Expansion, contraction – action/reaction pt 4/6
(an utterly subjective view and based on the blogger’s uneducated glances into the world of haiku … and questions, questions)
As I see it there’s a lot of similarities between rock music and haiku. Among those is: one original gives birth to a swarm of copies. It has always been like this in the arts and it will continue to be so. We go after what is considered “in” and “good” in a broad context often guided by critics and “if you like this, you’d probably like this as well”. We learn to play instruments by copying our idols, we learn about haiku by reading the masters and copy them as far as it goes. In the initial state of learning this is essential but eventually all that we learn should hopefully become part of our being and take on forms, colours, shapes, scents etc. that are our own. Merely sticking to the original won’t make haiku (or music) your own. You will remain an imitator not a generator.
The wide mass of “mainstream haiku” seem to a function much like a master – or a fashion. What is comme il faut or widely accepted as “modern haiku” (though no modernity is to found there) is by and large a mass of people each echoing the other or the faceless body of consensus. You (I) see one haiku after another cut over the same form, rhythm, vocabulary, standard phrasing and much on the same subjects treated in the same way. And this mass seem to be good at keeping the individuals in check. (Like: “If you write this way you will be in our journal”). It may be the human need to belong to a larger group of peers that comes in play here. It may be the need to “speak the same language” as the group you want to be associated with or it may be just the aforementioned fact that not all of us have the urge to twist and turn, fight and stretch the form to see what it can actually do, how far we can take it before it becomes utter nonsense – all to make it own. Some are content with creating a haiku that fits in with what others apparently think of as haiku and that is o.k.
Maybe that’s why mainstream haiku more and more appears to be small private notes of feel-good scenery, get-well cards and diary entries of good/bad love cut into 3 lines; utterly “harmless” (in as far as a poem can actually “harm” anything or anyone) and with no intention of showing the reader an unexpected view on reality. No eye-openers but affirmations of the feel-good aspects of living with scented tea, home knit socks, purring cats and cherry blossoms. Even if you live in a culture where the blossoming cherry trees doesn’t signify anything special. And it too is fine if you want nothing more from (your) writing. But if you want to use the haiku format as a literary tool conveying and examining your “way in the world”, “your being, acting and reacting in the world”, it might not be of much interest. Except for a taste of what occupies the minds of those writing – an anthropological view.
I recently read Jack Galmitz’s book “Views”. In this he deals with haiku poets whose work have grown into a distinctly personal way of writing haiku. The poets he chose for interviews and reviews have “learned, absorbed and forgotten”. In their writing haiku has become full-fledged Western (American mostly – another angle that needs examination as Western haiku does not equal American) in the sense that the subjects, thematics, structure, consciousness clearly lives and breathes within an American reality in the 20th and 21st Century. These poets show that you don’t have to be semi-Japanese or make use of “Japanisms” – thematically, aesthetically or otherwise – to write relevant and highly vibrant haiku. You “just” have to undergo the tedious and tough process of making it your own.
So again I end up with concluding: writing from yourself (or your self), your own perception of reality, your own circumstance, your own sphere of inputs is the best soil haiku can possibly have.
Johannes S. H. Bjerg
Jack Galmitz uploaded his book “Views” for free reading and download on Scribd: http://www.scribd.com/doc/103908441/Views-PDF-for-Cyberwit
To be continued