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In-Depth Discussions => Field Notes => Topic started by: Field Notes on January 25, 2014, 01:34:48 PM

Title: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Field Notes on January 25, 2014, 01:34:48 PM
Criticism is the subject under scrutiny for Field Notes 5. To get things started, we asked panelists to have a go at this difficult matter. They were up to it, and we hope you are too. Jump in.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Field Notes on January 25, 2014, 01:50:42 PM
Eve Luckring

Dear Reader,

Before I can answer some of Peter's questions directly, I believe it would help if I explained a bit about my relationship to criticism. This unfortunately makes the following a bit longer than I would like for an on-line forum.

I appreciate criticism that makes me think about an artwork/poem, or an artist's/poet's body of work, in a new way. Usually this is because the critic puts the object of discussion in context of something bigger:
–the histories that surround the work,
–the formal attributes of the work in relation to other poetry/art (of the past or present),
–the social/cultural context that the work intersects with
–the life experiences and artistic/philosophical inquiry of the artist/poet
A good critic has to be very well informed.

All of this said, I want the art/poetry being discussed to be the center of the discussion and not simply an "excuse" for the critic to position themselves in regards to a particular ideological platform.  In other words, the critic needs to have a strong investment in the work itself and how it contributes, or is poisonous, to the field being looked at. Why is this work worthy of our attention, whether we may "like" the work or not. Of course I think critics speak most passionately about work they love,  and choose mostly to write about issues that reflect their own deep-felt interests.  That is why we can learn from them even if we disagree with them.

I believe English-language haiku does not have nearly enough in-depth critical discourse; however, while putting this commentary together, I realize that there has been a good foundation laid for future development.

Honestly, I think only a very small percentage of the "haiku community" has interest in the type of more scholarly criticism I crave. This makes me sad because I feel this type of reflection and contemplation--thinking about how something works and the contexts that surround it-- can help deepen our relationship to what we do. It seems that many think of criticism as only an academic exercise (I do not equate scholarly with academic).

I prefer criticism that is written accessibly, without a lot of jargon, but I am also willing to learn new vocabulary and investigate reference material in order to better understand something I am unfamiliar with, if it seems relevant.

I believe good criticism challenges me to educate myself further, to ask questions about what I am doing in my own work, puts me in conversation with others about topics I hold dear to the heart, and, on a fundamental level, to interface with language and thought differently than in my creative work. I have always read visual art criticism and I also read literary criticism outside of the field of ELH.

Off the top of my head, ( I'm sure I am overlooking more examples ) some recent memorable criticism of ELH books and poems that I have read:

•Bill Higginson's book review of Fay Aoyagi's Chrysanthemum Love, (MH 35:2, 2004)
•Francine Banwarth's book reviews in Frogpond-- because of her refreshing approach, which traces her own process of discovery in the reading of poems.
•R'r's Scorpion Prize commentary, particularly Robert Grenier's--Scorpion Prize #22, R'r 11.1--so refreshing
•Jack Galmitz's Views, a group of essays which includes discussions of a whole body of work by a single poet--we need more of this.
•Phil Rowland's introduction to Lakes and Now Wolves, Scott Metz's collection.

I do not agree with everything said in these various writings but all have connected me deeply with the value of haiku .

It is actually other types of critical writing about ELH that I am most interested in--writing that moves beyond reviews of individual poems and books.

Though they concentrate more on Japanese poetry, Hiroaki Sato, Makoto Ueda, and Haruo Shirane all have offered us invaluable insights in some essays that address English-language haiku.

Below, I have made a brief list of the types of things (from recent publication) I would most especially welcome more of. Again, though I do not agree with everything put forth in the following essays, they offer many invaluable points of consideration.

•Peter Yovu's "Do Something Different" (Frogpond 31:1,2008) -- This essay was timely, looking at the formal potentials of haiku in a way that expanded upon what had come before it. Written with the specific audience of the journal in mind.

• Charlie Trumbull's, "Meaning in Haiku", (FP 35:3, 2012)-- another timely essay with the journal's readership in mind, very honestly and accessibly written.

•Ian Marshall's "Phenomenology and Haiku's Aesthetics of the Body: Or, Biking with Bashō and Merleau-Ponty"   (Frogpond Journal;Winter 2011, Vol. 34:1)--  Merleau-Ponty's philosophy is important to my own work and I am glad someone else recognizes its kinship to haiku.

•Jim Kacian's various essays about haiku, particularly "Haiku as Anti-story" (MH 42:1, 2011).

•Richard Gilbert's "Plausible deniability: Nature as Hypothesis in English‑language Haiku" contained in Poems of Consciousness-- I am deeply invested in teasing out haiku's relationship to "Nature" for myself, and so it was with curiosity and relief that I read this quirky, syncretic, philosophical questioning. I have been bugging Richard to develop it further.
And also The Disjunctive Dragonfly, the original essay and its recent expansion into a book.

• Jon Baldwin's "Qualities of Haiku (from Roland Barthes), ( MH 43:3, 2012)--I believe Baldwin has made another publication on Calmeo called "25 Ways of Looking at a Haiku", that is also based on the same, Barthes' recently translated, The Preparation of the Novel. I am a fan of Barthes in general and was pleased to learn more of what he had written about haiku.  Baldwin highlights well some of Bathes' more provocative interpretations about how haiku performs and supplies a nicely focused supplement to Empire of Signs.

•John Stevenson's "Haiku as Dimensional Object", (FP 36:3, 2013)--the creativity of this approach reminds me of Borges.

• Jane Reichold's Symbiotic Poetry-- I have not read this yet, but I am very curious. It is good to see haiku put in a larger context this way.

I'm sure there are other good examples, but this is long enough.


******************


Michael Dylan Welch


Concerning haiku, how do you regard the current state of criticism? That is, criticism of individual poems and poets, of collections, anthologies etc., and also of the genre in general?
 
I think generally the state of criticism in haiku is okay, but not stellar. In years past (I think of the old Inkstone magazine), there were some reviewers who could be nasty and polemical, and I think they did that just to stir the pot. That's ultimately not what haiku needs, and comes across as whiny. Haiku needs deeper analysis and criticism. I remember one reviewer I had for Woodnotes who told me she always included something "negative" in each review "for balance." That appalled me. It seemed gratuitous, and was a shallow way to approach being balanced and well-reasoned (and the gratuitousness showed in her reviews, which I stopped commissioning for Woodnotes).
 
At the 30th anniversary Haiku Society of America retreat I organized in 1998, I remember something said by our featured guest speaker, Dana Gioia (famous for his "Can Poetry Matter" essay in The Atlantic, and later becoming chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, appointed by President Bush). In Dana's talk on "Perceptions of Haiku by Non-Haiku Poets," I remember him saying that the haiku community would do well do champion its best haiku poets and its best haiku books to non-haiku audiences. He quoted Nick Virgilio (not by coincidence--he's a fellow Italian), and said that Virgilio was a case in point, a poet worth promoting, and that we should find and promote other excellent haiku poets. So instead of writing a summary of the haiku poetics of leading haiku poets for Frogpond or Modern Haiku or the Haiku Foundation, how about writing such in-depth articles for leading non-haiku poetry journals? It would be harder to get published there, but that's exactly he point. We have to try harder, and aim higher. Dana's suggestion was that by promoting a few of our best haiku poets, we can generally raise the perception of haiku amid mainstream poetry. In addition, he said that unless a bad book of haiku is particularly prominent, why waste time reviewing bad or weak haiku books or saying negative things about them? That doesn't mean one should never review a bad book, but there's definitely something to be said about promoting what's good ahead of what's weak. This is not just an extension of what my mother always said: "If you can't say something nice, don't say it." Rather, it's a deliberate choice to celebrate what's excellent, perhaps even to the point of hiding (if that's the right word) what's not so good, at least in the context of mainstream poetry. I would tend to agree, as this sort of stance would help the haiku community get out of its own ghetto and to stop being so self-involved. But shucks, here I am telling this TO the haiku community, which is part of the problem.
 
One inherent problem with reviewing is that we're a small community, so we pretty much know each other, sometimes very well. That fact has the potential to inhibit honest reviewing if one needs to be critical, or can make for overly supportive reviews. So many reviews are not really about the book in question at all, but more about the relationship of the reviewer to the writer, at least among haiku books. Consequently, we might do well to solicit reviews of haiku books by non-haiku poets. Such acts might risk a reviewer not knowing what to look for in haiku (season words, juxtaposition, and so on), but I think it's worth the risk -- the best poems often work without such extrinsic knowledge. We should trust more outside reviewers to find the truth, or the failings, of our haiku.

What more or different, if anything, would you like to see?

As you see it, what role does the “haiku community” play in criticism? Would you like to see it play a different role? How so?

Can you recall a review or any piece of critical writing which stands out for you as a model for what you might like to see more of?
 
Forgive me for mentioning one of my own pieces, but one I'd like to see myself live up to with future reviews is my review of the "Unswept Path" anthology. See https://sites.google.com/site/graceguts/reviews/recognizing-influences-the-unswept-path. (https://sites.google.com/site/graceguts/reviews/recognizing-influences-the-unswept-path.) Reviews that place content in a larger context are the ones that I most often prefer to read.
 
Critical writing is not just book reviews, of course. There are key pieces of criticism that can change our way of thinking, like the writing of Haruo Shirane, for example, and some of the writing of Richard Gilbert, when you dig through it (yes, for example, let's once and for all put an end to the use of the word "onji"). I've particularly enjoyed particular essays by Paul Miller and Lee Gurga, and was proud to have published The Nick of Time: Essays on Haiku Aesthetics by the late Paul O. Williams, which contains many fine models for anyone to follow when writing critically, in terms of careful, fresh thinking mixed with clarity and accessibility without being needlessly complex. (I now have copies of the book available for sale again.) I also have a closet interest in using library and Internet resources to find academic papers and dissertations on haiku (Japanese, usually), and these often serve as objective models on analysis that are well worth emulating. I routinely discover gems of scholarship by excellent writers who write about haiku very well yet are nearly always completely removed from the English-language haiku scene. They're writing about Japanese haiku, of course, so they have no need to be involved with English-language haiku, or even be aware of it. But in contrast, I believe one of our best writers about haiku, Makoto Ueda, has benefitted by deliberately keeping his finger on the pulse of English-language haiku; he subscribed to Woodnotes, Frogpond, Modern Haiku and a few other journals, and you could see their influence in his translations (and he mentioned this in at least one of his books). Ultimately, criticism, whether by fellow poets or by non-poets, is a symbiosis with the poets. I believe life, art, and poetry, is best when it's a balance between the head and the heart. E. E. Cummings reminded us that "feeling is first," but he didn't say that feeling is all that matters. Analysis counts too, and that's why criticism is important for all arts, including haiku.


*************


Allan Burns


looking deeper
and deeper into it
the great beech

—John Wills


Haiku criticism at its best is that kind of looking directed at haiku itself.

The principal function of such criticism is to help readers see what's happening in haiku (both individual poems and the genre) more clearly so that they come into a deeper appreciation of its many subtleties. Criticism aims for both elucidation and evaluation so as to provide readers with a sense of orientation within the ongoing flood of production. It must combine keen perceptions with wide experience and should also remind us that reading haiku is itself an art. Henry James once described the critic as "the real helper of the artist, a torchbearing outrider, the interpreter, the brother." As James demonstrates, the best critics are often practitioners. But the history of literature also shows that good critics are even rarer than good artists.

I'll mention just a few examples of English-language haiku criticism (a field still very much in its infancy) that stand out for me.

A pioneering work and one unlikely ever to lose its significance is Harold G. Henderson's Haiku in English (Charles E. Tuttle, 1967). Henderson's writing was a model of lucid, generous, intelligent, flexible, and informed appreciation and discrimination. Early ELH was indeed lucky to have had him.

A significant and groundbreaking work in terms of examining the achievements of individual haiku poets is Barbara Ungar's Haiku in English (Stanford, 1978). (There are several books with this useful title!) It studies haiku and related genres by Amy Lowell, Jack Kerouac, and Michael McClintock and suggests what further work along these lines—which I believe will come in time—might be like.

Tom Lynch's essay "Intersecting Influences in American Haiku" (University of Nebraska, 2001) is an extremely valuable study of contemporary American haiku in relation to both classical Buddhist-influenced Japanese haiku and homegrown transcendentalism as initiated by Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman and transmitted through the work of the Imagists and the Beats. We could use more such studies that connect haiku to larger literary currents.

For its close readings of individual haiku, Martin Lucas's Stepping Stones (British Haiku Society, 2007), with a focus exclusively on British haiku, is a suggestive and insightful work.

Two ambitious and stimulating essays of fairly recent vintage that have examined and challenged prominent trends within haiku composition generally are Peter Yovu's "Do Something Different" (Frogpond 31.1, 2008) and Lucas's "Haiku as Poetic Spell" (Presence 41, 2010).

For compact histories of ELH (and by virtue of their emphases literary histories are also always works of criticism), there are Charlie Trumbull's "The American Haiku Movement" (Modern Haiku 36.3, 2005 and 37.1, 2006) and Jim Kacian's "An Overview of Haiku in English" (the afterword of Haiku in English—there's that title again!—W. W. Norton, 2013, edited by Jim, Phil Rowland, and me). We await the first book-length history of ELH.

Of course, these are just a few touchstones. I'm not trying to compile a bibliography.

I'll close by mentioning two works that I believe have done something quite rare by elucidating the sublime and transcendental potential of haiku art: Eric Amann's monograph The Wordless Poem (1969) and Robert Spiess's A Year's Speculation on Haiku (Modern Haiku Press, 1995).


**********


Bruce Ross

                                               
                                                        Haiku Criticism

Is it in the Japanese spirit to have haiku criticism? Yes. Each school has its own poetics that is expressed in their discussion of haiku. Is it in the spirit of the rest of the world to have haiku criticism? Yes and no. When honest, this latter criticism does or should connect with understanding what haiku is as a poem. Some of this latter criticism is a repetition of even the earliest, though valid, non-Japanese criticism. In Japan haiku criticism has tended to be impressionistic or, shall we say poetic, within the cultural and formal elements of haiku, perhaps related to how haiku has always been practiced in given haiku groups. In the worldwide justly so fascination with haiku, the most widely practiced poem, wild and wooly attempts at criticism have occurred. The individual haiku and lifework of a give haiku poet should be at the center of haiku criticism. Beyond that, attention to what stands out in a given haiku that makes it an engaging aesthetic experience should be a focal point of haiku criticism. All this should be predicated on an understanding of haiku form and its subject matter. In most adaptations of poetic form (changing the meter, rhyme, and idiom of a sonnet as with E. E. Cummings, for example), the basic qualities of that form are nonetheless present. With Shiki’s working out the nature of modern haiku, the response to more radical approaches to such haiku (phrase length and number, psychological approaches, etc.) was, Do what you want but why call it haiku? So implicit in haiku criticism is an understanding of that question. Is such a question being addressed in contemporary haiku? Not really. Certain presentations of psychological idioms (some no more than a mental phrase), non-Basho-like “lightness” of simplistic representation, telegraph-like phrasing, lengthening of line lengths as “poems,” and the like occur as winners of contests and are frequently published in major journals, often in a freewheeling way, as if an experiment is being carried out with the form at the expense of the form. As the modern call of free verse, form is never more than an extension of content, is baldly applied to haiku, something is lost and nothing is gained other than a too short poem. A look at what makes haiku unique, perhaps as a special form of metaphor or “absolute metaphor,” if you will, should be part of that question asked two centuries ago.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Field Notes on January 25, 2014, 02:03:44 PM
Richard Gilbert


1) Concerning haiku, how do you regard the current state of criticism? That is, criticism of individual poems and poets, of collections, anthologies etc., and also of the genre in general?

So little of it, so few places for it.


2) What more or different, if anything, would you like to see?

More thinking out of the box; open-mindedness. Fresh criticism that inspires poets and readers to compose freely, and read with newfound passion, interest, intensity; to witness critical ideas presented through new media as creative genre expressions; the THF forum, its various blogs and their comments, represent one example; criticism may also extend to poetry, video, documentary, biography; greater academic rigor.


3) As you see it, what role does the “haiku community” play in criticism? Would you like to see it play a different role? How so?

Blinds > mysterious mirrors. Words are also things, in a way. Substances, forms, shapes. Often half-hidden, yet revealing, even as they limit. It's thought that nouns may be the last parts of speech to evolve. Nouns seem the most concrete things, yet conceiving a symbolic-represented engram (word) for the thing is an exceptionally abstract act; a cognitive tour de force. Who speaks, and to what world, and for what cause, what reason, with what evidence, to what effect? Paz wrote that the poem is minimally “two.” Audience, even as dream, is a noun, that is. Don’t we struggle with invisibility, questions of home, past and future, societal eventualities, and increasingly, planetary ecology? Haiku community isn’t unitary: diverse groups worldwide share this common interest.

One question is how haiku-critical exploration might enlarge its scope to reach beyond the genre, to speak to those interested in poetry, full stop. Will “haiku community” as such recede into mouse-holes of somnolence? To see things fresh, having something to push against: enervations inherent in “tradition.”

3+ (Earlier written to Peter in a chatty letter): I’ve been musing lately that:
There are readers
There are poets
There are critics
There is community
There is sociality
There are group networks
There are group functions.

Among these, participants have differing needs, goals and expectations. For instance:

If you are fractured, do haiku represent:
Sanity, purity, healing, therapy?

If you are urgent, do haiku represent:
Social challenge, exploration, agon?

If you are tired, do haiku represent:
Freshness, re-invigoration, novelty?

If you are bored, do haiku represent:
Surprise, delight, reversal of expectation?

If you like language-interaction with consciousness, do haiku represent:
Novel language use, coinage, neologism, experiment?

If you like lineage and form, do haiku represent:
Continuity missing in culture, or in life at large?

If one is relatively socio-economically stable, do haiku represent:
A lifestyle choice, a set of values, mores, an ethical base?

Some of the above queries may fit for poetry in general, yet others seem more genre-specific. This itself is critically interesting, don't you think? As a community, visiting various groups and symposia, are we overwhelmingly white, middle-class, bourgeois? Or should that read "of the well-educated professional class ,and successful"? Would the average age of our community be somewhere north of 50? Should we take an interest in new poets who are 20—30 something? Where are they, where’s the new talent? By all means let’s invite them in. I sometimes think we are really going somewhere, but then have doubts.

Actually, my thoughts and planned campaign of a haiku sailing pilgrimage around Japan is a critical response (and performance art piece) relating directly to all of the above. I hope to reach a larger audience; to connect more expansively: haiku < > society.

4) Can you recall a review or any piece of critical writing which stands out for you as a model for what you might like to see more of?

Good criticism feeds mind and soul! Kermode, Perloff, Bloom, Benjamin, Vendler, others. Now and again, The London (and NYT, and LA) Review of Books—all have enriched my life. The essays and prose works of Octavio Paz, “Testaments Betrayed” by Kundera, many additional works.

***********


Alan Summers


"What really constitutes good writing in haiku as poetry?"


George Szirtes had this to say about haiku (22 January 2014


“Haiku form, in the 5-7-5 syllable sense, is one of those readily fitted for Twitter with its 140-character limit. I rarely thought to write haiku before going on Twitter, but once on there I experimented a good deal, writing about the form itself before going to write seriously in it. I do now and compose ever more frequently in series treating each haiku as a self-complete poem that then joins with others in some narrative or dramatic form. The writing of haiku has brought out something in my work, possibly a kind of plain-spokenness and a greater willingness to engage with the abstract. I save the absurd and the tangentially poetic for prose.”

I’ve met George Szirtes on a few occasions, but we never discussed haiku.  He is also a fellow consultant on an online literary magazine which contained a substantial section on haiku including a short essay by myself.  Many poets choose to go the 575 route, perhaps because it feels lyrical, without the extreme brevity that regular haiku writers use.   The adaptation of the Japanese cutting technique called kire, in haiku, is not something that is easy for many poets to read into a verse, and understand, perhaps it’s too alien? I wonder if there are two main camps, haiku as haiku and haiku as poetry.  Oddly I’ve rarely experienced difficulties with the general public understanding a haiku poem, but poets regularly writing outside the haiku market do appear to have some or great difficulty at times.

Why is this I wonder? I don’t have any ready or clever answers.  I just know that haiku appears to be too sophisticated even for some poets regularly published in the best of literary journals.  I experiment with various approaches to haiku, and the puzzlement however open appears the same:  I feel that 575 haiku will always have a place in poet’s hearts, where they need more words, and at least have the equivalent to a line of poetry. 

There are many people who only write haiku as tweets, and consider 140 characters just enough for a haiku, whereas for many here we could easily accommodate at least two haiku, and even start a third.   Perhaps it is a combination of the attempt to utilise the kireji cutting, making a tiny verse into two smaller verses surrounded by an acre of white space that bamboozles many, including experienced close readers, and poets?  

"What really constitutes good writing in haiku as poetry?"  Is it engaging in more communication outside the regular haiku groups that we haunt?   Does outreach, guest-readings, and talks, school, college and university visits, and performances help?   How many regular haiku writers visit educational establishments?

Have we gone so minimalist that it is impossible for the public - who are aware of 575 verse, and also possibly read some translation versions of classic haiku from Japan - to be allowed on the same page any more?   Are we in fact excluding the very people we wish to have included?

Before regular performance poetry events many page only poets grudgingly gave live readings, mumbling into their books, avoiding eye glance or eye lock, wary of those who even loved their work, and understood it or were prepared to.  Is there a danger that we risk those dark ages, despite a huge movement of people enjoying live poetry?

In Bristol (England, U.K.) I remember having to do crowd control for a poetry slam.  Bristol was the bigger scene, bigger than London, and poets were even interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on the BBC’s Newsnight flagship program.   I’ve even had to move two haiku poets to the top floor of a bookstore for health and safety reasons, due to popularity, excitement, overcrowding, to continue their book signings.  So it can happen to haiku poets too.s

Poets should be communicators, surely?  Are we front line reporters coming back with what we’ve witnessed, or not?  Shouldn’t we be both across the page and across the room at the party?   Something is missing, despite the recent surge of quality books around haiku that should appeal to the public.  Nowadays there is more to poetry than just good writing, but it helps, if only to start from there, and then engage, not as soldiers, but fellow communicators.   After all, the age of cellphone cameras, selfies, and constant social media interconnecting is upon us, and haiku has always embraced new media from Basho onwards.

It will be interesting to see the impact of the two recent books of Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W.W. Norton) and Where the River Goes (Snapshot Press) this year into next year, plus more big books on the way.

Next time I meet George Szirtes I will certainly touch on haiku, maybe even have a haiku book to hand.

Alan Summers, With Words

***************


Kristen Deming


  Someone wrote that "Thoughtful criticism itself is an art and a creative act."
The question of criticism led me to think more about the role and responsibilities of the poetry critic/reviewer.
  Literary criticism is about the reader: teaching him, guiding him, and putting the work being reviewed into some context or historical perspective. It is not about the critic himself or his ego.
   I admire those in the haiku community who step forward to write criticism and reviews. We rely on them to be honest without causing pain; to tell us what works and what doesn't work in a constructive way.
  In my opinion, haiku criticism/reviews have been excellent for the most part, and gently done. If there has been any hesitation in being more assertively critical, it might be worry about breaking the "wa" (harmony) of the haiku community. However, the open exchange of ideas is worth the risk.


************


George Swede


Scattering Amplitudes

Recent discussions here and elsewhere have attempted to provide explanations for the evolution of English-language haiku in the 21st century. They have been brave attempts to understand haiku that are often incomprehensible, at least in terms of established ideas about the form. Perhaps what we need are concepts from outside the realm of literary theory that can illuminate gendai or the new haiku.

I have found a recent discovery in physics that might help.  It is the amplituhedron,  ”a jewel-like geometric object” that greatly simplifies calculations about how particles interact. It seems to make unnecessary two bedrock assumptions of physics, locality and unitarity (Natalie Wolchover, Quanta Magazine, 27Sep13):

"Locality is the notion that particles can interact only from adjoining positions in space and time. And unitarity holds that the probabilities of all possible outcomes of a quantum mechanical interaction must add up to one. The concepts are the central pillars of quantum field theory in its original form, but in certain situations involving gravity, both break down, suggesting neither is a fundamental aspect of nature".

Perhaps established ideas about the haiku are also not fundamental. Why not use the amplituhedron as a model for stimulating new and vital thoughts about what really is haiku’s true nature.  But first, more from Wolchover:

"The amplituhedron looks like an intricate, multifaceted jewel in higher dimensions. Encoded in its volume are the most basic features of reality that can be calculated, “scattering amplitudes,” which represent the likelihood that a certain set of particles will turn into certain other particles upon colliding".

Isn’t the collision of images the primary techniques of gendai haiku poets.? And, the concept of “scattering amplitudes” might be useful for explaining what happens when images collide.

(https://www.simonsfoundation.org/quanta/20130917-a-jewel-at-the-heart-of-quantum-physics/ (https://www.simonsfoundation.org/quanta/20130917-a-jewel-at-the-heart-of-quantum-physics/) , accessed January 22, 2014)


**********


Mark Harris


Poets are often leery of literary critics. People who write haiku have a pronounced aversion to “critical thought” and other such wordings that emphasize intellect over what you might call heart. At the same time, people want their work to be read with as much care as they gave to the creation. 

To me, the sort of exploration and dialogue Peter encourages through Field Notes is inspiring. The ability to write critically about poems on a level that enlightens is rare. Few are so gifted. While that shouldn’t stop the rest of us from thinking through and writing down our critical impulses, we might do well to pause and remember kindness.

A friend and I touched on this topic in an email exchange a few days ago. I wrote: 

         “It is difficult for me to write about poems, in part because I am leery
          about unbalancing the poet's words. You know, every sound and rest and
          letter is creating a whole that can be changed by what the critic hangs 
          onto, or bolsters, or tears down. Violence can be done. Maybe more
          insidious, the poem can be taken, made the critic's in a way. So, critical
          writing that is constructive must be wrought with attention and
          delicacy. You have a special talent for that--I am not up to it.

          When last year I tried to explicate to you a few of my own poems, I could
          not get the balance right, and kept adding information, sapping energy
          and mystery from the original until I regretted saying anything.
          Comedians know this--once you stop to explain a joke, it's no longer
          funny, the timing's shot and you might as well exit stage left.”

There’s the desire for silence, for leaving well enough alone. And yet, I often hear people talk about how they struggled to find just the right word to complete a haiku.  What makes that word “right”? There’s the beginning of a conversation that may challenge our individual assumptions. The good critic can help us there.

After Seamus Heaney’s death this past August, I turned to my copy of his Opened Ground: Selected Poems. The collection concludes with The Nobel Lecture [1995], which I’ll quote here:

          “Without needing to be theoretically instructed, consciousness quickly
          realizes that it is the site of variously contending discourses. The child in
          the bedroom listening simultaneously to the domestic idiom of his Irish
          home and the official idioms of the British broadcaster while picking up
          from behind both the signals of some other distress, that child was
          already being schooled for the complexities of his adult predicament, a
          future where he would have to adjudicate among promptings variously
          ethical, aesthetical, moral, political, metrical, skeptical, cultural, topical,
          typical, post-colonial and, taken all together, simply impossible.”
 
