Expansion, contraction- action/reaction pt. 1/6

A bit of a foreword:

to this blogger there is no right or wrong haiku. There is is only haiku. There is no “right way”, there is only The Way. There might be “good” and “bad” haiku but as long as it is with in the vague but quite discernible “haiku parameters” it is still considered haiku. “Bad” haiku to this blogger is mostly that which is written without the writer having taken his/her time to learn about the fundamentals – which goes somewhat beyond the threeline structure – and thus writes 3-line Western poetry.

And yet he (I) does (do) have personal preferences …

In the following weeks I will babble on about what I have observed as far as the state of the haiku world goes. I won’t be educational,(deliberately) polemical, wise or clever but will hopefully end up with advocating freedom of writing, mind, choice and mutual accept and respect. And I might fail at that as well … and you will see why I don’t normally write texts longer than the odd 5-line poem.

Everything written will be subtitled: (an utterly subjective view and based onthe blogger’s uneducated glances into the world of haiku) or the like…

Expansion, contraction- action/reaction pt. 1/6

(an utterly subjective view and based on the blogger’s uneducated glances into the world of haiku)

Replication and repetition is a fundamental thread in the weave of human society and life in general. Repeating the same actions in daily, weekly, monthly, annual cycles creates a sense of continuum and safety. And because some of these rituals are based on nature’s own rhythm, one we are dependant on, they lie very deep in us though in various disguises according to climate and culture. Replication/reiteration of certain events in history/mythology is one of the threads that binds together societies with their history and inherited “ways” of living within them. We do as we did last year and all is well. We remind each other – often based in a “glorious past” – of what is fitting for us in the way we conduct ourselves, our values and so on. This is one aspect of human life, of living in a society. And if we did nothing but repeat what our ancestors did nothing much would happen. But no “old way” goes unquestioned. Repetition and replication, doing what our fathers and mothers were, and are, doing, in itself isn’t enough. Every generation and every individual (or some individuals) will at some point need something more or something different. It’s a question of the norm not being fulfilling or meaningful, it’s a quest for finding the core of “truth” in deafening ritualistic repetitions. Some will always ask: does it have to be like this? and will go about things differently seeking ways and means that will meet his/her cravings and needs for substance and usefulness.

Humans are multidimensional beings. We can exist and handle both the predictable and the vaguely unknown new. Humans are by nature curious and nothing “written instone” really remains unquestioned in the long run. And thus other ways of doing things and new ways to look at the world is born and it spreads. Evolution is inevitable. We are always standing on the latest step of history putting our foot forward.

The nature of creative intelligence is expansion and evolution towards ever greater fulfilment, as the Vedas say.

And this movement has its opposite, its opposition. With every new way, new vision, new method, new angle there is a longing for things to remain as they were; the good old days -even if they weren’t good at all. Human inertia or a resistance (maybe a lacking ability to keep up with things, who knows?) that maybe rooted in a lacking vision of and urge to understand what lies beyond one’s own efforts and results. This resistance is very humanas well. The sense that new things are frightening and unsafe. Why try to improve what “the times” has shown is working?

And maybe the arts shows this action-reaction/expanse-retraction dynamics in the clearest way; and to us in this context: the world of haiku. Here you find inexhaustible attempts at finding new ways to write haiku, new subjects, new ways of transcending while yet keeping the form AND the most bitterly reactionary reactions. Much more fierce than one (I) would imagine among poets. With every new way of keeping this old poetry form alive and relevant for people living in the 21stcentury there’s a reaction claiming that adhering to aesthetics from ancient Japan is the only way to write, or the elevation of some deceased poet who cannot answer for him/herself to a Pope- or saint-like status not to be questioned …

Quite a conundrum for a human being. Evolution, development, creativity, rethinking, renewing, re-experiencing etc. a poetic form with such an impact cannot be but good, eh? “Taking the scroll and eating it” (i.e.absorbing it and making it part of your existence) must be good, mustn’t it? Following the advice of ancient teachers (loosely after my faulty memory): Learn the rules, internalize the rules and forget them must be good, eh? Attempting to take the poetry where it hasn’t yet been must be good because it’s in the nature of poetry to renew itself must be good, eh? Writing from your times and circumstance, from how “the world” looks and works in this place in history must be good too? Apparently not for the reactionary if what comes out of haiku doesn’t fit their personal taste or the aesthetics they’ve chosen as the ideal ones.

Whenever we see new ways emerge we see attempts to go backwards – or opposition based on the notion that the new possibly cannot be as good as the old stuff. I guess it’s in the nature of things. It’s most likely a natural law. And my guess is, that this is how evolution/development in any art (and in life in general) comes about: expansion of the field of the already known breaking down agreed borders, questioning conventions, and then the attempts to keep an imaginary status quo, to remain faithful to what “is already known”, stick to the good old (and tried) ways. Stay at home and watch the wallpaper …

And the “keepers of the old ways” rage and damn like fire-and-brimstone preachers. Like it has always been … But conservatism of this reactionary kind is in my eyes contradictory to the nature of art itself; to nature itself. Art exists to help the “consumers” of art to look at life in a new way (reflecting the searching gaze of the artist), but art at the same time takes training and some level of having been initiated into art’s language(s). (You have to learn to place your fingers righton the piano to make music, and you have to learn to listen). It’s a two-fold way as very many aspects of human life is – as the very human existence is. We stand with one foot in the past and one in the future while we in the present make the decision to go forward … or stand still. If art doesn’t represent other ways of looking at the already know it is merely decoration and affirmation of things as they are. And that is o.k. It doesn’t become less “art” for that. But some of us prefer art that challenges us to art that merely re-affirms what has already been shown.

Stating what has already been stated, saying what has been said a million times, writing the same haiku over and over make things hollow,  the receiver (me) deaf and blind. One(I) can only take in that many herons, crows, sunsets, Basho-frogs …it becomes meaningless when repeated to the degree it has already been.

But luckily history has taught us one thing: evolution/development is unstoppable.

And then again, you can’t go forward if you’re not coming from somewhere. None of us exists “out of the blue”. In each and every one of us certain “amounts”  of history is accumulated, in each of us the next step lies.

To be continued on

Johannes S. H. Bjerg


As this post have been moved from one system to another the original comments have been copied below:


Violette Rose-Jones

02:05 PM on February 01, 2013
I think lack of originality often kills early haiku attempts. It can be difficult to be original when you are new to something and have not internalised the rules. Your haiku (and I know them well) tend to be some of the most original I have ever seen but they are a highwire act that may only be followed with years of practice. I totally agree about the evolution of haiku though, that which does not change, dies.–

sara winteridge
07:22 PM on February 01, 2013
just want to let you know I enjoyed this and wrote a considered 1 page response that seems to have gone into the ether! It was of course brilliant and cannot be rewritten, (since I have to go and cook dinner for teenagers!) But basically I think respectful debate is essential, no need for people to take things personally and be over -invested in who writes what and how they do it. Secondly, I welcome pushing of boundaries but also think we are here for just a speck of time and if change takes 300, 3000, 3000000 years then I am philosophical about it! What was beautiful once is often beautiful again… and things once thought ugly can later be appreciated… x Eider
marty smith
11:34 PM on February 01, 2013
Quite a conundrum
this subject of “all time” and the memory of culture and what civilization mans of value, has bee on my mind obsessively the past year.

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