This week as well as talking techniques I’m delighted to welcome back Kate Alsbury as our guest haiku poet. We first met her in episode 15. More from Kate in a minute. But first let’s talk techniques

I’ve been looking for a code, a set of rules that I could use to write haiku. I felt a bit like Robert Frost did about writing free verse, apparently he said that it was “like playing tennis without a net.” and having been educated in western forms of poetry I had to agree with William Carlos Williams’ opinion that “being an art form, verse cannot be free in the sense of having no limitations or guiding principles”. (1) Maybe that’s where I’m going wrong, thinking about haiku in terms of western poetry.

In an essay by Paul Miller, he states:. “overmuch has been made of haiku’s historical link to Zen Buddhism, and poems are often explained from a religious or spiritual perspective. Poems are rarely spoken of in technical terms.” (2)

Jane Reichhold (3) has a list of 24 techniques.

Today I’m talking about  synesthesia, otherwise known as sense switching.

So what is synesthesia?

“Toshimi Horiuchi, in his essay Synesthesia in Haiku, defines it as “closely associating a sensory experience of one kind with a sensory experience of another.”” (2)

So far so good, but now we need to subdivide the idea of sense switching into transformational, proximal and a third category, multiple sense switching, where each line of the haiku uses a different sense.

Today I want to concentrate on proximal synesthesia and next week we can look at transformational and multiple since switching.

Proximal sense switching tends to be more popular with western haiku poets. So what is it? It is, “where the two senses stand side by side” (2)

Let’s have a look at some examples:

Do you remember in podcast episode 28 we did a special on memories. In that episode we heard a haiku from a contempory poet, Nicholas Klacsansky. Well I’d like to give you a haiku from his father, George, which I found in Haiku Moment. (4) It demonstrates proximal sense switching. In this case visual and aural.

with each receding
wave – – the sound of

I really enjoyed working on this topic and I’m looking forward to next week I’m trying out the transformational and multiple since switching. But for now this is a selection of my proximal sense switching haiku:

The first is visual – aural
This haiku has had many many incarnations. It started something like this:

see the man
in the shade of the tree
the sound of a garden hose

but that clearly doesn’t work

the sound of a garden hose—
in the shade of the tree
a man

and now it’s this

the tree hides him—
the tinkle of water
in the fountain

My next one arrived pretty much as it is. It’s a proximal visual – aural haiku

butterflies dance
through the window

Kate Alsbury from the USA is our guest poet. As I said Kate last paid us a visit in episode 15 so you could go back and have a listen to what she wrote for us then.

Kate is an experienced writer and Editor, with a real passion for the countryside. She has started her own journal: Jalmurra which is accepting poetry, art, fiction, essays, and anything else that relates to nature or science, to support her project to save forests and farmland.  Perhaps you could submit work to her journal?
This is her haiku:

summer moon —
deer on reconnaissance
break across the field

Very strong images in this one. If you are lucky enough to live in an area of countryside populated by deer this will perhaps be a familiar sight for you. There is a road very close to my house which cuts through farmland. If you were not familiar with this road you would hurtle along it at quite a speed unaware that at any moment a deer, feeding in the fields could bolt in front of you. They’ve certainly give me a fright from time to time.

That’s it for this week thank you so much to Kate for her vivid haiku I hope you enjoy it.

Next week I’ll continue on with sense switching so I hope you will join me then and if you have examples of transformational or multiple sense switching in western haiku please forward them to me because I have to say that I am having trouble finding a selection. I’d be very grateful.

Thanks so much for coming along today and listening I hope you’ve enjoyed it and will join me again next Monday. Until then keep writing

  1. Free Verse, Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 2nd Ed, 1975
  2. Haiku Toolbox: Synesthesia by Paul Miller
  3. Jane Reichhold- Writing and Enjoying Haiku. A hands on guide.
  4. Haiku moment an anthology of contemporary North American haiku edite by Bruce Ross

Kate Alsbury:


Week 32: Can you smell the deer?

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