In my view, that’s an apt observation of how we navigate our worlds, so full of various and conflicting signals—as in the voices of critics, for example.  Does it bother me that my own contending discourses are “impossible,” taken all together? On the contrary, that’s where I hope to begin.

**********

Don Baird

It is very difficult to write a critique whether it is in a genre of music, art, or poetry, et al.  Creative art categories often have rules; they are just as often ignored - the artist's creative force looking for a way out - to be set free.  A critic must understand the boundaries (if any) of the art form under his/her scrutiny before he/she can write even the first word.  Haiku style has become wildly varied while contentions continue as to what it is - are there boundaries - is their structure?  This atmosphere makes it nearly impossible to be a critic of haiku without sounding like a know-it-all-windbag of a pit-bull dog.
 
I imagine if a poet writes exactly the same style the critic enjoys, the poet will do well in the review.  However, if the critic is of a different sort than the poet, the poet just might find the review contentious - even hateful.
 
Critics are forgotten, however.  The poets and their work live forever.  Beethoven was hated by a critic at the beginning of his career.  Later, down the road, Beethoven won him over but not without taking a few beatings in the media.  Today, Beethoven is a hero and almost as well known as God.  In the meantime, his early critic goes unremembered - and will forever.
 
There are two things I suggest regarding critiques: 1) don't write them; 2) don't read them.  However, if you decide to write one, be understanding, be as creative as the person you are critiquing, enjoy the process, find the good, be kind, and be honest.  In case you decide to read a critique of your work, be brave.








Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Field Notes on January 25, 2014, 02:14:15 PM
Cherie Hunter Day


Criticism is rarely perceived as fair and warranted. It’s difficult to get past severe judgment and unfavorable comments and remain open to the evaluation that might be helpful or positive. Criticism is so distasteful that one of the most popular workplace performance review strategies is the “feedback sandwich”: sandwich criticism between two pieces of praise. Shaping behavior by positive feedback has been the mode in classroom teaching for many years. It used to be gold and silver stars next to names on poster board charts. That’s a very visible reminder of who is helpful and compliant and who is uncooperative. More recently it’s earning *bee*bucks, colored pieces of construction paper, handed out at the beginning of the day and subtracted for each infraction of the rules. This strategy can easily backfire. One morning in fourth grade my son handed his daily dole of *bee*bucks back in to the teacher and said, “Keep these.” In effect, he told his teacher, “You’ll have them all by the end of the day anyway.” To him they were just pieces of colored paper, nothing real or substantial.
 
We are in the “everyone is a winner” age. View one episode of American Idol during the audition rounds and see how criticism works for some contestants and fails to bring expectations into line for others. Clinical researchers now think such reactions are related to the recipient’s self-esteem. Abundant praise for people with low self-esteem leads them to choose safer goals and makes them less persistent and less motivated in the long run than those with better self-esteem. Criticism for those with inflated self-worth is completely disregarded, often with considerable hostility.

The submission process for writers is an indirect form of criticism. The journal editor either accepts or rejects the work. Very seldom do they comment or make suggestions. It’s up to the author to determine the next course of action. They can either send the work to another journal, rewrite the piece, set it aside, or discard it as a last resort. The author can keep the process closed or open the process to workshop. Facebook is chock-a-block full of pages for posting material. I suspect that receiving all those “likes” works for some folks and backfires for others. It might, in fact, make some writers more passive and dependent on the opinions of others.

These difficulties with praise/criticism exist in haiku as well. It’s rare, but I appreciate when editors take the time and effort to pen encouragements or make suggestions. Bob Spiess, Elizabeth Searle Lamb, and Peggy Willis Lyles were legendary for their kindness and support. I’ve also received notes and e-mails from readers and friends sharing how much a particular haiku meant to them and why. It’s a genuine connection that sits outside the praise/criticism dichotomy. It’s a thank you without the calculating aspect of the “feedback sandwich.” I’m advocating more thank yous in the haiku community. If a haiku moves you, tell the poet, and tell them why. Crafting a thoughtful response not only increases goodwill, it sharpens analytical skills, which in the long run makes us better poets. 

*************


Peter Newton


I'd say criticism is alive and well in the haiku world. Seems like there's plenty of book reviews in the major and minor journals. They don't all just sing the praises from what I can tell. Though many do, deservedly. What strikes me is that many constructive and critical book reviews are written by editors who are poets with certain tastes and tendencies. Few reviews are completely objective. But we have come to trust the opinions of others. And these opinions offer valuable tools by which we can improve our own writing.

What I'd like to see more of as far as criticism goes in haiku circles is self-criticism. A tough thing to do. But, for example, there is a book recently out by Jean LeBlanc called The Haiku Aesthetic: Short Form Poetry as a Study in Craft (CyberWit.net, 2013)  which I believe addresses a necessary and underexplored area of discussion: The literary nuts and bolts, if you will, of the short form using some of the author's own poems as examples of both successes and failures. 

I like the attitude of a fellow poet who says: we're in this together. Who else but oneself to hold up as an example of what works and what doesn't work in making a poem. Poetry is an act of discovery. It is okay to admit that we all begin with a blank page. The novice and the Nobel laureate. Let's say to each other: Here are a few things I think I've figured out about the process of writing a haiku.

LeBlanc's book offers an inclusive approach consistent with the haiku spirit. We can each benefit from looking at our own work through a critical lens. But it not only takes time and space to gain the needed perspective but a willingness to point out one's own flaws as a writer. Doesn't mean their fatal personal flaws--just lapses in technique maybe or following the wrong voice at times. False starts. We all do it. Poems rarely fall from the sky fully formed. Most of us have to build the thing from the ground up and hope it withstands the wind, the rain, and the repeated scrutiny of our own ear.

We need a larger body of this kind of self-critical study in the Western haiku world, it seems to me. Yes, anthologies sell. Individual how-to books by prominent poets sell. But what is our commitment to improving the overall practice of the craft of poem making. "Skin in the game" is a phrase that comes to mind. I guess I need to get to work on my own self-critical essay: "Confessions of a Haiku Frankenstein: How I Failed as a Poet and Learned that Every Poem is a Process of Bringing Myself Back to Life." Or something like that.

*************


Tom D’Evelyn


Theory and Practice of HIE Criticism

Note: to justify these comments on “poetics” I need only point to the new issue of “Noon,” Philip Rowland, ed: as I show below, a mindful reading of the poems in this journal actually produces the kind of thinking about form and selfhood I am doing here. We start with poems. Criticism is inseparable from close reading of texts. Texts are critical. Critical theory emerges in its own right from close attention to the practice of poets.

1. Close reading of classic, canonical poetic texts soon teaches the critic that texts (the word is rooted in the action of weaving, warp and woof) are produced as speech doubles on itself, folds, returns, thus commenting on itself. Shakespeare’s “SHAKE-SPEARS SONNETS” (1609), among other things, is a radical criticism of the selves of the tradition of the sonnet. This is a critical commonplace; it SHOULD be commonplace in HIE criticism. 

2. The question of “self” is inseparable from literary criticism. Poems unhinge language from normal use as a medium of reference to an object or objective state of affairs; references within poems are not solely determined by the referential use of language; rhythm, rhyme, all the devices of poetry, heavily qualify that objectivity, sometimes subverting it altogether in favor of a different ontology (e.g. Zen). There is an “implied author” in poetic uses of language which “sort of” doubles for the author; the concept of “persona,” foregrounded by Ezra Pound, is widely accepted as one of the ways of discussing self in poetry. Haiku, with its roots in Zen meditation, often depersonalizes the speech-act as if the poem projects from a nothingness, or an emptiness, a “fertile void” or perhaps the dead void of popular nihilism.

3.  In a wider discussion of “selfhood,” selves or identities can be seen as structured by what is called “non-identical return.” That is, selves (identities) are shown as processes, continuities with gaps and leaps and deep structures which sponsor reflective moments of “non-identical return” in which the continuity of the subject is confirmed by something other, different, surprising. Transformation is always a possibility; religious ideas often help structure these moments (see below). This is very useful for literary criticism because poems always involve repetition (form is itself repetitive) and surprising “turns” that throw weird light on what is happening.  In Catherine Pickstock’s Repetition and Identity (Oxford 2013), she writes, “the self must be a living, dynamic symbol, fusing sense and reference, fiction and history, able to traverse, prehend, and grieve, decipher and fulfill the allegories of nature.”

4. Regarding HIE criticism, it seems to break down into two kinds, practical and more experimental. These kinds are determined by their occasions. Within the HIE culture, we see practical criticism practiced in many different venues: exemplary is the Facebook page Haiku Ink. “Experts” there “critique” the work submitted, often showing great sensitivity for the writer’s intentions and degree of skill and literary sophistication. The norms brought to bear come from the “soup” of formal notions originating in traditions old and new: whatever serves the moment, that is, the “kindness” of the job to bring a more mindful awareness to the occasion. Since at this level of practice, the question of persona rarely comes up, the effort being to “say” something clearly, distinctly, and perhaps memorably, the question of self remains a question of the author’s real self and what this self feels, what “it” wants to say. The idea of self in Emerson’s “self-reliance” holds sway: “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you is true for all men, -- that is genius. . . .”

5. A more experimental, analytical approach fits journals like “Noon” edited by Philip Rowland. This carefully curated journal presents haiku in the mix of other short forms. The general take-away is that the poems favored by the editor of “Noon” are aware/make us aware of the hybrid nature of form. These texts frequently surprise the reader with experimental weavings of this and that, references, points of view, tones.  Such a self-consciousness about form may raise questions about the “self” implied by the poem. Certainly the material in “Noon” acknowledges the possibilities of self as suggested by Pickstock: “the self must be a living, dynamic symbol, fusing sense and reference, fiction and history, able to traverse, prehend, and grieve, decipher and fulfill the allegories of nature.” Compare this with the Emersonian self of “Self-Reliance”!

6. It would be cumbersome to note all the mixed kinds that appear in the current issue of “Noon.” One may generalize and say that curation appears to favor styles that in their repetitions and returns do not wander too far from a clean diction, a spareness of syntax, which these poems share with a large number of modern American poems indebted to the early Imagist movement and various members of that family. The book, carefully edited by Rowland, opens with a suite of poems – well, a series – by Peter Yovu (disclosure: Peter edited this piece). In their diversity they suggest the range – the different kinds of poems – available to “Noon” readers, who do include haiku or ku or H (as I call it when pressed) among the poetic, or non-poetic, forms of literature. Yovu addresses a range of topics, including authentic speech (“the second story”), the politics of drones (“a drone”), poetic allusion (“so luscious”), and metamorphosis as unconscious self-exposure (“words furred”), in a variety of styles and shapes. The first and fourth touch on classic subjective themes: authenticity and blockage (“the second story/falls into the first   rubble/at the back of my throat”) and the revelatory animal form (“words furred over my awkward animal toward you now”). This “singleton” (or one-line ku) makes a good case for the type. The unfolding of the syntax follows the sequence of events as well as the total context: intense diction in “furred over” (past tense); the invention of a verb, “fur over” corrected in the progress of the sentence as “over” becomes a preposition: “over my awkward animal” – which thematizes the “non-identical” aspect of the repetition of syntatic form. This depends on a nod to the traditional distinction between “animal” and something more “spiritual” in the human (which distinction is probably not worth bothering with except in irony as  here). The text explodes – as a good text should – with renewed energy as it returns “non-identically’ (that is, surprisingly, creatively, critically),  to its repetition (its syntactic closure, “toward you now”). Try cutting “now” and you feel a perhaps widening of reference (Keats?). In any event, it is a very strong opening to a very compelling issue of “Noon.” Yovu is a very careful, efficient, economical, even minimalist writer, if by “minimalist” we can include the sudden opening up of a view to the abyss as achieved in “words furred.”

Rare in the poems included in this issue of “Noon” (with a few exceptions) are the lyric resonances one experiences in poetry influenced by the New Criticism – say the work of John Crowe Ransom, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Anthony Hecht, Richard Wilbur, Louise Bogan, and so on. An exception would be Anna Arov’s exhilarating ‘revision’? Please see the poem in situ.


revision

you advised when writing
I should take a step back
make it less personal
change settings
                  dates
the ‘he’ to ‘she’
       so when touching you
I was touching her
             kissing her
then I lost the thread
and she was kissing me

I could feel her warmth

her fingers pulling my ear
and I was not in love with you
 
This could be placed within the sonnet tradition for its sense of dialogical situation, its drama, its irony, it’s sexiness, like a less-naïve e.e.cummings than . . . what? Something new (feminist)?   

8. That said, there are texts here--less brilliant, perhaps, as poems, than Arov’s jewel -- which taxonomy would place in the family of “lyric.” A hybrid “ku-lyric” is poem by John Levy.  It’s a “lyric” put through HIE-related extreme minimalist reduction: “minute hand / hour hand/ second hand/ armada.” The repetition of the list of “hands” on the clock does not prepare us for the surprise of the “return” to the larger, more general, interruptive (even eschatological) concept brought forward by “armada.” But the “leap” is justified the more you think about it; and so the poem becomes memorable, the depth of feeling quite personal (if not paranoid!). Upon closer inspection, the sequence of “hands” – minute, hour, second – yields an interesting complex “wave” structure: ordinary, bigger, then suddenly smaller, as if the heart were beating faster, time more urgent, time LESS along with the timelessness of “armada.” Is there word play in the “arms” – as opposed to hands – of the besetting “armada” (etymology shows this as a distinct possibility); such wordplay is “technical” and “witty,” which indexes the “self” of the poem.

9. Scott Metz's contribution at first glance fits easily into the general family of HIE: “the river entering the / sea a sheet of / paper.” While the look-feel of this text (the lines ending in words that make the line-ending no ending) is experimental, the verbal event closely resembles that of many contemporary ku. The elegant visual aspect – the absorption of the energies of the river into the greater body of the ocean flattening and indeed dispersing its identity – leads the reader into potential metaphors such as “blank sheet of paper.” Depending on one’s mood as a writer, this could be depressing or thrilling! Here again the “self” is an ultimate subject of the poem. The analytic toughness of this poem – presenting a kind of critical moment to the reader’s judgement –makes it exemplary of a certain potentiality within HIE.

Eve Luckring’s love of risk sometimes leads to profitless obscurity (at least profitless for my small brain) but sometimes startles with the breath and cogence of the non-identical return. I’m thinking of

        a delta
     of refrains
          sun-scrubbed
                       salt
you who speak of clarity


Suffice it to say that it seems to be about non-identical return: “a delta of refrains” (returns) subjected to the primal elements of nature and mind (sun-scrubbed . . . salt) – that wave of tensions collapses into a climax of address: “you who speak of clarity.” The old regime of Cartesian “clarity” is engulfed in the energy of this wave. Cartesian self becomes part of the soup of consciousness. Now that’s really something!

11. It is not uncommon for a poem in “Noon” to directly confront the questions raised by criticism. Elizabeth Robinson’s “On Terseness” situates itself in what critics call the aporia: the no-way through moment or “interruption” of repetition’s identity. “Here’s how I interrupted my story. / How I burnt my fingers on a match.” The pun on match captures the “romance” of repetition and non-identical return; a “match” or double (return) can often lead to interruption. The poem moves into a mythic scene: “Underneath the great deluge” – the “deluge” being the great interruption and foretaste of the final “show-down.” The final lines return to “mere” repetition as “surfeit” never to be absorbed, fleeing “within the bulk of itself.” The use of “itself” there recapitulates the “I” of the poem in its not-self never to return?

12. I really should stop. But I will continue reading the poems of this issue of “Noon” and other periodicals  at tdevelyn.wordpress.com  This blog is called “Meridian: Remarks on Contemporary Poems” and is devoted to the practice of criticism in light of the theories adumbrated here. (Interested editors, please send review copies to me at PO Box 4177, Portsmouth, NH 03802, and of course I can work with digital texts.)

Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Field Notes on January 25, 2014, 02:20:49 PM
Peter Yovu



you
look up

from
planting

bulb’s
into
fall’s

new
spaces

In a poem, as in life, (in poem-as-life and life-as-poem) there is always more going on than any analysis can reveal. I find this to be true of the poem above. It is by John Martone, and appeared in the latest issue of Noon.

So what is the point of analysis? What is the point of criticism?

The words jar. They connote a taking, even a tearing apart. How can we talk about this? Is there an approach which may loosen up some of the negative associations one may have around criticism?

Though it is not generally spoken about in relation to haiku, I recall the origin of the word verse as: a turning, as the turning of a plow, or line of poetry.  The sense here, of course, is that a poem turns from line to line, each successive line giving a different but connected view, even if the connection is distant.

One “progresses” through the poem line by line until a whole is realized.That sense of wholeness will be more felt than anything else, the web of connections known to the body as the body knows its own wholeness through every part. Coming to this sense of wholeness, if indeed one does come to it, is the point at which one may say that one likes a poem, or does not. You could say that this is the body’s own critical response. And for many this may be sufficient.

But I would contend that looking deeply into a poem, examining it, and yes, analyzing it, serves to enlarge it— paradoxically, it serves to enlarge the whole. I’d like to explore how that might work.

If a poem is a series of “turns” working toward a sense of wholeness (a wholeness some of whose parts may only be intuited) then perhaps what is
required of the critic (or critical reader) is that he or she review (view again) the poem in a similar fashion, by turning it, looking at it from different perspectives. This approach regards a poem as, though composed of lines, not linear, but as something with contours and depth. As something alive.

Each part reveals the whole. Here one quickly enters into the realm of paradox, because each part reveals a different whole. Perhaps one could say that each part reveals the whole differently. This becomes the joy of reviewing any work of art. Without such re-view, the sense of wholeness
may settle, and the poem become an object, a fixed rather than a living thing. It would be akin to a sculpture which one cannot or does not walk around. And cannot touch.

I like to think that criticism can take this approach. It is an approach that does not lose sight of the whole. It is grounded in feeling, and is therefore an embodied approach.

The tendency with analysis is to lose sight of the whole. To lose the diamond for the facets. So I would say the best criticism regards analysis as a function that doesn’t get too enamored of itself, that realizes that analysis is in service of something greater. This, on a more universal level, is the concern of Iain MacGilchrist who writes about the dangers of the left (analytical) hemisphere of the brain seizing control and taking precedence over the right hemisphere, that portion of the brain which deals with the totality of what is presented.

The totality of what is presented does not exclude the subjective. It strikes me that a good critic will be keenly aware of this. It is a phenomenological approach, basically. In his book The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram
writes: “ . . . the ambiguity of experience is already a part of any phenomenon that draws our attention. For whatever we perceive is necessarily entwined with our own subjectivity, already blended with the dynamism of life and sentience. The living pulse of subjective experience cannot finally be stripped from things that we study (in order to expose the pure unadulterated “objects”) without the things themselves losing all existence for us”.

The critic has the function of revealing windows. It is a wonderful experience to tell a dream to another, or to several people, and have one or all say what they have seen, often something one has not seen for oneself. In this process, usually the feeling associated with a dream remains present, and may be strengthened by looking at various elements.

But the critic also has the role of revealing where windows are foggy, or missing, or, when looked at closely, are not windows at all, but stenciled pictures on the wall. The critic is the one who senses that a poem has not done what it set out to do and is willing to re-view it to find out why. Or who sees that the poet took too much control over the language, or settled for an easy effect,
or . . . .


I have presented a rather idealized view of criticism. Briefly, I also want to say that there can be great value in criticism which is biased, partial, emotional, infuriating, uninformed, etc. If nothing else, such writing may serve to stir us into a response, if only to find out how we really feel about something, or even that we do feel something strongly. 

                                                              >>>><<<<<

So, does it help to look a poem like Martone’s to get some idea of how it works? Only if doing so enlarges that sense that one may have (as I have) that this is, brief as it is, a work of art. My remarks may not do that, or do it well, but I am willing to try. And in any event, I welcome the possibility that there is someone reading the kinds of poem many of us are putting out who is capable of such enlargement. I welcome as well the possibility that there is someone capable of showing where what you and I are doing falls short, or where trends and habits are taking over, where art is being colonized by technique, among other things.


you
look up

from
planting

bulb’s
into
fall’s

new
spaces

Martone sets his poem down in a way which will be familiar to any who have experienced his work before. The vertical, one word (or two) to a line format emphasizes the moment to moment shifts that language and perception make. (Can one word be said to be a line? This is the first of several subversions— turnings from below— the poem enacts. It has the effect of slowing down time, and perhaps of allowing us to see that a part or  particle is in and of itself a whole).

The poem directs us downward, and yet the first two lines are “you/ look up”, which I will venture to say creates a kind of perceptual eddy, a slight displacement. It’s emphasized by the double space just following, after which we learn about that from which we (the poet and I) are looking up: from planting. We’re on solid ground, and we have some idea now of what we’re seeing.

But then the poem turns again, is subversive again. The expectation would be that some thing is being planted, a seed or bulb, but instead, what the poem is directing us toward is not the thing itself, but a quality or state the thing— the bulb— possesses. Again, as we go down slowly, word by word, we don’t know what that is, and finding out is delayed by another turn, by something else, this time another category of thing: a season, a turning in time.

It is rather dizzying, as looking up at the sky can be after concentrated work in a garden, or on a poem.

Can a bulb and the fall, two very different but mutually involved entities, both “possess” the same thing? In this case, the poem tells us that what they possess (and are possessed by) are “new/ spaces”. But looked at closely, what we see is that the bulb’s “new space” is not exactly the same as the fall’s new space, as the former is being planted into the later.

The poem seems to be saying that the act of planting (and the act of writing a poem) reveals or creates something new— it opens up a space which we were not previously aware of.

And it is— dare I say it— what close reading does: opens up a space where new meaning may be discovered, which even the writer may not have known.

And here, yes, it helps to look up, to take this poem’s season back to the beginning and immerse ourselves in the clarifying sky, the vastness of which contains and goes beyond any new space we may have encountered on our journey.


****************


Francine Banwarth


It seems to me that first we have to deal with the word "criticism." In the best sense one evaluates, analyzes, interprets, that is, carefully studies and offers an insightful response, which can be based on historical, social, or other approaches. Taken by itself, however, the word "criticism" has a rather negative and more narrow connotation, and that is why in my personal experience, I find it difficult to express honest criticism when I feel a work has little merit.

I imagine we've all participated in workshops and critique sessions where the air becomes uncomfortable and the silence unbearable while everyone tries to figure out something nice to say about a particular haiku or haibun, for example. It is engaging and energizing to evaluate and discuss work that is worthy and promising or innovative and challenging, but even done in the kindest way, an honest, less-than-positive response is difficult to deliver and often difficult to receive. Without some form of creative criticism, however, we fail to grow as individuals or as writers and artists, so it seems essential that we learn to express and receive constructive literary criticism.

It seems to me also that criticism is dimensional. For example, a book review may be just that, a review of a collection on a level that is a personal response rather than a critical assessment. The reviewer may choose to focus on what he or she finds positive and rewarding and avoid areas that are more problematic. I believe we see this type of approach often in the haiku community and that it is an approach that can be valuable to authors and readers alike.

I find that some of the most insightful evaluations are often offered in the foreword to individual collections and anthologies and that they can serve as  models for study in the haiku genre. As far as critics go, we can be our own best critic. We can look at the work we produce from a detached viewpoint, that is, step into someone else's shoes and self-evaluate, if at all possible. If we practice that approach, we may gradually learn to offer, receive, and filter "criticism" with a mature and open mind. In that way, criticism itself is an art form.

**********


Paul Miller


The Haiku Community is a wonderful thing. In contrast to the larger poetry scene where haiku is often marginalized, if not outright dismissed, the Community is welcoming and encouraging—not to mention educationally beneficial. Without the Community I don’t know if I would still be writing haiku—the genre/format/etc that seems to fit my poetic goals the best. I know I wouldn’t have gotten any better. I have many friends in the Community that I enjoy seeing at meetings, conferences, casual get-togethers, and corresponding with over email. I enjoy discussing and sharing poems.
 
However, what makes the Community so wonderful is also its worst attribute. Since I have so many haiku friends, it can be hard to criticize their work. I’ve addressed this elsewhere, but to recap at thirty-thousand feet: haiku are often personal poems—about our daily interactions with the world—so it is hard not to hear criticism as criticism of the self, of the interaction, not the poem. Yet criticism is what we need. Without it we won’t grow as poets.
 
In a larger poetry scene of a hundred thousand poets criticism is less of an issue. The Community being the size it is, I know I will undoubtedly interact with that person at some future point. This leads many reviewers to shower praise on the slightest of books. While this may be encouraging to the poet, it is not helpful to their development; and less helpful to a reader who might be thinking of spending their hard-earned cash on the book. With that in mind I have always tried to be honest but fair in my reviews. Years ago a prominent haiku poet objected to my calling another poet “one of our best,” citing the fact that we were all doing the best we could. He was essentially arguing for “participant” trophies for all. But that does my poetry no good.
 
In my roles as editor I have seen the effects of criticism. In response to what I thought were honest and fair book reviews I have seen poets get angry, lash out, and sometimes cancel subscriptions. In declining to accept submitted poems I’ve been told I didn’t know anything about haiku. Admittedly, as a writer, and because I’m human, I’ve had those interior reactions as well (well… not the canceling part). However, it is important to realize that none of us write brilliant poems all the time. I have been grateful (later) when editors rejected my lesser work (I probably didn’t realize it was lesser when I submitted it because the latest discovery is always the brightest) and equally grateful when an editor offered a critique or suggestion. However, there are many ways to criticize someone. Interestingly, a quick Google search for a definition of “criticize” brought up these two definitions:
 
         1) indicate the faults of (someone or something) in a disapproving way
         2) form and express a sophisticated judgment of (a literary or artistic work)
 
Clearly we should aim for the second definition, and be open to it when it is directed at our own work. It doesn’t mean we have to like someone’s judgment of our haiku, or agree with it, but we should view every judgment as a learning opportunity. A fellow poet once pointed out a particular and reoccurring theme of my haiku—one I wasn’t aware of. If they hadn’t had the gumption to criticize my work I might never have realized that. 

The yoga studio I attend likes to call our workouts “practices”, which might be a good way to think of our poetry. We are not masters; we are just poets on a path. In that light we might be open to “a sophisticated judgment.”
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: eluckring on January 26, 2014, 07:55:55 PM
Wow, there is a lot here to take in here,
from *bee-bucks* to quantum field theory.

I'm still wending my way through all this, but
grateful for all who shared their thoughts.

Tom, in your post,

the river entering the
sea as a sheet of
paper

This poem is by Scott Metz, not Emma Bolden.

It is elegant, I agree, and your notion of the
"non-identical return" ( if I am actually understanding what you mean by it)
expresses well how it works.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Lynne Rees on January 27, 2014, 09:03:00 AM
For me there are two fields of criticism, although they can of course overlap. Literary criticism that will discuss and explore the social and historical context of a work/author. And writerly, constructive criticism - the kind we hope to get from editors and workshops - that responds to the work on the page: its form, structure and language choices. The latter focuses on what the work/poem is doing (or hopes to do) and how it achieves that. In this kind of criticism the writer's experience/existence is irrelevant. The words on the page are the only thing to consider. Perceived intention and perceived achievement.

I know it's difficult, no matter how far along in our writing career, to completely separate ourselves from the work, to create the divide between writer and writing, but it's essential if we're to develop and grow in any genre.

