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8th Sailing

Sails is a section of troutswirl that is devoted to presenting questions for discussion and debate on the nature and possibilities of haiku. Sails is overseen by Peter Yovu. For an introduction to this section, see Sails.

. . . 8th Sailing . . .

BY Peter Yovu

What is your Edge?

Many considerations and questions arose in the course of the past year, not only here on Sails, but throughout the blog. I am sure that some of these questions touched each of us to one degree or another, as challenge, as inspiration, as provocation or frustration. To start the new year, I want to ask a question which might allow for some review, but in a personal way. There are different ways of asking it. One might be: what is your haiku resolution? Another: where do want your haiku to go; what does it need? My intention in settling on the question— What is your edge?—is to include these and to be somewhat open-ended, to allow participants the space to explore what each feels would be most fruitful in developing his/her art, and therefore the art of haiku in general.

One way of considering this is to ask “What would I like to be able to do, and how can I learn more about it?” To me, one measure of the maturity of an artist resides in the ability to assess strengths and weaknesses, and there can be some discomfort in this, to be sure, but also joy in recognizing that there are, as we have seen, many islands on this journey, some of them new and enticing. It is this latter sense that I invite.

Is imagination your edge? The use of sound? One-line haiku? The bold explorations of gendai? Humor? Explicit emotion? The psychological dimension? A sense of mystery? Or perhaps your edge brings you to an exploration of what experience is, of what perception is? Would you benefit from writing more from memory, or dreams, or word association? Conversely, would you benefit from more direct experience with nature? And so on. Of course, some of these could be taken up as separate Sailings, and that may happen, but as I said, this is an opportunity to gather together some thoughts which may have been stirred up this past year. I hope readers will feel free to cite instances where an edge was revealed, here on Troutswirl, or elsewhere.

As always, I like to encourage the inclusion of examples. Would you consider posting a haiku (or two) which embodies a quality you admire and would like to develop?

I wish all a good and courageous journey through the New Year. The forests of the night are leaved with our sails.



This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. came across this quote at, and was reminded of this Sail’s questions, or at least an echo of it, in relation to my own stuff:

    “”Sky” samples—and takes its title from—Grateful Dead’s “Unbroken Chain” (incidentally, the first-ever cleared GD sample). Considering the Dead are probably personae non gratae with a good chunk of the Animal Collective demographic, the sample comes as a nice band-fan challenge (personally, I’ve never been a big Grateful Dead fan, but my objections are musical, not social). In the original song, the lyric is “Willow sky/ Whoa, I walk and wonder why.” In Animal Collective’s version, the lyric is flipped: The end of the line becomes the beginning, and “Whoa, I walk” is deliberately misheard as “What would I want?” I mention it because it’s what this band has always done for me: take a sound and turn it inside out to make something new, but something recognizable, even familiar.”

    this is the song:

    (liver version):

    my edge, i think (?), goes, often, beyond this though. then again, perhaps my edge is 5-7-5.

    as the quote above though indicates, i find myself inspired by media and art, far more often than the haiku i read or revisit. sometimes film. quite often music. lyrics misheard. or reconstructed in the mind:

    from the dirty projectors’ “no intention”

    “The restless corpse is
    collapsed wind
    The breath is daffodil”

    concepts of cut and paste, sampling, and remixing to create something new or unexpected. i find these take me to the edge i seek and desire to play along when (re)constructing language/pulling it out/molding it/catching it. how far can it be taken? i feel i sometimes seek to be able to write haiku the way Ferran Adrià creates food. where is that?

    in the midst of all this trying, and experimenting, and searching, i long though, like Seymour Glass, to be appreciated and understood by Miss Overman. is “the poet’s function not to write what he must write but, rather, to write what he would write if his life depended on his taking responsibility for writing what he must in a style designed to shut out as few of his old librarians as humanly possible” (J.D. Salinger, *Seymour—An Introduction*, p25-6).

    here’s a pregnant question mark: (?)

