Ditties, Doggerel and Jingles

ditties, doggerel and jingles

 Posted by Susan Shand on January 6, 2013 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (8)

What counts as “good” haiku? One commentator in one of the newer bazaars today posted this…

 

 

“The use of the word ‘hokku’ is ideological here in that its use is to distinguish serious short form poems as adapted by the poetic sensibilities of certain Japanese poets from the wide range of short ditties, doggerel and jingles spewed out in a constant stream from all manner of originators. […] The public perception of haiku is that anyone can write one so that the art becomes a mere plaything that would never be taken as a serious form of poetry. The penetration of the word haiku, as I have just identified it, has become over time the default meaning of the word by the general populace. Using the word ‘hokku’ is a statement to the general populace that the poem being identified as such was written as a serious piece of creative writing bearing a discernible relationship with the poetic tradition exemplified in the best works of Basho, Chiyo-ni, Buson and Issa.” – Hansha Teki

 

 

This is rather like someone complaining that because the postings on Poetry.com are so appallingly bad we are, in future, going to distance ourselves from that by calling *our “good” poetry* by the new title “Sonnet”.

 

 

Not only is this an “us and them” elitist group identification, (can I join your posh group please? I don’t want to be thought to be a pleb or nuthin, innit?) but it is a completely unnecessary re-defining of words which are already in use under clear definitions.

 

 

“HAIKU

 Definition: A haiku is a short poem that uses imagistic language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or the season intuitively linked to the human condition.” — HSA[1]

 

“HOKKU

 Definition: A hokku is the first stanza of a linked-verse poem.” — HSA [1]

 

 

Anyone who has a problem with those definitions needs to address the defining authority or come up with a better definition which can be supported by consensus.

 

If there is a problem in the standard of work being posted in internet groups or published in journals then the solution to that problem is NOT to redefine the categories so as to make yourself look like a *real poet* and thus to make all the others look like idiots. We are ALL students! No one that I know of is an accredited Master in western haiku. Creating false categories will not improve your work or anyone elses. Anyone who writes haiku is free to post their work anywhere they like and free to submit to journals as they please. Anyone who wants to sit in judgement over the standard of work displayed would be wise to remember that we are all just where we are (and maybe one day their early work could come back to bite them on the derriere too) and we all have to learn somehow.

 

 

The solution of the problem of poor quality, is to teach. To help out the novice by seeking to improve their craft in appropriate ways. That is not to say that simply re-writing a poor example is going to help anyone. That too just makes you look like an ‘expert’ patronising a learner. Writing any genre of poetry, or indeed any art-form, requires the learning of the CRAFT of that form. Despite some of the exhibits in the Tate Modern which tend to suggest otherwise, enduring art is usually backed by skill as well as inspiration. The development of skill takes time and practice.

 

 

Personally, I welcome “all manner of originators” the more the merrier! – but I don’t think I am better than anyone else just because I’ve been learning this skill for decades and they have been at it for ten minutes. I think that anyone CAN write one – then they learn how to write better ones. Art IS a plaything – and the more playful we can be the better the quality is likely to be. That haiku as a genre IS a serious form of poetry – but need not necessarily be approached with a serious demeanor. That the word “penetration” is a peculiarly Freudian slip which might benefit from a re-think.

 

 

Susan

(stardate 20130106)

 

 

[1] http://www.hsa-haiku.org/archives/HSA_Definitions_2004.html

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8 thoughts on “Ditties, Doggerel and Jingles

  1. S.M. Abeles 05:37 PM on January 06, 2013
    “If there is a problem in the standard of work being posted in internet groups or published in journals then the solution to that problem is NOT to redefine the categories so as to make yourself look like a *real poet* and thus to make all the others look like idiots.”

    Susan, do you really think that incoherent definition of “hokku” you’ve quoted really makes its author look like a “real poet” and the rest of us look like “idiots?”

    Essentially there is small group of poets who would like to co-op a Japanese word to describe short poems they like. No one else is really using the term. Who cares.

  2. Susan Shand 08:10 PM on January 06, 2013
    S.M. Abeles says…
    “If there is a problem in the standard of work being posted in internet groups or published in journals then the solution to that problem is NOT to redefine the categories so as to make yourself look like a *real poet* and thus to make all the others look like idiots.”

    Susan, do you really think that incoherent definition of “hokku” you’ve quoted really makes its author look like a “real poet” and the rest of us look like “idiots?”

    Essentially there is small group of poets who would like to co-op a Japanese word to describe short poems they like. No one else is really using the term. Who cares.

    Good point! I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t want anyone new to haiku being fooled by this illogical nonsense into thinking that it is supported unquestioningly by the wider community or that it is indeed any kind of elite approach. If they have anything useful to add to the sum of knowledge it is unfortunately sullied by the mode of their delivery. I make no apologies for my anger, it is the exploitation of innocence through manipulative means in order to serve only their own ego. I think that needs to be challenged.

