Hello and welcome to episode 9 of this the 2nd series of the haiku pea podcast. I’m Patricia, your host and today I have a full podcast for you. First I would like to address a question that Craig Kittner asked me after he listened to episode 7. Then there’s a book review of “Dewdrops” created by two of our regular contributors, Su Wai Hlaing and Roger Watson, I’ll up date you on the renku and finally I’d like to read you a small selection of verses from Patrick Stephens. But first…
Richard Bailly for being published in Haiku Journal and poetrysoup.
cloudless winter sky
shimmering sun points on snow
sculpted rabbit tracks
and Joan Barrett for her ekphrastic one liner in under the basho
door needs no tree to be towards the river
and congrats too, to the many of you who are featured in this months failed haiku. Kala Ramesh did a great job as guest editor and to those of you featured in Craig Kittner’s on going haiku dialogue on the haiku foundation.
To Craig’s question. It’s a question that I have been mulling over for some time and was absolutely on the fence about. He asked,
“Do you feel that we should confine ourselves to natural subjects? And if so, where do you draw the line between the natural and the manmade?”
Now just like in episode 7, what follows is my current thinking, my opinion. There’s a little call to action at the end. I’m interested to hear what you think.
In answering Craig, I wanted to cry out, yes, yes, yes, in writing haiku we should be concerning ourselves with nature and only nature. Why? Because selfishly it’s something I enjoy and traditionally this what haiku was about.
Why was this the case?
Haiku are derived from hokku, the first verse of a renku. To give this an historical context we are thinking of a time period roughly before the death of Shiki, so before 1902.
A hokku would normally have a seasonal reference and a connection with nature, even a connection between nature and humankind. Yet other verses in the renku could tackle non nature topics.
For example: I took this from “The Penguin book of Haiku”
an extreme grudge
followed by disgrace!
the letter snatched
out of his wife’s hands
…from her mother
Why was this connection to nature in hokku continued when the haiku became a stand alone verse? Quite possibly this was because the population of Japan was rural. By the time Shiki died the urban population of Japan had “just surpassed 1-in-10”. Necessarily, nature was a major part of life in Japan.
Things change though. Urban populations grew. Haiku was introduced to the west. From this point, I’ll concern myself with English language haiku.
Seamus Heaney said:
“it is often through contact with a foreign culture that the new possibilities suggest themselves.”
Seamus Heaney, “Our shared Japan” 2007
These new possibilities suggested themselves to western poets who started to write what they understood to be haiku.
In the book “Haiku in English- The First Hundred Years” cites Ezra Pound as the poet who “first fully realized haiku in English” with his work of 1913,
In a station of the metro
“The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough” (1)
Would Shiki, Buson et al recognise this as haiku? Who knows, but perhaps as innovators of the genre themselves they would appreciate that hokku / haiku would evolve. As Kerouac said “The American haiku is not exactly the Japanese haiku.”(1) and for the purposes of today, let’s change that to English language haiku is not exactly the Japanese haiku.
So where are we with the English language haiku for the purpose of today’s chat?
It has changed culture. It is being written in a more urban society. The form is an approximate of the Japanese haiku.
The Cambridge dictionary definition of nature is, “all the animals, plants, rocks etc in the world and all the features, forces and processes that happen or exist independently of people such as the weather, the sea, mountains.” I might suggest that this is a somewhat simplistic approach to nature. Nature is affected by man across the globe. I don’t think you can take man out of the nature equation.
In our world, the number of instances of nature that exists independently of people are declining. To give you a couple of examples, our mountains, certainly mine, are affected by tourism, hiking, skiing, both leave their mark and don’t get me started on fracking. Seas, rivers and lakes have been polluted and cleaned by man. Some animals have been domesticated, or had their habitats changed by man, plants and animals can be manipulated, for man’s needs and enjoyment etc..
If we acknowledge that man plays a role in nature, a central role, then I think we can make the next step. and feel comfortable that we can write about other topics in which man has a role.
My conclusion would be that much as my heart doesn’t like it, my head says that as the world has changed so too should haiku evolve and embrace subjects other than nature. There does not need to be a line drawn between nature and the man made, as nature has become a man manipulated thing.
However, this is not a blanket permission to go off and write what we like. If we write about other topics then should we not decide what the essence of haiku is? As lovers of this wonderful genre should we not encourage experimentation but within some sort of framework?
