exposure as knowledge, the paranoid reader makes sure that there are “no bad surprises” (130). To be surprised is to fail to read critically. For the reparatively positioned reader, Sedgwick argues, it’s healing to imagine things differently than they currently are; the possibilities beyond what’s definitive in the here and now offer a chance to contemplate a new future and alternative past (146). The desire within this is “additive and accretive” (149).
It’s important to acknowledge that Sedgwick doesn’t condemn paranoid reading, or say that it does not have any value, rather, its prevalence as the only valid method of reading is problematic (Touching Feeling 130). Sedgwick offers reparative reading as a potential alternative, but by no means the only possibility:
To read from a reparative position is to surrender the knowing, anxious paranoid determination that no horror, however apparently unthinkable, shall ever come to the reader as new; to a reparatively positioned reader, it can seem realistic and necessary to experience surprise. Because there can be terrible surprises, however, there can also be good ones. (146)
Because paranoid reading does not allow for surprise in reading, it often misses other ways for the text to grow, and does not allow alternative ways of knowing or engaging with a text. Monica Pearl interprets Sedgwick’s notion as a suggestion that: “We might aim to read reparatively, that is, with an effort to participate and understand rather than disparage” (164). Participation is key to haiku aesthetics.
While haiku are not wounded spaces, I would argue that they’re incomplete, open-ended places with built-in invitations for the reader to finish what has been started. Haiku are often described, as prompted by Makoto Ueda, as only half-finished — it’s only complete when a reader, who assumes the role as an active collaborator, comes and offers their reading (vii). However, this completion is not a fixed reading, nor does the culture of haiku encourage any one fixed interpretation. Brooks argues that: “The haiku experience is not something that occurs when the haiku is written; it occurs when the written haiku finds a reader who fully imagines it in order to fulfill its promise as a gift of realization, insight or feeling” (“Genesis of Haiku” 41). The one-breath poem is valued for its capacity for multiple readings, especially when those readings can engage with one another in a social setting (in a classroom, at a reading, in a roundtable discussion, an online forum, etc); haiku tradition is deeply rooted in reader response. A paranoid reading leaves a haiku dead in the water — there is no breath, no “ah!” experience. Through the juxtaposition, cut, and brevity, haiku rely on the capacity for surprise.
Sedgwick’s examination of paranoid and reparative reading, and the positionality of the reader, reminds me of Brooks’ look at haiku through rhetorical traditions — in describing the role of the reader within each poetics, I hear echoes of paranoid and reparative reading. Different rhetorical lenses offer different roles for the reader, some that are more restrictive than others. For example, haiku invented through an objective poetics embody an egoless observation of nature “without interpretation, explanation, commentary, or emotional response” (Brooks, “Haiku Poetics” 29). Intended to be clear, and uncolored by the writer (or reader’s) perspective, “the language is supposed to disappear as the reader recognizes the truth of the observation — ‘yes, that’s the way it really is’” (29). As Brooks notes, this objective poetics originates from a shasei, sketch of life, poetics, but when placed side by side with Sedgwick’s descriptions of paranoid reading, it’s difficult not to see how these kind of poems may evoke a paranoid response: “paranoia for all its vaunted suspicion acts as though its work would be accomplished if only it could finally, this time, somehow get its story truly known” (Touching Feeling 158). I personally see this particularly in the way that haiku in English, especially in the US and the UK, developed in response to Blyth’s Zen-heavy HAIKU volumes, leading to strong beliefs that haiku cannot be metaphorical and must come out of real world experience.
Although objective tradition of haiku can generate multiple readings, there are likely certain readings that are deemed more valuable than others: “The role of the reader in objective haiku poetics is to become an ‘everyman’ reader who imagines themselves reliving the experience of reality . . . The reader ‘steps into’ the writer’s ‘everyman’ perspective and imaginatively observes what the writer observed” (Brooks, “Haiku Poetics” 30). This strict alignment with the writer’s experience leaves little room for surprise. In some ways, it guards against big surprises. The objective haiku poetics, however, is a strong and beautiful approach — its long history with shasei leads to distilled, preserved moments that transcend hundreds of years; however, this tradition can easily be dogmatized as the one true way of writing haiku (not unlike paranoid reading’s status within academic scholarship).