  3. S.M. Abeles 08:43 PM on January 06, 2013
    Susan Shand says…
    Good point! I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t want anyone new to haiku being fooled by this illogical nonsense into thinking that it is supported unquestioningly by the wider community or that it is indeed any kind of elite approach. If they have anything useful to add to the sum of knowledge it is unfortunately sullied by the mode of their delivery. I make no apologies for my anger, it is the exploitation of innocence through manipulative means in order to serve only their own ego. I think that needs to be challenged.

    I hear you, and know what you mean by the delivery. But folks show up at that door voluntarily and learn how to do s/l/s nature poems that a group leader will ultimately grant the favor of a nod upon. There are worse things and that school, at its best, produces some very nice poems. I just think that haiku-land is too small for any student to not find one’s way to other schools, which are strong enough to withstand a misguided critique that virtually everything they publish/produce/teach is “doggerel” garbage.

    I think you’re doing a good job here, thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  4. Susan Shand 02:34 AM on January 09, 2013
    S.M. Abeles says…
    I hear you, and know what you mean by the delivery. But folks show up at that door voluntarily and learn how to do s/l/s nature poems that a group leader will ultimately grant the favor of a nod upon. There are worse things and that school, at its best, produces some very nice poems. I just think that haiku-land is too small for any student to not find one’s way to other schools, which are strong enough to withstand a misguided critique that virtually everything they publish/produce/teach is “doggerel” garbage.

    I think you’re doing a good job here, thanks for the opportunity to comment.

    So what are you saying Scott? That the occasional good end amongst all the harmful ends justifies the means? Or that some sort of freedom to go where you choose is a reason not to post a warning sign?

    …don’t think so.

    And thank you for commenting Scott. Excellent debate! Your input and perspective adds to the whole, much appreciated.

  5. Reply
    S.M. Abeles 10:48 AM on January 09, 2013
    That is more or less what I am saying, yes, but the difference is the weight we accord the harms. The implicit notion quoted in the post, that a haiku that does not follow the s/l/s is “doggerel” is so far-fetched that, once a hokku student is exposed to the larger world of haiku, it is unlikely to be believed. (See, e.g., Marian Olson: if you love me / come inside / morning glory). Likewise, the implicit notion in the quote above, that a haiku lacking in “zoka” is “doggerel” is also too absurd to be credited. (See, e.g., John Hawk: the way his eyes / light up just so / pair of aces). (Note, I am reciting a couple of my favorite haiku from memory, apologies for any errors). Thus, the harms of hokku-theory are likely to be amerliorated, while the benefits — reduction of the poet’s subjective impulse, exposure to some taoist theory — become potentially useful tools in the poet’s toolbox, to use or not.

  6. Reply
    robert d. wilson 04:52 AM on January 10, 2013
    Opinionated rantings without a shread of academic endorsement. Back up what you are saying, Susan. Unsubstantiated opinions are a dime a dozen. I applaud Hansha for his statement regarding hokku.

  7. Reply
    geaneditor 02:33 PM on January 10, 2013
    Hi Robert thanks for dropping by. Is not Academia a place where people share their opinions based upon the consensus opinion of their predecessors and peers. Did you not just express an opinion? This is of course a blog and not an academic paper: our mission is to “hear your voices speak” so we welcome ordinary people’s thoughts and opinion. Opinions are like arseholes — we all have them and they are all different. There is room for us all.

  8. Susan Shand 02:36 PM on January 10, 2013
    robert d. wilson says…
    Opinionated rantings without a shread of academic endorsement. Back up what you are saying, Susan. Unsubstantiated opinions are a dime a dozen. I applaud Hansha for his statement regarding hokku.

    Hello Robert, long time no see!
    I can’t quite refrain from jokes about rattling chains …but if you insist on me delivering the evidence I have an interesting snippet from an FB group which I could post? Otherwise I think that the argument stands for itself on empirical evidence and logical argument alone. If you can see anything which doesn’t then please do point it out and I will back it up with someone else’s opinon, empirical evidence and deductive logic if you like.

    I’m not surprised that you support the incoherent nonsense above, since it is essentially a patchwork of the opinionated rantings and pseudo-mystical dogma that you yourself have been touting around the bazaars for some while. Hansha’s attempts to ameliorate the extremism of your position is creditable, as is his willingness to attempt to defend it openly. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to stand up to scrutiny very well.

    I do hope that you enjoy the rest of the blog posts here. None of them quote you or refer to anything published by you so if that is all that interests you there’s no point in you trawling through looking for it, I will save you the trouble and time.

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