And the only way to do that is to put ourselves in the critical arena, and learn how to receive and offer criticism from/to our peers and from journal editors (if they choose to give it) we submit work to. But that arena needs boundaries - we're not instinctively 'good' or 'well-behaved' critics - guidelines should be laid down by a moderator/facilitator and adhered to.

And it's also up to every one of us to be honest about ourselves and our writing before we enter that arena. Why are we there? Looking for praise, acceptance and approval? Wanting to develop as a writer? Wanting to be part of a constructive discussion that will help us and others?

Finally: learning to offer and receive constructive criticism in a writing workshop has been an invaluable tool for me in life generally.

Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Philip Rowland on January 27, 2014, 08:48:45 PM
One further correction: Scott Metz's poem reads:

the river entering the
sea a sheet of
paper

[no "as" -- a significant difference, I think]

Since Emma Bolden was mentioned, let me quote also the poem that immediately precedes/leads into Metz's (in the issue); juxtaposition being another kind of criticism, perhaps:

THE BEST I CAN SAY OF ANYTHING IS THAT IT WILL END

I am a liar. Look: under these clothes I am hiding
a body. I'm waiting for an axe, a ditch. I'm shopping

for cement shoes, a lake so dark that none
of its languages have words for surface or shore.

http://noonpoetry.com/issues/
(See also for correct lineation of Anna Arov's poem.)

Wow, there is a lot here to take in here,
from *bee-bucks* to quantum field theory.

I'm still wending my way through all this, but
grateful for all who shared their thoughts.

Tom, in your post,

the river entering the
sea as a sheet of
paper

This poem is by Scott Metz, not Emma Bolden.

It is elegant, I agree, and your notion of the
"non-identical return" ( if I am actually understanding what you mean by it)
expresses well how it works.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Field Notes on January 28, 2014, 07:25:00 AM
Errors noted have been corrected.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: MarySquier on January 28, 2014, 12:57:18 PM
I thought this was interesting, and fun to read:

http://www.cprw.com/william-logan-and-the-role-of-the-poet-critic?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ContemporaryPoetryReview+%28Contemporary+Poetry+Review%29

Sorry if this is not attached correctly.  Maybe someone could help me... thanks.
Mary
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Peter Yovu on January 28, 2014, 01:55:25 PM
Mary, many thanks for this.

How much, if anything, do you think applies to haiku criticism?
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: MarySquier on January 28, 2014, 04:06:50 PM
Hello, Peter - I am new to haiku and perhaps naive, but this article felt quite timely to current haiku criticism.  Maybe our poems and souls are too gentle for all that fierceness?  however intelligent and provocative.
Mary
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: AlanSummers on January 28, 2014, 04:40:49 PM
I agree with Mary, and it reminds me of Bill Higginson's comment, years ago, about toughening up book reviews.

It ties in with what I said above also, and a conversation with George Szirtes I've held since.  He's not the only one wondering where the poetry is going in haiku.   Syllablic haiku is a strong factor amongst poets outside the haiku movement that we know: There are also proponents of this approach that feature Jim Wilson, who does deal in cogent arguments. 

I always feel we have something to learn from those outside the haiku community, and even from outside the poetry groups.

What do others feel about the link that Mary gave us, and whether we need to, should do, keep in touch with the larger world of poetry?   Perhaps we don't, but I'm not sure about isolation. 

We do have a number of haiku writers who are poets at large outside haikai literature.  Is it a break from writing the "other poetry"?

Alan



Hello, Peter - I am new to haiku and perhaps naive, but this article felt quite timely to current haiku criticism.  Maybe our poems and souls are too gentle for all that fierceness?  however intelligent and provocative.
Mary
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Lorin Ford on January 29, 2014, 10:16:55 PM
I enjoyed reading the interview via the link Mary provided. This has me smiling, and I agree with the spirit of it:

“I’d support a law making every poet write a review as the price for writing a poem.” - William Logan

William Logan and the Role of the Poet-Critic
http://www.cprw.com/william-logan-and-the-role-of-the-poet-critic


There are 10 more interviews with ‘poet-critics’ on Contemporary Poetry Review, should anyone feel like browsing through them. Such interviews are a good idea.

http://www.cprw.com/

Writing a review at all takes focus, concentration, thinking about the poems… *someone else’s* poems.  We don’t have to be good at it, and probably won’t be until we’re well-practised at it. Reviews can range from simple appreciations through explications right up to scholarly analyses. Each will appeal to a different readership/audience.  I think we need the variety, and all haiku poets should be encouraged to write a review from time to time. Those more experienced and/or more educated, I believe, should refrain from the urge to take a piece out of the throat of anyone who has attempted a review they disagree with or feel disdain for.

My personal preference, in reading reviews, are for those that allow me something of a preview of a book, some indication that the reviewer has attempted to engage with the actual poems contained within. What I dislike most are those (thankfully, comparatively rare) pieces which make me feel like an eavesdropper, where the intended audience seems to be a few mates whom the reviewer is in dialogue with or wants to impress.

- Lorin
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Ellen Grace Olinger on January 31, 2014, 07:08:49 AM
Thank you for this conversation.  There is a lot here to read and learn.  For now, I saw that Kristen Deming echoed the thought that Criticism is an art in and of itself.  I've thought that as well, as I've read criticism in education, poetry, and other fields.

As I read reviews, I mostly appreciate a clear summary of what the book is like, and perhaps a few sample poems.  Let the reader decide.  Sometimes I wish I had read books before the reviews, so I can evaluate for myself before joining the broader conversation.  A review may have seemed too negative, or too positive - thereby putting pressure on the poems that didn't need to be there, in my view.  This must be where the art of criticism is so important.

As for haiku criticism in the form of essays and books, I don't feel qualified so far to speak to that topic.  But I remember in educational and psychological research the difference between basic and applied research.  Always felt both were equally valid, even though the former might not bear fruit for a long time.  My gift was to translate the research into teacher preparation classes.  In some areas, it seemed a small group of people were writing for each other - were peers - and that surely has its place. What I didn't like though, was when the journals that did the translation of research into practice weren't seen as equal by some (or so it seemed). Or different areas of the field were in competition.  I'd say to my students, this is education, we should be helping each other.

Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Peter Yovu on February 06, 2014, 01:02:22 PM
Michael Dylan Welch has long favored the idea that ELH should take steps to break out of the “haiku ghetto” and position itself, by various means, in the larger poetry community. In his contribution for FN5 above, he recalls Dana Gioia encouraging the “haiku community” to “champion its best haiku poets and its best haiku books to non-haiku poets”, and to “find and promote . . . excellent haiku poets”.  He suggests writing “in-depth articles for leading non-haiku poetry journals”.

I believe Michael is to be applauded for his efforts in this direction.

There is probably no consensus about what “excellence” in haiku may be (just as there is little consensus about about what haiku itself is), nor much about who are the “best” haiku writers and which the best books. So it’s unclear, at least to me, just what or whom to promote or how to go about it.

There are no doubt many readers (and writers) of poetry who would be interested and likely surprised to learn what has been happening in ELH since the 50’s. An in-depth article on the subject might find its way into one or another poetry journal. Poetry magazine would be a logical place to try. The Poetry Foundation, which publishes it, has a mission to promote poetry in general and to make it accessible to a wide audience.

There may be reasons, however, they would be reluctant to publish such an article.
More about that soon.

With the appearance of Haiku in English last year, at least one case has been made for excellence in haiku. It is probably the best case that has been made up to now. As far as I know it has yet to be reviewed by any major poetry journal, despite having been published by Norton, who also published earlier anthologies edited by Cor van den Heuvel.

Its primary aim, of course, is to demonstrate that “excellence” in haiku is not a static or single thing. Various writers, as the book makes clear, have done different things with haiku, but the anthology’s aim is not to demonstrate the excellence of writers themselves. It does not attempt to make a case for individual poets as "best" or even "excellent".

And in truth, about how many haiku poets would that be possible? Put it this way:
how many haiku poets are readily identifiable by their work? Only a few, I would say.

For the most part, haiku itself, the idea of it, the ideal of it, has been promoted over the writer him or herself. Some poets considered among the "best" write haiku which could have been written by any number of others. It would seem that anybody can write a good haiku. That is often promoted as one of its charms, what sets it apart from the more “elitist” stance of poetry in general. The problem for me is that many of the poems one finds in the journals and anthologies have exactly the feeling of having been written by . . . anybody.

Haiku is often regarded as a purity which the writer attains by draining himself or herself of individuality or personality. The individual is equated with ego; writing as an individual, or with individuality and uniqueness is merely an act of self-expression-- of pointing primarily to oneself.

That’s not what I’m talking about. Nor am I talking about promoting more subjectivity. (Or less for that matter). Nor about psychological or confessional haiku, unless that is what truly matters to the writer, if elements of haiku are a means of bringing such explorations to life.

What I’m talking about is the individual as a unique expression of life-- and the writer as one means, by way of language, by which life gets to reveal itself. What I feel needs to be promoted is individual expression-- how you and I come to terms with the challenge and potential of haiku which, if we are serious, we have internalized (and perhaps metabolized) as an inescapable dimension of our lives. 

Here’s the thing: I don’t think poets and readers of poetry outside the “haiku community” want to know more about haiku, but rather about writers whose language has been lit up by contact with it. The virtues of haiku itself are easy to discover-- recent anthologies make a good case.  Non-haiku poets don’t need, as some seem to think they do, to be educated about haiku but to be exposed to writers who have used it as a means to produce distinctive and significant work, writing which comes through a poet's struggles with with word, world, and self.

I believe criticism can play a vital role in this. There have been very few in-depth critiques of individual writers. Such explorations, done well, can bring subtle or difficult elements of a poet’s work into the light, and serve to open doors to others. A good critic finds a third dimension where others could only find two. It is perhaps a somewhat ideal view, but I believe a symbiosis can take place between writer and critic, each bringing out the best in the other.

I would cite Allan Burns as someone who, by way of Montage, but more so Where the River Goes, has done good critical work, providing insightful portraits of various writers and giving some personal context for their work. Jack Galmitz, in his book Views, offers an often generous and in-depth look at the achievements of poets such as Mountain and Martone. His review of Mark Harris' Burl is sensitive and insightful. And Richard Gilbert has championed numerous (and in many cases previously unseen) possibilities inherent in haiku in such a way that, as I see it, the individual expression I am speaking of is given a broad range of “tools” to work with.

Of course none of that is possible without the poems themselves, without poets’ willingness to explore. And yet sometimes it may be that the critic sees something the writer did not, or only intuited. Even good writers know only the half of themselves. Great writers perhaps somewhat more, but I’m not sure such a creature exists yet among ELH poets.

Nor do I think one will emerge by favoring excellence in haiku over excellence in individual writers.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Field Notes on February 07, 2014, 12:12:08 PM
Rebecca Lilly


I read with interest your thoughts on the absence of individual voice in haiku, and agree with your general observation that when a single good haiku is looked at by itself, out of context, it's not easy to discern who wrote it --it might conceivably have been written any number of good poets. However, I think this is, perhaps unfortunately, due more to the brevity of the form, rather than the 'no-self' philosophy behind it.

Unless haiku are linked, or are published together as a collection by a single poet, it can be very difficult to discern an individual voice. Most writers I know who don't care for haiku tell me it's because it doesn't allow for "digging," and thereby doesn't provide enough of an emotional or intellectual hook for the reader. I would say that while haiku delves, it offers a flash of insight, or momentary refreshment--sometimes quite a glorious one--but doesn't root around in the nitty-gritty, as that would require a longer form (either of poetry or prose). Again, it's the brevity of the single haiku that serves as both its strength, offering the power of concision when written well, and its limitation or inability in such a short space to tell a story or dredge up a chain of associations.

It occurred to me that it might be worth distinguishing between the individual voice (or distinctive style of a poet) and the personal nature of that voice (whether that voices aspires to the 'no-self' ideal and thereby tends to disappear into its subject, or whether it's deeply concerned with the personal self). A poet might have a distinctive and recognizable style, but a non-personal voice.


Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Field Notes on February 07, 2014, 12:14:53 PM
Penny Harter


One way to get haiku out of the "haiku ghetto" is for those of us who write all kinds of poetry (in my case free verse--or what some call lyric poems, prose poems, formal verse now and then, haiku and haiku sequences, haibun, the occasional tanka and/or tanka sequence, etc.), to put out books with multi-genres in them. Both my Recycling Starlight and my new book The Resonance Around Us, are combinations of genres, and they are in the mainstream because they contain "regular" poems as well as Japanese-related genres.

One problem I've run into by doing this, however, is that when I enter a contest, my books is the proverbial neither fish nor fowl. If I enter a haiku and related genres, judges ask is it a book of haiku or haibun (except for the online One Bowl which is all haibun)? Not exactly, though these genres are either sprinkled throughout or sectioned in the book. And if I enter a mainstream po-book contest, the book may be dismissed because it has haiku in it---many mainstream poets look upon haiku as not "real poetry", mostly because they haven't seen that many good haiku; they think of 5-7-5 treacle and/or spam-ku.

But that doesn't stop me from trying to integrate genres. It's all poetry, all on one continuum for me. And that may be the case for others of us who write in several genres, even fiction (and I've published a number of short stories over the years, too). I think it's a good way to get haiku out of the ghetto and into the hands of poets and poetry lovers in the mainstream.


Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: eluckring on February 07, 2014, 12:42:27 PM
Thanks for your provocation, Peter.

None of what follows addresses your thoughts about the relationship between the larger literary
world and haiku as when you say:

Quote
"Non-haiku poets don’t need, as some seem to think they do, to be educated about haiku but to be exposed to writers who have used it as a means to produce distinctive and significant work, writing which comes through a poet's struggles with with word, world, and self."

I would be most curious to hear what others think about that.

What I immediately thought of was how the history of Japanese haiku is right there to demonstrate what you say about the individuality of many of its most loved poets. For example, for all the comparisons that could be made between Santoka and Hosai, their voices --the ways they embody a relationship to the world-- are clearly distinct from one another; for me, most obviously in their different senses of humor.  (at least in the translations I have read).

A critic that has spoken of the "I' in haiku is Barthes, according to Jon Baldwin in his essay, "Qualities of Haiku (from Roland Barthes)" published in MH 43:3. Barthes' ideas of "Enunciation" and "Individuation" could be of interest here.

Quoting Baldwin, quoting Barthes about enunciation:

" [Barthes] proposes that the I or the ego is always present in the haiku to a greater or lesser extent,
though it is often concealed. The haiku teaches the art of saying I, 'but it's an I of writing: I write I, therefore I am'. ..."The enunciating subject is always there, present, and placing himself in the picture.  The body is present in the haiku even though the I (or me, or mine, or my and so on) might not be used."

Quoting Baldwin, quoting Barthes about individuation:

"The irreducibility, singularity, specialness, and uniqueness of the individual is related to the given
time and space of the individual.  Barthes terms this "individuation."  He quotes Bashō's definition that a haiku is simply what happens in a given place at a given moment.  Barthes finds this insufficient because it does not include the presence of the individual.  He wants to introduce the following nuance to Bashō's definition: 'that what happens surrounds the subject.' "

(The Preparation of the Novel is the original source of Barthes' comments-- a series of lectures delivered in 1979 and 1980 , published in 2003 in France, recently translated into English.)

Barthes' views here echo Merleau-Ponty's ideas of how the body animates the world:
"Perception takes place in me, not I perceive"
Phenomenology of Perception.

We also find the idea of breaking down the easy distinctions between objectivity and subjectivity in physics. The Uncertainty Principle for one.  I still don't quite have a handle on the amplituhedron that George has introduced here, but it seems like a rich image to explore.

Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: newtonp on February 08, 2014, 08:18:54 AM
Haiku; The Charming Art

Recently, I heard a radio interview with a famous actor. A good actor, in my opinion. Accomplished. The interviewer wanted to know how hard was it to talk in that affected voice for so long, in speaking about a specific film. And what an impressive and convincing performance he delivered with that memorable voice. Oh that voice that voice, she went on and on, just drew me in . . .

The actor said: The voice isn’t acting. That’s technique. Like hair and make-up is used to make me look a certain way. The voice is my way of fitting the structure necessary for the role. But it’s not acting. Acting is what happens once all that’s second-nature. No longer an obstacle to what I might discover.

Immediately-- I thought: haiku. Haiku is the voice I assume in the film called Poetry. I have to be a poet first to attempt a role with haiku in it. Or, at least, I have to get myself a fine haiku coach to limber me up for the role. A convincing haiku poet is years in the making.

Mr. Yovu’s assertion that anybody can write a good haiku is arguable. Anyone can speak German too after years of study but still to a native speaker the language may sound infantilized. But he said good not excellent, I understand. And no wonder. Haiku was introduced in America and it spread like wildfire. We’ve all counted them out in 3rd grade. Probably not since then for most poets. But for those of us who have pursued our studies of haiku in English we’re in a bit of a pickle. Betwixt and between. To shout or whisper.

On the one hand, if we tout ourselves as haiku poets we are no longer visible to mainstream poets. If we claim mainstream poet status the haiku community cries: Interloper. Or: Experimentalist. Or worse: Phony.

So what’s an old school word tinker to do? All he wants to do is write. Butt this word up against that syllable make a lap-joint, a dovetail call it what you want--does it hold together? Does it make you want to sing once its done?

In this regard, I agree with Mr. Yovu’s belief that non-haiku poets don’t care about haiku as much as the heat of the language used by the poet. They are in search of the stand-out poet. The fire-in-the-belly poet. A top-tier athlete/poet to use an Olympic metaphor. Who cares what language they speak. (And as we see in the Olympics, they can emerge from even the smallest villages with grit and guts).

Thing is: Given the relatively brief confines of the haiku form, the haiku poet must stick the landing every time. In fact, the haiku lands on the page all dismount and no running start. Haiku is not a passive sport, charming as it might be. The reader’s gotta be responsible for something.

The role of criticism in all this? I would say that non-haiku poets need to get up to speed on what’s happening in modern haiku these days. How do we assist them? Well if you want to attract a poet’s fresh eye you have flash a shiny new word their way or series of words. You basically have to fish with fire. No easy task. Excellence in poetry is achieved by individuals not genres. Absolutely.

If we are in search of greatness, let it be in the next poem we write. I agree with Mr. Yovu’s skeptical view of the promotion of certain sub-categories of haiku over, say, overall outstanding poems by specific poets. Traditional, Contemporary, Innovative. Yes, thank you, I’ll take elements of all three please. Not one over the other. Sometimes, I do feel like we’re in some super-socially responsible charter school where everyone gets a prize just for coming to school that day. Contests are tricky. Judges are human. Prone to specific tastes, etc, etc...

I have always contended that haiku is no different than any other kind of poem. Different rules, no rules. It’s the original language art. All the same mainstream poetry rules apply to haiku (no discovery for the writer, no discovery for the reader--push push push--go to the limit--some time-bitten coach screaming in you ear--That all ya got?!) And, by the way, it must sing for itself, with all its innocence and experience intact, or risk being forgotten.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: eluckring on February 09, 2014, 01:17:40 PM
My post crossed at the same time Rebecca and Penny responded.

Penny,
I just love Recycling Starlight--it is a great example of the bigger picture you talk about, and
it is helpful to hear the "practical" issues that have arisen for you by mixing genres.

As Rebecca mentions, it seems like we might have different ways of thinking about "voice" here.

I believe that with any poet/any kind of poetry, you need more than a poem or two to get a sense of
their voice, though certainly haiku has its own particulars in this. (I think this is in part what Peter Newton is saying, along with the issue of brevity that Rebecca mentions-- if I understand correctly.)

This is where perhaps criticism could be truly helpful. Jack Galmitz made this effort with Views.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Gary Hotham on February 10, 2014, 10:23:05 AM
10 Feb 2014

Some comments for Peter Yovu’s 6 Feb thoughts:

1/ re: “In his [Michael Dylan Welch} contribution for FN5 above, he recalls Dana Gioia encouraging the “haiku community” to “champion its best haiku poets and its best haiku books to non-haiku poets”, and to “find and promote . . . excellent haiku poets”.” 

I question the idea of a haiku community that can speak with one voice. Of course this is a suggestion from someone outside the haiku world and I would not be surprised that Gioia thought that because of the conference he was attending.  I also don’t think there is one poetry community.  I do a lot of reading of poetry and I don’t find a consensus of who are the best poets.  Sure there are poets who are popular and those who win prizes but that does not mean the whole poetry world thinks they are the best.   I would agree with Peter Yovu there is a problem with who do we promote as the best haiku writers.


2/ re:  “He suggests writing ‘in-depth articles for leading non-haiku poetry journals’.”

I suspect prose about haiku might be more acceptable than haiku. I think there are people in the haiku world who are skillful at prose and could write those in-depth articles. Of course what are “the leading non-haiku poetry journals.”


3/ re: “Put it this way: how many haiku poets are readily identifiable by their work? Only a few, I would say.”

I would say this is also true of the poetry world in general.  How many distinctive bodies of work are there like William Stafford or Robert Bly or George Oppen or Cid Corman or Ezra Pound or Wm Carlos Williams – or any of your favorite poets.

4/ re: “It would seem that anybody can write a good haiku. That is often promoted as one of its charms, what sets it apart from the more “elitist” stance of poetry in general. “

I think all those MFA programs offered by many institutions also suggest that anybody can write a good poem with some training.  So I don’t think poetry in general these days is all that elitist.  Unless you consider an MFA a necessary credential.

But I remain a bit skeptical about the possibility anyone can write a good poem whether a haiku or a non-haiku on the first try or second.  OK, maybe one good haiku on the first try but what about numbers two or three or four or five…?


5/ re: “Haiku is often regarded as a purity which the writer attains by draining himself or herself of individuality or personality. The individual is equated with ego; writing as an individual, or with individuality and uniqueness is merely an act of self-expression-- of pointing primarily to oneself. “


OK, this idea that the haiku is some sort of transcendent experience or reflection of the divine or one-ness with the universe is also seen in the non-haiku world.  So I don’t regard that as detriment or drawback to the genre.   I agree with Peter Yovu that poetry is a creation of words revealing the writer’s experiences of life or states of being.


6/ re: “Here’s the thing: I don’t think poets and readers of poetry outside the “haiku community” want to know more about haiku, but rather about writers whose language has been lit up by contact with it. … Non-haiku poets don’t need, as some seem to think they do, to be educated about haiku but to be exposed to writers who have used it as a means to produce distinctive and significant work, writing which comes through a poet's struggles with word, world, and self.”


That’s a good point.  I really don’t care to spend much time reading prose telling me what poetry is or what makes a great poem.  I want to spend my time reading good poetry.  I suspect most of us were attracted to writing haiku because we read some good haiku and wanted to do the same.  Later, probably like me, we went to the prose about what a haiku is and the mechanics and elements of a well done haiku after we realized that writing a haiku wasn’t as easy as it looked.


7/ re: “I believe criticism can play a vital role in this. There have been very few in-depth critiques of individual writers. Such explorations, done well, can bring subtle or difficult elements of a poet’s work into the light, and serve to open doors to others.”

Excellent critics and well written critiques would be helpful if provides some self-conscious clarity about our process .  But I think this is a rare skill and hard work even when one has it. There is not pay for such work so it turns into a labor of love.  Then again how many good critics are there out in the non-haiku world? Who will we find and trust in the haiku world?  As I said above I think there are some in the haiku world who have the prose skills.  Do they have the mind of critic who will bring some penetrating insight into the work  individual haiku poets?  And help those poets with a better understanding of what makes an excellent haiku and how to continue their work?  A grand challenge.


One last thought about this is that I hope writers of haiku are reaching for excellence.  I think the conscious pursuit of excellence will create distinctive bodies of haiku by a variety of poets.   A few years ago I discovered Donald Hall’s stimulating, thought provoking and raise the blood pressure essay, Poetry and Ambition.  His first sentence was:  “I see no reason to spend your life writing poems unless your goal is to write great poems.”  Perhaps some currently writing do not have a desire to spend a life writing haiku.  But if you do please take Hall’s advice:  write great haiku.  Take this work seriously.    Make the critic’s life easy.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Paul Miller on February 10, 2014, 03:15:28 PM
I found this paragraph of Peter’s troubling: “For the most part, haiku itself, the idea of it, the ideal of it, has been promoted over the writer him or herself. Some poets considered among the "best" write haiku which could have been written by any number of others. It would seem that anybody can write a good haiku. That is often promoted as one of its charms, what sets it apart from the more “elitist” stance of poetry in general. The problem for me is that many of the poems one finds in the journals and anthologies have exactly the feeling of having been written by . . . anybody.”

I agree with Gary that the same could be said of “main-stream” poetry as well (as well as most of what Gary said in total) which makes me worry less about the ghettoization of haiku because I suspect most “main-stream” poetry passes unnoticed by even “main-stream” poets. And I disagree that one of haiku’s charms is that anyone can do it. As an editor I can attest that not everyone can. And while it may be true that anyone can learn to write a good haiku, one way I think we distinguish our better poets is by longevity, the writing of many good poems.

More so, I worry that in our search for an individual voice we don’t over-value uniqueness over quality. I have wondered aloud if Santoka and Hosai are perhaps overvalued because of their life story. This isn’t to say they aren’t good poets, but I suspect they wouldn’t have come to our attention if they hadn’t messed up their lives. Which of course begs the question: can a poet writing about their normal life ever be valued equally as one who had problems? It also asks if we aren’t opening the door to poets to write poor but “shocking” haiku in order to stand out from the pack?
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: eluckring on February 10, 2014, 04:35:49 PM
Paul,

I know what you mean about the romanticism and exoticism that surrounds Santoka and Hosai.

However, I chose them as examples because readers know more about their personal lives than many other poets' lives. From a generalized look, their lives might be compared to be quite similar to one another, and yet they each have a distinct voice.  You could choose any two other poets to make the point, but I chose these two for the very reason that the way they have been romanticized might make us blind to the specificity of each of their voices.  I am not arguing for uniqueness in the way I believe you have interpreted it.

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Which of course begs the question: can a poet writing about their normal life ever be valued equally as one who had problems?

"their normal life"--normal is different for everyone, isn' it? and don't we all have problems?

I think history shows us that all kinds of lives can produce quality poetry and that is what is valued.

Quote
It also asks if we aren’t opening the door to poets to write poor but “shocking” haiku in order to stand out from the pack?

This seems like a leap, Paul, if I understand you correctly. There is a sincerity and honesty to both Santoka and Hosai's poetry; could you explain why you think they were writing to "stand out from the pack"? I personally don't find their work shocking.