And here is my call for help, what should be the essence of haiku?
To kick off the discussion let me give you some examples of non nature haiku:
none of us on this side
Fay Aoyagi – In borrowed Shoes
Intensive care …
fallen back to zero
Robert Spiess- The shape of water
on a borrowed pen
do not resuscitate
Yu Chang (1)
and now some nature haiku:
gone from the woods
the bird I knew
by song alone
Paul O Williams (1)
clouds move in
under the clouds
Gary Hotham – Haiku in English (1)
finally it disappears the cloud that fell behind
Frogpond 42.1 2019
the heart of an oak
leaves the chimney
Robert Bauer (1)
Do you recognise both offerings as haiku? If so, what do these all these verses have in common?
I would suggest:
- an aha moment
- the sense of the poet being there and observing
- lack of Ego
- no saccarine sentimentality
- present tense
I currently believe that these things are more important than the topic on which we write.
Let’s talk, tell me what you think. Send me an email via the website…. We can catch up on this topic in another podcast.
Now you may have noticed that Su Wai Hlaing and Roger Watson have been a little quiet recently. Well, they have been busy putting their new book, Dewdrops (2) together and it is now available on Amazon
I was very lucky to be sent a copy to read and review. Thank you Roger and Su Wai. Those of you who have been following the podcast for a while will know how much I enjoy both Su Wai and Roger’s work. Both poets play with words in ways that make me think and often make me laugh.
Many times Roger writes verses, whether haiku or senryu that I immediately identify with, we have a common cultural heritage, but I don’t think this commonality is important for you to enjoy their work.
It was a hard choice but at the moment this is my favourite of Roger’s,:
peeing in the snow
my full name
One of the reasons I enjoy reading Su Wai’s work is that it often opens a door to another culture but also shows that where ever you come from in the world there is a universality.
This verse from Su Wai will perhaps illustrate what I mean by world wide commonality:
at the dentist
I grind my teeth tight for
One of the joys of reading books of haiku and senryu is that you can dip into them time and time again and frequently you read a verse and find something you’ve missed. I shall certainly continue to dip in and out of this collection.
The renku :
I have to say that the renku is speeding along. I am constantly amazed at the wonderful verses that you are contributing to it. It’s fun to read verses from around the world, and take the leaps to different places and ideas with you.
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
eagle soars overhead
dominate the afternoon sky
spotted mare nickering
the hiss of rain on warm stone
riding white horses
a hard misty place called home
Rickey Rivers Jnr
on the yellow brick road
the lion cries
under the moonlight
sight the hare
dust cloud from sudden windstorm
thwart predators’ ambitions
in the lilies
Just 5 more verses to go until it’s finished. I’m so looking forward to its completion and to sharing it with you, in full. Don’t forget if you’d like to join in , email me and I’ll allocate a verse to you.
This week I wanted to read you a few haiku from Patrick Stephens. Patrick is an American living in France, on a canal boat. He regularly sends me haiku to read which do not fall into the monthly topics and I thought it would be delightful to give you a small selection of some of the haiku you haven’t had the opportunity to listen to.
The crows mock us all
They ponder great ideas
While we build straw men
The lobster yearly
leaves it’s old hard shell behind
time to grow anew
all bright lights and slight of hand
Just smoke and longing
I hope you enjoyed listening to Patrick’s work as much as I enjoyed reading them. Thanks Patrick.
So I come to a close for today. Don’t forget if you have thoughts on the essence of haiku, please email me. And if you would like to be allocated a verse in the renku, tell me.
Next time it’s a special podcast on the topic of weeds, I have some cracking work to read to you but if you’ve not submitted yet, you have until the 13th May. After that it’s time to think about erotic haiku.
Thank you for listening today, thank you to everyone who has helped me to put this podcast together, Craig, Patrick, Roger and Su Wai and my renku poets. I hope you’ll be back next time to hear some haiku and senryu from the haiku pea community.
- Haiku in English- The First Hundred Years: Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, Allan Burns
- Dewdrops Roger Watson and Su Wai Hlaing available in kindle on amazon available in hard copy if you email Roger firstname.lastname@example.org Price for delivery in UK/Europe- GBP 4.50 for the rest of the world GBP 7.00.