Here we are in high summer. It’s baking here in Switzerland so let me welcome you to a very warm, muggy pre thunderstorm edition of the haiku pea podcast, with a slightly discombobulated Patricia. It’s too hot for me.
This week I promised you something on verbs, which I will get to in a minute. I’ll give you a quick update on the renku and then we will hear a little more from one of our contributors, Norm Kekki from the US. First I’d like to return briefly to episode 13, unseen and unheard.
Thank you to everyone who emailed me about the episode. I’m always grateful to have your feedback. I’d just like to talk about one comment that suggested that what I was saying could have come across as me blaming readers for being too superficial. It was not my intention. It was more a plea to give our wonderful little verses some time and space and to enjoy not just the meaning of them (if you can) but also the construction and the rhythm of them. It takes but an instant to read them and yet there is so much underlying them.
And so to verbs in haiku. Remember this is only an opinion, one I have at the moment. I don’t believe that thinking or opinions necessarily stand still and so as I learn and discuss these ideas with you, my opinions may develop and change. If you have thoughts, please let me know, I welcome a good old debate.
Let’s not forget that there are pretty much no rules in contemporary English haiku. Yet as many of you will know I have a thing about verbs. By which I mean verbs functioning as verbs as opposed to those functioning as adjectives etc. Given my style, generally three lines with a juxtaposition, I aspire to write verses without verbs, I don’t regard it as a personal failure if I use one verb but my brow creases when I see two in one of my verses, when both are being used as verbs that is. If I have two functioning verbs, the piece must be reworked or rejected.
I had a crisis recently when I was thinking about my aversion to verbs. Was I just making up this principle or was there some basis in scholarship to support me?
I began to research the topic only to find that there is very little written on the topic. Much appears to be made of the phrase that haiku is “the poetry of nouns”. Seemingly because of Bashö’s hokkus “tendency to rely primarily on images rather than statement” (1). Does this mean that by extension Verbs are frowned upon?
No, not really. First of all I should say that the number of functioning verbs in a verse may depend on the type of verse you write. A three image haiku for example, you don’t see many of them, but it is feasible that they would have three verbs.
Reading a blog post by Alan Summers (2) he wonders if “as a practice verbs are required to be unobtrusive,” and yet, as he also says, verbs “can bring out astounding juxtaposition,” and he quotes this verse from Allan Burns book Earthlings to illustrate the astounding:
the caged chimpanzee
injected with hepatitis
This view of verbs is echoed by others, such as Martin Lucas (3) who says “Some haiku hinge on a brilliantly original verb; many are more quietly expressed; many are verbless.”
And finally Michael Dylan Welsh (4) confirms my thought, that if you use a verb
“usually just one is best.” Thank you Michael.
But what he also says is “look for the verbs”(4) or I might rephrase as look at the verbs, what are they doing in your verse, are they functioning verbs? Are they performing another function such as an adjective or noun? What do they bring to your haiku?
Let me give you a few examples of the verbless verse, tell me what you think. Do you enjoy a verb free verse?
at the end of the night snow fox
Publication credit: Leaf-fall, Issue 1.1 ed. Akira Yagami (June 2019)
the breeze around
a lone ragwort
Anthology credit: A Vast Sky, An Anthology of Contemporary World Haiku (Tancho Press 2015)
ed. Bruce Ross; Koko Kato; Dietmar Tauchner; and Patricia Prime
below the falls—
a stepping stone
just out of reach
paul m: Finding the Way – haiku and field notes
spring thunder –
from the centre of a pine stump
I know some of you really enjoyed the analysis of the verses in Episode 13. I found a great analysis of this Heron’s nest award winning haiku (5).
I hope you enjoyed these haiku and maybe are inspired to have a go yourself. I’ve been giving it a go this week.
a wood pigeon
on the roof tiles
So what is happening with the renku? Thanks to all of you who have sent me titles for the completed renku. I’ll make a decision by the first podcast of next month. What I’ve realised is that the title can give a new meaning to it.
I’m also thrilled to be able to say the next renku is already underway. I’ll give you our new beginning in next month’s podcast. Thanks to those who have already said they would like to take part, but I need more of you to take on a verse. If you’d like to have a go, let me know.
Remember Norm, he first featured in episode 4, the one about sport.
Norm’s has a passion for coffee (he is tasting his way round the world) and music. It was the lyrics of music that brought him to the world of haiku. Norm likens writing haiku to writing lyrics.
on a run
man inside his car smoking
huffing and puffing
dappled coffee leaves
flower’s scent invites the bee
new budding cherry
Next time we meet it’s the podcast featuring you, writing on the topic or using the method synesthesia. Deadline for submissions is 12th August, don’t forget to send them in via email.
Thanks so much for coming along today and listening. If you have thoughts please email them to me, it’s always nice to know I’m not talking to myself.
Until next time… keep writing
- David Landis Barnhill: Bashö’s Haiku
- Alan Summers Blog
- Presence: Martin Lucas
- Michael Dylan Welsh
- Heron’s Nest