Everything written opens a door for people to write poor haiku. 
Shock-value usually doesn't last long.
That is not what I mean by an individualized voice; I am referring to the specificity with which one embodies life, any kind of life.
It is a shame though when things are dismissed as mere shock-value because the subject matter, or an approach to writing, is out of gamut of the tastes and/or experiences of the reader. 
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Mark Harris on February 11, 2014, 06:57:51 AM
regarding haiku: Does success equal publication, and does excellence equal success? As Peter implies, I think, in his introduction to this installment of Field Notes, not necessarily. Are we being shaped by our desire to publish? If so, what does that mean these days? In this era of the internet, of webs woven upon webs, can any of us doubt that information itself has value, and corporate giants are battling to control its trade? Try as we might, can we remain free of those forces? And yes, in sharing this I’m guilty of participation in that trade. Certainly, I’m no critic, it’s just that as I read the comments on this thread to date, the word commodity comes to mind, and the following:

“An analysis of art in the age of mechanical reproduction must do justice to these relationships, for they lead us to an all-important insight: for the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual. To an ever greater degree the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility. From a photographic negative, for example, one can make any number of prints; to ask for the “authentic” print makes no sense. But the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice – politics.” –Walter Benjamin, from The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936)

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”Many have spoken of the fact that English-language haiku remains imitative, in diction, in subject matter, and form, of the Japanese. Gilbert writes: “A main element for constraint acting on haiku composition has emanated from Shiki’s ... compositional guidelines. [His] realist dicta for the beginner-poet regarding the composition of shasei (‘sketch of life’) haiku predominate.” This is no doubt true, but while Japanese haiku remains a powerful influence, sitting on the collective shoulder of the English-language community and whispering in its ear, a louder voice seems to come from within: in the light of what Kacian has written, it may be fair to say that much of what we are producing is imitative of itself, resulting in what William J. Higginson calls “the increasingly fixed and limited notion of haiku that currently pervades much of the English-language haiku community.” It seems to have developed a momentum and mass sufficient to exert a kind of gravitational force. Essentially it means that what many value most about the “best” haiku, a quality of being mysteriously and unmistakably alive, is being pressured to fit into pre-determined and familiar forms, into the idea of what a haiku is. What results is something less like “sketches from life” and more like “sketches from haiku.””—Peter Yovu, from his review in Modern Haiku of Big Sky: The Red Moon Anthology 2006

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“A Poem is first of all an amulet, an OBJECT bearing energy (c.f. the objectivist poem as object and Olson's poem as "at every point a high-energy discharge"). The poem is first of all a charm, relic, medicine, compass, key. See, too, the ORACLE BONES of Shang dynasty China, scapulamancy as practiced even today by arctic peoples, and Marija Gimbutas’ The Living Goddesses. We are not talking about the poem sitting on a page like a jewel in a ring but the two inseparable, Eshleman’s THE ONE ART given its place. In this context, to “reproduce” (i.e. publish) a poem widely is to pass on as little of it as the “reproduction” of a painting or sculpture. We would speak instead of instances of a poem – think of the poet as writing down the poem again and again. The signed book carries a weak, memorial suggestion of this; those priceless books handmade by the poet in editions of twenty-six (Bob Arnold, Cid Corman, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Jeremy Seligson, Emily Dickinson) come closer, almost close enough. The next step would be to take up Vietnamese tu phap or find an American equivalent to Japanese sosho. We must learn how to write again, from the beginning. Inscribed by hand preferably on stone, wood, paper, that which bears an organic relation to the world wherein its power resides, a poem is an act of sympathetic magic. Here we see Levertov’s organicism brought to the medium itself. Crude, yes brut,an arte povera, WITHOUT ILLUSION of being “above” anything (much less “it all”). The poem as medicine. And life today is nothing if not in need of healing.”—John Martone, reproduced/taken from The NEOLITHIC (re)turn in poetry, an article on his website

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“my material is available in limited portions for noncommercial projects in the manner/spirit in which it was created. please ask for permission--out of respect for all artists who share our work. comments welcomed but replies are doubtful. in time relevant opinions will be posted if permission is granted.”—Marlene Mountain, from a request in her website’s Introduction.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Paul Miller on February 11, 2014, 08:20:31 AM
Hi Eve,

My comment re: Santoka and Hosai was not referenced toward your comments at all, rather they were convenient names to make a small point. Sorry if you felt it did so.

To elaborate on my “shock” haiku comment. Not directed toward Santoka and Hosai. Rather, Peter’s comment that many haiku seem like they could be written by any one of a number of good haiku poets seems a call toward creating stronger, more individual voices (a good thing). The goal (questionable thing) being to reach further (if at all) into the poetic main-stream. He also suggests that this main-stream will want poets rather than poems. I agree. How often do we see “based on a true story” in movies? That shouldn’t matter; the art of the movie should hold its own, not need to be propped up. To get back to my “shocking” comment. There is a painting in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art which is a red circle on a white background. It was probably intellectually shocking when it was painted (as a reaction to realism or whatever was in vogue those days), but in my mind it has no lasting value, no art—just shock in an intellectual way. I worry that to get noticed by the larger poetic community poets will have to start writing “shocking” haiku rather than art. I’ve seen a lot of bad haiku that tries to shock through overt (but unnecessary) sexual references and language. My feeling is that the poet thinks they are writing cutting edge stuff because of the subject matter alone. Such poems may solve the ghettoization of haiku, but at a cost. However this is more a pondering than a real concern. I don’t think any genre (sonnet anyone?) will ever make much of a splash in the larger scene.

I like to think my haiku, being based on my life, and through my voice, have some individualism to them. But I worry less about that than if I am writing something I can be proud of. I will surmise, however, that the writings of a middle-aged accountant with no history of drug abuse or mental illness, who works hard and is happily married, will make for poor book jacket copy, and thus poor offerings to the larger market. Let’s be honest: hermits and addicts sell books.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Peter Yovu on February 11, 2014, 05:00:00 PM
Much of value to consider here. I for one find this encouraging, that people are willing to explore and inquire.

It may not be a universal problem, but when I think about questions relating to haiku, I quickly come up against the reality that “haiku” is not a single thing, but means different things to different people. This is not a problem so much when one is speaking about poetry in general. It seems to be accepted that poetry takes many forms. I’m not sure if that is the case with haiku; I suspect it increasingly is.

So when we talk about “excellence” in haiku, what are we pointing to? Here I would say that I believe that making distinctions has value. Making distinctions does not (necessarily) equal being divisive. I for one don’t mind talking about traditional, or modern, or innovative approaches to haiku. They give some needed vocabulary in looking at different things haiku do. They are starting points for understanding each as it is.  But only starting points, which may be discarded as one goes further.

And of course, within those general distinctions, there are more distinctions that can be made. The “rules” that are often taught may apply to one “form” but not another. What is considered "basic" may not even apply in every instance, and there is the possibility that an “excellent” short poem which has few, or possibly none, of the defined “qualifications” for haiku might find its way into a haiku journal. (And that context might bring out otherwise unseen qualities).

It is why, forgive me for saying what I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t think of myself as someone who writes haiku, though for the sake of discussion it is often convenient to do so. I think of myself as someone who writes short poems which have unquestionably been influenced by Japanese poetics, but also by other things-- aphorism, for example, itself something difficult to define and pin down and which has numerous forms.

For me, “excellence” resides in something on the page or spoken which is prior to haiku. I think there is something in us which initially responded-- deeply-- to haiku before we knew what it was. (It may have been, phenomenologically speaking, a bodily, or pre-cognitive response).

It was only later that we tried to grasp what qualifies a short poem as haiku. (And perhaps how to replicate the initial encounter). Doing so led different people in different directions, for good or ill, fluid or fixed.

I like the idea that writers of ELH (for the sake of conversation I’ll call myself one) can “metabolize” qualities associated with Japanese poetics along with those of Western poetry. (This would include prosody, the sounds and rhythms inherent in the English language).

If this happens, there may be a new possibility in one’s poetry whereby the poet  “rediscovers” those qualities, as needed, in the process of writing itself.

That is to say, he/she doesn’t “apply” that quality, but encounters it as it makes itself known as a particular and necessary instance of the poem. The quality is individualized. This is perhaps when we can say that a poem is both personal and universal.

So qualities like “yugen,” or “scent” to give two examples, are not fixed or even definable, but particular to the writer and ever-different (and yet ever-the-same) things. And ever-new and always available for discovery, which may speak to the “individuality” of the poem and poet, which to me is a hallmark of excellence. A rare thing, because it seems to involve letting go of what you have learned as something you need to apply, and trusting not that you have something which you can use, but that you are something-- something discoverable by way of art.

Teachers of poetry, if they are honest, will say (as was said to me) they can’t  teach anyone how to write a poem. They can tell you what not to do, but after that, you’re on your own.

Same for haiku, no doubt. But it often seems to me that a lot of writers hope that by applying certain principles (“rules” or techniques if you will) to haiku, they can come up with something “good” or publishable. And in truth, that does happen, though such work can seem generic, formulaic. But for me excellence can only happen when something much deeper occurs, something mysterious and immersive, when those principles are met as if for the first time, by a writer encountering him/herself along the way.

I suppose you could say that is my ambition.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Mark Harris on February 13, 2014, 03:50:48 PM
I work at an art museum, where along with the other preparators I handle art, install exhibitions, set up for classes, frame pictures, that sort of thing. Occasionally, I'll tackle an unusually complex installation or help plan the look of an exhibit from its early stages. Years ago, I went to art school to study painting. Art handling was a way to pay the bills at first; all these years later, here I am still doing it. It's good work. To hold a Rubens, a Maya chocolate drinking cup, or an Albers in my hands can be a thrill. And to share them with the public, that's also a thrill. On my breaks, I try to take time to peruse the galleries.

My coworkers and I witness a gamut of reactions to the exhibitions. Nudity can be offensive to some visitors. Others are shocked by, say, a painting of a lemon-yellow square against a larger violet-gray square framed by a square of a darker and more subdued yellow, a work by Joseph Albers who I mentioned earlier. It's one of my favorite paintings in the collection, one of a series called Homage to the Square. Although to some it might initially seem intellectual and methodical, not so. Albers was passionate about color. It's often been noted that color evokes emotion and, really, this painting is all heart. My description doesn't do justice to the original because the painting explores subtle relationships of color and proportion--and our sensual reactions to them--which can't be conveyed through words spoken or written. The painting is dated 1961, at what could be considered the height of the modern art era. Painting is dead, people have been saying ever since, and yet it never quite does die.

Albers taught at the Bauhaus art academy. When the school closed in response to the Nazi rise to power, Albers and his wife Anni emigrated to the U.S. where he was offered a job at Black Mountain College, a name familiar to those who associate the school with poets such as Robert Creeley, whose use of everyday speech and minimalism can inform writers of haiku as much as the work of his mentor William Carlos Williams. Creeley had his detractors, that's for sure; the critic John Simon, commenting on his poems, wrote, "They are short; they are not short enough."

As editor of Black Mountain Review, Creeley published the writings of Lorine Niedecker, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Jack Kerouac and others who were influenced by haiku and in turn influenced haiku in English. The review's cover art is beautiful, spare and strikingly modern. The first four covers were done by Katue Kitasono, issue #5 is by John Altoon, and #6 by Dan Rice. #7 by Ed Corbett consists of a solid black rectangle, not quite square, and a few delicate linear marks.

I'm rambling now, I know, it's just that my train of thought is taking me back to haiku and that wonderful way it has of being spare, specific, sensual, seemingly simplistic and yet able to inspire shifts to new ways of seeing  . . .
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Field Notes on February 14, 2014, 05:49:25 PM
FN5 is devoted to criticism. Picking up on some things Michael Dylan Welch said about promoting ELH in the larger poetry community and the role criticism might play, the thread of discussion has followed the theme of "excellence" in haiku. To keep this moving, I asked panelists the following:

Say a few things about what excellence in haiku means to you. What elevates a haiku above
the average, or brings it down to marvelous earth? Or both.

Are you willing to provide an example or two of what you consider excellent?


Richard Gilbert has responded to this with an important (I believe) essay. Cherie Hunter Day has offered
up a poem by Philip Rowland which to her exemplifies excellence. I will add more responses as they come, and hope you will add yours. Here we go . . .

Richard Gilbert

Haiku and the perception of the unique

When talking about excellence in haiku, the larger context of what makes for excellence seems intrinsic to debates concerning art, and poetry, in general. From this wider perspective, it's possible to examine historical, aesthetic, philosophical, and cultural strands of evolving critique.

The main historical currents regarding excellence (in art, poetry, haiku) presuppose arguments (theory) related to critical judgment. To gloss the topic, in the US, poetic theory, from Imagism through the Beats, has swung through pendulum arcs between objective and subjective formulation. When excellence is critically objective, this implies that there are (provably) definitive elements of excellence apparent to the observer—un-reliant on and apart from subjective (personal) opinion. New Formalism is taken as a move in this direction. The violent reaction of more objective-oriented criticism toward Ginsberg's "Howl" reveals this polarity and a seminal moment in American poetry—perhaps the last time poetry can be said to have shaped the nation.

(Aside:) Of the 88 books selected by the Library of Congress in 2012 to define “Books that Shaped America,” six are poetry collections. Of these, three remain bestselling, those by Whitman, Dickinson, Ginsberg. Two being 19th century poets, Ginsberg’s “Howl and Other Poems” singularly tops the charts rivaling sales of Shakespeare's Collected Works for poetry collections in the 20th century, to date. (Cf. ‘http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/books-that-shaped-america’ (http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/books-that-shaped-america’).)

If objective critique were to be perfected and agreed upon, artworks could be judged (ranked) in terms of excellence according to defined criteria. Objective critical theory would be then quantifiable; thus the "formalism" in new formalism. For this critical approach, excellence can be defined, objectively (i.e., formally).

Of late, science has studied human beauty, and via large-scale research studies, arrived at certain formal measures of facial structure which are statistically (multiculturally) identified as evincing beauty (e.g. formal features such as left-right facial symmetry, eye spacing). As within the field of poetics, this approach reveals an intriguing agon (tension) between qualitative, subjective impression (phenomenology) and formal (scientistic) verity-- an issue fundamental to modernity.

Subjective criticism, on the other hand, is reliant upon "the person of taste." That is to say we presuppose a few masters of taste (as there are master chefs), who due to their knowledge and experience should deservedly be seen as arbiters of excellence. Perhaps our most notable literary critics ultimately follow this line, in that objective criticism has foundered in its comprehensive program.

Seen this way, there exists a conundrum: we seek to arrive at formal determinants of excellence, and fail (though one may stump for partial success). We seek to find a critical view (a person/ those critics) which might provide the proper schema--yet do not find satisfaction.

The subjective-objective conundrum is a Cartesian duality which never completely resolves itself. We rely on critics for (subjective) personal insight, yet may also rely on (objective) articulations of formal determinants -- neither alone quite suffices. As a result, idiosyncratic brews (admixtures of both types of approach) are formulated. Formulations such as these tend to be playful mutts. A majority of published criticism in haiku has been of this sort. For example,  a haiku critic who does not understand Japanese language and has not lived in Japan, or associated themselves with Japanese poetry offers up Japanese terms and presents Japanese culture—and often feudal culture as well — as objective verity -- as “haiku-objective” knowledge. This represents just one critical boner in haiku studies, so it’s not surprising “haiku studies” outside of Japan Studies, are not found in the university. It was just a few years ago that Gary Snyder, well-aware of Japanese poetics and culture, in his Ehime Award Lecture stated that the term “haiku” should be limited in use to indicate Japanese-language-only haiku (I take issue, but also admit his rationale).

In any case, I first became acutely aware of the objective-subjective conundrum reading "Egalitarian Typologies Versus the Perception of the Unique," by James Hillman (Eranos Lecture 4, Spring Pub., 1986), whose school of Archetypal Psychology is founded on the conception of psychological creativity (rather than pathology and/or the presupposition of a normative psychology). This small book of 59 pages contains examples from poets like Wallace Stevens, to help articulate its main points.

A typology is a schema, and presents itself as a formal basis for quality. Racism would be a non-egalitarian typology. An egalitarian typology, on the other hand, presents an equality of value among its "types" or groups. In personal and spiritual psychology some examples are Jungian typology (including personality types as determined by the “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator”) and the enneagram (created by Oscar Ichazo). Familiar historical typologies include the 12 signs of astrology, the I Ching, Qabalah (Sephirothic tree), and geomantic and cosmological concepts (e.g. Fludd, alchemy) as well.

Last year, in my book of haiku criticism, "The Disjunctive Dragonfly: A New Approach to English-language Haiku" (recently reviewed by editor and Field Notes contributor Lorin Ford at ‘http://www.ahundredgourds.com/ahg31/exposition06.html (http://www.ahundredgourds.com/ahg31/exposition06.html)’), I proposed 24 "types" of techniques found in 275 haiku examples (presented in support). In composing this work I was aware of the problems inherent in objective critique. Nonetheless, if lacking any formal (objective) schema, one is left only with "persons of taste," and opinion. That is, endless and generally fruitless debate regarding questions of excellence and quality.

Hillman interests me because he poses a deeper polarity or dichotomy, regarding excellence: egalitarian typology versus the perception of the unique. It may be that any critic ("person of taste"), in advancing a rationale for excellence, unavoidably presents a schema as part and parcel of a logical, formal argument for quality. For haiku, one can speak of yugen, shibumi, karumi, wabi-sabi, etc. These terms, taken together, form an egalitarian typology. Critics will say that this or that haiku possesses more or less of one and another.

What does this mean, to say that "this haiku is excellent because it possesses yugen," or "this haiku is an excellent example of karumi"? Here the "person of taste" enters with their subjective judgment. We may agree conceptually with the definitional typology (those Japan-origin qualities), but can we agree on matters of taste? In fact, were we to agree as a community on a select group of haiku, say five per each representative Japanese-aesthetic category — we would then have achieved pure artistic totalitarianism. There is a real societal danger in combining egalitarian typologies with "persons of taste" who then dictate to the community – and one must either follow their pronouncements or exit (sometimes violently). In Japan, a study of Kyoshi’s role as totalitarian dictator of Hototogisu is a case in point. One understands that in the history of haiku in North America, this has been a social issue, one that has involved the exclusion of talented haiku poets from publication, and by extension, the publication of many atrocious haiku -- all in the name of (purity of) taste. That is, “taste” was defined or grounded in judgment by “persons of taste” (predominantly or entirely male at the time; haiku journal editors and book publishers) who claimed proper knowledge of the Japanese form and therefore the English-language form of haiku. They were right and if you took exception, you were wrong. A documented case would be some decades of rejection of Marlene Mountain’s thought, along with many of her haiku -- her work and thought are these days looked upon quite differently.

Hillman proposed an intriguing solution to the dichotomy of typology vs. the unique. He suggested a means of collapsing the duality, by shifting the basis of critical thought to "aesthetic arrest," an embodied experience (of an actual human being). Implicit here are kinesthetic truths, a kinesthetic phenomenology. Hillman talks about the "in gasp" -- the sudden indrawn breath, from which we get the word "in-spiration." We may not all agree on which experiences cause aesthetic arrest, but have probably all experienced this at one time or another.

From this perspective some interesting ideas can be drawn. The first is that a "person of taste" in defining excellence in a particular poem, or group of poems, may provide intellectual understanding, and at the same time not in any way move you, the art participant, the reader, towards aesthetic arrest. As well, a poem may in fact be intellectually excellent, and provide new motifs in art, which is grand -- yet you may not be especially moved by it. From the perspective of aesthetic arrest, there exist varieties, diversities of excellence, according to the diversity of persons, within poetic community -- from the point of view of each reader or person.

The experience of aesthetic arrest is a personal experience. So it would seem subjective. But on the other hand, the experience itself is likewise archetypal, universal, Hillman would argue. One may not know why precisely a given experience occurs in a given instance. Aesthetic arrest may begin through moments of “stopping,” yet such an experience may also indicate a longer involvement in an artwork as an enriching contemplation, occurring over many years. Aesthetic arrest in this sense is not only that "moment" in which we in-spire, are arrested, it is also evolutional, subtle, complex -- interwoven into what we value in life, in art: aesthetic arrest as instigation, as subversion, seduction. As tantra, viral.

I muse that excellence must partly be related to taste, which itself is linked to aesthetic arrest (in both critics and readers). Aesthetic arrest, as savor, may likewise be evinced by the poetry of criticism. I was never so consciously arrested by the pleasure of the text, as and until I read “The Pleasure of the Text.” The pleasure of Barthes has never truly left me. Aesthetic arrest may be instigated by study, generating a heightened, embodied sensitivity towards the work.

Yet this is not enough. Aesthetic arrest implies something genuine in our experience, and suggests that arts (artworks) have the ability to touch what is deep, in experiential value -- yet the aesthetic does not necessarily reside in the artwork, any more than it resides in Basho's "pine," or a beautiful sunset, or a lover's kiss. Aesthetic arrest cannot be “typed” or troped in this way. It’s never about what’s supposed to happen in engagement (or how a given poem is supposed to move you). Critics are fairly hated for their insistence in this regard. In fact, if an engagement is specified, arranged, predetermined, it’s as likely to diminish aesthetic impact, or confuse it. “I will read this haiku to you, which is the best by Ms. X, and you should feel this from it and have such and so-and-so an experience” -- really won’t cut it.

Is aesthetic arrest up to us? I think this is the crux: the perception of the unique. The point Hillman made which launched me into contemplations of how to critically articulate works involves the perception of the unique, as cultural value. The unique, Hillman argues, is something that is continually devalued, forgotten, discarded, in art, in criticism, even in conversation, in society. The perception of the unique is invisible. Is the repressed.

Most obviously, the problem is that one's perception of the unique cannot be easily shared (a talent for articulation in this regard must be assumed crucial, for the critic). And perceptions of the unique do not necessarily organize themselves either normatively or intellectually. Hillman argues that, nonetheless, the perception of the unique is at the core of aesthetic arrest, implying that this should be a central concern of criticism.

In my own work, I designed an egalitarian typology in order to present modes of technical similarity between groupings of example-haiku. Yet my (subversive) desire was to present haiku to which I respond aesthetically, am moved by -- that are arresting in some way. It’s not too much to say that I love all the haiku I selected. Of course, it’s laughable to say that I love them, merely. So the typology was useful.

That said, my love is not yours, nor should it be. Nevertheless, in each haiku presented I find an abundance of what is unique: both beyond compare and beyond comparison. This is something beautiful. And the more you give voice to it, the less unique it tends to become, in its arresting dimension. In psychology, one way to diminish the impact of a dream is to explain the story away, through interpretation. For this reason I generally avoid definition, or those modes of interpretation which extract meaning from the poem, essentially to its deficit, as a primary critical move. “This haiku means this or that.” Stories (and poems) are often put to death when ostensibly resolved by meaning.

At this point I feel I’ve answered the first part of Peter’s question, when he asks: “What elevates a haiku above the average, or brings it down to marvelous earth? Or both.” (The answer must partly be your own, partly arrive from elsewhere, and partly relate to matters of intellectual and poetic engagement with formal verities, to the extent they exist, or you take them as existent values: an excellent haiku surprises, is in some manner genuinely aesthetically arresting, and appears as a unique “face” of perception, existentially and essentially, incomparable in some way.) Now, as to the last: “Are you willing to provide an example or two of what you consider excellent?” In The Disjunctive Dragonfly are 275 haiku, all of which (I feel) are excellent. It would be against principle to select out some small number -- this would defeat the concept of an egalitarian typology, altogether. So I don’t feel I’m avoiding the question, or challenge, and would rather in turn challenge the reader to gather like-gems from sand all those works that move you, through their uniqueness.

The depth psychological move is to return in mind to those active dream figures, to treat them as alive, animate -- to open to those images (and poems, like dreams, are fictions, or halfway to such stars) -- in this way to become more receptive to their uniqueness, these unique faces of appearance, which stir or disturb. Unfortunately, critics like therapists tend to become too meaning-addicted. Though like love-making, interpretation can be done well.

When you walk around -- right now, in daily life -- how aware are you of the unique? This very single breath, your partner's face. A shadow, a tree. Aesthetic arrest can't be willed, yet for those into haiku, certain poems move us, deeply, and we experience -- what? Depth, emotion, presence, resonance are some of the terms in play.

What distinguishes haiku from other poetic forms most clearly relates to concision and "cutting," formal notions. In particular, the various ways a given haiku "cuts" relate directly to aesthetic sensibility -- the landscape of aesthetic arrest. What would a criticism look like, which begins with the perception of the unique, leading the reader further towards considerations of the unique, towards its greater valuation? This move would raise the valuation of the unique, rather than discarding its power via explanatory meaning, as we might discard the power of the poem, or dream.

Richard Gilbert, Valentine’s Day
14 February 2014



Cherie Hunter Day

breeze a synonym for ash
            Philip Rowland
 
Five words.  Five words that propel thought beyond logic to a preconscious state of awareness—a momentary glimpse of wholeness.  It has lightning fast precision.  I remember reading this poem in R’r 11.1 (Feb. 2011) and instantly it became one of my favorite haiku. 

I’m familiar with Southern California wildfires.  One in 2007 forced us to evacuate our home because of immediate danger.  Thankfully our house was spared and when we returned there was an inch of ash that needed to be swept up.  Ash worked its way into everything—even under the gas cap flap on the car.  Because of the wind the ash was able to penetrate the void in and around things.  Breeze and ash are bound together in this give and take of definition.  Some breezes can only be observed when the ash is disturbed. 

A reader doesn’t necessarily need to experience a major wildfire to appreciate this poem.  Think of an ash at the tip of an incense stick.  The slightest breeze both feeds the fire that produces the ash and disseminates the ash.  Air is both starting point and the end.  This toggle between microcosm and macrocosm gives power to these five words.  And its artistry doesn’t diminish through a hundred readings.

If we consider the poem from an aural perspective, the music of vowels and consonants, this poem is a gem.  The movement from the long ‘e’ in ‘breeze’ through the staccato of ‘syn.on.ym’ to the open ‘a’ in ‘ash’ with the ‘sh’ at the very end is the trajectory of life.  The initial breath in ‘breeze’ carries though the small encounters in ‘synonym’ (like the rain pinging down obstacles in Eve Luckring’s concrete haiku) to the final shush in ‘ash.’  We feel the subtle echo of this music beyond words moving outward and inward.  It’s primordial and pure poetry!  Thank you, Philip Rowland.

—Cherie Hunter Day


Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Tomdevelyn on February 14, 2014, 09:52:03 PM
Gilbert 's book is clearly a watershed moment in HIE criticism. Through analysis of form, he helps us see a variety of cutting moves in the haiku game. At the same time, his analysis may beg the question for those of us who don't feel alienated from the ethos of Basho as articulated say by Pipei Qieu.  In many short essays on individual haiku from basho to Mark Harris, I have shown how cutting relates to a meditative process. These essays are available at ecoku.wordpress.com
It may be of interest to some that this meditative process, brilliantly articulated by the traditional haiku cut, is not restricted to haiku. My essays on poems by many poets showing how this meditative process informs individual poems are available on metaxyturn.wordpress.com
Finally, the cult of the unique has ideological roots that deserve close attention.
In my own poems, I explore cutting techniques in formats other than haiku. A recent lyric caught the attention of a major player in HIE because a segment of it struck him as suggestive of haiku. Does our fascination with very small texts precondition us to find larger formats lacking intensity?  Do we forget that to be a good haiku, the text must be well written? Well written as prose, as Pound said, or just well-written?
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Philip Rowland on February 15, 2014, 05:26:49 AM
Cherie – many thanks for your response to “breeze a synonym for ash”, much appreciated (esp. as one reviewer gave it as an example of my being sometimes “too cryptic” – which perhaps goes to show how subjective these things can be). I also appreciate that you quoted the poem as it first appeared, rather than in the misjudged, slightly revised form in which it appeared in my collection before music.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Chris Patchel on February 15, 2014, 09:07:14 PM
For better or worse I’m more obsessed with excellence than most (even other artists and writers find my level of perfectionism excessive). So my ears perk up any time the word is mentioned.