The subjective tradition offers a little more room — though because “there is little room left for the reader” (Brooks, “Haiku Poetics” 31) this may reroute certain readers back into wondering what the writer actually intended; the theory I want to emphasize as the other end of the spectrum from the objective is the transactional. The transactional space is a social space. Because this is a collaborative experience, “reality is socially constructed as images and language connected to culturally shared memories and experiences” (32). Rooted in reader response, transactional poetics expect variety; in other words, there is room for surprise on all sides. I would not argue that transactional haiku poetics are a one-to-one fit with reparative reading, but the openness and relationality make reparation more feasible. Brooks argues that to be a good reader of haiku within a transactional lens “requires a certain amount of trust and expectation that both writer and reader understand and appreciate the arts of reading and writing haiku” (33). In order to truly have a “shared consciousness,” full participation is required (33). In this rhetorical space, the reader’s contributions and “completion” of the haiku is open to a multitude of possibilities.
This active reader participation is deeply important to not only haiku, but related forms such as renga, haiga, and haibun, as they incorporate additional media and voices. The link and shift from one mode of reading to the next demands that the reader be able to switch gears and recognize how these parts are operative together (or against one another). The multiplicity of reading enriches the reading experience, and the liminal spaces of hybridity make liminal positions and identities more visible.
Haiku, especially within a haibun, disrupt linear, dominant expectations of a text (i.e., narrative prose), and therefore could be argued as queering a text — deviating societal norms and expectations. The act of queering a text, in and of itself, may be marked as a reparative gesture when considering linear narrative prose as patriarchal and heteronormative. In “Haiku as Queer Tourism: From Bashō to David Trinidad,” Justin Sherwood describes coming out as “a form of travel,” and draws parallels between this and haiku’s history as being “men writing to, of, for, with, men.” In Western poetics, Ashberry utilized haibun in his 1984 collection A Wave as a means for explicit descriptions of “homosexual encounter,” which is otherwise rare in his work (Sherwood). This served as an inspiration for James Merrill’s The Inner Room in 1988, which served as Sedgwick’s first introduction to haibun (Sedgwick, A Dialogue 194).
It’s worth pause here to acknowledge that queer ventures into haibun have a complex and problematic history. As Sherwood explains, in complicated power dynamics, gay, white men have a history of appropriating and exoticizing other cultures; in the above examples, orientalist tropes are utitlized as means of creating queer narratives. Merrill in particular draws parallels of his own suffering with HIV to the “imagined, historical suffering of the Japanese” (Sherwood). Furthermore, Merrill uses Japanese culture and people as a metaphor for “ill health and infirmity” while his trip to Japan serves “as his final voyage” (Sherwood).
Despite this complicated history of association in Western poetics, as previously hinted, haibun not only complements queer content through the use of travel narrative, but through the nature of the form. The performative nature of moving between prose and haiku disrupts readerly expectations and dominant structures of narrative. The haiku often break away from the prose structure, which also feels akin to “coming out.” This, Freedman argues, makes the form ideal for “witnessing queerness” (14). In “Queer Therapy: On the Couch with Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick,” Monica Pearl notes the value of plurality of form: “The story of the queer self cannot be told singly. We might say that under duress, in the realm of illness, for example, autobiography becomes community. Formalized queer conversation is often used to address debilitation and loss” (156). Haibun’s capacity to make community, liminal space, and queerness visible potentially makes it possible to enter a “space of repair” (Pearl 167). Shifting between prose and poetry, haibun create space for imaging other realities beyond what’s on the page. Quoting Koestenbaum, Pearl also suggests that haibun as a form, “a queer genre,” gave Sedgwick permission to write about her experience with depression, and gives her readers permission to engage with it (167).
