MAY TOPICS AND PICKING HAIKU

Hi Folks,

and a good month to you all. A big thank you to Colin for inviting me to t/his place. Haiku matters to me too.

On the menu this month: a walk or two, a bit of reading, playing with a couple of wild and not so wild ideas, reaching out to and from other genres, while touching on issues relating to the reader all along. Our reader, ourselves as readers, other poets’ readers.

The signposts I will be following:

1: Picking Haiku; 2: Opening the Heart; 3: With an Open Mind; 4: Readers’ Darkness; 5: Where the Light Gets in; 6: Uncanny Attractions.

Picking Haiku

By Stella Pierides

When reading haiku, what is it that attracts you as a reader? What makes you click with one poem and leaves you indifferent towards another? Which qualities speak to you?

Might one draw a parallel between ‘picking’ haiku and beachcombing? Let’s take as an example Henry Moore, the English sculptor (1898-1986). Moore, famous for his monumental semi-abstract sculptures dotted in the landscape all around the world, was inspired by nature. During his walks, he collected stones, shells, driftwood, animal bones, rocks, that he brought back to his studio and kept for inspiration. Some of these ‘found’ objects were singled out as art objects by his artist’s eye, and transformed into works of art. Others became favorite objects to go back to with new questions, kept for inspiration. Like a super-spectator, super-audience or super-reader, he saw the value(s) residing in the shapes, form of sticks, rocks, and stones, picked them up and brought them in from the cold world into his art studio.

In a sense, as writers, we have something in common with Moore and his walks. Through the day, we gather experiences, pick up some in words, discard or ignore others. As readers too, we collect from our walks round the social medialand, from our reading journals and books, from our discussing topics, poetic thoughts or experiences, from the walks in nature and through the cityscapes surrounding us.

From another perspective, appreciating haiku as a crafted, rather than a natural, object may be more akin to appreciating paintings or sculptures on a gallery visit. Works of art hang on gallery walls, are placed in gallery rooms – like haiku sit on the pages of journals and books – for us to observe and mull over; we stand in front of them, around them for a short while, then move on and walk through the rooms – pages – quickly, too quickly often.

Henry Moore’s huge sculptures standing tall or reclining in the landscape demand our attention; whether we see perfection in them or the unruly shapes of our innermost selves, something in them appeals to us as viewers. And while we cannot pick them up physically, they come home with us. So it is with haiku, I believe. Which one speaks to us, creates a reaction in us, which one we pick to remember, to give it a home in our hearts, depends on many factors.

Something in it, in its shape, depth, sensory and sensual appeal resonates with us. There is a personal, familial, local, national, global, colonial, post-colonial, feminist, literary, yet to be named perspective(s) each of us carries, treasures, contributes to and responds with to the world. Often more than one. Hopefully more than one. Naturally, we all differ in our perspectives, ideologies, in our poems, in our choices of haiku.

But there are common, global elements too; essences, values, basics we share as humans that hold together a haiku and bring it to our reader’s eyes fresh from beyond culture, history, limiting perspectives and allegiances. And with our global, in addition to our local, receptors – much like the single neurons and neuronal assemblies we all harbor in the perceptual parts of our brains, each tuned to picking single elements or whole configurations – we are able to pick and enjoy those poems too. Jim Kacian, in his essay “Tapping the Common Well” in Bones: journal for contemporary haiku, while considering what it is about the haiku poem’s universality, points out this extra or underlying dimension:

“It is universal, because what it seeks is not the relative truths of nationalities or religions, but the universal truths between people: that which can be shared, recognized, valued around the world. This does not mean rain and sun mean the same thing to all people: certainly desert-dwellers have very different emotions about such things than those who live in a rain forest… There are always points of view. But haiku express values beyond these regional and economic differences, revealing the truth of things as they are, which is more at the core of how we feel most deeply as people. Haiku finds that which is not superfluous in the hearts of men, and expresses the values found there, as deep as that may go.”