I could loop out trying to list the marks of excellence—  surprise coupled with a sense inevitability, for instance, or an economy & elegance of material & form, etc. (though such qualities are not unique to haiku). So I won’t go there.

At the moment I’m thinking more about excellence as an ethic, and a passion (which I note in many of Peter’s remarks). It’s not uncommon for writers to spend a decade on a single novel. Walt Whitman spent the last 42 years of his life writing and revising his poems for Leaves of Grass. How many are willing to spend years, if need be, perfecting a haiku? Not that time is the only measure of passion for artmaking but it’s one indication.

Haiku writers span the gamut from hobbyists (nothing wrong with that) to serious poets. For publishers I’m guessing it’s often a trade-off between democratic inclusion (which we all appreciate about the haiku community after all) and the showcasing of excellence (poems and poets), so I sympathize with editors who have to navigate those kinds of ongoing choices.

Enjoying the discussion.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Richard Gilbert on February 15, 2014, 10:37:47 PM
Haiku and “what thought is like”

I'd like to hear more about the “cult of the unique” mentioned by Tom D’Evelyn (“the cult of the unique has ideological roots that deserve close attention”), though don’t see a strong relation to “the perception of the unique” as a locus or raison of aesthetic arrest – would the young Pound would serve as a case in point? I find nothing ideologically cultish here:

Quote
. . . and saw suddenly a beautiful face, and then another and another, and then a beautiful child’s face, and then another beautiful woman, and I tried all that day to find words for what this had meant to me, and I could not find any words that seemed to me worthy, or as lovely as that sudden emotion (Pound, explaining the genesis for “In A Station of the Metro,” 1916).

The need to value the haiku genre, that is, raise its valuation, estimation, has been a central concern of recent criticism, seen in major anthology presentations such as Haiku in English (2013) and Haiku 21 (2011). Reading Blyth, one sees how potent and even primary critical commentary can be for the genre. It may be useful to approach the critical structure of ‘poem + commentary’ again, grouping significant numbers of haiku into thematic sections. Aside from his idiosyncratic (and highly arguable) perspective, Blyth’s influence was bolstered by his comprehensive-encyclopedic approach. Much of the aesthetic savor in Blyth arrives from his commentary -- especially noticeable when it’s stripped out -- the bare translations are usually pretty dull. This begs the question of what, concerning Blyth, actually captivated the Beats, and thus caused “haiku” to become popular.

It's interesting to consider aesthetic arrest, contemplate its power -- just as a phenomenon -- also as formative of taste, or impetus of it. Aesthetic arrest involves force and radiance: magnetism, numinousity, velocity. We use words of kinesthetic force to describe this experience: I'm pulled in, it grabs me, I'm absorbed, enter the poem, am moved -- captivated (captive), captured, taken (away, somewhere), thrown (into, out of); magnetized.

Pound's marvelous storytelling explanation of his “Metro” poem (cf. http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/pound/metro.htm (http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/pound/metro.htm)) includes zingers like: “Any mind that is worth calling a mind must have needs beyond the existing categories of language.” Hugh Kenner, quoting Pound, indicates the rapid evolution of Pound’s search for new language, in order to depict the aesthetic:

Quote
“An ‘Image’ is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time”: and that is the elusive Doctrine of the Image. And, just 20 months later, “The image . . . is a radiant node or cluster; it is what I can, and must perforce, call a VORTEX, from which, and through which, and into which, ideas are constantly rushing.” And: “An image . . . is real because we know it directly.” (Kenner, cf. “Metro” url, above)

One may connote this experience as a form of violence – Paz, quoting Mallarme: “The poet does violence to language in order to purify the words of the tribe.” The wresting of words, language, out of normative, habitual associations is a violence akin to natural force: volcanos, earthquakes. This is not the violence of aggression, yet the term speaks to instrumental destruction (and deconstruction) in creation: a rending of skin, or in contemporary terminology, chaos breakdown in stable systems.

Violence in this context is depersonalizing, as is the idea of natural force. Yet this idea of violence is likewise as intimate as consciousness. It's no wonder people feel strongly about certain works of art. Given this context, it may be that all forms of aesthetic arrest, for art, involve a wresting of consciousness, and in this, loss. (Loss of habit remains a loss.) Unlike the sudden “wresting” of romantic love (cf. Helen Fisher, http://www.ted.com/speakers/helen_fisher.html (http://www.ted.com/speakers/helen_fisher.html)), the “other” of the poem is non-human. A work is a thing forged, become autonomous, self-existent, existing separate from its creator, even if emblematic. Thinking back to Pound, Paz, and other philosopher-poets of modernism, I'm struck by their concerns regarding consciousness and poetry; the notion of the poem is intimately bound into a questioning of the aesthetic.

Reading Pound at the Modernist dawn (or at least morning) -- his adventurous drive to formulate new modes of poetic arrest makes for exciting reading. What he presents to the world as signal discovery seems relevant to haiku, in terms of the wresting, rending, potency of superposition as fusional (emotional-intellectual) complex, vortex, etc. This does all sound rather macho -- both the rending and perhaps the ranting -- so it’s worth revisiting just a few paragraphs prior, to: “a beautiful face, and then another and another, and then a beautiful child’s face, and then another beautiful woman, and I tried all that day to find words for what this had meant to me” – which may be both Pound’s gentlest and best attempt at description – his longing and need to articulate – his own Ginsbergian Howl, if you will.

It seems that the violence and (therefore) creative power of aesthetic arrest was central to Pound’s conception of social relevance, at the time. Paz developed these ideas and enriched them greatly in his masterpiece (nearly forgotten by the critical mainstream), The Bow and the Lyre. In thinking of the perception of the unique as it relates to aesthetic arrest, there is on the one hand generic archetypal phenomenology. On the other, a specific exploratory drive towards new discoveries of the aesthetic, throughout the arc of modernism -- though which we see advance and agonistic overthrow (of previous concepts, schools, forms). Today we can leisurely appreciate these various “schools” of art which enrich our “emotional-intellectual” landscape. Yet, what of our own time?

When I read

Quote
the galactic aquarium shatters
our arms ending in starfish

Quote
a case of bird skulls
my ears torn by such
little scissors

and

Quote
sunlight through
the thin white blouse she
holds up folds and puts away

Quote
(Peter Yovu, Sunrise, (RMP 2010) qtd. in New Zealand Poetry Society / Te Hunga Tito Ruri o Aotearoa, book review by Sandra Simpson, http://www.poetrysociety.org.nz/node/553 (http://www.poetrysociety.org.nz/node/553); link to Yovu reading from Sunrise (THF Readings, 2012): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znJ05U0ngps (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znJ05U0ngps).)

I’m reminded of Perloff's insistence that the original project of modernism remains incomplete, and is commandingly relevant to our new century. We advance and return, holding mirrors up to our world in its shattering brilliance. These as-if galactic oceans -- as arms at the limit; as "starfish" born; is it this moment fiction becomes reality: these oceans we now fish in according to sailors and whales it's one vast ocean girdling our planet, currently being "torn by such little scissors" as "a case of bird skulls" seems arch enough, according to what I 'ear. “There is scarce truth enough alive to make societies secure, but security enough to make fellowships accursed.”1

Quote
When I find people ridiculing the new arts, or making fun of the clumsy odd terms that we use in trying to talk of them amongst ourselves; when they laugh at our talking about the “ice-block quality” in Picasso, I think it is only because they do not know what thought is like, and they are familiar only with argument and gibe and opinion. That is to say, they can only enjoy what they have been brought up to consider enjoyable, or what some essayist has talked about in mellifluous phrases. They think only "the shells of thought" . . . (Pound, Gaudier-Brzeska, 1916 [my emphasis]).

sunlight through
the thin white blouse she
holds up and puts away

is for our time a relevant response to what thought is like, for haiku. If the search to articulate the aesthetic is a mountain climb, aesthetic arrest allows for the story.


1. Shakespeare, "Measure for Measure" (3:2, 102).

Ezra Pound, age 27, 1913 (wikipedia)
(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/87/Ezra_Pound_2.jpg/220px-Ezra_Pound_2.jpg)


Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Field Notes on February 16, 2014, 07:44:32 AM
Max Verhart

in January last I read in Brussels (Belgium) a paper with the title 'Haiku on the Fringe of Dutch Literature'. The last paragraph read thus:
     "(...) the title of this paper sums it up quite adequately: haiku is at best a tiny spot on the fringe of Dutch literature. But should we be sorry? No - because our goal should not be to give haiku a higher literary status. That status, if it ever happens, can be no more than a side product of what our real goal should be: to write tomorrow better haiku than we did today. To be more critical of the haiku we publish tomorrow then we were of the ones we published yesterday. That's the best we can do. Or stop writing haiku."
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Kala Ramesh on February 16, 2014, 10:37:25 PM
It was lovely to read this thread.
I would like to add my two paise of thought as seen from an Indian angle - which is what I'm most familiar with.

I connect up to ‘criticism’ through Indian music, for I have been a student of Indian classical since I was six years old. And I’ve heard my mother tell my sisters [who were Bharatanatyam dancers] that they need to stand before the mirror and practice their abhinaya – facial expression along with the whole body moving— thereby promoting that critical awareness about one’s own work. I feel this is the most important tool when stepping into any art form.

The first time I came across 'a book criticism’ was when I read the massive introduction written by  Vamanrao Deshpande, an eminent musicologist of his generation for the noted classical singer, Pandit Kumar Gandharva’s book, “Anoop Raga Vilas”(1965), and the ‘criticism’ on this introduction written by noted Marathi writer and educationalist Sharadchandra Chirmulay.

What is criticism? I think, it’s all about bringing a thought into focus, so that readers are brought to notice things which they could have missed otherwise.

Please note: The Sanskrit term for aesthetic emotion is Rasa
A rasika is one who can enjoy the rasa [aesthetic emotion] brought about in any created work. There are treatises that deal with the rasa theory and how this interaction between the artist [one who brings out the rasa] and the listener [a rasika who enjoys the rasa] happens. I think this is the seed for the growth of ‘critical appreciation’

But here I would like to talk about individual criticism or the art of ‘Critical appreciation’ as I would like to call it. I do teach haiku, which is a 60 hour course, to under-graduate students at the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, Pune and one of their assignments is *critical appreciation* [as seen from my Indian roots], where they are encouraged to take any haiku poem they like, ranging from the Japanese Masters to the contemporary haiku poets and write a critical appreciation note on it. They came up with astounding and in-depth analysis.

After this and many such discussions on haiku I tell them to write their haiku. Quoting my favourite quote of the month, make it quote of the year: “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.” – Ernest Hemingway.

Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Don Baird on February 17, 2014, 01:42:20 PM
A Thought:

Subjective cannot solve the puzzles of the objective; and the objective cannot solve the puzzles of the subjective - in a likely sense, objective (in the human realm) doesn’t exist - it cannot as long as the human being remains in the realm of imperfection; where is the realm of perfection?  Is a critique meaningless, in particular, imperfect - as meaningless as opinion?  Naturally, if one gives an opinion power by submitting to it, then reality (for that individual) shifts quickly (as fickle as it is) and another set of circumstances occur to ponder - yet, none dealing with “truth,” per se..  Human perception is like a spaghetti sauce; it is an approximation at best - no two are the same even if the recipe is.

Scratching the Surface: 

Critiquing (criticism) is a skewed skill that is incapable of rising above the subjective.  There is no critique of any work that can possibly be an authoritative (cosmically accurate) voice that is lastingly meaningful (factual)..  Opinion will never rise above itself.  It will never be complete and it will never be accurate.  Human perception and bias will remain obstacles to depth-critiquing or for that matter, worthy, memorable opinion.  (I remember Beethoven; do you remember his critic?)  The human character, in its own arrogance, remains oblique - minimally, wonky.  And, critiquing is the “frontal lobe gone awry.”  Neither will ever rise above their flawed existence because they simply cannot.

Digging Deeper: 

Claiming "this or that" is excellent is frivolous with the exception of amusement.  A critic and ensuing opinion seems to be nothing at all inherently; it is the recipient, surrendering power, that gives the critique salt.  In a very real way, excellence doesn’t exist - only opinions do; and opinions may or may not have value.  Once again, that depends on who is receiving the notion (opinion) and whether or not they buy into it with psychological money. 

A Story:

I’ve mentioned, over the years, numerous times - the story of Beethoven and “his” critic.  Beethoven composed his first symphony.  He gathered an orchestra for its premiere performance.  A particular critic was there - one who writes for the local news (so to speak).  The critic hated the music and dissed Beethoven’s efforts with the shrill of a cicada.  He talked about the opening; he discussed thematic material, approach, development and the rest.  Years later, Beethoven introduced his 5th symphony.  The same critic was still working his harmonica of opinions saying (approximately) that the symphony motifs are repetitious and boring, continuing on and on, how there was nothing worthy presented in this new symphony. His closing query was, “why is it that Beethoven cannot write something so profound as his first symphony?”  The critic had forgotten his scribblings years back about Beethoven’s 1st symphony and now openly celebrated it as a masterpiece - overlooking the petite fact that he said he hated the first symphony and was appalled.   At least, the critic has left us with a humorous story regarding the painful approximation of reality and perception and the human’s ego thinking it has something important to say.

Almost a Summary: 

At best, it seems that the things of life - all things - are illusionary on their best cosmic day.  Is it that we, the humble servants of the All, can somehow tune into “this is judged to be great or miserable” and the opinion is miraculously true?  Is there truth regarding the quality of poetry?  Is there truth that this art is “good or lousy?”  Throw paint from a ladder to a canvas; throw words into a poem; throw notes onto a page: is there an inherent, definable “this is good, this is bad”, “‘this is excellent, this is not?”  Jackson Pollack found himself the first American artist with an authentic international appeal.  Was his art “excellent or not?”  Did his tossing paint onto a canvas mean anything other than he could do it with passion?  Was Debussy not Mozart?  Was Schoenberg not Beethoven?  Were any of them excellent?  Does it matter?  And if so, which critic, which critique is correct - the yea or nay of artistic efforts?  Is it, at the finish line, that critiques will remain in the bondage of human imperfection and will never rise above it . . . as it cannot.

Final Thought: 

The question is being offered, “what makes a poem excellent?”  And I’m saying, who is to claim it is excellent or not?
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: eluckring on February 19, 2014, 02:15:16 AM
Kala,
thank you very much for introducing me to the concept of rasa/rasika.

and I also really appreciate that quote from Pound that Richard has offered:

Quote
When I find people ridiculing the new arts, or making fun of the clumsy odd terms that we use in trying to talk of them amongst ourselves; when they laugh at our talking about the “ice-block quality” in Picasso, I think it is only because they do not know what thought is like, and they are familiar only with argument and gibe and opinion. That is to say, they can only enjoy what they have been brought up to consider enjoyable, or what some essayist has talked about in mellifluous phrases. They think only "the shells of thought" . . . (Pound, Gaudier-Brzeska, 1916 [my emphasis]).

All of this makes me think that perhaps, it is time for Judge Grenier to make an entrance:

http://www.roadrunnerjournal.net/pages111/scorpion_22.pdf (http://www.roadrunnerjournal.net/pages111/scorpion_22.pdf)

It fascinated me that Grenier was removed from the latest
edition of Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology,
presumably to make room for some new additions, or...

We celebrated here in Los Angeles by doing a reading of all the poets
that were removed from this latest edition--47 in all-- including
Charles Bukowski, Amy Gerstler, David Antin, Diane Wakoski,
and Jerome Rothenberg.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Richard Gilbert on February 22, 2014, 05:05:05 AM
What, me worry? a comment on criticism

I'd like to comment on what Eve wrote (below quoted). Also, thank you Kala for adding to the conversation on aesthetic arrest -- you bring up the topic of self-critique also -- I recall that Denise Levertov (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denise_Levertov) advised (perhaps in The Poet in the World, 1973) for the poet the development of a "second reader" an internal as-if reader, as if autonomous and independent of the "1st author" -- who "reads" your work objectively, so to speak, as a critical move. (I think of this as a life-work -- it's a familiar concept in the arts, no doubt.)

Re-reading Grenier's Scorpion Prize essay (http://www.roadrunnerjournal.net/pages111/scorpion_22.pdf), I keenly feel the hole left by the Roadrunner Haiku Journal (http://www.roadrunnerjournal.net/pages_all/archive.htm) hiatus. Scott and Paul succeeded in soliciting notable literary figures outside of haiku to select and judge Roadrunner issues, brilliant! One witnesses the genre, reflected through their own biases, as well. Quite educational. Grenier's humor is refreshing, in part because his playful pose at ignorance sparkles with gleaming insights, like Disney elves.

Something Eve discusses is the omission of Grenier and others in the "latest edition of Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology" (2nd ed., 2013). I have the 1st ed. on my shelves, and was surprised to read this. The following is a "Riposte" essay, addressing the matter. It's wide-ranging:

"Ripostes"
Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology, by Paul Hoover, ed.
Review by Michael Robbins (July 2013): http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/article/246092 (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/article/246092)

This essay ably demonstrates not only excellent criticism, but also some of the reasons why criticism is vital in arts culture. Within are longstanding issues in contemporary criticism: canonicity, institutions (& -alities), academia, in-groups, posturing, poetry versus ideology. The critical voice and the scope of criticism determines, over an era (in 15-20 year chunks, lately), how we will learn as students, how textbooks will be created, whom will be included, whom and what left out. "Value" is ascribed, achievements are are lauded, and as seen in Robbins, critics along with poets are taken to task for their foibles, misfeasance, lack of talent or "taste." I believe this would include Paul Miller's first definition of "criticism," of the two he quoted earlier -- so let's not be too shy:

Quote
1) indicate the faults of (someone or something) in a disapproving way
 2) form and express a sophisticated judgment of (a literary or artistic work)

Several posters in FN have commented that critics are problematic, doubtful in value, or even unnecessary. Nothing could be further from the truth, as a blanket statement. Consider the situational role and importance (anthologized, widely discussed, socially networked) of Helen Vendler's notable 2004 Jefferson Lecture at the National Endowment for the Arts, "The Ocean, the Bird and the Scholar (http://www.neh.gov/about/awards/jefferson-lecture/helen-vendler-lecture)." A paragraph in her lecture reads:

Quote
If the arts are so satisfactory an embodiment of human experience, why do we need studies commenting on them? Why not merely take our young people to museums, to concerts, to libraries? There is certainly no substitute for hearing Mozart, reading Dickinson, or looking at the boxes of Joseph Cornell. Why should we support a brokering of the arts; why not rely on their direct impact? The simplest answer is that reminders of art's presence are constantly necessary. As art goes in and out of fashion, some scholar is always necessarily reviving Melville, or editing Monteverdi, or recommending Jane Austen. Critics and scholars are evangelists, plucking the public by the sleeve, saying "Look at this," or "Listen to this," or "See how this works." It may seem hard to believe, but there was a time when almost no one valued Gothic art, or, to come closer to our own time, Moby-Dick and Billy Budd.

A more recent example of the critic's role in preserving cultural memory (and relevant to haiku studies) might be Marjorie Perloff's short article, "Take Five" (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/article/245642) (April 2013), published on "the centennial of 1913, that annus mirabilis for avant-garde poetry." I'm also reminded of Hugh Kenner (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Kenner). From his obit (2003) written by close friend William F. Buckley:

"[Kenner] was among the finest writers of critical prose in America. He was one of the few commentators whose books and articles cause delight and stand as literary achievements in their own right..."(National Review, 4 April 2008 (http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/224096/hugh-kenner-rip/william-f-buckley-jr); print pub., December 2003)

From The New York Times: "Hugh Kenner, the critic, author and professor of literature regarded as America's foremost commentator on literary modernism . . . [was best known] for his pioneering guide to English-language literary modernism and for his books "Dublin's Joyce" (1956), "The Pound Era" (1971) and "Joyce's Voices" (1978) ... In these works and others he employed the techniques proposed by the writers themselves to define new standards by which to judge their work. . . . Over time his prose style grew increasingly graceful, witty and accessible, prompting C. K. Stead, writing in The Times Literary Supplement, to call him "the most readable of living critics." (25 November 2003 (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/25/books/25KENN.html))

From The Guardian: "[Kenner] produced some of the most perceptive accounts of literary modernism ... Kenner adapted his critical style to suit the particular author under scrutiny, following Dr Johnson's observation that literary criticism must be regarded as part of literature or be abandoned altogether. His work avoids academic jargon, and draws on a massive range of influences, seeing connections and parallels in unlikely places. In a Los Angeles Times review, Richard Eder said of Kenner's proactive approach that "he jumps in, armed and thrashing. He crashes [literature], like a partygoer... You could not say whether his talking or listening is done with greater intensity." (28 November 2003 (http://www.theguardian.com/news/2003/nov/28/guardianobituaries.books))

Sound exciting? It is! Great criticism is an art, is "regarded as part of literature." Good criticism (like good philosophy, good love, the best learning or craft practice) can transform a life. Open you up, enlighten, inspire, ignite a passion for passionate understanding. Good critics (speaking here of rasa, as Kala states it) are not irrevocably to be placed a class separate from poets (Bashō himself made his fame as a critic, with Kai Ōi [The Seashell Game], "a judging of the Left and the Right," at the age of 29, if it matters). Though (as with any art form) there seem few in a given era who demonstrate a sustained level of excellence. Fewer yet who vibe with you (as with poets, eh?) -- the patient difficulty is in finding them.

Vendler mentions Melville's Billy Budd; the manuscript was discovered in the 1920s by Raymond Weaver, a professor at Columbia, of whom Allen Ginsberg, his student in the 1940s, said "was the only professor who had integrity" (American Scream, Jonah Raskin, p.xiii). In the 1980s-90s, Ginsberg, in multiple roles as world-traveling poet, scholar-professor, and critic, taught Melville -- which is to say, taught in the lineage of Weaver (cf. Expansive Poetics 11 -- Herman Melville (http://ginsbergblog.blogspot.com/2013/12/expansive-poetics-11-herman-melville.html) and Mind, Mouth and Page 1 -- Williams (http://ginsbergblog.blogspot.com/2012/04/mind-mouth-and-page-1-williams.html)). Poet/professor/critics are numerous; in North America, two recent luminaries would be Anne Carson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Carson) (b. 1950; professor at McGill, Princeton; MacArthur Fellow, etc.) and A.R. Ammons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.R._Ammons) (b. 1926-2001; a Cornell professor for 34 years).

Unless one has that experience of aesthetic arrest in reading a critic, has that experience of dwelling, contemplating, thinking new thoughts, deepening -- does the critic remain relatively superficial, a statuesque icon on an elitist stage? Some snobby book or movie reviewer let's say -- condescending or smarmy. Yet if one does delve into the near-canonical likes of Barthes, Benjamin, Kenner, Paz, Perloff, Vendler (some of the names mentioned in this thread), might something wondrous await in the form of illumination, fire, real heart? As Kenner puts it:

"'The life of the mind in any age coheres thanks to shared assumptions both explicit and tacit, between which lines of casualty may not be profitably traceable. . . .The life of the mind in any age -- there are common themes, and they have different languages." (interview by Harvey Blume, Bookwire, March 2001 (http://web.archive.org/web/20100103161939/http://bookwire.com/bookwire/bbr/reviews/March2001/hugh_kenner_thegrandtour.htm))

Common themes -- different languages. Let's stretch a bit. To be or not become, more well-informed. It's irrelevant to me whether "learned" exists as a final goal or backstop -- what matters is the learner, and the learning. And if we are to live in a post-apocalyptic world, possibly (according to current entertainment media) populated with vampires and zombies -- said to be impossible but they may find a way -- that I might huddle in some tallow-lit hut, and talk about The Kenner and his marvelous ways, perhaps read from this page 259 scrap of his; you know, the pages that are left.

Kala,
thank you very much for introducing me to the concept of rasa/rasika.

and I also really appreciate that quote from Pound that Richard has offered:

Quote
When I find people ridiculing the new arts, or making fun of the clumsy odd terms that we use in trying to talk of them amongst ourselves; when they laugh at our talking about the “ice-block quality” in Picasso, I think it is only because they do not know what thought is like, and they are familiar only with argument and gibe and opinion. That is to say, they can only enjoy what they have been brought up to consider enjoyable, or what some essayist has talked about in mellifluous phrases. They think only "the shells of thought" . . . (Pound, Gaudier-Brzeska, 1916 [my emphasis]).

All of this makes me think that perhaps, it is time for Judge Grenier to make an entrance:

http://www.roadrunnerjournal.net/pages111/scorpion_22.pdf (http://www.roadrunnerjournal.net/pages111/scorpion_22.pdf)

It fascinated me that Grenier was removed from the latest
edition of Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology,
presumably to make room for some new additions, or...

We celebrated here in Los Angeles by doing a reading of all the poets
that were removed from this latest edition--47 in all-- including
Charles Bukowski, Amy Gerstler, David Antin, Diane Wakoski,
and Jerome Rothenberg.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Chris Patchel on February 23, 2014, 02:11:28 PM
I have split thoughts (as usual) about the topic of haiku criticism. I often want more from it, and conversely find some of it a stretch (which comes off like overcompensation for a haiku inferiority complex). But reading the latest book reviews in the winter issues of Frogpond and Modern Haiku confirms another general impression. Though the haiku world sometimes feels small and self-contained we’re fortunate to have a good many excellent poets who can wear a critics hat equally well, making conscientious assessments and providing insightful windows into haiku collections. There are exceptions on occasion—mismatched poets & reviewers, uncritical praise (love the Hemingway quote above), and reviews that miss completely. But even those are often corrected or balanced by other reviews.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on February 23, 2014, 06:57:24 PM
I'm reminded of the "seminal" (Seminole) essay by Hillman 'Disappearance of the Word, Appearance of the World,' ( which claims there was no definition of the sentence per se until...) and of the many (17?) books of non-grammatical poems of Bruce Andrews: both of which and all of which were presumably written in the name of the proletariat or for the freeing of the purblind proletariat with its resignation to the misunderstanding of its language ( a man/woman who speaks a language knows that language).  There was no other occasion for this work and I have to admit that I was in graduate school around the time these guys were writing and studying neo-Marxist criticism and frankly no one ever mentioned any of their names (although this might have been an oversight).
All very fascinating and impressive to be sure.
But a 5' tall basketball player cannot dunk; a 7' player can.
One nail can join a number of pieces of wood (whatever) depending on how thick.
A box of nails or boxes can built a house.
All of the remarks are outstanding, but why do you seem to imply that they relate to haiku as opposed to poetry and if haiku needs a criticism, which it surely does, why doesn't that come from the poems rather than be imposed upon the poems?
Can you place any of the haiku written in historical perspective or is haiku out of this world?  I don't mean a history of the changes or accretions added to the form. I mean is there a historical dimension, a social dimension to haiku or is it outside of time?
Views was written with Shirane in mind, who claimed that until ELH had developed a depth significant enough to warrant a criticism it couldn't be taken seriously. Rather than doing individual readings of poets, or the opus of a poet, Views actually locates the socio-historical-psychological depths of the haiku extant. That was its contribution and unfortunately only Johannes Berg saw fit to review it.  It was promised a review in one of the other "illustrious" haiku journals, with a 9 month wait (to give it the time it so richly deserved), but alas it was the editor's fault, I was told, that kept it from ever being reviewed there.  Seems to me I am not being pevish.  Seems to me that a person's art and their character are one and the same. Without a real character, what can we expect expect excellence in artifice.
In one of the last issues of Rr, the Scorpion Prize was awarded by Craig Dworkin, who, for my money, is America's best living critic. He found all the neo stuff to be cryptic minimalism (which doesn't bother me, since this is how I take it) and awarded the prize to a haiku (please refer to his comments; I'm simply to lazy to quote).
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on February 23, 2014, 08:35:05 PM
As an aside: I thought of all the Daoists Zhuangzi was the relativist, believing that a human being being limited and knowledge being limitless, a human being could never hope to approach transcendence.
One last word, before the posse comes: The moderator of this site, one of the few who actually listened to my 2 hr diatribe about haiku, pointed out to me that while most people who used cameras took snapshots that did not disqualify those who practiced art with a camera.
I did not reply. What he had said was evident. And, I did not want to say that unlike photography, haiku had not produced anywhere near the number of masters of art as photography had, as this would have been an unhappy state or condition for both of us.
If only one, and the one most suited in my opinion, to step outside of haiku and find a publisher and establish the art as equivalent to any other poetry would have been John Martone (as he is a poet writing haiku, not a haiku poet), then and only then would others have been added in time, based on the standard he had set and things would have been different now.
So endeth my piece and I expect so sharpen the blades of those who believe in cutting. As I find ambiguity to be the one and most significant cut available in the English language, the one means by which to stop thought in its tracks, and as those who believe in Orientalism, regardless of the fact that the Chinese (I believe Zhuangzi was Chinese) have only, and in small degree, acknowledged some excellence in the work of Basho.  It was not merely their hatred of the Japanese that kept them from this bestowal of approval- after all scholars are scholars- but perhaps it is because compared to the greatest of Chinese philosophers and poets the Japanese forms were renditions in the first instance and all qualified poets studied and wrote in the Chinese style and language first, before beginning their own practice.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on February 24, 2014, 07:08:54 AM
I hope this last post of mine is not the kiss of death.
I say this, not as wish-fulfillment-but as my experience has been that whenever I say something it ends up being the end of the long line of thoughts that preceded it.
I hope that is not the case.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Gary Hotham on February 24, 2014, 10:34:26 AM
24 February 2014

1/ re Galmitz last post: "I say this, not as wish-fulfillment-but as my experience has been that whenever I say something it ends up being the end of the long line of thoughts that preceded it."