Sedgwick’s A Dialogue on Love
Sedgwick’s book-length haibun operates as memoir and a critical (perhaps even theoretical) exploration of queerness, love (especially queer love), death, and mental health. Pearl identifies the “likely genres” as “autobiography, experimental memoir, transcript, poetry, and queer manifesto” (154), while recognizing it as simultaneously “genre-less (or multi-genre)” (153). A Dialogue on Love follows the speaker, Eve, on her psychological journey as she returns to therapy after breast cancer, which has left her depressed and disconnected from her creative and sexual imagination; the text captures the interactions between Eve and her new therapist, Shannon, as they explore her sexuality and perceptions of queerness. It could be argued that the book is a documentation and performance of reparation, both psychologically and textually.
Perhaps due to Sedgwick’s influences and attraction to the form, A Dialogue on Love bears more resemblance to classical Japanese travel diary haibun, such as Basho’s Narrow Road to the North and Issa’s Spring of My Life, than what’s permeated global haiku traditions in the last 20 years. While reading, I was also reminded of Rod Wilmott’s The Ribs of Dragonfly — the use of narrative, multiple points of view, and haiku as transitions in-between. Sedgwick’s haibun rarely turns to Japan and do not fall into the same practices as Ashberry or Merrill, but Sherwood argues that her work mirrors Basho’s in its exploration of interiority. This likely also stems from Sedgwick’s background in Buddhism and particularly interest in the bardo — ”the liminal state or ‘fairytale opening’ in Buddhist theology that follows death, before the soul is reincarnated or born anew (2005, 166)” (Freedman 16). Additionally, the act of therapy itself demands the patient gaze inward.
The haibun form becomes a vehicle for exploring her interiority as well as the dialogic relationship between her and her therapist. Within A Dialogue on Love, Sedgwick expresses the desire to capture the experience, but it’s not until the last 30 pages of the book that she identifies haibun as the form for it. Sedgwick expresses a lack of investment in haiku as a form unto itself — “I never really got into haiku as a short form. Precious, insipid, I think would have been my words for it” (A Dialogue 194) — but haibun offers something new. In a meta moment of the book, Sedgwick takes the time to evaluate the form, narrating her discovery of it and why it appeals to her for documenting her and Shannon’s relationship: “[Haibun] seems so different. Sweeping into and through the arias, silent impasses, the fat, buttery condensations and inky dribbles of the mind’s laden brush” (194). She describes Merrill’s work as “spangled with haiku,” and “prose that’s never quite not the poetry” (194). Like most hybrid genres, haibun doesn’t exist in any one particular space. Sherwood describes haibun, within this context, as allowing “observation, narrative, and progression, but also reflection and triangulation.” Poetry was Sedgwick’s first love, but she needed something more than a poem; although Platonic dialogues feel within the spirit of what she wants to accomplish, they are too close to prose for her own liking (A Dialogue 194). Haibun borrows from both worlds without necessarily being either. The haiku and prose work together to create a link and shift that, while sometimes unexpected, operate within the spirit of haiku traditions while also creating and performing reparative spaces. If reparation is seeking pleasure through creating a whole, more desirable object, then haibun, as a form, brings Eve pleasure in her depressive state.
A Dialogue on Love maintains a typical haibun structure of juxtaposed poetry and prose; however, Sedgwick disrupts genre expectations of haibun (and patient narratives) by including Shannon’s session notes alongside her prose. Craftwise, these three parts of the text — Eve’s prose, Shannon’s notes, and haiku — are visually distinctive from each other on the page, and have functions which blur and overlap as the book progresses. The use of three, rather than two “authorial voices,” Freedman argues, disrupts binary thinking, which is key to A Dialogue on Love witnessing and performing of queerness (13). Meanwhile, Pearl emphasizes the importance of the fonts because they “tell us who is speaking — because sometimes they speak for or as each other — but whose notes are being presented” (155). As the use of first person becomes more heavily blurred — beyond heuristic to “textile” (155) — the fonts provide cues for the reader that the words themselves may not.
