Hello and welcome to this week’s podcast. It’s episode 7 of the second series, Time is flying. It is supposed to be Spring, but as I record this my garden is covered in snow and looking out the window there is no sign of the snowfall getting any lighter. I just hope my magnolia tree which was about to blossom can withstand the deluge.
What’s happening in today’s podcast? I thought I would talk about Ego in haiku. I have a new poet for us to meet, Wayne Kingston and of course I have news of the renku we are creating together.
Before I go on I have to share something with you which has kept me smiling since I read it. It was a tweet by Gregory Finn, in which he said I was cool. I wanted to tell my children straight away. To quote Gregory in full “If you’ve been thinking about submitting but putting it off, just do it! Patricia is cool, and it’s a pretty great feeling to hear your writing read out loud!” Thank you so much Gregory and if you are listening and haven’t plucked up the courage to submit, do as he says. I love reading your haiku and senryu.
Another thank you must go to Roger Watson, thanks to his good work poetry pea has a mention on the Haiku in English wikipedia page . He has asked for help in up dating the page. If you are interested contact him, I’m sure he’ll tell you what to do, if like myself you have no idea.
On to my topic, Ego in haiku. What follows is opinion and not a definitive teaching of the process/rules of haiku writing.
My starting point was that I am not the greatest fan of haiku or senryu in which the personal emotions of the poet intrude forcefully into the work. These works are too self indulgent for my taste. There is a fine line between the use of aesthetics to create emotive responses whether joy or sadness and indulging your own mood. As Otsuji says, ““When one is overwhelmed by sorrow, that sorrow cannot produce a haiku. When one is joyful and immersed in happiness, that feeling cannot produce a haiku.””(1) We need a little distance, don’t you think?
The sentimental content of such a poem may forge a verse that is likeable. Why? Because it appeals to the common denominators of the human psyche. However, this does not a haiku make. “In such haiku, the expression of visceral emotion is all too reminiscent of the presentation of transparent feeling and empty social exchange in the media.” (2) according to Bruce Ross. Indeed, these days, social media has a great deal to answer for. How many saccharine or maudlin poems do we see which are purporting to be haiku on such platforms?
I know it is very tempting to go a little overboard in our sentimentality or passion when writing. My own haiku notebook is full of overblown examples which I really must get down to editing, because most of them stand a good chance of being saved, if I give them a little distance and perspective.
I’d like to give you an example of work that has managed to tone down the emotions.
Alan Summers has a written a haiku which is on an especially emotive subject, but the ego is contained, the emotion restrained and yet Sabi gives the poem gravitas.
almost a friend
Alan Summers (3)
Taking this a step further. When we write haiku shouldn’t we aim to eliminate the self, the ego. In so doing “eliminating the physical barrier between” ourselves “and nature” (4) taking care that we do not interject anything of” our personal or egoistic needs between” ourselves “and the experience.” (5) Personally, I aspire to this level of expertise, I work to achieve it, but I can say it happens, at least for me, only once in a blue moon. Here I have an example of what can be achieved when it works.
Bob Boldman (4)
We know the poet is participating in the work, but the barriers between himself and nature has been erased. What do you think?
I stop to listen;
has done the same
Arizona Zipper A pale leaf, New York, 1981
I feel like the cricket and the poet are breathing as one. That’s daft, I know but can’t you feel them as one being?
At the end of my reading for this podcast, I set myself the goal of working harder at my editing, of being much more aware of my ego.
Editing though, it’s hard isn’t it? Perhaps another topic for another day…
Next I would like to introduce you to a poet new to the podcast, Wayne Kingston. Wayne is a retired gentleman from the US. He is a poet who searches “till the poetic perfection of an image conveys a thought so pure and universal one cannot help but weep, then act.” He sets high expectations of himself. Shall I read you a sample of his work?
border wall breach
I have read this up and down and inside an out and every time I read it I get a different interpretation. How do you interpret it?
peppers the plate glass
The alliteration with the “p” adds power to the verse. I felt this was almost synesthetic, can’t you hear the violence of the rain? I asked Wayne how he came up with it and he said, “it was written as it happened. I was in a Starbucks watching the storm roll thru a large picture window (storefront) heard the pelting rain. Safe, warm, pondering 🤔.”
If you would like to read more from Wayne he has two volumes of poetry in print: Eclectic Discernment & Listen Small both are available on Amazon.
In episode 5, Aiming for the moon, I started a new project. I thought we could write a 22 line renku together. I asked you to come up with the next verse, which should have the word moon in it. I have to say thank you to everyone who sent me verses. Truly they were all brilliant but I could only choose one.
Because I had to decline so many excellent stanzas I am changing the way I move forward. I want to promote good haiku and it goes against the grain to decline pieces of work that are really terrific. The good news is, we are still going to write this together. I know there are enough of you who would like to be involved. What I will do now is ask individuals to write verses for the renku. So if you haven’t told me you want to get involved, now is the time to drop me an email.
The moon verse that I chose was one by m shane pruett:
floating among the stars
I then added two new verses, as prescribed by Jane Reichhold. (6)
The renku so far:
ageing reflections on
Giddy Nielsen Sweep
the world turns
a half frozen ball
over the hill –
now I look forward
to the sunset
in the valley
footprints in the dew
floating among the stars
m shane pruett
a sedentary cat
stirs the darkness
outside the window
a bird sings to itself
Shane’s verse has to make a shift from verse three which it does, sunset to dark night and a link to verse 4. I felt , coming from an alpine region that many valleys contain water and I know my own valley has the most wondrous star scape.
Verse 6 shifts from verse 4 from evening to darkness. And links to verse 5 by association to a piece of literature: Haruki Murakami 1Q84. In particular the chapter “Town of Cats” (7) If you would like a taste I found a chapter printed in the New Yorker.
Verse 7 also written by me. In days when this would have been written on paper the same person writes 6 and 7 as there is a page turn. The same poet writes the verses to try and maintain a bit of flow. This verse shifts from verse 5, darkness to early morning and I hope the notion that we are in spring comes through. It links to verse 6, via the cat. Cats usually have families, don’t they?
Next update on the renku in a month. I can’t wait to see where we get to.
Thank you so much for coming along and listening today. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Next time the podcast will be featuring haiku on film, filmku. I have so many wonderful pieces to share with you, but I can always add some more, so like Greg said, “If you’ve been thinking about submitting but putting it off, just do it!” and you have until the 15th of April.
- Japanese Haiku Kenneth Yasuda:
- Bruce Ross: The Essence of Haiku New Zealand Poetry Association
- Azami #28 (Japan, 1995) ed. Ikkoku Santo : The Temple Bell Stops: Contemporary Poems of Grief, Loss and Change (2012) ed. Robert Epstein
- Thomas Lynch: Intersecting influences in American haiku
- Gabriel Rosentock: Haiku Enlightenment
- Jane Reichhold. writing and Enjoying Haiku
- “The town of cats” an exerpt from 1Q84 in The New Yorker Magazine