OK. I'll let Galmiz not be the last for now.  Unless he posts again.  And then maybe someone else can save him from the end.

2/ re Galmitz: "Views was written with Shirane in mind, who claimed that until ELH had developed a depth significant enough to warrant a criticism it couldn't be taken seriously."

It does put the critic in the role of a god who has the last word.  Not that we shouldn't have them or that criticism is a bad thing but that their ability to discern is not necessarily of the highest standards.  One should always listen to the critic with a grain of salt.

3/ re Galmitz:  "And, I did not want to say that unlike photography, haiku had not produced anywhere near the number of masters of art as photography had, as this would have been an unhappy state or condition for both of us."

But photography has been around much longer than haiku - haiku in English anyway.  So why wouldn't there be more masters of art in photography than haiku.  Otherwise I thought Yovu's comment about   practicing art with the camera that others used for snapshots was a good one to remember about the English language haiku.  The genre can be used to produce much better art than the haiku for a party snapshots one sees.  So don't give up on it.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on February 24, 2014, 11:22:02 AM
Thank you, Gary, for your comments and salvation.
As to photography being around much longer than haiku, it's not quite accurate.
If we recognize Alfred Steiglitz as the man most influential in admitting photography into the modern art world, we can see some of his early "art" photography beginning around 1894.
Pound's Station of the Metro was published in 1913. Not that great a difference in time from 1894.
And, I would say, without proof, that Pound's poem Metro remains and probably will always remain the greatest English language haiku written. 
As to haiku being a religion- something taken up by others and kicked into infinity- I can only say God help us. It seems to come mostly from non-Orientals, that is, those whose religious background comes from the monotheistic religions, because with their statements come a lot of sound and fury and in the East, well, the Dao doesn't care.
Anyway, thanks bro.  I still write haiku occassionally and enjoy doing so.  Why not?
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on February 24, 2014, 11:34:33 AM
Just a short note without gloss:
when a poet, writing in whatever form or genre (hey, wait, I thought the idea of genre had been dispensed with decades ago {which would make this whole section obsolete} uses words and images that are so distinct and cannot be used again without recall of the original - BLACK BOUGH -  for instance, you know something is going on there.  I mean what else do we see when we look at trees in rain and snow and and and Black Boughs and u can't use the phrase and you can't find a suitable substitute.
So much like Williams's "glazed with rain water." Such a line will always be at your tongue in your hand at your penpoint and you can't use it it belongs to someone else already.  That's poetry.
And for those with the temerity to have claimed that Williams's first line "so much depends" was dispensible ought to go back to school or else study or read a bit deeper.  The whole fucking poem depends on depends.
Much as "there was a jar in Tennessee" by Wallace Stevens.
Love
Jack
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Karen Cesar on February 24, 2014, 12:37:48 PM
In reading Jack's comments, I found the following site helpful:


http://eclipsearchive.org/authors.html


In terms of history and the way our minds try to organize/find/ impose meaning, something I found interesting regarding 'critique' is that in dipping in here and there on the referenced site  ( and I'm not sure which poem sparked this) one poem had the words 'green' and 'mile' in close proximity. My mind immediately went to the movie The Green Mile which would not have been in the poet's frame of reference due to when poem and movie came out, but which was obviously in mine.How often do we automatically do this I wonder?  And how resistant my mind is to 'the breaking of the vessel.' Thanks for an interesting & thought provoking thread.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Gary Hotham on February 24, 2014, 03:58:57 PM
24 Feb 2014

1/ re Galmitz: "As to photography being around much longer than haiku, it's not quite accurate.  If we recognize Alfred Steiglitz as the man most influential in admitting photography into the modern art world, we can see some of his early "art" photography beginning around 1894."

There was excellent photography before Steiglitz.  Also in the early days of photography it was difficult to be an amateur.  And the Civil War photographers created photos by moving bodies and weapons around.  What would they have done with digital!  Steiglitz had an easier technology to work with.  Sort of like the haiku writers now don't have to deal with 5-7-5 syllable counts.  I suspect some don't even know there was such an inhibition!  Even without 5-7-5 it doesn't make it easier to write a good one.  Actually 5-7-5 makes it easy...

2/ re Galmitz: " Pound's Station of the Metro was published in 1913. Not that great a difference in time from 1894. And, I would say, without proof, that Pound's poem Metro remains and probably will always remain the greatest English language haiku written."

Pound may have written Station of the Metro in 1913 but where did the English language haiku go in the next 50 years?  I wonder if he was consciously writing a haiku at all.   It is sort of a fluke. And I would certainly agree at this time there is not much  proof for it being "the greatest English language haiku written."  I wonder when the Japanese realized Basho had written the greatest haiku of all time?
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: newtonp on February 24, 2014, 04:50:31 PM

What is excellence in haiku and haiku-inspired poems? And is this a useful question?
   
It is always useful to talk poetry. Having said that, excellence is a subjective term. A judge’s ruling, so to speak. According to the laws of the land. There are many laws, rules in the land of haiku. To my ear, an excellent haiku is one I want to read again, remember and live with for the rest of my life.

A talisman of words that are threateningly obvious. A discovery of an unrealized reverence for life:

low tide:
all the people
stoop

(Anita Virgil)

Prayer beads of syllables. An instant appreciation. A visceral knowledge:

gone from the woods
the bird I knew
by song alone

(Paul O. Williams)

An excellent haiku needs to possess a certain clarity. Don’t know about others but I find overly intellectualized dense wordliness inscrutable as stone soup. A bit too tricky for my taste. See what I mean. No accounting for taste.

But others who admire hidden riddles and crossword puzzles might have a mind for a different kind of excellence. Excellence is when 9 out of 10 readers say: oh or wow or cool. Of course, who are the readers? You see the trouble with excellence. If we have a group of generally agreed upon arbiters of excellence then maybe we can agree on the best of the best. Plenty of arbiters to go around. But I think a poet knows when he's on the mark. Or at least within striking distance.

More practically speaking, maybe another approach to asking one big question in haiku: what is excellence? It may be useful to break it down into a series of smaller questions which when addressed individually to individual poems might contribute to an overall outstanding poem.

The overall question then becomes not what is an excellent haiku but how do we make our haiku excellent?

An excellent poem doesn’t forget the basics but exhibits an accumulation of talents and skills. I found this list below helpful when I came across it online years ago.

9 QUESTIONS TO ASK OF YOUR HAIKU:

(Taken from Anita Virgil’s interview on the blog, Haiku Chronicles, Episode 8, “The Crafting of Haiku” The interview was conducted by Donna Beaver and Al Pizzarelli)

#1.    Is it one particular event in the present?

#2.    Is it a moment in which the poet views with fresh insight and awareness? Some common occurrence that points out the inter-relatedness of man and nature?

#3.    Is it objectively presented? Does it allow the reader to experience the emotion, or does it tell the reader what to feel?

#4.    Does it avoid simile, metaphor, personification, clichés?

#5.    Does each word serve a vital function in re-creating the poet’s moment of deep response? Has your selection of words, the order in which you placed them, their sound, their tempo captured the quality of the experience?

#6.    If the poem allows for more than one interpretation through choice of words or punctuation or line breaks, does this add to or detract from the poem?

#7.    Has it growth potential? Does it convey more emotion than is experienced at the first reading?

#8.    What is the value of what the poet conveys?

#9.     Is this one of the very few poems that can be said to contain universal significance?

I sometimes refer to these questions when revising a few of my haiku. Most poems I write tell me where to go next. At times, it’s helpful to interrogate a poem. Make it stand up for itself. If it can do that, it has a chance at making something of itself.

An excellent haiku shows no sign of having been put through its paces. The ones above or any other rigorous renovation of words. Oh and then there’s the magic and the mystery. Key ingredients there’s no accounting for. But overall, an excellent haiku is an accurate reshaping of “the poet’s moment of deep response” as Virgil puts it above. It’s personal to the point of relating to us all.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on February 24, 2014, 05:06:30 PM
While there were photographers who might be called artistic before Steiglitz, I think it is historically indisputable that he was responsible for the creation of photography as a medium capable of art as much as painting and sculpture.  With the aid of Edward Steichen, they created 291, on Fifth Avenue, an art studio that contributed towards the acceptance not only of photography as a legitimate art form, but also championed the modern art movement, which was in its beginning stages. It was at 291 that the works of Picasso, Rodin, Brancusi were exhibited. It was through the offices of Steiglitz that photography and modern art gained credence in the early 20C.
As to Pound's Station of the Metro, it was no fluke. He was working on theories for imagism and vorticism and it was through, at this time,  the (perhaps poor) translations from the Chinese of Ernest Fenollosa and his work The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry that Pound came to write the poems of Cathay (which WCW called amongst the most beautiful poems every written in the English language) and his haiku- The Metro.
As to not giving proof, well, I am really much too tired to have to convince anyone of anything they won't be convinced of anyway.  Let us just say that the haiku "the apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet black bough" is so fraught with a veil of ambiguity, undecipherability, as well as clarity and precision and that that contrast is repeated incrementally and variously in the second portion of the poem, not to mention that forever after "black bough" has belonged to the man, it didn't seem necessary to have to justify the statement I made.
Actually, it was through Pound and this poem that Pound released the ideals of modernism on the world: " to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of the metronome."
The poem and its relationship to imagism inspired the writing of WC Williams, H.D., amongst others too numerous to mention.
As to the next fifty years, I think there was Paul Reps and then the Beats and after, well, that's up to you how you see it.  But, as to the use of concision and parsing of language to the bone in Metro, not to mention the absolute exquisite beauty of it and the comparison of the vague faces with fallen petals and the darkness of the station and the wet black bough, well, tell me pal what isn't there to like and what poem can you find to put up against it?
As to Basho, well, he wrote in Japanese, so as to whether his poems were equivalently beautiful is beyond my ability to say, as I do not read Japanese.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on February 24, 2014, 05:13:26 PM
Newtonp
and with all due respect, perhaps I am a culture vulture and nothing more, but Anita Virgil's rules for haiku lack the substance and insight of the lineage of poets and critics since Ezra Pound's Metro and their assessment of it.
I mean if we compare the poem Virgil is offering a variation on, that is, Chiyo-ni's
things picked up
 all start to move
 low-tide beach
I think we can see that
"everyone stoops," is kind of funny and ungainly and hardly in keeping with the original.  Especially when one considers that besides bending the word "stoop" also implies a loss of dignity (it doesn't seem a well-chosen word).
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Philip Rowland on February 25, 2014, 09:45:29 PM
Richard cited Helen Vendler among other inspiring critics; problems with anthologies have also been mentioned—omissions from the new edition of Postmodern American Poetry; in an earlier thread, HIE. Peter Yovu also said something interesting (though I can’t find it now) about Craig Dworkin’s reading of a haiku by Cherie Hunter Day (looking “into” her words). All of which reminded me of some comments on Vendler’s editing of The Harvard Book of Contemporary American Poetry, by another fine critic, Charles Bernstein. His argument (against, in part, complacency in the judging of excellence) seems relevant to some aspects of the discussion here. This is from his verse-essay, “Artifice of Absorption” (in A Poetics, Harvard University Press, 1992):

… As Vendler puts it,
“When we first read a poem we read it
illusionistically; later we may see its art.”
Vendler’s selections, insofar as they
do display linguistic self-consciousness, are
restricted to doing so in terms of discursive
stylistic practices. Disjunction
is almost entirely absent from the poems selected.

Vendler is very much under the spell of
realist & mimetic ideas about poetry. In this
sense, she still has much to learn from Stevens &
Ashbery. …
… But perhaps the most irritating thing about
Vendler’s manner of argument is that it is always
referring to what “all” poems do, making it
impossible for her to even consider that some poems
may come into being just because they don’t do what
some other poems have done. Vendler says
she hopes readers will be provoked by some of the
anthologized poems to say—“’Heavens, I recognize
the place, I know it!’ It is the effect every poet
hopes for.” I would hope
readers might be provoked to say of some poems,
“Hell, I don’t recognize the place or the time or
the ‘I’ in this sentence. I don’t know it.”

Earlier in this thread, Michael Dylan Welch and others argued for promoting the work of the best haiku poets so as to reach a wider audience. I’d add that it might be as important for the poets themselves to reach other audiences by reading and submitting their poems to publications that don’t specialize in haiku (but might, judging from the poet-reader’s interest in the work published there, be interested), despite the reduced chances of acceptance. This process could also be seen as a useful kind of criticism, especially if one agrees with the idea that “Poetry has no intrinsic categories,” as Laura Riding and Robert Graves state in their Pamphlet against Anthologies (1928).

Now I can’t resist sharing a provocative passage from their closely related Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927), in which they present their idea of an "ideal" or “genuinely modernist” poem:

“The ideal modernist poem is its own clearest, fullest, and most accurate meaning. Therefore the modernist poet does not have to talk about the use of images ‘to render particulars exactly’, since the poem does not give a rendering of a poetical picture or idea existing outside the poem, but presents the literal substance of poetry, a newly-created thought-activity: the poem has the character of a creature by itself. Imagism, on the other hand, and all other similar dead movements, took for granted the principle that poetry was a translation of certain kinds of subjects into the language that would bring the reader emotionally closest to them. It was assumed that a natural separation existed between the reader and the subject, to be bridged by the manner in which it was presented.”
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on February 26, 2014, 08:26:05 AM
The didactic (could it be?) poem by Bernstein is interesting, as is the essay by Graves and Riding, but just a few words about them.
Naturally, or unnaturally to be more accurate, language and world never meet, so it is "true" that the "ideal" modernist poem would not refer to nor need confirmation re relativity towards another world than its own.
However, the problem, at least as I see it, is that language, the new language-event, the creature in itself, however framed and referenced always will reference a world that while self-referential nevertheless refers to an image-idea of a world for which and from which it derived.  In other words, while language never reaches a referent it always has a signified, a reference to such.
So, the use of their word "subject," for instance, really means "object," doesn't it? The "dead" idea of a subject; but subject is interior? or does it mean subject as in object, that is, what something is about?
Funny, but if you read some of the poems of Riding and Graves you will find that they must- there is no other recourse in language (because it has "meaning") always mention, refer to a subject that is both in the poem and something thought of (meant- referent) outside of the poem): example, "dream" or "the world and I" or in "due form," whatever. In short, though the modernist poem may be referring to itself and language and events within the poem alone, it cannot help but, it cannot separate itself from what I take, perhaps incorrectly, as the basis of language, its reference, even if abstractly and not precisely, to things. Though each word may have only a sound mental-image and a meaning ( a reference) and no referent, nonetheless all words seem to yearn ( is that not what Riding writes in The World and I?) for such a relationship.
As to calling those who wrote high modernism, Pound for instance, writers of dead poems, if there was any fairness in the evaluation and not an attempt to usurp the time to themselves and their writing- think of pan here and how he became the devil with the advent of christianity- well, they would merely apply their own standards, as would Bernstein, and show that in Pound's/Eliot's poems, whatever the prejudice they claim existed in these poets, they would show, repeat, how the poems worked as poems only can work, that is, just the way they say they do and that these high modernists' works were new word-thought events, too,did not refer to a separate subject, etc.
As to Stevens, why yes, indeed, he makes it quite clear that human creation is not natural but brings nature to order, as in In Jar and The Idea of Order, and The Blue Guitar, et al.  But just look at those words- are they not sounds, i.e., mental-images, with reference and meaning, though lacking in a referent (an outside object; words as mere approximations always yearning for their imaginary solids).
So, interesting quotes indeed, Philip, and interesting thoughts, and thanks for that.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on February 26, 2014, 08:38:17 AM
Not to kick a dead horse, but we shouldn't forget that while language (never mind the exclusiveness of poetry, since, at least according to the philosphy of Bernstein and Riding and Graves, what they say about poetry applies equally to all language) may never be about things, it sure does help in the language loop (besides the fact that Bernstein et al are speaking in the Swiss, French tradition, not the Anglo tradition).
WC Williams, for instance, a writer surely of dead proportions- NO THOUGHTS BUT IN THINGS- god what an idiot, was a doctor and it certainly helped to have words refer to body parts and not just be sprung newly minted creatures in themselves on pages, else he wouldn't have been able to deliver Allen Ginsberg and serve all the sick in Paterson, N.J.
All this is not exactly in keeping with Wittgenstein either is it?  A man who speaks a language knows the language- enough said.  Bernstein could learn something himself from Williams- the world is built upon these non-existent, non-referent bearing things called words.  There would be no world to be separate from words if not for words (which built the world).
Dead of not, modernist or not, obsolete or not, Pound's Metro is still the greatest haiku ever written in the English language says I.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Excellence
Post by: Tomdevelyn on February 26, 2014, 12:04:24 PM
For the ancients, excellence is another word for virtue. Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Apply this to poetry and you see that a poem comes about because of habits of perception and expression, and these habits are acquired by repetition, practice. Poets practice poetry.

The name haiku sticks to lots of different kinds of verse. We need a taxonomy of haiku. Looking at the world-wide phenomenon of haiku-in-English, it seems that there are basically two practices of haiku: one that goes back to the Japanese form, and one that departs from this form. It “seems” this way from the look of the poems on the page. The more traditional haiku, which I shall call hokku, look like what we have been taught a Japanese haiku looks like. The other kind – let’s call it ku -- doesn’t. I have already discussed a number of “ku” as found in volume 8 of NOON. I shall be posting more pieces on such “ku” at formsofauthority.wordpress.com

Hokku reflect traditional practices that have roots in Chinese Taoist culture (see Pipei Qiu, Basho and the Tao). The practice of Taoism is very complex but not impossible today. There is a vivid scholarly debate on just what beliefs Taoism entails; see especially now Brook Ziporyn (Ironies of Oneness and Difference, SUNY 2012). The central belief is that of the Tao as “Mother,” the fertile void. Modern interpretations of “Mother” as Nothingness need revamping, according to Ziporyn; Taoism is not to be confused with modern nihilism. Nothing is a relative matter; the Taoist is a relativist. Well, it’s complicated, and eventually Taoist coherence is ironic, according to Ziporyn.

The practices that promote hokku may be seen in Mark Brager’s piece I found it on the Simply Haiku Winter 2013 website: Brager is a featured poet there.

Quote
pale blossoms . . .
the first of many
blackbirds


The way this hokku taps into the fertile void is not as simple as it looks. Essential to the fertile void is finitude: this is nicely touched upon in the “kigo” “pale blossoms.” The paleness suggests the finitude of the blossoms: they are almost beyond the pale of the life that they express. The two-line base of the hokku reaches into the contemplative sources of understanding. Within the strictures of temporal existence, pale things, seen in their abundance, almost make one forget finitude, almost give one the feeling of oceanic infinity. This joy is sourced in the fertile void. It has no other ground.

The irony of the poem is that the reference in the base is not to the multitude of pale blossoms but to another multitude, this time one less endearing, perhaps, and certainly marked by difference: blackbirds!

The swerve caused by “blackbirds” reframes the image that had been aborning in the reader’s mind. We now know from Ziporyn that this kind of irony is essential to Taoism. That is, the kind of coherence Taoism trains us to “see” is ironic. It is not Confucian; it is not “ideological.” It depends on a further, transcendent source of truth, the truth we can never possess but in our best moments may feel truthful to. Hokku is truthful or mindful of such ironic truth.

But without the firm establishment of the community of creatures under the sign of the fertile void, the poetic image is no sign but a sort of echo of a subject, perhaps of the poet, perhaps of a persona the poet assumes when being a poet. At least for the hokku community – and self-awareness regarding these roots is limited by circumstances-- community is rooted in practice, the practice of the Tao.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Gary Hotham on February 26, 2014, 09:52:00 PM
Re Galmitz:  "Pound's Metro is still the greatest haiku ever written in the English language says I."

Yes, I think it would be good to provide some evidence for the judgement about Pound's Metro in a critical essay.  Have you read the essay, "Ezra Pound and In a Station of the Metro," by Nick Avis?  Right here on the The Haiku Foundation website:  http://www.thehaikufoundation.org/2009/11/17/fluence-1-part-1/  You might interact with that essay since it is focused on whether or not Pound's poem is a haiku.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on February 27, 2014, 06:00:53 AM
Sorry, Gary, but I think I'll pass on Nick Avis's opinion about Ezra Pound.
All the best to you,
Jack
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Excellence
Post by: Gary Hotham on February 27, 2014, 09:41:08 AM
27 February 2014

Take the Challenge

re Philip Rowland's:  "Earlier in this thread, Michael Dylan Welch and others argued for promoting the work of the best haiku poets so as to reach a wider audience. I’d add that it might be as important for the poets themselves to reach other audiences by reading and submitting their poems to publications that don’t specialize in haiku (but might, judging from the poet-reader’s interest in the work published there, be interested), despite the reduced chances of acceptance."

I would strongly second this as a way of creating a wider audience for haiku. I think most haiku poets enjoy poetry in general and probably subscribe to and read various literary and poetry journals.  I encourage those who are writing the excellent haiku that we see in the mainstream haiku journals to take the challenge and submit their work to those other poetry and literary journals.  I have done this  for many years now. It can be rather discouraging - especially if one's work is usually accepted for publication in those mainstream haiku journals.  My haiku have showed up in various non-haiku journals but mostly the experience is one of form rejection slips - or form e-mails now.  Sometimes one receives an actual comment by the editor for the rejection - such as:  we never publish haiku; haiku are too short for us; haiku don't fit our format; appreciate the craft of haiku but we don't publish them; I don't have a way to judge good ones from bad ones.  The comments don't tell one anything about the quality of the submission.  But by submitting one's best work, if nothing else, the editors will become aware that there is another world of haiku out there than the one they think they know.
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Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Peter Yovu on February 27, 2014, 11:03:51 AM
REQUEST

I posted a request yesterday whose language, it was pointed out to me, may have been misleading.
Here it is again, clarified.

I've been looking into ways to build a greater degree of coherence into Field Note's discussions. It is inevitable that several topics get picked up at once, and at times get tangled.

For now, what I request is that posters make it as clear as possible which previous post or topic they are following at the beginning of their posts. How does it relate to the overall subject of FN5: criticism?

One focus of this discussion was taken from Michael Dylan Welch's initial post, part of which brought up the issue of promoting and demonstrating excellence-- in individual poems and poets-- in the greater poetry world . Which led me to ask: what is excellence as it relates to haiku? What is the role of the critic in this regard?  What are some examples of poems you regard as excellent? Does the question have implications which trouble you? Etc.

As I said, other topics have emerged. But again, if possible, please identify the conversation you are having at the outset. Locate us in your lineage.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Peter Yovu on March 01, 2014, 08:43:38 AM
This post follows Gary Hotham’s recent post above re:  “promoting the work of the best haiku poets so as to reach a wider audience” as stated by Philip Rowland.

Philip goes on to say: “it might be as important for the poets themselves to reach other audiences by reading and submitting their poems to publications that don’t specialize in haiku (but might, judging from the poet-reader’s interest in the work published there, be interested)”

I think that last part is important. I take Philip to mean here that one may be able to determine the possibility of a journal’s willingness to look at haiku by what it has already published. It seems to me a journal which publishes minimalist poetry, for example, might be more inclined to accept haiku than would say, American Poetry Review, or Ploughshares.

However, there are reasons a number of journals put out the “no haiku” sign. One, quite frankly, is that they are looking for poetry. A lot of what is published in haiku journals does not look like, or appear to be poetry. It looks like haiku. In a haiku journal, that may be fine; in  a poetry journal, haiku are likely to stand out as something akin, at best, to translation, as something requiring context.

Qualities that are typically considered to be elements of poetry are often absent in haiku, even what is considered “excellent” haiku. Qualities such as attention to the sounds and rhythms of words or to the image as act of imagination rather than reported picture, while not exactly universals in poetry in general, are rare in haiku. There is a feeling one gets, bolstered by statements made about haiku, that many writers do not see haiku as poetry. If one writes from that point of view, which I am not saying is a bad thing,
perhaps one should not seek publication outside the haiku journals.

I suspect many editors are most open to work that, while it may have a clear form, plays with that form and also tests it. In a sense this is what poetry (or any creative act) is--  a pushing against (womb, world, reality) until something is born.

Haiku, wrongly or rightly, are likely to be seen as asserting and maintaining form. If the energy of creation is reduced to maintaining form, the best one can hope for is a closed system, something which pre-exists and is now replicating itself.

Scott Metz and John Martone are two writers whose work does not announce itself foremost (form-most) as haiku. Gary Hotham’s well known poem

fog.
sitting here
without the mountains

is included in Succinct   The Broadstone Anthology of Short Poems

which also includes work by poets such as Robert Creeley, Galway Kinnell, and Jane Kenyon. I don’t believe the word haiku comes up anywhere in the book. I am reasonably sure that many readers coming upon this poem for the first time and in this context would not decide, upon first or even tenth reading that it is a haiku.

In the context of Modern Haiku, though, one would clearly and happily accept the lineage. In the context of say, Otoliths, which has published some of Metz’ work, one is more likely to see very brief, or minimalist, or even avant garde poems.