The prose from Eve’s perspective are in a serif font and fully justified. This internal monologue is how the book introduces the reader to Eve and the situation. The opening pages, in their own way, model Sedgwick’s own past with paranoia. Eve recounts her past experiences with therapy and reflects on how she’s often had a set way of understanding her actions and feelings. Eve’s prose is also where the majority of the quoted dialogue appears. Although heavily analytical at the beginning, the prose has the capacity to become raw with emotion: “But I think I know depression, I have my own history of it; and it felt, twenty years ago when I was really subject to it, so much less bearable than this does. So much. ‘And yet, you’re crying now’” (Sedgwick, A Dialogue, 3). Eve’s prose follow a fairly traditional narrative structure, progressing linearly. There are occasional time jumps, but these usually have clear markers. While those moments of raw emotion are present, the emotional power of these passages are the accumulation and the way they build, such as leading up to the quoted text that she’s crying as she speaks. Similarly, when considering her history with depression, Eve acknowledges: “Sadness is such a groundtone for me. I almost only feel like myself when I’m sad” (62). These moments quietly creep up in the midst of the theoretical ponderings and wash over the reader.
Meanwhile, Shannon’s notes are in full caps with a ragged edge, and equally ragged language. While Eve’s prose follow a narrative flow, Shannon’s notes are often more stacco, fragmented shorthand that cuts out unnecessary language. This often makes these passages more potent and abrupt with no warning or washing over feelings of Eve’s prose:
UP-AND-DOWN WEEKEND — EUPHORIC/UNCENTERED BY HAIKU BOOK PROJECT — IS IT RELATED TO SEX STUFF? // DREAM — BLEEDING AGAIN WITH THE DREAM AFFECT MIXED. IS AT A SCHOOL REUNION WITH GIRLS SHE WAS TAUGHT, AND ALTHOUGH SHE DOES NOT CLEARLY REMEMBER THEM, THEY ARE DEVOTED TO HER. (195)
The notes start as purely reflective on the therapy sessions and Eve’s responses and descriptions of topics. In these spaces, we get more of Shannon’s perspective as he interrogates his own response and slowly starts to include more of his own experiences. Interestingly, it’s here, not in Eve’s prose, that the reader also gets the most description of Eve’s dreams. This may reflect the fact that Eve feels detached from her previous sexual fantasies, and that she needs to somehow complete the part-object she is left with. As such, the dreams exist in a separate space than her within the narrative. As the notes go beyond the therapy sessions, they begin to take more and more space within the book, sometimes going on for pages where before they’d only be roughly half a page once every few pages. Edwards marks this as following the tradition of Basho’s travel logs, which often include work from other poets, who become collaborators within the text, but do not receive credit as co-authors of the work. Although Shannon’s take “center stage,” his name is not on the cover of the book (Edwards 41).
The final component, the haiku, which are lowercase, sans serif, and indented (as per typical formatting), “spangle” the text in multiple capacities. Primarily in Eve’s prose or serving as a transitional space between Eve’s prose and Shannon’s notes, the poems open up the text, especially in moments of a speaker’s stubbornness or avoidance, to invite another way of reading the situation — another perspective dictated by another form. The haiku follow a 5-7-5 format, use of concrete images to varying degrees from poem to poem, and oftentimes break away from the mid-sentence — an example of the many ways Sedgwick utilizes enjambment throughout the book (Pearl 162). Sedgwick has a clear understanding of the importance of juxtaposition and line breaks, as demonstrated by:
as I’ve suspended
the worry about Shannon
just being too dumb (51)
The break at “suspended” leaves both “I” and the reader suspended at the precipice of the first line, the white space — a space Freedman also reads as queer (16) — a liminal space that has yet to be defined or coded. The second line shifts the suspension from a person to a feeling, though it’s unclear what the worry itself is until the third line. Without enjambment this poem loses all poignancy. The first haiku of the book operates in a similar fashion:
word that makes no claim
to anything but — wanting
to be happier (1)
In isolation, this poem relies less on context than the first. For me as a reader, the first line asks me to consider how easy it is for words to lose their meaning; I also think of the way complicated or uncommon language argues for a certain positionality (usually one of upper class or superiority). However, it’s not that there is no claim at all — the second line argues there is only a singular claim, which like the previous example, is clarified in the final line. The haiku in A Dialogue on Love often focus on these moments of contemplation and confession, shifting and utilizing the breaks for an emotional rollercoaster. Though occasionally, Sedgwick shifts to more image driven haiku:
a storm of driving hail-
seeds and mica flakes snow
against the deep hill (11)
For those within the contemporary haiku in English community, this likely reads closer to the genre expectations — there’s a clear cut at the end of the first line, and a juxtaposition between the images. The texture of the language is evocative, though, admittedly, feel out of place within the text that is uninterested in being traditionally poetic. Nevertheless, in both approaches (the language based and image based), Sedgwick utilizes enjambment to create surprise and new possibilities with each line.
