Haiku

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Haiku

Post by Phil White » Sun Nov 06, 2005 2:22 pm

Quail's rather excellent set of Cat haiku sent me scrabbling once again to my sadly dilapidated copy of Imagist Poetry (Penguin Books). Of all the poetry on my shelves, it is perhaps this one anthology that I always return to for the sheer pleasure of reading and re-reading many of my very favourite poems. Although the movement was short-lived (its peak is generally regarded as 1914 - 1917) and only seven poets were closely involved in it (Ezra Pound, Hilda Doolittle, John Gould Fletcher, Amy Lowell, Richard Aldington, F. S. Flint, D. H. Lawrence), it was remarkably influential in many ways.

Pound, Lowell and later William Carlos Williams were especially influenced by the haiku form and produced many short poems which come very close in form and spirit to the later Japanese haiku.

It can be argued that the precise form of a haiku cannot be transposed onto a different language, and much has been said about the shortcomings of attempts at haiku poetry in English, but to my mind, this is largely irrelevant. The English haiku or perhaps more accurately American haiku if I may term it thus took on a life of its own and haiku-influenced poetry has cropped up regularly over the past century or so.

Here are some of my personal favourites. I hope you enjoy them:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals, on a wet black bough.

Ezra Pound

Autumn Haze

Is it a dragonfly or a maple leaf
That settles softly down upon the water?

Amy Lowell

Nothing to Save

There is nothing to save, now all is lost,
but a tiny core of stillness in the heart
like the eye of a violet.

D. H. Lawrence

Image

Forsaken lovers,
Burning to a chaste white moon,
Upon strange pyres of loneliness and thought.

Edward Storer

The summer chair
rocking by itself
In the blizzard

Jack Kerouac

Circumstance

Upon the maple leaves
The dew shines red
But on the lotus blossom
It has the pale transparence of tears.

Amy Lowell

And, of course, a poem which I can never read too often:

The Red Wheelbarrow

So much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

William Carlos Williams
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Haiku

Post by Wizard of Oz » Wed Dec 07, 2005 11:39 am

.. ok Phil it's just that bloke from Downunder who has trouble expressing himself but .. *sits up taller in chair* .. I was always lead to believe that the 16thC Japanese hokku, later during the 19thC haiku, verse form had a set form, viz seventeen syllables in 3 lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively .. ok so if it's American haiku, and you may term it thus, it is written by Americans and makes up its own rules .. yep that sounds American in essence .. if TE Hulme or James Kirkup write it then is it English haiku ?? .. and if WB Yeats had a go would it be Irish haiku ?? .. and we won't even mention tanka .. *smile* .. or that other difficult idea senryu .. maybe we should call it American senryu .. that seems to fit better ..

WoZ of Aus 07/12/05
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Haiku

Post by Phil White » Wed Dec 07, 2005 11:30 pm

Absolutely so. Well, sort of.

The Japanese haiku itself, as you rightly point out, was derived from the hokku, which was the initial verse of a much longer verse form. The hokku almost invariably fulfilled certain formal constraints, among others 3 lines of 5, 7 and 5 phonetic-units-which-are-not-quite-the-same-as-Western-syllables-but-syllables-will-do-as-an-explanation. It also, critically, had a word which placed the verse in the context of a particular season. The later haiku was less bound by these (and other) constraints.

It was the Americans more than anyone who picked up the haiku and developed it for their own poetry in the period I was thinking of, hence American haiku.

Of the wee selection above, I guess the Kerouac comes closest in form and feel to the traditional hokku, although the Williams would give it a close run if you omitted the unnecessary first two lines (not my observation, although I can't for the life of me remember who said it).

Of course, you're absolutely right that much short poetry in English is closer in spirit to the tanka, or perhaps senryu, either deliberately or by chance, but again, in the period (and movement) I was thinking of, the critical importance of the image is much closer to the haiku.

