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Messages - Gary Hotham

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Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 5: Excellence
« 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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Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« 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.

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Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« 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?

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Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« 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.

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Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« 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.

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