  2. I found the following poem in an essay that has stuck with me ever since I first read it:

    — —;
    – — —
    — –.

    marlene mountain
    Tweed 6:1 1977 *

    -/ — /
    /- / /- /-
    -/ –/

    Robert Spiess
    Modern Haiku (8:1)– page 33

    a “found” haiku? see marlene’s essay:

    When I think of edge, I think of marlene mountain.
    I’ve always admired her fearless experimentation.

    her website is an invaluable piece of history, not only as an archive of her pioneering poetry, but as a record of the context into which her work entered

  3. I find both Scott Metz and Chris Gordon to be writers who do not write anything like me, and yet from whom I have learned and enjoyed a great deal about language. I find vincent tripi also to be someone who always enlightens me in his writing. While these three don’t write like each other they all have minds that make surprising connections and call me to open my own mind. I find that reading haiku poets who do not write like me also widens my understanding of the art. Another poet that is like that is John Martone. Another poet is Roberta Beary as so much of her writing is in human relations, and I find that the emotional content of my own writing in that area becomes too “hot” which for me destroys my haiku, but Roberta has a way of doing it that leaves just enough out to cool it down, most of the time.

  4. Take two. I’d like to open this Sailing up a bit by encouraging you to choose a haiku or two which has qualities you admire and are drawn to, and yet which are perhaps very different from those you explore in your own work.

    For myself, when I consider writers who challenge and delight me in this way, I usually come first to Burnell Lippy. Many of his poems, particularly those found in *late geese up a dry fork*, have a deep and deeply felt connection to season that goes beyond mere weather report— his seasonal references do more than locate us in space and time: they are images in their own right, in communication with whatever else he presents. For example:

    squash vines
    long and hollow
    the last late evenings

    In my own work I do not feel a strong need to connect to the season, but with Lippy’s work I feel how valuable, how rewarding, an exploration of seasonality may be.

    Connected to this is his ability to make connections in subtle ways that at first glance may appear so tenuous as to dissolve into the page, but which generally do not. An example:

    summer dawn
    of the egg’s taper

    He brings into this a sense rare in haiku, I believe—I’m not even sure what to call it. “Taper” is both shape and movement—it captures remarkably well the dynamic of an egg, as something contained and in repose, and yet in motion, and full of potential. It is a cosmos one may cradle and feel in one’s hand, as the summer dawn is a hand which cradles us.

    There are other poets whose work I could offer as examples, in some instances knowing even less about what it is they do which appeals to me, but I leave it to you to offer some of your own.

  5. Dear Tom, since I do not know the kanji (and could not locate this poem on the WWW yet) I can only guess

    heat shimmers . . .
    now dry and now wet
    above a stone

    / above the stones / above stones / above the stone (which one?)

    The first line also reminds us of

    Kagero Nikki 『蜻蛉日記』 『陽炎日記』(かげろうにっき)
    The Gossamer Years
    a classical piece of Japanese literature from the Heian period

    we also have

    かげろう【蜉蝣】 KAGEROO
    a mayfly; a day-fly; an ephemera (kageroo)

    and the last line (ishi no ue) reminds of

    ishi no ue san nen 石の上三年
    Meditating on a stone for three years

    (click on my name for further LINKS to these words)

    Sorry to be so far off the theme of this sailing.

    My “edge” for this year ?
    To find my center !


  6. This is fascinating, and I hope Gabi can herself supply some version of the balance of the haiku. If the poem does indeed end on “stone” not “wet stone” the poem would to my mind be an even greater poem because it would witness more firmly the gap between the narrative of the base (the steamy/steaming ground at a certain time of year) and a more “original” and “vertical” siting. Cool!

  7. kageroo ya
    hoshite wa nururu
    ishi no ue

    the shimmering haze
    the wet stone.
    (trans. Donegan)

    The Japanese is 5 7 5 and has the cut markar YA after line one.

    The last line reads to me

    above the stone

    Line 2 … hoshite wa nururu …
    any suggestions for a translation would be appreciated.



  8. To wit:
    the shimmering haze/above/the wet stone.
    (trans. Donegan)

    Do you have any Japanese to go with this?
    I have a feeling the second line of the Japanese has 7 beats .


  9. In the last couple of years I’ve discovered equivalences between a post (or is it post-post)modern metaphysics of the metaxy and the Zhuangzian metaphysics of the Basho school. I turn increasingly to Pipei Qiu’s work and various translations and commentaries (esp the Wu commentary The Butterfly as Companion) of Chuang Tsu. I want to explore that shared space with greater poise and insight in my haiku. I suppose to comes down to siting my poems according to my inner Chiyo-ni! To wit: the shimmering haze/above/the wet stone. (trans. Donegan)
    That sets me on fire. She captures both the flow of transformation and the ontological difference; the poem is a gift of gifts.

