Happy birthday to the podcast, well nearly. To celebrate I’m changing the name of the podcast to: HAIKU PEA.

I am  doing a special podcast on Pain next time, so if you have any haiku you would like to submit, please email me, deadline is the 18th October. Isabel asked if this was physical or emotional pain, well, I am happy to cover both, both could make for interesting reading.

I would also like to say that I am really happy to have heard from Kate Alsbury, who was my guest lat week, that she is getting some traffic on the Jalmurra website thanks to the podcast and I know that at least one of you has submitted work for publication. It’s great when we can support one another, isn’t it?

This week it’s time to try and understand Japanese aesthetics. Today I’m having a go at understanding the term Sabi.

After that I will, as usual, share some of my work with you and then we are off to India, via England and Indonesia to visit with some terrific haiku poets, Tim, Agus and Ramlawt.

I read somewhere and I can’t remember where, that understanding Japanese Aesthetics is very difficult as a Westerner and I can well believe it after starting my reading for this week’s podcast. I wanted, as a relative beginner, to get a feel for Sabi, Wabi, Aware and Yugen and I hit my first snag by trying to decide whether to look at Sabi and Wabi together as so many people do or to look at them separately.

I decided to  separate them. Then I made another decision which was that I should approach the subject in layers.

What do I mean? Well, I think as someone who has little knowledge of Japanese culture and only a smidgen of an idea about aesthetics, I will have to come back to the subject time and time again, delving deeper into the subject as I go.

So today I am going to keep it simple and ask you to recommend any reading for me, so I can delve deeper.

Here a couple of simple definitions of Sabi to be going on with:

Martin Lucas (1) describes it as “a tendency to favour imagery suggestive of drabness, loneliness and melancholy.”

which Alan Watts (2) backs up by claiming that “The basic feeling of Sabi is loneliness.”

Let’s have a few examples, which I hope will clarify what sabi feels like:

These from Basho,  (I don’t know who did the translation)

loneliness –
sinking into the rocks,
a cicada’s cry (1)

standing amid the blossoms,
a cypress tree (3)

nothing in the cry
of the cicadas suggests
they are soon to die (4)

it definitely achieves that melancholy feeling, don’t you think?

let’s go with a couple which are a little more contemporary from Tom Clausen:

the only car ahead
turns off (5)

from Burnell Lippy

winter rain
the shed’s last firewood
slips loose of its bark (6)

Not daunted by the sheer brilliance of what I had read, I decided to have a go.

First of all I went back to somethings I had written in the early days of my haiku life and edited it:

spring twilight
in the sledge slush
a single glove

autumn sun
in the still forest
a deer

which has I think achieved a sabi feel, but then I started to play with the words and came up with this one.

autumn sun
still in the forest
a deer

On first reading you might think it has a sabi feel, but I don’t think it has, I’ll tell you why in the show notes.

Now let’s go on our travels:

First off to England where we will visit with Dr Tim Gardiner. Remember that Tim has been working as Poet in Residence for the Munnings Art Museum in Dedham, Essex, UK since the beginning of 2017.
This piece was inspired by a landscape painting by Sir Alfred called, Poplars, River Waveney

aspen leaves
my hands tremble
in the wind

I know it’s not yet winter, indeed if I look out my garret window as I record this, you would think we were still enjoying a normal, Swiss summer. It’s rather warm, but I could not resist this haiku by Agus Maulana Sunjaya, who resides in Indonesia.

winter ends
finally, my daughter
calls me ‘daddy’

Last but certainly not least let’s hear from Ramlawt Dinpuia from India

late autumn wind
she breathes
her last breath

Thank you to Tim, Agus and Ramlawt for allowing me to share their work with you today. I’ve enjoyed it and I hope you have to.

I’m so happy that you came along to listen. Remember that I am still accepting haiku and senryu on the topic of pain until the 18th of October. So spread the word and get writing…

  1. Haiku in Britain Theory, Practice, Context by Martin Lucas
  2. Alan Watts Wabi Sabi
  3. Sabi, Nature, and the Relationship by Riley B. Irwin
  4. Plodding in Saigyo’s Footsteps by Meng-hu
  5. American Haiku’s Future by Cor van den Heuvel
  6. Late geese up a dry fork– Burnell Lippy

Dr Tim Gardiner

Week 47: Sabi

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