Hello and welcome to episode five of the third series of the haiku pea podcast. My name is Patricia and this week I’m going to be continuing with the series of podcasts I started on the essence of haiku. But I also have a little treat for you, I hope, because I’m going to be bringing you the first instalment of our third renku.
I’d like to start with a big thank you to everyone who sent me feedback from the first of the series, episode 3, in which I was talking about the haiku moment. I was delighted to receive some feedback that whilst not totally disagreeing with me certainly made me question some elements of what I said. I’ve collected it all together and what I’ll do is come back and talk about the feedback at the end of the series. So please keep it coming.
But before I carry on I can’t resist sharing a little haiku moment, composed by m shane pruett:
changing my lens
a haiku moment
comes into focus
m shane pruett
Now, on to my next thought piece. Don’t forget it’s an opinion and I welcome debate. Last time I said I was going to talk about what I initially called emotion in this podcast but unfortunately I spent a week in the company of flu. One of those nasty viruses where you don’t feel outrageously sick but your head is completely full of fog and you lose the will to do anything. So there wasn’t even the advantage that I could stay in bed and really think through what I wanted to say, my brain would not play ball. Consequently I shall return to that topic in episode seven. Today my podcast on essence is on a different subject and has been influenced by a visit to an exhibition in Zürich of Surimono. According to the exhibition information, this literally means “printed things”. It was a collection of Japanese woodblock prints from the 19th century on which poetry, some of which we would now identify as haiku were written. Sadly the poetry was not translated.
Now you’ll probably think I’m bonkers, because when I started to think through today’s topic it was, to me anyway, blindingly obvious and I’m somewhat embarrassed that I hadn’t put it in writing before. But as I went round this exhibition it hit me that at the heart of haiku you have its simplicity and perspective of every day life, some would add brevity to this tiny list, but I ‘m not going to and I’ll come back to it in another podcast.
What do I mean by simple?
Well the language, for example, we don’t fill our haiku with adjectives and adverbs. Perhaps we fling some in from time to time, but only if it makes sense. I don’t want to say they are forbidden, because, let’s face it, as western haiku evolves, so rules crumble. It occurs to me:
dissolves the cliff face
Generally we keep our language universal. I should write a verse in English here in Switzerland and you should be able to follow it linguistically anywhere else in the world as long as you can read English. But let’s not forget, we don’t want to write blah haiku, we want to write something of interest, don’t we? That’s where the ah ha moment I discussed in episode three comes in.
Let me see if I can give you an example of how haiku simplifies when compared to non haiku Western verse:
I turn to Sylvia Plath. The opening verse of Morning Song struck me, well actually I could have used a number of the verses, but let’s go with the opening one:
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.
Such a wonderful use of words and rhythm. “and your bald cry” just sends my stomach into spasms.
Three lines. Only three lines but for a haiku (which it’s not, I know), far too much information, plus simile, adjectives and verbs…
I tried to condense it, to illustrate how a haijin might simplify this into haiku:
slapping the soles of your feet…
suddenly we cry
Still too many verbs for my liking but can you see the difference between the one poem and the haiku? It’s very, very simple in its use of language and describes an everyday, albeit miraculous, occurrence. I hope the last line gives a bit of an aha moment. Why does the person, present in the verse also cry?
Now can I offer you some examples of simplicity in everyday life. This first one by Fay Aoyagi may not be something everyone has experienced, but I have and increasingly many people do
the officer’s accent
thicker than mine
Fay Aoyagi “Chrysanthemum love”.
I think you can get the haiku moment in this, even if, you have not had that citizenship interview. Was it that the officer was also someone who wasn’t first language English or was it, as in my case that my interviewers’ accent was very heavily accented in the Swiss dialect that I had real trouble understanding him?
for the moon
Terry Ann Carter
from “My Haiku: From Making to Being” by Terry Ann Carter
Surely we have all spent time in the underground car park. The verse says something really quite obvious, but it hadn’t occurred to me. I love it when that happens, don’t you?
on the bedroom wall
a new window
Chrysanthemum issue 17
Here I am with the poet, lying on the bed as the sun streams into the room and I can see that second window. Carefree summer days in warm climates. Oh how I wish for those days as I look out the window today and see the snow falling and the garden that yesterday I was checking for signs of tulips and daffodils disappear into the white.
i sit up
with his fear
Jonathan Roman from the haiku pea podcast Series 3 Episode 4
What I enjoyed about this one is the notion of night terror. Who has the night terror? What is the night terror? Well it’s obvious you might say, and yes, on first reading, it’s clear, it’s “his”, but who is he? Old, young? Why is he scared? Yet again, could it be that the observer and the observed are both scared? I admit to having had a panic attack when I read this for the first time as it took me back to nights that I had spent at the bedside of a couple of my children who had spent time in intensive care. It’s a scary place. Equally it could apply to the time my father was dying and I sat with him through his last night.
So back to my point. In all these cases the verses are simple, told in simple language, describing situations that we might have experienced and yet in their choice of these few words they have created haiku/senryu.
And with a deep breath I move on, sad to leave these verses behind, but happy to share the start of the next renku:
This time we’re trying something different. The renku is a story about social themes. My thanks so far to Paddy White, wendy c bialek, James Young and Robert Horrobin.
facing the sun
a passing dog
smells the soles of his shoes
wendy C bialek
rain clouds gathering
no bed at the hostel
my tomb is bigger than yours
all are dead
as they piss on the fallen
seeing his breath
only the living can feel
a ray of light
rage thaws the frost
And so goodbye, at least for this week. Next time I shall be bringing you a selection of haiku and senryu about recipes. It has been a pleasure to read through all the submissions. Perhaps this is a good time to remind you that the next deadline is the 1st of April and the topic is afternoon break. Email me let your verses show me your thoughts and activities during your afternoon break.
Until then, keep writing…