And so in our lives as readers, as well as writers, armed or rather blessed with a variety of sensory and psychological receptors – some uniquely personal, others shared by the whole species – we pick poems that offer us the chance to recognize, come to terms with, or celebrate one moment from the river of our experience, one splinter from the tree of our lives; to reconnect with our humanity and to nourish our being.

So which haiku ‘receptors’ do you use? How do you like your haiku? Let us know here. It would be good to hear your take on this.

.

Reference(s):
Kacian, Jim: Tapping the Common Well, in Bones: journal for contemporary haiku, Issue 1, December 15, 2012.

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6 thoughts on “MAY TOPICS AND PICKING HAIKU

  1. A very interesting and informative post Stella. Welcome to haiku matters! I am pleased it matters to you too and I look forward to the rest of your posts, col.

  2. aloha Stella – for me, there may be any number of attractions that zing one haiku into me over another. some of the things that catch me are the same things that may catch me on that beach or forest walk. it may include shapes (as i suspect it did for Henry Moore), sounds and texture, yet also surprise, new perspective, a twist of thinking and that amazing moment of oh-wow-ah-ha revelation. i value haiku that does not anthropomorphize non-human elements (altho i value that in other poetic forms). and yet to all this there are the exceptions that pop and catch me out and show me i have to expand my thinking because “this” is that haikuness too.

    most of the time when i am working on my haiku and find it settled in place i like what i see/feel/experience in it. altho when i look back i can see how many miss the mark too. part of the fun and excitement for me is trying to hit that mark in the next haiku i am discovering or uncovering. . . .

    i continue to read words written on haiku, what others value and their perspective on it. when i find something that resonates with me i experiment with it and try it, it may last in me and it may dwindle. it’s the combination residue of these things that form the basis for haiku i work on at any given moment. i tend to examine my end words through a variety of these things and thoughts.

    haiku tends to come to me in my skull as i experience something around me. i write a lot through memory of an experience, and yet when i go for a walk, wow what floats in to my skull with every step.

    i jot down what comes to me (now) as it comes. that may not be the form it needs as an end point however, so i peel a bit here and combine word-ideas, whittling down with words trying to find the essence that is the bare bones of that initial voice in my skull. i may work on this initially for some time, listening for my response to the words i’ve placed down. often it’s when i stop and go on to other things that the voice picks back up. at that time i often return and i alter what i’ve left before. over and over this may happen until it feels to me like there is something there, revealed to me in the words that i like. is it surprising? a new perspective? an interest in texture, sound or shape? i let that go if i like what i have. in time i’ll come to know some of the answers to those questions for a moment. in fact each moment i re-explore the haiku, along with much of the preceding explorations too. cool on that. i am particularly delighted when i have forgotten the haiku and can read it fresh through new eyes. that’s when i am more likely to see if it zings into me. i like when it does. yes, i like to re-read my own haiku as well as those i come across of others. fun.

    it’s way fun to think about this. because yeah, haiku matters. aloha.

    • aloha Rick! Many thanks for reading and for sharing your own processes here. Reading your comment brings your own work to my mind’s eye. Writing and reading haiku are indeed, as you show, complex, and interconnected processes.

      • Perhaps the emphasis on values seems a little abstract, a little vague, when confronted by a wee poem that goes by the name of haiku. A haiku has momentum, it moves, it moves the reader by triggering an act of attention that suddenly makes us aware of more than we can say. One studies a great number of haiku to see how this happens, how to make it happen. Eventually we talk about form, structure, moving parts. I find a lot of contemporary haiku just not happening, compared say to Buson, and I don’t see haiku criticism that does justice to haiku as an art form that tests and changes our so-called values the way other art forms do. But Mark Harris is a distinguished contemporary, among the very best. I write about these matters at ecoku.wordpress.com

      • Tom, many thanks for reading, sharing your thoughts, and pointing to ecoku and your blog. Certainly interesting to think about the ecological perspective/‘receptors’.
        I, and I guess most readers and writers, would agree with your point about the haiku momentum and haiku ‘triggering an act of attention’ in the reader. In fact, this relates to a number of themes I touch on in this month’s blog posts.; there’s Mo(o)re (and Hepworth)… I hope you will come back and take a look.

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