The haiku community, (roughly defined by someone on this forum I believe as the group of people who publish in the haiku journals), to a large extent provides the context which determines what haiku is. There are certain parameters beyond which a poem is not likely to recognized as haiku by that community. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing-- but it’s certainly a deeply influential thing. The “ghetto”, as Michael Dylan Welch calls it, pretty much maintains itself.

All of which may be less true in the past ten years than it was earlier. The “community” appears to be more porous, which delights some and disturbs others. But I believe that if one is serious about bringing haiku into the greater community of poetry, one essentially risks change. Attempting to publish, in a “mainstream” poetry journal, something which one holds onto dearly as haiku first and foremost and wants to have embraced as such, is in my opinion bound to result in rejection.

If one wants to publish haiku in any of its currently accepted forms, there are numerous journals available-- and I’m glad for that, truly. But seeking publication in other journals requires a degree of exposure to them which may result in one’s being influenced by what’s beyond the ghetto.

There’s a question most of us have no doubt asked at one point or another, perhaps as teenagers:
can one be oneself and at the same time be open to other? The more mature question becomes, can one be oneself if one is not open to other?

The paradox, I believe, applies to haiku.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Philip Rowland on March 01, 2014, 09:25:16 PM
To respond, first, to Jack’s thoughts on the Riding and Graves extract from A Survey of Modernist Poetry: when they write (disapprovingly) of “a natural separation” being assumed (by Imagists and the like) to exist “between the reader and the subject,” by “subject” I think they just mean “what something is about.” Yes, they were proposing an alternative “modernism” (though keep in mind that this – in 1927 -- was an early use of the term); and they do discuss poems by Eliot, Pound, et al critically in light of their view. Needless to say, in quoting I’m not subscribing to their view of other modernist movements as “dead” (valuable as it is to critique their limitations, as did the Objectivists with respect to Imagism, for instance) or to the ideal of poetry as purely self-referential, though don’t we always try to let a poem as far as possible “interpret itself” (as R & G suggest) in trying to make sense of it? Isn’t the extent to which, in dwelling on a poem, we keep finding layers or webs of interrelated meaning one measure of its excellence?
     
At any rate, it’s an interesting “ideal” (as well as a kind of antidote to Imagism etc.) to which some of Riding’s poems in particular come close. Hard to locate, for instance, much “outside” reference in the poem of hers they quote as an example of “what might be called a modernist poem," "The Rugged Black of Anger" -- which, they claim, seems difficult only because it so straightforwardly “says what it means.” Here’s the first stanza:

The rugged black of anger
Has an uncertain smile-border.
The transition from one kind to another
May be love between neighbour and neighbour
Or natural death; or discontinuance
Because, so small is space,
The extent of kind must be expressed otherwise;
Or loss of kind when proof of no uniqueness
Confutes the broadening edge and discourages.

I suppose part of my point in quoting from Riding and Graves was (on the topic of criticism) to raise the question of whether “the principle that poetry was [merely] a translation of certain kinds of subjects into the language that would bring the reader emotionally closest to them,” which R & G consider to have been taken “for granted” by “dead movements” such as Imagism, has tended to be taken too much for granted by writers of haiku in English. Perhaps one could say (to adopt R & G’s terms) that an excellent haiku does much more than “render a poetical picture or idea existing outside the poem”; that it has more of “the character of a creature by itself.” Examples, examples, I hear Peter say… so here, on the basis of this rather eccentric criterion for excellence, are a couple of haiku that spring to mind (from the latest issue of NOON), by Peter Yovu and Cherie Hunter Day, respectively, both of which seem more creaturely-by-themselves (and more self-referential) than most:

words furred over my awkward animal toward you now

an ashen language in the drive-by of our bones

And here are a couple of excellent ‘oldies’ in the same line of the tradition as the above, by Martin Shea and Robert Boldman:

Moving
     through the criteria –
                           a breeze

leaves blowing into a sentence

Then I think of Mark Harris’s “burl bark grown into a wound a word”… Eve Luckring’s “the metallic taste / of what / I can’t imagine / negative tide"... (It seems there’s been more recurrence of language “itself” as subject-matter in contemporary haiku over the past 10-15 years, giving the impression that it's been catching up, as it were, with developments in the wider scene of postmodern poetry.)

Jack also commented on WCW’S “no ideas but in things,” an idea that relates closely, of course, to haiku. To follow up briefly, here’s George Oppen interpreting it in a way I find helpful: 
“I have always wondered whether that expression didn’t apply to the construction of meaning in a poem—not necessarily that there are out there no ideas but in things, but rather that there would be in the poem no ideas but those which could be expressed through the description of things.” (from an interview with L.S. Dembo in 1968).

I’ve just seen Peter’s latest post; very much agree with his statement: “I suspect many editors [of publications not specialized in haiku] are most open to work that, while it may have a clear form, plays with that form and also tests it. In a sense this is what poetry (or any creative act) is – a pushing against (womb, world, reality) until something is born.” Surely “excellence” is hardly possible without some sort of “testing” of the genre in which one is writing.

Speaking from my own little patch, certainly these are qualities that I’m looking for in choosing what to include in NOON: journal of the short poem, in which none of the haiku are labelled as such; nor, in my opinion, need they be. I want readers to encounter them as poems; and it’s always pleasing when poets and readers who have had, to my knowledge, little or nothing to do with the haiku scene, mention having found certain haiku from an issue particularly interesting and want to seek out more of that poet’s work.

Also good to find Peter’s “answer” to the question I mentioned hoping to raise in connection with the Riding and Graves passage, where he suggests that “Qualities such as attention to the sounds and rhythms of words or to the image as act of imagination rather than reported picture [the latter akin to Riding’s and Graves’s “rendering of a poetical picture … existing outside the poem”] … are rare in haiku.” I would hope, however, that many of the poems in Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years do show “such attention”; likewise, some “testing” (even, subtly, in many of the more “normative” haiku therein).
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Richard Gilbert on March 02, 2014, 11:34:20 AM
Ghetto Creep

Precis
Phil's post above offers much to think about.  My post follows as divertissement, from Don's, "Claiming 'this or that' [work of art, haiku] as excellent is frivolous with the exception of amusement." Charles Bernstein might agree -- he critiques with both frivolity and amusement (though with relevance, bite and depth). My post draws on various additional statements made, for example (italics my emphasis):

Quote
"Michael Dylan Welch and others argued for promoting the work of the best haiku poets so as to reach a wider audience."

"A lot of what is published in haiku journals does not look like, or appear to be poetry. It looks like haiku."

"Sometimes one receives an actual comment by the editor for the rejection ... I don't have a way to judge good ones from bad ones."

"self-awareness [for ELH] regarding these roots is limited by circumstances"

"An excellent haiku needs to possess a certain clarity"

"I find overly intellectualized dense wordliness inscrutable as stone soup"

"haiku is at best a tiny spot on the fringe ..."

"[T]hey do not know what thought is like (Pound)"

"[Is] haiku written in historical perspective or is haiku out of this world?"

"... this last post of mine is not the kiss of death."

Quote
“ELH should take steps to break out of the “haiku ghetto” and position itself, by various means, in the larger poetry community.

"... it's a good way to get haiku out of the ghetto and into the hands of poets and poetry lovers in the mainstream."

"Such poems may solve the ghettoization of haiku, but at a cost."

Skip to this part
Is haiku really in a ghetto – or is it a ghetto? It may be worth unpacking this image, tweeze out some of the thinking and assumptions behind it.

A ghetto is a place a minority group lives, especially “due to legal or economic pressure” (wiki). Is an implied sense of oppression appropriate here? Perhaps these synonyms are more fitting: shanty town, skid row, slum. “Gay ghetto” (wiki) is less of a stretch. We are all of a certain color (color me haiku) “with generally recognized boundaries,” yes.

Reading some of the above-excerpted posts (only back to page 2), expressed is the notion that acts of negative discrimination (ignoring, willful ignorance) rain on our parades, our notorious? bookstores and boutiques. Even if a friendly oasis (e.g. "Otoliths -- a magazine of many e-things”) or two exists, will our “difference” ever be understood, much less condoned? Will the power-hungry-money folk of city centers deign someday to stroll further than our outskirts I hear you say?

Is there lurking in this imagery of castigation and oppression a sense of victimhood, a resistant pride?

Do you want this genre to be different or not? Is to me an important question. If haiku (say for the sake of argument it exists) is a style of short-form poetry, a stylism – with its peculiarities yes, yet all told, of a piece as a province of the short form – then we have really hardly handy the stuff of identity politics. So let’s face it, the question of “placing” haiku as genuinely (generically) different, whether as a ghetto or as the rejected, lands squarely in the gaping maw of ideology, in that we are dealing with hidden biases and assumptions regarding the politics of self, poetry, art, society.

But, we do dare to be different and insist upon it, yes? Critics and pundits write about “the [haiku] tradition.” Even if ideological fallacy, this is one way identity “becomes.” Our becoming draws upon the stepping stones of cultural myth, mis-translation, a brooding even haunting sense of esoteric knowledge (as mostly Japan-feudal stories of enlightenment, purity, truth).

More, aesthetic terminology like wabi-sabi or yugen is assumed as central to haiku “difference.” By corollary, this means we shall not apply such terms to other poetic genres. So who's doing the ignoring here?
Quote
    glazed with rain
    water

    beside the white
    chickens

Yugen jya nai!” trans. “Yugen, NO WAY!” (Note. If you don't know what yugen is, you can't claim to write haiku, by some accounts.) Yes we hoard our terminology. Perhaps there’s some crossover to ikebana, kyudo, some additional Japan-based contemplative arts, that's about it.

It’s odd to think of a ghetto, when it’s our own method which not only creates difference but seemingly recoils from trans-genre similitude. If there is no phobia (specific pathology) which has been named for this disorder I would suggest Generaphobia (nearly a googlewhack).

So you want to join the crowd, but also stand tall and be proud. Find haiku in The New Yorker and also in the latest, greatest literary journals and anthologies? Best educate the masses. No, that can’t be right!? Best educate editors and critics. Poetry isn’t really popular anyway.

Let’s imagine then there is seduction and education. If haiku is “poetry with a difference” (for argument’s sake) then it must and readers must necessarily be reminded of this fact (in print). So must we then find in the general anthology a poetry section, perhaps a short-form poetry section, and absolutely a “haiku” section. Is it reasonable to expect haiku to be lumped in with (often similar) short-form poetics, when everything about our banner “THIS IS HAIKU” screams “THIS IS DIFFERENT”?

Excerpt from HNA Seattle 2011
Quote
The Imagining of Japan

The history of haiku in English in terms of its use of, and approach to language has less to do with Japan, than modernist movements – haiku in English, from Blyth to the present has taken genre-defining concepts from the Japanese haiku (such as kire, ma, kireji, kigo, disjunctive compressive phrasing), but their application has always involved a transmutation and integration (for North American haiku) into the Modernist continuum. The Japanese haiku is something we imagine as a modality of and impetus for exploration and inspiration – we exist in a modern literary continuum. (Gilbert)

Quote
“… A poem isn't just some abstract letters on a page; it exists within its social environment. And not just the given historical world of jobs and states and family, but the ones we make through our writing, our publishing, our exchanges. The value of poetry is also the value of articulating specific, yet contestable, aesthetic values. . . .

[W]e tried to focus our work more on an acknowledgement of the structures of language, forms, styles, and also the relationship of ideology to syntax, you might say, ideology to grammar, ideology to rhetoric, with the recognition that language is never neutral . . .” (“Charles Bernstein Interview with Romina Freschi,” 2005)

Quote
done you know and

it comes again for a moment

you thought what was you knew

Quote
There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to  . . . (“The Control Voice,” Outer Limits, 1960s).

An aspect of hidden ideology for haiku has to do with value, esteem, estimation, by comparison to other genres. Negatively expressed, generaphobia may be indicated. What is this implied demand for recognition (of haiku) based upon? Thinking normatively, critics and scholars expect to find 1) group of excellent poets with 2) excellent books 3) presented to the world. Show me the money. List these award-winning books (generally recognized as excellent, not "haiku-recognized"). Name the authors. In Japan,  excellence in haiku requires of an author several books each containing minimally 200 haiku, critically reviewed and recognized, plus at least a few published critical essays of excellence (published in important journals, read by various national haiku groups and schools). One's professional reputation is based on such credentials. What does it say that we choose not to follow Japanese haiku culture in this regard? By this high standard could it fairly be argued that haiku in English has not yet achieved much as a literature? Our critics on occasion praise books of 60 poems, only a few of which may be really fresh -- very few haiku poets are studied enough to competently publish a critical essay in the field. This comment is offered objectively, as cross-cultural comparison, I hope you take it that way. Yet isn't the standard of contemporary poetry in English more or less similar to that of the haiku world, in Japan? You may argue that a poet needn't write in prose, and yet still be acclaimed. The trouble is, over the last century it's hard to find one. (Even Billy Collins writes essays (http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2005/04/is_that_a_poem.2.html); flat and droll as death in Kansas, that man. Collins by example presents a cogent argument against popularity and acclaim -- a one-man wrecking ball. Many haiku are "Collins ku" unfortunately.)

The question of critical standards aside, let's say haiku ideology demands that haiku be ghetto enough that the individual poem (and poet) can never be claimed as a true center. That it takes an anthology “to make a village.” This would be an interesting approach. Pursued for a paragraph:

Haiku in English remains a tenuous proposal – it may be that some find this very tenuousness related to excellence. There was a negative comment offered previously, that a given author cannot be determined from a given haiku. An old, old story for haiku, and no myth. Haiku an extremely short form, is distinguished by its fragmentary, non-narrative nature. How can there remain any question as to why authorality cannot be reliably determined? Who are we kidding? In rock music, one instantly knows the name of a great guitarist (singer, etc.) from one or two notes of any phrase or lick. Popular music! How much less possible for haiku. I think this will never be true for the genre. And a lick or two is really at most what we have to work with: we are calling it our song. This is a social-literary problem. There may be a phobia. A defensive resistance to the obvious. Ghetto pride?

Bernstein's literary politics, ideological arguments, nearly insane yet lucid rants, attracted a large Gen X crowd to U. Buffalo to study a new (ideological) school of writing. Some of the vaguest stuff, Language poetry (as John Cage never said, “Everything you hear is language”). His encouragement was to take back public spaces – Bernstein urged poetic radicalism, urged that the art of the poem and the desire to reform and reframe society was a relevant synthesis. Voices that speak to this issue with authority have spurred new movements in poetry for quite some time. Might we re-orient critical acuity to the question of haiku and social engagement as a central feature of excellence.

I have little interest in The New Yorker, regarding haiku and social presence. Rather, YouTube, public parks, subway walking tunnels, graffiti, museum eateries, penetrations of the flaccid walls of industrial ugliness, mixed media  -- modes of presentation and spaces stolen from us (the demos), by advertising and other propaganda; even LOL cats (though they are amazingly cute). How to use the power of haiku to reach those with open minds. Take back our (virtual) streets!
Quote
or as was what one was

comes rolling in

as a you and a huge !

I can’t get there, maybe you can.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Peter Yovu on March 02, 2014, 12:41:55 PM
This follows the immediate topic centered (more or less) on the last several posts related to criticism--
"excellence"-- promoting haiku beyond the "ghetto etc.


Because I heard my high pitched name whistled in a tree in Richard's post, I will go there before saying anything else (and anything else requires of me that I study the past posts a bit).

Richard says:

 "There was a negative comment offered previously, that a given author cannot be determined from a given haiku".

I think what I could have said, though it may be no more pleasing, is that many haiku poets often seem to be writing versions of the same poem. Why is this?

It would be hard, in most instances, to determine authorship from one or a few poems. But for some who write haiku, look at a dozen of more of their poems and one can be more certain. I think this is true not
because they have promoted their individuality or sought to be different but because they have not denied it.

Again, I don't equate individuality with ego, but more as what I tried to present in my past post:
being oneself is being open to other.

But here, for me, because I am not skilled at it, (I shy away from agoric hubbub) is where things become potentially sticky and where a patience almost impossible to find on a "forum" is required: many of us have come to very different views about what "the individual", "the author", "the self", and "ego" are.




Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Karen Cesar on March 02, 2014, 03:18:09 PM
A question I have had for sometime regarding the notion of a "haiku ghetto" and the perceived desirability of promoting haiku to a wider audience is this: Such books as 'Baseball Haiku,' 'The Essential Haiku,' Haiku Moment,' 'The Haiku Anthology,' 'The Haiku Handbook,' etc etc etc have been published by publishers such as Harper Collins, Norton & Co, Tuttle etc. These books and scores of others over the years  are presumably intended for a wider audience than "the haiku community." Would these publishers continue to publish haiku were it not being bought and read?

Consider also:

"Roberta Beary (www.robertabeary.com) is the haibun editor of Modern Haiku; she tweets her photoku @shortpoemz. Her book The Unworn Necklace was awarded a William Carlos Williams finalist award by the Poetry Society of America in 2007, the first such honor for a book of haiku." (Haiku Foundation Site)

Seems like pretty good recognition for haiku from the wider poetry community to me.



              Blue tiger
    Because life is suffering,
        We need one another

                      - Jack Galmitz, (Driftwood)












Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Philip Rowland on March 02, 2014, 08:05:07 PM
Karen Cesar rightly points out that the haiku anthologies published by commercial publishers are reaching a wider audience. But perhaps a distinction needs to be made between attracting a popular audience (to a small but presumably not unprofitable extent) and serious recognition by “official verse culture” (as Bernstein has called it). How many reading lists for higher educational courses in modern and contemporary poetry are any of those haiku anthologies on, for instance? Which poetry journals, other than specialist haiku ones, have they been reviewed in? Where are the haiku in other, widely respected poetry anthologies – except perhaps the token sample by poets represented mainly by the other kinds of poetry they wrote? Haiku does sometimes put in an appearance under broader cultural headings, e.g., What Book?! Buddha Poems from Beat to Hip-Hop, and occasionally a sequence of haiku by a poet whose take on it bears little resemblance to that esteemed by the “haiku community” makes it into the pages of The Best American Poetry or the like. Whether any haiku that has come out of the community merits inclusion in anthologies like The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry or The Oxford Book of Short Poems is another question. (I do think an anthology such as the latter – which was reissued, unrevised, in 2003 – should have included some haiku, by the way.) My guess is that haiku – perhaps groups or sequences of haiku that resemble average-length or longer poems – will creep in to such anthologies where it forms part of the work by poets who write in other forms as well. But the more immediate, desirable thing, in my view, is simply the wider appreciation of the best of haiku in English by other poets and readers of poetry, even if that’s mostly in the realm of little magazines and small press publications (as is the case for most contemporary poetry).
 
Ron Silliman's recognition (as judge of the William Carlos Williams award for that year) of The Unworn Necklace was great news, though it seems to have been a bit of a one-off. It’s not as if Silliman has followed through by promoting other fine collections of or with haiku, though he did post a joint review of Haiku 21, Jim Kacian’s long after and John Martone’s Ksana on his blog. So perhaps I’m being unfair: that’s a fair bit of interest shown by a critic who covers such a wide range of work. But where are the others?

Revisiting Silliman’s comments on The Unworn Necklace... the following paragraph sums it up:
“If slam poets & visual poets go around thinking that nobody takes their genres seriously as literature, haiku poetry has been off the map altogether – a genuinely popular literary art form that receives no attention whatsoever from what Charles Bernstein would call Official Verse Culture unless it is for a new translation of one of the classics, or work by a poet, such as Anselm Hollo, already widely known and respected for writing in other forms.”
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Richard Gilbert on March 02, 2014, 10:28:03 PM
Phil writes:
Quote
Whether any haiku that has come out of the community merits inclusion in anthologies like The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry or The Oxford Book of Short Poems is another question.

Phil, could you say something more specific, in terms of the question you raise, concerning inclusion in such anthologies? How do you scope out the situation?

Phil writes:
Quote
(I do think an anthology such as the latter [the Oxford] – which was reissued, unrevised, in 2003 – should have included some haiku, by the way.) My guess is that haiku – perhaps groups or sequences of haiku that resemble average-length or longer poems – will creep in to such anthologies where it forms part of the work by poets who write in other forms as well.

Are you thinking of someone like Martone here? Ashbery is a given, though it's doubtful his haiku (as so-titled) have but a glancing relation with "the haiku community"? Adding to the confusion might be Ginsberg's "American sentences" which do appear in a few major anthologies -- he referred to them as haiku, didn't he? And there's Kerouac (to the extent he's recognized as a poet). Would you consider these three luminaries most representative of haiku (experiment) today, from the viewpoint of wider literary culture? If so, haiku, where it appears as experiment, seems to bear little relation to "haiku tradition" or "haiku community"?

Phil writes:
Quote
But the more immediate, desirable thing, in my view, is simply the wider appreciation of the best of haiku in English by other poets and readers of poetry, even if that’s mostly in the realm of little magazines and small press publications (as is the case for most contemporary poetry)

I appreciate what you're saying -- your thought seems to follow from the problematics of "wider audience" reception. But how to get the word out? Would it be possible -- here (or elsewhere on the THF site) -- to present a cogent shortlist of those online and print magazines you are thinking of? There's a plethora of materials; ceaseless research is required to follow them -- not to mention, an ongoing interest in non-haiku-associated poets and works. Your list might be good, for a start -- could you present some concrete recommendations?

Phil writes:
Quote
It’s not as if Silliman has followed through by promoting other fine collections of or with haiku, though he did post a joint review of Haiku 21, Jim Kacian’s long after and John Martone’s Ksana on his blog. So perhaps I’m being unfair: that’s a fair bit of interest shown by a critic who covers such a wide range of work. But where are the others?

Right--. My chewing on this conundrum of haiku and wider audience reception has moved in a different direction. In my last post, toward the end: " Might we re-orient critical acuity to the question of haiku and social engagement as a central feature of excellence. I have little interest in The New Yorker, regarding haiku and social presence. Rather, YouTube, public parks, subway walking tunnels, graffiti, museum eateries, penetrations of the flaccid walls of industrial ugliness, mixed media  -- modes of presentation and spaces stolen from us (the demos), by advertising and other propaganda..."

My perspective has been most directly inspired by Bernstein's lectures and essays. This led me to propose (to Red Moon Press) the The Natural Night Haiku Anthology (http://research.gendaihaiku.com/natural-night/) -- which represents a move away from literary community, as primary audience -- particularly if an ebook (amazon, etc. downloadable) is envisioned, as an aspect of the proposal. The sky is (or was) a kind of ultimate public space--rather larger than a park. It's my feeling that the power of haiku may be limited by those contexts they are typically presented in: the journal, and small-press haiku-only collections (presenting basically the "self" of the poet). I feel that haiku often speak to a larger context, but are not being placed into these contexts, for the reader. Haiku of excellence are potent messages, provocative and deepening. You mentioned the "sequence" (in relation to anthology inclusion creep) -- I'm interested in how haiku might be "sequenced" within stories (like the story of the night sky) which contain "non-poetic" information (scientific, photographic, etc.) and, with a very loose approach to the meaning of "haiku." (You can check out the concept in detail from the link.)

Another decision with "Natural Night" was to retain "haiku" in the title. In my opinion the term retains social value and a sense of history--when aligned with non-haiku topics (e.g. night sky issues with lighting; issues related to ecological awareness). The conflation has aroused curiosity. It strikes me that there are any number of topical issues in which haiku could play a powerful role. We need to step out of brick wall thinking, regarding haiku and “official verse culture.”

Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: AlanSummers on March 03, 2014, 05:18:15 AM
On two side notes but I hope prove useful:

Roberta Beary's award-winning collection was edited to be as close as possible to a verse novel as possible.  This further brought the collection closer together than even a well thought out collection, and would engage readers, and judges alike, in my opinion.

Verse novels can be popular like the haiku titled The Monkey's Mask which was also made into a movie.

Narrative seems to be a strong feature in poetry which is why it so successfully translocated to HipHop and Rap for instance with Eminem, The Streets, Tupac, and slam poet/rapper Polar Bear.  A public can identify themselves with these narratives, and perhaps where haiku is often seen as 'extreme brevity' and anti-narrative within each poem and in some collections, it struggles beyond being recognised as bodies of work.

Regarding fairly new The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry it has broken away from the predictable and sometimes stuffy other poetry awards.   This year the shortlist includes well-known Hannah Silva (performance poet etc... who studied at the same university as myself):  http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/competitions/tedhughes/
http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/competitions/tedhughes/tedhughesshortlist#silva

A weakness I've observed is that unlike other page poets, haiku writers are often not engaged with performance poetry skills, which are more and more vital nowadays to communicate and connect with an audience.

American Poets Laureate often come over to the City of Bath, England, next door to my town, and know how to perform their poetry and engage in a narrative around their work, and include humor, and capitivate a very discerning audience often made up of published poets, and editors of small presses, and even larger presses.

Hannah Silva has worked long and hard at her craft, and though some may consider her young she is an award winning writer and theatre maker, described by The Times (British newspaper) as 'one of the most ambitious and entertaining poets in the country'.

Many poets are expected to have at least some performance skills, perhaps written a play or two, a novel, a collection of short stories.  It's becoming rarer that a poet just writes poetry 'off stage'.


Revisiting Silliman’s comments on The Unworn Necklace... the following paragraph sums it up:
“If slam poets & visual poets go around thinking that nobody takes their genres seriously as literature, haiku poetry has been off the map altogether – a genuinely popular literary art form that receives no attention whatsoever from what Charles Bernstein would call Official Verse Culture unless it is for a new translation of one of the classics, or work by a poet, such as Anselm Hollo, already widely known and respected for writing in other forms.”

Slam poets, of which I've been a judge on a few occasions, have moved on and attract big audiences for their work.   And often cut their teeth or maintain those teeth in challenging festivals as the world-wide famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  I think some British haiku poets attempted the Fringe, a couple of years back, perhaps it's time for an international group?

warm regards,

Alan
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Philip Rowland on March 03, 2014, 08:42:36 AM
To attempt to answer Richard’s questions in reply #64:

I’m afraid I can’t really “scope out the situation” re mainstream anthologies and haiku (at least, not without more thought than I’m capable of right now), though when it comes to anthologies focused on short poems, tend to think that the omission of haiku is largely due to lack of awareness on the part of the editors, or their being biased towards recognizable (well-known) names.
 
When I wrote,
"My guess is that haiku – perhaps groups or sequences of haiku that resemble average-length or longer poems – will creep in to such anthologies where it forms part of the work by poets who write in other forms as well"
I didn’t have any particular poets in mind, was thinking of possible future scenarios, though yes, Ashbery first published his “37 Haiku” as a group in the magazine Sulfur, and Martone tends to present his poems in clusters. I guess I was also thinking of how some poets, notably Rae Armantrout, often construct poems from several very short pieces separated by asterisks or such, that connect in ways that are quite oblique.

Where I wrote of the desired
"wider appreciation of the best of haiku in English by other poets and readers of poetry, even if that’s mostly in the realm of little magazines and small press publications (as is the case for most contemporary poetry),"
you asked,
"Would it be possible -- here (or elsewhere on the THF site) -- to present a cogent shortlist of those online and print magazines you are thinking of?"