And, of course, Quail's original contributions are far closer to the senryu. Thank you for the correction.
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Haiku

Post by Wizard of Oz » Mon Dec 12, 2005 8:53 pm

.. not a correction mate ... just an observation .. when all is said and done it is the flow and feel of the words and the feeling that they engender that attracts us to poetry .. one may have never heard of haiku or anything similar but still be drawn to the feelings and feel comfortable in the picture that is painted .. as with painting and other art forms, including the physical such as dance, it is that sometimes the artistic world is overinterpreted by too many wannabe people .. I have a way of viewing an exhibition that has worked for me .. I move quickly through scanning the art forms .. letting the feedback from my eyes direct my gaze .. when it lingers and pulls me I gravitate to that art piece .. I pay little attention to the "critics" verbage until I have felt the piece with MY mind .. similar with poetry .. read it and let it flow, feel the first images .. let them speak to YOU and worry about the form and what type of verse it is later .. works for me .. the inner immages and feelings come later .. and yes there have been times I have missed a favourite on first viewing or reading .. but that is the joy of going back .. relooking, rereading, refeeling .. just like an attentive lover .. *smile* ..

WoZ of Aus 13/12/05
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Haiku

Post by spiritus » Thu Dec 15, 2005 4:54 am

WOZ wrote (eloquently):
...when all is said and done it is the flow and feel of the words and the feeling that they engender that attracts us to poetry ... it is that sometimes the artistic world is overinterpreted by too many wannabe people .. .I have a way of viewing an exhibition that has worked for me .. I move quickly through scanning the art forms .. letting the feedback from my eyes direct my gaze .. .. I pay little attention to the "critics" verbage until I have felt the piece with MY mind .. similar with poetry .. read it and let it flow, feel the first images .. let them speak to YOU and worry about the form and what type of verse it is later .. works for me
Article; Brief History of Haiku
By: Deborah Russell
Haiku is difficult to describe, which prevents an intricate explanation. Its concrete form makes descriptions almost ridiculous. The first two lines prepare the reader for the last line, which leads quickly to the reality presented. It urges the reader to take part in the creation of the work. Therefore, it gains a depth that cannot be reached with mere words. A haiku is free of ambition and aims. It puts readers directly into a situation or thought. The haiku aims not to influence the reader, but cause effect by means of participation. Good haiku react alone. When reading haiku try to not reflect automatically, or see haiku as a "thing", try to "experience" it.

Haiku can not be dissected; the choice of words, the formal rhythm, and stylistical means are approaches for an experience which can not be described quite as well in other forms of writing. It is the language of Zen moments, bits of spiritual awakenings.

Explicit arts try to explain whole meanings and usually doesn't accomplish it's "goals". Haiku, however is the art of suggestion and indication and, on the contrary, is as open and deep as our spirit conceives.

Haiku poems should be experienced as individual elements and savored before reading consecutive verse, even or especially in the forms of renku and other "haiku" sequences. A good idea is to tread slowly through the paths of each haiku.

http://www.haikuhut.com/Short%20Stuff%2 ... ticles.htm
One poet's Irish haiku like response to critics:

"Tread lightly, because you tread on my dreams." --- WB Yeats
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Haiku

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Dec 15, 2005 5:47 am

There is much sense in WoZ's remarks concerning the enjoyment of art.

A haiku does not seem to me to be so qualitatively different from other forms of verse as to make it impossible to analyse, but it will be less worth the effort of trying.

The reason is that because it is so brief, much of its effect is necessarily dependent on the reader's subjective interpretation of its images rather than on its creator's ability to manufacture a compelling vision using such devices as rhythm, metre and narrative structure that are familiar to readers of Western poetry, and which are also more susceptible to the more objective process of formal analysis. I think this is what Russell means when she speaks of "the language of Zen moments". (On the other hand, it seems rather grandiose to describe such a fleeting phenomenon as a manifestation of "spiritual awakening"; that is a term which, for the sake of avoiding devaluation through over-use, it would be preferable to attach to something rather more life-changing.)

In any event, one might as well just quote the whole piece as try to describe it, and leave it to one's audience to make of it what they can. The alternative is to risk appearing overbearing or obfuscatory through over-analysing what is, after all, only seventeen syllables of verse.
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