There are plenty of instances of individual haiku throughout, but Sedgwick also frequently strings them together into a sequencing, further pushing the use of enjambment. During an early session, Eve brings in a photo from her childhood in order to help her therapist attempt to get to know her and her history. The text begins in Eve’s prose before breaking out into haiku, which introduce Shannon’s observations:
—But looking at that picture with Shannon, with the instant turbulence it brings to our relation, seems a direct pipeline to that time;
also I notice
the angle of the photo
girl’s breasts quite a lot
and I’m picturing Shannon
the new, soft, alien
curves from my father’s point of
view behind the lens
(he admits to this
for me, even when
I had the two breasts
I kept forgetting them. They
weren’t there for me.
THIS DISCUSSION DOES NOT RESOLVE OUR RELATIONS NOW OR MAYBE MY RELATION WITH THIS GIRL AS YET. (77-78)
Where the haiku in Wilmott’s The Ribs of Dragonfly operate more as intermissions between prose, the haiku in A Dialogue on Love serve as a pipeline from Eve’s prose to Shannon’s notes. Because the reader does not have direct access to the photo (only a description through the prose), the haiku are a placeholder for the exchange and the experience of viewing the photo. The call-and-response does not end with a resolution, but as a table setting for further discussion; ending with “as yet” keeps a door open.
When observing Sedgwick’s use of form, Edwards says she “repeatedly bent [haiku] to her own ends” (39). While inspired by Merrill, Sedgwick avoids the use of rhyme, and occasionally would break away from a strict haiku form in order to create three haiku-like sentences, compacted together in three-lines: “Like many genres Sedgwick explored, the haibun aesthetic she adopted in A Dialogue on Love is mostly, but never entirely, systematic” (Edwards 39). This, and the emphasis of 5-7-5, is not meant to be a critique of the quality of Sedgwick’s poetry. Rather, this is to say that although on the surface her haiku do not follow the same conventions as most contemporary haiku in English, they still distill individual moments and change the overall reader’s tempo, especially when shifting away from Eve’s narrative prose. In this, I’m reminded of Kerouac’s Dharma Bums and David Lanoue’s haiku novels, which also incorporate haiku mid-dialogue, through character’s voices. The relationality of the text echoes that of transactional haiku poetics — these pieces, these voices, are active participants and collaborators.
The book begins with Eve in the position of the writer and Shannon as the reader. Eve relays information that Shannon wants to know; however, this process quickly becomes reciprocal as Eve begins to ask (demand even) things of Shannon and Shannon begins to share more from his perspective. The lines blur between traditional “writer” and “reader,” reaching the co-authorship Edwards describes. The dialogue between the two parallels the dialogue between prose and haiku, just as the three parts are in dialogue with one another. The reader begins to see that there isn’t one right way to understand the situation; the perspectives come into a shared space, and they inform one another and come into a new way of knowing all together. It’s through this that there is some healing, that Sedgwick (and perhaps Shannon as well) comes to a sense of peace, even in light of the re-emergence of her cancer toward the end of the book.
