It seems that the podcast specials where a number of poets are featured is very popular, not just for the haiku but because we learn a little bit about each of the poets. One of my goals when I set out upon this podcasting journey was to develop a community of poets who spread the enjoyment of haiku, it feels like we’re getting there. So a big thank you to all of you who take part and send me submissions, messages and feedback.
So just to remind you the next topic is “women” submissions by the 20th of July please and you don’t have to be a woman to send me a submission.
It’s lovely when, during the course of my week I come across some haiku from my haiku Chronicle friends published in various publications. This week I’d like to congratulate:
Giddy Nielsen Sweep for featuring in haiku universe
and Tim Gardiner for his haibun in Haibun Today
In episode 27, I spoke about juxtaposition and my belief that it was a characteristic of haiku rather than a technique. Before I go on to discuss my technique of the day, contrast, let’s just have a reminder of Lee Gurga’s definition of the characteristics of haiku (1):
observations of nature
to which I humbly add juxtaposition.
In my quest to write better haiku I thought I would dedicate some weeks to looking at the techniques we can use. I started with contrast because according to Jane Reichhold contrast is easy. She says “all one has to do is contrast images.” (2)
And she offers this haiku:
“long hard rain
hanging in the willows
tender new leaves”
I felt cheated by this example. I did not feel that this was a clear contrast. I think that this is more of a comparison than a contrast. They are two different images, yes, but both are nature. They compliment each other rather than contrast. To me, “long hard rain” reflects the shape of the leaves on the weeping willow tree, this is not a clear contrast. Perhaps I’ve missed something, if so please tell me.
I continued searching and reading to find better examples of contrast which make it really clear how to use this technique and I found a couple. The first one comes from the way of haiku (3):
Their definition of contrast is this, “the two images juxtaposed express a stark difference, producing a sense of irony.” They used a haiku by poet Yamaguchi Seishi:
the wheels of a locomotive
come to a stop
This is a clear contrast; here you have nature versus something man-made.
What is the irony? The locomotive is used to detract from the beauty of nature, when normally a haiku expresses the opposite, the joy of nature.
The next example comes from Alan Summers, who I’ve mentioned before as someone I turn to for inspiration. I asked Alan if I could use this haiku which I found on his blog. If you go to the blog (4) you will see that it was featured by the haiga artist Kuniharu Shimizu. I found it a very convincing haiga, yet I believe that the haiku stands on its own too.
a can of cherry cola
starts to fizz
Again we see the contrast of nature and the man-made. To me as I read and re read the haiku the a-ha moment is a vision of the fizz from the can of cola which look like little shining stars. If you look at the haiga you can definitely see the contrast brilliantly illustrated.
I also have to take issue with Jane when she says that contrast is easy. I don’t think it’s easy at all. I have spent all week trying to put together a haiku which might come close to being successful, using contrast, and so far I don’t think I’m doing very well. I’ll let you be the judge of that, this is what I’ve managed so far:
tombstones – –
in wheat field
Riding my bike through the fields these days I often see the red poppies dotting fields of wheat. It reminds me of the fields in northern France where the poppies at this time of year, often grow on the former fields of war, marking the sites where many lost their lives.
I don’t know much about the history of the area in which I live but I do know that way back in time the good people of Zürich, indeed legend has it that it was the good women and children of Zürich, scared away the armies of Carl the Great. Could it be that my local poppies mark the graves of ancient peoples who fought over my beloved adopted city?
And so we head to the USA for the guest haiku.
As I said, Veronica lives in the desert in the US. Like myself she’s a mum who enjoys poetry. She has been published many times, and was the poetry editor for MaMaZina from 2006-2011. Today we’re joining Veronica on her holidays.
vacation by shore
respite from our day to day
struggle for each stroke
I found this a very clever haiku. The connection between the two images for me relied on the word stroke. Here was Veronica on vacation, which is intended to be a respite from our everyday activities. She describes our daily regime in line 3 as a struggle for each stroke, which it can be for so many people, whether because of ill-health, poverty, or just hating what you’re doing on a daily basis.
It also contrasts two images, one of pleasure and the other of sadness or drugery. I believe it falls into the technique category that we’re covering today, contrast.
Do you find that this haiku resonates with you?. It certainly did with me, thank you very much Veronica.
You can find more from Veronica on her website.
and on Twitter @HoskingPoet where amongst other things, she takes part in the #haikuchallenge where @baffled gives a word a day to use in a haiku/senryu.
A reminder that I’m still accepting submissions for the next podcast special on the topic of women, you have until the 20th of July.
Thanks so much for joining me today, it’s lovely to have your company. I’ll be back next week, see you then. Keep writing!
- Jane Reichhold Writing and Enjoying Haiku. A hands on guide