  10. My edge? The precipice, (for myself), perhaps a better term.
    You’ve summed it up in a word, courage. The courage to push an envelope already stretched to the outer limits by extremely gifted poets. Not an easy feat for a newcomer. And to still stay within understood limits. It’s the beauty of all art, and a challenge which I eagerly embrace. To illustrate here are examples of poems which skate within the boundaries but soar to outer limits. They are from two books of poetry recently purchased (I have avoided much printed choices):

    for now
    first snow
    John Stevenson, Live Again, 2009,
    Red Moon Press

    the day now burnt out fireflies
    Jim Kacian, Long After, 2008,
    Albalibri Editore

  11. Typo! That is not “haigo” … it should be “haiku” in the second line.

    I don’t know what I’m going to do about my typos… sorry folks

  12. This is a great question. I’m in the process of doing a couple of haigo for my snowbird notes…and it’s exactly the thing I came across when making my decision as to which haiku to use. I have an inner compass…I guess you could call it my “truth”. When I’m working with another poet if their “truth” in any haiku crosses the path of my “truth” then I find it reveals a new path.
    I’m not saying anyone’s “truth” is any better or worse than anyone elses, it’s just an instinct. I can’t give an example since I can’t post the drawings that the other poet’s haiku evoked in me. But that’s what my edge is…a confluence of things that evoke a creation.

  13. My ‘edge’, or at least an aspect of writing haiku that interests me a lot, is the capacity of language to suggest so much more than itself, the innate metaphorical or symbolic quality of language, if you like.

    One of the first haiku I ever came across, before I started writing them myself, was Gail Sher’s:

    sudden squall –
    my hands
    wrap around the teacup

    (from One Continuous Mistake, Four Noble Truths for Writers, Penguin/Arkana 1999)

    and this was a wonderful lesson for me in how ordinary descriptive language could be so significant, act as a vehicle for meaning and idea, but without forcing any message onto the reader.

    This haiku keeps me in the reality of the physical moment but also invites me to ponder the emotional moment too. I wonder about the ‘squall’, how it can suggest both weather and relationship. Does the narrator finds comfort in the activity of wrapping her hands around the cup, or does she do this as a result of tension? Whatever it is I’m convinced by the language she uses.

    In addition, this haiku highlights another of my interests, one I’ve brought from writing free verse that I’m learning to apply with a lighter touch to haiku: line break.

    The framing of ‘my hands’ on a line of its own encourages me to see them more clearly, separate from the action of ‘wrapping’, separate from the image of the teacup. The lineation slows down my reading of the haiku, offers me more time to experience it, as if I see the hands held out before they clutch the cup, in the gap between two moments.

    Thanks, Peter, for the opportunity to articulate these thoughts.

  14. Peter you set such interesting questions for us to ponder and discuss.

    I heard Martin Lucas (editor of UK journal Presence) speak at last year’s Haiku Pacific Rim conference in Australia and had my eyes (and ears) opened to one-line haiku, something I have rarely tried to write, but which I then challenged myself to at least try.

    Martin believes “greater fluidity, ambiguity and reflectivity are made possible by the single unpunctuated line”. “The one-liner has great potential for authority, inevitability and ineffability,” he said (quoted from the Conference Proceedings).

    Two examples he used, both originally published in Presence #37, that appealed to me:

    my sister skating here comes her yellow hat

    – frances angela

    sharpening this night of stars distant dogs

    – Stuart Quine

    And one other favourite (placed senond in the 2005 Harold Henderson award):

    gunshot the length of the lake

    – Jim Kacian

    For the past few years I have set myself a writing “resolution” (challenge) at the start of each year in an attempt to keep expanding my horizons and, with luck, broaden both my knowledge and skill.

    Further to this annual resolution is an ongoing commitment to keep trying to get better at what I do – reinforced each time I read a masterful poem. I mostly know what my shortcomings are, but it’s not always easy to find a way to overcome them!

    The keys to “improvement”, IMHO, include writing, reading, thinking, burrowing into oneself to learn about the world and finding some silence once in a while.

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