In this relationship, Eve and Shannon model possibilities for what reparative reading can be. Open to multiple understandings, the two question one another and explore their options, and generously challenge one another when the other seems to be a definitive mindset. They so do not just with the goal of a “productive” therapy session (whatever that may mean), but to help each other work through feelings and ideas in order to gain a wider perspective. Freedman refers to this relationship between Eve and Shannon as “mutual witnessing” (20), though Pearl extends this relationship to the reader and communal “we”: “Sedgwick’s book is queer therapy — for the reader. It describes and affects the ways that one wants transference with her — with her writing, her books, her words — all the time, nearly universally” (Pearl 158). Eve and Shannon find pleasure in each other’s company; they create something new between them (the book, and their relationship). The reader’s engagement with the text creates further possibilities as it becomes a space where they may also offer a completion of the part-object.
Perhaps one of the most fruitful aspects of returning to Sedgwick’s work through the lens of haiku aesthetics and reparative reading is that, as this article discusses, is it that it allowed me to see her work, and my own, from new perspectives. In some ways, this serves as a response to Brooks’ note that, “Theory helps us value the different approaches enriching the genre, so that we are not narrow in our conceptions of haiku” (39). This research challenged me to think of haiku and haibun in terms that I hadn’t previously considered — through a queer lens, as a form of healing — while simultaneously making connections to the current work I’m doing with theoretical lenses. To an extent, I had to perform my own reparative reading of a genre I’ve spent over a decade reading, researching, and writing. In short: in demonstrated that the closer I look, the fewer gaps and differences I see between the haiku forms and other writing and theorizing. This is not to say that haiku and related forms are not unique or that they don’t offer something special; it’s that these spaces inform one another more than I, and perhaps others, give them credit for. I like to think that this is something I’ve always known, but I also recognize that it’s easy to forget.
I offer this article as another way to critically discuss and write about haiku — a way we, as contemporary haiku scholars, can approach scholastic discourse to bridge the gap between academia and the haiku community. This is done with an effort to both honor global haiku traditions and make connections with wider scholastic theory without (ideally) participating in gatekeeping. Extending our perspectives and critical lenses surrounding haiku creates not only new opportunities for scholarship, but new doorways for others to enter the conversation. And in some cases, as is seen with Sedgwick’s work, it’s also about connecting to already existing conversations. Haibun have been permeating “mainstream” poetic traditions for decades, often going undocumented in global haiku scholarship. Within the last five years, this has become a topic of increasing interest for haiku communities — mostly as means for new venues for publication — and this article is an attempt to continue that conversation beyond spaces for publication.
Furthermore, I hope that this serves as an invitation for further intersectionality within haiku studies. Although there has been a demand for further documentation and conversation, the history of women and haiku is complicated (not to mention needlessly controversial). This not only articulates a gap in recognition of women’s contribution to global haiku traditions, but other underdeveloped representations such as queerness, disability, race, and socioeconomic class. As a social art, haiku are nothing without the people who read and share it; we have a responsibility to consider and reflect whose presence is recognized and who is allowed to contribute in the social, publication, and scholastic sphere.
Brooks, Randy. “Genesis of Haiku: Where Do Haiku Come From?” Frogpond vol. 34, no. 1, 2011, pp. 37-50.
——. “Haiku Poetics: Objective, Subjective, Transactional and Literary Theories.” Frogpond vol. 34, no. 2, 2011, pp. 25-41.
Edwards, Jason. “Introduction: Bathroom Songs? Eve Sedgwick as a Poet.” Bathroom Songs: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Ed. Jason Edwards. Punctum Books, 2017. pp. 17-75.
Freedman, Eden Elizabeth Wales. “The Queer Faces of Eve: Witnessing Theories in Sedgwick’s A Dialogue On Love.” Writing From Below vol. 2, no. 1, 2014.
Pearl, Monica. “Queer Therapy: On the Couch with Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.” Bathroom Songs: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Ed. Jason Edwards. Punctum Books, 2017. pp. 151-167.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. A Dialogue on Love. Beacon Press, 2000.
——. Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity. Duke University Press, 2003.
Sherwood, Justin. “Haiku as Queer Tourism: From Bashō to David Trinidad.” New Criticals. 11, December, 2013.
Ueda, Makoto, ed. Modern Japanese Haiku. University of Toronto Press, 1976.