This will be eclectic rather than cogent – I tend to follow my nose, and to think that poets who write haiku should try submitting to whichever magazines they enjoy reading or are interested in (after all, if you like some of the work that the editor has chosen, perhaps s/he might like yours as well) – but off the top of my head, some poetry mags that have been or might be open to haiku (though don't quote me!) are:
Print: Shearsman, Versal, CLWN WR, Poetry Salzburg Review, HQ Magazine (not sure if that’s still going), Longhouse (prolific publishers of booklets), Inch, Bongos of the Lord (defunct?), Vallum, Hummingbird, Lilliput Review, Poetry Kanto
Online: Big Bridge, Ekleksographia, Otoliths, Oyster Boy Review, Cordite
and of course there's always (touch wood) Noon: journal of the short poem…

As for 'how haiku might be "sequenced" within stories which contain "non-poetic" information'
as compared to more traditional modes of presentation, it’s a case of both/and, if possible, I hope.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Richard Gilbert on March 03, 2014, 09:11:46 AM
Phil,

Thanks for your further thoughts -- and for the eclectic list! Each new name will be an exploration. I've commented to you before that one of the aspects of Noon (http://noonpoetry.com) that has influenced me is the sense I feel of content-selection as "community" (I think of a forest) -- with a sense of reader-journey. As well, to an extent there are (with a light touch)  thematic issues woven through the pages -- one might opine this approach, intentionally or not, intriguingly addresses issues of narrative and "story" vis a vis haiku. I appreciate the editorial vision and clarity. This may sound like flattery, but what the hell.

I mention this because I too feel potential in the sequence, or strands of sequences. I was not exactly joking with "let's say ... that haiku [are approached as] ghetto enough that the individual poem (and poet) can never be claimed as a true center. That it takes an anthology 'to make a village.' This would be interesting..."  For sure, there have been some powerful single-author collections of late. I don't want to imply a diminishment of the importance of personal achievement -- on the other hand, the fact that haiku can "speak" to each other, via editorial placement -- I feel this potency in the genre is critically under-appreciated. That Noon blends what are considered haiku with more extensive poetic forms is likewise provocative.

I doubt that readers or critics (or authors, perhaps) are quite prepared for the idea of an editor "cohering" multiple works of a variety of authors into a single co-authored work -- I'd like to see a book like this. Reader-journey: I think about this, and I imagine you also consider this aspect deeply, within the process of developing a Noon (http://noonpoetry.com) issue?

(The mea culpa here for going off-topic is that editorial excellence, in terms of presentation, may perhaps be relevant to the future of haiku as a genre.)

Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on March 03, 2014, 09:51:01 AM
Response to P. Rowland re me and the 1927 commentary of the language orientation of language :
I have to say, Philip, that I am all too well aware of what Riding and Graves were speaking of: after all, in the early 1980s I had already read F. De Saussure's lectures, and if I might be so bold, if anyone had been paying attention to my ouvre (dare I?) they would have noticed that around 2005 or so I was already moving in the direction of language poetry in haiku (with Driftwood, A New Hand, For a Sparrow), to be followed by nothing but language poetry haiku. Well versed in semiotics, as well, and the entire language philosophy and self-referentiality mentioned as early as 27 by R & G.
So, it was surprising, me thinks, that as usual all that could be found to represent my contribution to haiku in the recent anthology and even the H21 was one poem and then a few that were hardly representative.
My problem with the quote from R&G was its speaking of Pound et al as dead letters: what nonsense and self-promotion. After all, language either does or does not refer and though it always has a meaning, a referent, it does not have a reference (directly) to a world, given that language is non-motivated, negative in so far as words do not bespeak things, negative insofar as non-mirroring is its ambience.
So, whether or not, say Pound and the Imagists, including WCW, thought there was or was not a world to which words referred and could come closer to, the very nature of language kept their language self-referential and non-enclosed and finished re interpretation.
Whether there is realism or not does not matter given the self-signifying nature of language, right? It is always language speaking itself, never achieving a cinch with the world- even the basic premise that language is abstract and cannot refer to individual existences should suffice to close the argument on realism.
Anyway, thought I'd champion myself,since I've always felt, and not with delusion, slighted and underestimated and over-looked in the slums of haiku. Thank God for Karen Cesar!!
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on March 03, 2014, 10:06:57 AM
and to light the molotov cocktail
I would add that the cut
does not the thing make
that I have used ambiguity
the indeterminacy of language
as the american way of stopping
the mind- what someone called aesthetic arrest ( i thought that was joyce's).
To think that the dash, ellipsis, whatever take your choice
brings us before the Almighty, the Void, the Supreme, etc.
is the most presumptuous thing I have
ever in my long life heard;
what audacity to think that this particular
between- as if every single letter beside what it is
not is not how we distinguish difference and identity
and this dash dot dot is the Ultimate bespeaks a naivite
that I cannot fathom.
to speak of the dao god help us
there is a leap between every letter and every word
so I don't write haiku anymore- turned to short short fiction
and free verse just to get away from the sledge hammer
of this tiny tiny little bitsy poem
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Peter Yovu on March 03, 2014, 10:20:15 AM
I am a reluctant moderator-- but nonetheless want to say here that it is important to stay on topic as
much as possible. This does not mean that topics introduced are to be abandoned-- they can be
picked up (by anyone) in a separate thread if so wished. That can be done in the In-Depth Haiku: Free Discussion Area.

The subject of language, in the way it is being used here, is an important one, and I hope it will be looked at, either in the aforementioned way, or as a Field Notes subject in the future. I realize that in many respects the subject relates to criticism and "excellence", but it feels to me to be a subject which requires its own base.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Richard Gilbert on March 03, 2014, 10:25:19 AM
Jack,

I think you are way off topic -- we could start a different thread in the "in depth discussion" section of the forum on this (your focus and brief).

That said I know what you mean. You wrote "Thank God for Karen Cesar!!" (Two exclamation points, my god.) You wrote:
Quote
Whether there is realism or not does not matter given the self-signifying nature of language, right? It is always language speaking itself, never achieving a cinch with the world- even the basic premise that language is abstract and cannot refer to individual existences should suffice to close the argument on realism.

So as Karen wrote:
Quote
A question I have had for sometime regarding the notion of a "haiku ghetto" and the perceived desirability of promoting haiku to a wider audience is this: Such books as 'Baseball Haiku'...

Do you then place "baseball haiku" (being as language-self-referential as anything else) into a similar arena as, well, the kinds of things you aren't recognized for? (And really, who is recognized for any haiku?) I think your notion of a fait accompli concerning realism misses the point: the problem of, and assumed stance, of literalism.

Now tell me literalism is a language feature, and I'll ask you about paying the rent. As per Peter's post, above? We do move now away from excellence in haiku. So let's move back into it. Jack: can you speak directly to what strikes you as valuable, in terms of excellence in haiku -- succinctly, as possible. As you know, I think (mono-dimensional, fixated) literalistic thinking is a kind of pathology, and it's a problem vis haiku and excellence, for me. What resonates with you?

A further goad. pnewton posted Anita Virgil's "Do's." Here is
Quote
#4.    Does it avoid simile, metaphor, personification, clichés?

False, false, false, true (if cliché is merely that, lacking deformation, irony or what have you). It's also hard to think of haiku as an "it" -- but I quibble.

Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on March 03, 2014, 11:13:23 AM
Well, Richard, off topic or no, I couldn't imagine going to another site when what I wanted to talk about was referenced (literally) in this thread.
Now, as for Karen Cesar: the !! is because nothing more than Karen acknowledges my existence, quotes a poem I wrote and all in all knows my work.
As to literal, well, there's an interesting problem, because the original meaning (and that's all we have isn't it?) of the word is reference to what is said in Scripture (as opposed to interpretation of it, allegorical readings, mystical readings, and I would add exegesis), and also refers to what is literary, belonging to letters or writing, and in this etymological sense, yes, I have no problem with the literal.
On the other hand, I take what you mean to be that realism as a form of literalism means the vacancy of language when used or the transparency of the world and what is referred to in the use of language and no I do not hold to that view.
Yet, if you know, as you know, that words always refer to words and more words and never reach finally their destination in the thing referred to, but only in a referent (meaning) and not the "thing," yes I agree with you.  But, interpretation is available, I am saying, even in realism to something non-literal, but let me not be too coy here.
As to baseball haiku, no I don't recognize its excellence, yet there is in it- inter-textually- reference to Coover's Universal Baseball Association, Inc., and perhaps Shoeless Joe Jackson, and all the narratives that combine in the give and take of announcers doing a baseball game.  You have a literal book about baseball in the greatest book of haiku about baseball ever written (the only one of course) and does it not bring with it the entire history of the game and the history of history that was coexistent with it?
Or am I playing too much here.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on March 03, 2014, 11:16:17 AM
Would it be too far off topic of excellence if I mentioned my father's telling me as a boy that Ty Cobb was so disliked that at his funeral only 2 men showed up. And, if my wife, who is 8 years older than me should pass away before me, then there will be no one at my funeral- so so much for Ty Cobb and determination and kindness.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Richard Gilbert on March 03, 2014, 08:08:34 PM
Jack, you said
As to baseball haiku, no I don't recognize its excellence . . .

Why not? What's the issue? The topic is haiku and excellence. Could you quote say 2 or 3 haiku (not your own) that you feel have excellence, by contrast?
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Philip Rowland on March 03, 2014, 09:06:17 PM
Re. reply #68 from Jack Galmitz:

For what it's worth, Jack, I wasn't presuming anything about what you were or weren't aware of, in connection with the Riding Graves passage; just took a thought you posed as a question as such. And as I wrote, in quoting I wasn't subscribing to their view of "dead movements" -- agree that there's nonsense in that -- but was trying to focus on what struck me as interesting rather than nonsensical in their argument. Okay, what was meant as a side-note has taken us off-topic, so enough of that.

All the best,
Philip
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on March 03, 2014, 09:48:03 PM
Thank you Philip for the gentlemanly response.
Frankly, the only reason I felt some ire was because I had just been discussing Pound and what I took as his Excellency's haiku in the Metro.
And, I have to admit to having miffed the fellow who wanted me to read a haikuist's essay on whether or not Pound's poem was "actually" a haiku.
So, I took your remarks as further flurries of bullets over my head.
Actually, I was glad to read Riding in particular- you are quite right, she does illustrate her point the better of the two.
Best,
Jack
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Philip Rowland on March 03, 2014, 11:33:39 PM
I'd add to Richard's mea culpa, in reply #67, re editorial style of presentation of haiku having perhaps to do with to its future as a genre, that this can be seen as a (creative) kind of criticism -- with a role to play in haiku criticism. Whether, for instance, a normative 3-line haiku appears among similar haiku or juxtaposed with a long-lined short poem in stanzas with a title may affect the kind of attention you pay to it. The change of pace will give you pause; the formal differences might make you consider the choice of form -- its appropriateness or limitation -- more carefully than you would otherwise; at the same time you might read with a keener eye for what the two poems have in common, how they relate thematically and play off or deepen one another. On a larger scale, this may touch on a new sense of poetic community (or commonality), which may in turn shift the critical mindset or frame of reference.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Don Baird on March 04, 2014, 12:19:58 AM
I would greatly appreciate keeping the topic "on topic" and in particular, to refrain from personal attacks and/or sarcasm.  I understand that it can be quite easy to become a bit riled up in the heady game of differing opinions.  But, honestly, we cannot (and shouldn't) "go there".

The posts have been amazing; your opinions have been carefully structured and well thought out.  And, I'm positive that the folks following along are enjoying your diverse opinions and posits - enough for someone to ponder for years (already).

Thank you all for the tremendous efforts you have offered.  But, lets rein in just a bit to keep this at the professional level we're used to.

Thank you,

Peace . . .

Don
Administrator

Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on March 04, 2014, 07:51:21 AM
At this juncture, after all is said, which excellence are we discussing. The Greek and Roman conception? The Japanese, referred to I believe as Shibui.  Since we are talking about an art that many or some feel should be modeled after the original wouldn't it be wise to differentiate cultural, historical standards for what excellence would mean in the context of a 21 Century Japanese poetic form and what its original meaning was for the Japanese in the 17th Century and earlier? Or is it perfectly fine to simply use our discretion and our personal understanding of what is meant by excellence to address excellence as an issue?  Will the starting point not wholly influence the result of the response?  What do you think?
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: JGalmitz on March 04, 2014, 09:37:55 AM
Just one further observation. And this is on point, on all fours as they say.
If we take the prominent theory of language as propounded by De Saussure in the early part of the 20th C and continued as ground for the writings of Derrida, Barthes, et al, how are we to ever define excellence or rather recognize it outside of a language system.
Okay, so we stay within language. That's fine.
But the most telling thing De Saussure said was that language was arbitrary, unmotivated, meaning there was no natural relationship between the sound-image, the idea, and the thing referenced thereby.
Words were negative; that was their essence. What he meant was that all words and their components are what they are because they are not something else. When we read or hear we distinguish difference, not sameness. What this entails is that language has no positive existence.
If there is no positive existence to language and its components, then we can only understand excellence as not not excellence.  Which is fine, but different than giving a positive spin to excellence and then finding positive examples of it.
With this in mind is excellence in haiku whatever is not not excellent and if so we would have to have examples of the not excellent, but this would lead us, would it not, in a circle, because not excellent derives its meaning from what it is not, which is excellence.
So? Please continue on with your examples, examinations, opinions, judgements, and so forth.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Richard Gilbert on March 04, 2014, 12:33:15 PM
Phil, an intriguing series of thoughtful steps, from:
Quote
... re editorial style of presentation of haiku having perhaps to do with to its future as a genre, that this can be seen as a (creative) kind of criticism -- with a role to play in haiku criticism.

To:
Quote
Whether, for instance, a normative 3-line haiku appears among similar haiku or juxtaposed with a long-lined short poem in stanzas with a title may affect the kind of attention you pay to it. The change of pace will give you pause; the formal differences might make you consider the choice of form -- its appropriateness or limitation -- more carefully than you would otherwise; at the same time you might read with a keener eye for what the two poems have in common, how they relate thematically and play off or deepen one another.

To:
Quote
On a larger scale, this may touch on a new sense of poetic community (or commonality), which may in turn shift the critical mindset or frame of reference.

This last especially interests me, in that you are grounding the "larger scale" of "a new sense of poetic community" and potential "shift [in] the critical mindset" in the particular: the smaller-scale experience of reading poems -- qualitatively unique experiences of aesthetic savor or arrest (e.g. "the change of pace will give you pause") -- something mentioned earlier, in determining excellence. An editor may (with permission) willfully re-arrange lineation and layout (and create sequences), as a creative act.This has rarely been done in the haiku genre.

Earlier quoted was "glazed with rain/water/ /beside the white/chickens" whose layout remains striking (sense of breath and space, objective breaking of syntax). Today, was reading WCW's "Young Woman At a Window" A) as part of a two-poem series (http://www.heydays.ws/?where=authors&author=William%20Carlos%20Williams); then examining the two published versions of the poem: 1) Version 1 (http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88v/window1.html) and 2) Version 2 (http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88v/window2.html).

How charged the same poem becomes when it follows "The Raper From Passenack" (pub. 1935; definitely not a "chicken" poem) in A) (and note the 3-line/disjunctive "haikuesque" style of "The Raper's" stanzas); how differently 1) & 2) read from each other. Each its own universe. (I note WCW's signature lineational style -- one rarely applied to haiku/sequences. Martone sometimes lineates similarly -- I often reflect on WCW, reading him.) This, by way of example.
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: eluckring on March 04, 2014, 07:29:34 PM
In the visual arts this “ (creative) kind of criticism” that Phil and Richard are talking about is called curating.
A curator absolutely shapes how individual works are understood by controlling the context in which they are seen. A curator is analogous to the role of an editor in literary terms. Though, very often, in the visual arts, curators write catalog essays for their exhibitions, so they in fact function overtly as critics.  I can recall several exhibitions that have entirely revamped how a particular artist's work is seen historically.

Curating is an art-form in itself, more difficult than it might seem. Inspired curators make connections between works and between artists that highlight the intrinsic properties of individual pieces or, of one artist’s oeuvre in relation to another's.  Or as Phil says, “shift the critical mindset or frame of reference.” I think NOON and Lilliput Review are a great examples of this for the reasons Phil and Richard have commented. The editorial/curatorial process of a group of poems/artworks always shifts the connotations of individual works, as in the example that Richard gives of placing two WC Williams poems side by side. 

Unfortunately, there has been a trend in the visual arts for curators to want to take center stage for career building purposes—the curator’s name is increasingly the first thing one reads on an  exhibition announcement.  So, on the flip side of thoughtful curating are shows that are more about building a roster of art-stars organized rather lazily around some trendy topic. In other words, the driving force is not really the work itself and the curator has not done the research, or does not have the background, to justify their curatorial premise. When done poorly, it seems that curators are frustrated artists who want to have their own show. Of course one can decide not to submit work to a given journal if one feels the way things are put together are lower than one's quality standards, though in the visual arts, curators often become the gate-keepers to all kinds of things like grant funding, access to collections, etc. etc. So, I have mixed feelings about this whole thing, because curators--and many editors-- in the end, have the upper hand in a power relationship.

However, that said, I would so welcome more journals--or presses-- that concentrate on short poetry and include haiku and tanka as part of a diverse mix of approaches. Perhaps these efforts could produce issues that juxtapose a handful of poets along with a critical essay, or pick a theme to curate around, again with a critical essay examining that theme. (Richard, your Natural Night).
Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Mark Harris on March 07, 2014, 10:19:50 AM
I'm continuing some ideas offered by Richard and Phil on frames of reference, and Eve's more recent comment posted on 3/4/14:

Eve's analogy with visual arts curation provides a lens through which we can examine the topic of authorship and readership. Yes, the way curators, and the institutions behind them, frame the scholarship that accompanies an exhibition speaks volumes. And the way pictures are arranged on the wall, the juxtapositions chosen--as a museum preparator, that process is familiar to me. We seldom have much time to install exhibitions. Years of planning end in a motley crew hanging and lamping the production within a few days. Despite the power relationships, which are of course real and sometimes grudgingly accepted, something wonderful happens then. When it comes to the layout of the art, the best laid plans are usually discarded, at least in part. We'll look at a wall, say "this isn't working" and then change it, as a group, each of us playing a greater or lesser part.

Who is the author? Where does the power reside? Not so clear.

All that brings my mother to mind. When my sister and I were young, she used to read aloud to us. From picture books at first, and later novels, trilogies and longer series. She's a born performer and had a way of inhabiting the characters and also the authorial voice. She made those books come alive! I remember listening with bated breath, experiencing whole literary worlds through her adult, slightly alien perception. Disbelief was not entirely suspended; I would read along over her shoulder, and my own interpretation paralleled hers.

When I read work by critics and editors with a talent for sharing their love of poem and text, I feel I'm being read to (and read along). Criticism as creative act: I can only imagine that's not easy to accomplish without taking too many liberties, and yet the results of picking "a theme to curate around," as Eve puts it, can be stimulating and fun. If we're looking for a model of a critical work curated around a theme, my first thought is of Hiro Sato's One Hundred Frogs: From Renga to Haiku to English (Weatherhill, 1983).


Title: Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
Post by: Richard Gilbert on April 30, 2014, 09:00:07 PM
'Literature and Society: The Vanished Debate'

Continuing on the theme of criticism in relation to the poem, the self (oneself), the author, institution, canon (&c.). With a focus on the question of talent. Just below, are seven prescient paragraphs by Martin Amis, elucidating Robbbins' perspective, though with greater scope (from a British perspective it hardly needs mentioning). I'll place the "FN5 'linking'" replies after the Amis quotation, to illustrate connections within this ongoing thread. Do you find Amis accurate, relevant, illuminating here?

"Foreword," Martin Amis, The War Against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_Against_Clich%C3%A9)
Winner of the 2001 National Book Critics Circle award for criticism.

Quote
[The 1970s] now seems unrecognizably remote. I had a day job at the Times Literary Supplement. Even then I sensed discrepancy, as I joined an editorial conference (to help prepare, perhaps, a special number on Literature and Society), wearing shoulder-length hair, a flower shirt, and knee-high tricoloured boots (well-concealed, it is true, by the twin tepees of my flared trousers). My private life was middle-bohemian — hippyish and hedonistic, if not candidly debauched; but I was very moral when it came to literary criticism. I read it all the time, in the tub, on the tube; I always had about me my Edmund Wilson — or my William Empson. I took it seriously. We all did. We hung around the place talking about literary criticism. We sat in pubs and coffee bars talking about W.K. Wimsatt and G. Wilson Knight, about Richard Hoggart and Northrop Frye, about Richard Poirier, Tony Tanner and George Steiner. It might have been in such a locale that my friend and colleague Clive James first formulated his view that, while literary criticism is not essential to literature, both are essential to civilization. Everyone concurred. Literature, we felt, was the core discipline; criticism explored and popularized the significance of that centrality, creating a space around literature and thereby further exalting it. The early Seventies, I should add, saw the great controversy about the Two Cultures: Art v. Science (or F.R. Leavis v. C.P. Snow). Perhaps the most fantastic thing about this cultural moment was that Art seemed to be winning.

Literary historians know it as the Age of Criticism. It began, let us suggest, in 1948, with the publication of Eliot's Notes Towards the Definition of Culture and Leavis's The Great Tradition. What ended it? The brutalist answer would consist of a single four-letter word: OPEC. In the Sixties you could live on ten shillings a week: you slept on people's floors and sponged off your friends and sang for your supper — about literary criticism. Then, abruptly, a bus fare cost ten shillings. The oil hike, and inflation, and then stagflation, revealed literary criticism as one of the many leisure-class fripperies we would have to get along without. Well, that's how it felt. But it now seems clear that literary criticism was inherently doomed. Explicitly or otherwise it had based itself on a structure of echelons and hierarchies; it was about the talent elite. And the structure atomized as soon as the forces of democratization gave their next concerted push.

Those forces — incomparably the most potent in our culture -have gone on pushing. And they are now running up against a natural barrier. Some citadels, true, have proved stormable. You can become rich without having any talent (via the scratchcard and the rollover jackpot). You can become famous without having any talent (by abasing yourself on some TV nerdothon: a clear improvement on the older method of simply killing a celebrity and inheriting the aura). But you cannot become talented without having any talent. Therefore, talent must go.

Literary criticism, now almost entirely confined to the universities, thus moves against talent by moving against the canon.

Academic preferment will not come from a respectful study of Wordsworth's poetics; it will come from a challenging study of his politics - his attitude to the poor, say, or his unconscious 'valorization' of Napoleon; and it will come still faster if you ignore Wordsworth and elevate some (justly) neglected contemporary, by which process the canon may be quietly and steadily sapped. A brief consultation of the Internet will show that meanwhile, at the other end of the business, everyone has become a literary critic — or at least a book-reviewer. Democratization has made one inalienable gain: equality of the sentiments. I think Gore Vidal said this first, and he said it, not quite with mockery, but with lively scepticism. He said that, nowadays, nobody's feelings are more authentic, and thus more important, than anybody else's. This is the new credo, the new privilege. It is a privilege much exercised in the contemporary book-review, whether on the Web or in the literary pages. The reviewer calmly tolerates the arrival of the new novel or slim volume, defensively settles into it, and then sees which way it rubs him up. The right way or the wrong way. The results of this contact will form the data of the review, without any reference to the thing behind. And the thing behind, I am afraid, is talent, and the canon, and the body of knowledge we call literature.

Probably some readers are getting the impression that I think these developments are to be deplored. Not so. It is the summit of idleness to deplore the present, to deplore actuality. Say whatever else you like about it, the present is unavoidable. And we, in the Seventies, were frequently ridiculous, too, with our Fallacies and our Seven Types (and Leavis's besieged intensity was ridiculous. His shaping embarrassment, however, was to nominate as his model for sanity the person of D.H. Lawrence). Emotional egalitarianism, for example, looks hard to attack. I honour it, in a way, but it has to me the pale glow of illusion. It is Utopian, which is to say that reality cannot be expected to support it. Then, too, these 'feelings' are seldom unadulterated; they are admixtures of herd opinions and social anxieties, vanities, touchinesses, and everything else that makes up a self.

One of the historical vulnerabilities of literature, as a subject for study, is that it has never seemed difficult enough. This may come as news to the buckled figure of the book-reviewer, and to the literary critic, but it's true. Hence the various attempts to elevate it, complicate it, systematize it. Interacting with literature is easy. Anyone can join in, because words (unlike palettes and pianos) lead a double life: we all have a competence. It is not surprising, therefore, that individual sensitivities come so strongly into play; not surprising, either, that the discipline has rolled over for democratization far more readily than, for example, chemistry and Ancient Greek. In the long term, though, literature will resist levelling and revert to hierarchy. This isn't the decision of some snob of a belletrist. It is the decision of Judge Time, who constantly separates those who last from those who don't.

Let me run, for a while, with an extended simile. Literature is the great garden that is always there and is open to everyone twenty-four hours a day. Who tends it? The old tour guides and sylviculturists, the wardens, the fuming parkies in their sweat-soaked serge: these have died off. If you do see an official, a professional, nowadays, then he's likely to be a scowl in a labcoat, come to flatten a forest or decapitate a peak. The public wanders, with its oohs and ahs, its groans and jeers, its million opinions. The wanderers feed the animals, they walk on the grass, they step in the flowerbeds. But the garden never suffers. It is, of course, Eden; it is unfallen and needs no care.


Thematic links, back through this thread:
Eve Luckring wrote (Reply #1 on: January 25, 2014):
"I appreciate criticism that makes me think about an artwork/poem, or an artist's/poet's body of work, in a new way. Usually this is because the critic puts the object of discussion in context of something bigger:

--the histories that surround the work,
--the formal attributes of the work in relation to other poetry/art (of the past or present),
--the social/cultural context that the work intersects with
--the life experiences and artistic/philosophical inquiry of the artist/poet

A good critic has to be very well informed.
. . .
I think only a very small percentage of the "haiku community" has interest in the type of more scholarly criticism I crave. This makes me sad because I feel this type of reflection and contemplation--thinking about how something works and the contexts that surround it-- can help deepen our relationship to what we do."

Mark Harris wrote (Reply #27 on: February 13, 2014):
"Years ago, I went to art school to study painting. Art handling was a way to pay the bills at first; all these years later, here I am still doing it. It's good work. To hold a Rubens, a Maya chocolate drinking cup, or an Albers in my hands can be a thrill. And to share them with the public, that's also a thrill. . . . Painting is dead, people have been saying ever since [cf. c. 1961, Albers, the height of Modernism], and yet it never quite does die. "

Eve Luckring wrote (Reply #36 on: February 19, 2014):
"It fascinated me that Grenier was removed from the latest edition of Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology, presumably to make room for some new additions, or..."

I wrote in reply to Eve (Reply #37: February 22, 2014), linking to an article on the evolution of (mainly) poetic criticism within succeeding eras, with a focus on the contemporary moment (a new major anthology):

"Ripostes"
Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology, by Paul Hoover, ed.
Review by Michael Robbins (July 2013): http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/article/246092

I commented: "This essay ably demonstrates not only excellent criticism, but also some of the reasons why criticism is vital in arts culture. Within are longstanding issues in contemporary criticism: canonicity, institutions (& -alities), academia, in-groups, posturing, poetry versus ideology."

Mark Harris commented (Reply #83: March 07, 2014) ("...continuing some ideas offered by Richard and Phil on frames of reference, and Eve's more recent comment posted on 3/4/14"):

"Who is the author? Where does the power reside? Not so clear."