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Messages - Karen Cesar

Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 7: Off-topic discussion
August 11, 2014, 05:30:21 PM
An engaging article regarding " the notion of translation":

Back later,

;D Karen
Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
March 02, 2014, 09:18:09 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 ( 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)

Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
February 24, 2014, 06:37:48 PM
In reading Jack's comments, I found the following site helpful:

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.

"Is haiku in English a socially relevant poetics in the 21st century?"

It can be. Is not always. Sometimes is. 

For myself, I experience no cognitive dissonance in reading Views by Jack Galmitz ( highly recommend!) contemporaneously with  Bashō and the Dao The  Zhuangzi and the-Transformation of Haikai by Peipei Qiu (also highly recommend). I find the two books complement the other.

Both of these books are available on Scibd, if anyone is interested.

as is Barnhill's Basho's Haiku :

Which is not to say I have no perspective or opinions or that I am a pure relativist – I do discriminate – but at a certain point, each person reading/writing haiku must make an independent determination, based on what s/he has read, absorbed, been taught  or come up with on her own, how s/he is going to write. What theories are applicable and under what circumstances.Technique is not necessarily time conditioned. Some translations of early poems appear to be less nuanced than they are simply because we do not share a frame of reference with the poet who wrote them. Some things are subjective; some things are objective. So much has yet to be explored in haiku ... that  I give myself permission to use my own judgement and accord others the same freedom. If someone asks why I have written a given haiku a certain way, I am happy to share my rationale and what theory or theories I (currently) write under.   

When I sit down to write – and haiku is, after all, for most of us in the West a self taught craft/art – the following poem comes to mind:

choosing a swimsuit –
when did his eyes
replace mine?

mizugi erabu itsu shika kare no me to natte (Ibid.)

Mayuzumi Madoka

(Translation Makoto Ueda, Haiku by Japanese Women, Far Beyond the Field)

and this one:

Even with insects—
some can sing,
some can't.
Source: The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho Buson and Issa (The Ecco Press, 1994)

Happy singing!  ;)

Just a quick note to say thank you to Jack Galmitz for VIEWS. Since I have (temporarily?) deactivated my Facebook account this is the only way I know to contact Jack to tell him...THANK YOU!

Like you, I am somewhat disenchanted with haiku discussion at the moment. Your book is an example of how a haiku discussion should be conducted and so often isn't. Thank you again.



Periplum / Re: Fernando López Rodríguez
March 13, 2011, 08:59:03 PM
"A literally-minded reader might object: Shouldn't I keep the fireflies in "the hands" since this is where they reside in the Spanish original?"

*"Names of body parts are used much the same in Spanish as in English — but with one significant difference. In Spanish, names of parts of the body are frequently preceded by the definite article (el, la, los or las, meaning "the") instead of possessive adjectives (such as mi for "my" and tu for "your"). In most cases, the possessive adjective is used only where the context doesn't make clear whose body is being referred to."

What would be correct in Spanish would be awkward in English. Your translation honors the sentiment of the original.

I would, however, prefer to see:

La última gota
del rio cintila
en el ojo del pez.

The river's last drop
in the fish's eye.

Translated as:

The last drop
of the river shines
in the fish's eye.

To slow the reader down and to preserve the layering of meaning in the original. Plus it looks nicer on the page to my eye.

The haiku reminds me of this one:

The passing spring,
Birds mourn,
Fishes weep
With tearful eyes.

(Basho tr. Yuasa)
Yuku haru ya tori naki uo no me wa namida

Periplum / Re: The Seashell Game - Round 4
February 25, 2011, 03:57:41 PM
Poet LEFT:

toriyagebaba ga migi no te nari no momiji kana

it's become a midwife's
red right hand...
maple leaf


momijinu to kite miyo kashi no eda no tsuyu

no autumn reddening for me -
come look!
oak branch dew

Poet Left:

*On the surface, shasei level, a maple leaf has five 'divisions' which with a little imagination resemble a hand. The midwife's hand in the course of birthing a baby would become bloody. Then there is the contrast between something dying and something being born. Temporality. I don't know what the significance of 'right hand' would be for someone in 17th century Japan and am resisting googling so as to approach the poem on its own merits and within the translation given. But, considering most people are right handed, it may deal with with strength. How would life be brought forth from something dying? Tone is more somber/reflective.

Poet Right:

* Autumn reddening is the beginning of the dying off for winter. I am picturing the poet as male in early middle age when one is still strong (oak) and yet with all the apparent denial of line one, there is the 'dew' on the branch signaling the approach of winter and decline/death.

Poet Left seems to be embracing the cycles of birth and death and their relationship to one another while Poet Right is denying them while at the same time recognizing their inevitability with a certain sadness as in court poetry and 'sleeves wet with dew'?

I am left to wonder if Poet Left and Poet Right might not be the same poet in different moods? Or perhaps it is just that the two poems are taken from the same time period and culture?

Not yet ready to vote.  8)
Periplum / Re: The Seashell Game - Round 2
January 29, 2011, 05:19:25 AM
Drat. I wrote a long post and lost it.

All that remains ... these links:

I understand what you mean, Lorin, about the kerosene lamp and I have a couple of those. I have also used an open votive lamp as pictured above which is where I get the image of the 'floating' mosquitoes ....

Olive oil is rich in symbolism.  'Olive-oil lamp' is the translation for 'candil' given in the Spanish dictionary I pulled from my bookshelf. I did not see 'olive-oil' used in any of the online translations so, it may be an archaic usage.

I am not saying Senegal meant a votive lamp, or one using olive oil; he could have had a kerosene lamp in mind. But, it is an alternate reading... another layer.

The other translations/uses of 'zancudo' are of interest (to me) because of Senegal's use of fire and water.

The translations of 'habitacion' came from the same dictionary. I wondered why Senegal used 'habitacion' rather than the more common 'el cuarto' for 'room,' though for all I know -- and more importantly, don't know -- in Columbia, 'habitacion' may be the more common usage.

habitacion: habitation; house; dwelling; room; biol. habitat

'Habitacion' is the word the maid used for our hotel room in Seville. The image of a temporary dwelling place may or may not correlate to the idea of the body as the temporary dwelling of the soul.

Trying my hand at translating Senegal's haiku was an exercise. In retrospect, sharing my thoughts on this haiku may have been a mistake, one I will not compound by going into my theories on translation.

David, I apologize if I offended you. That was not my intent.



not something
I meant to have happen --
last leaf to fall

Karen Cesar
Blithe Spirit, Volume 20 Number 4

Periplum / Re: The Seashell Game - Round 2
January 28, 2011, 08:17:52 PM
En el candil cadáveres   
de zancudos. Alguien solloza
en la habitación.

Umberto Senegal

Some things to consider in reading this verse:


long-shanked; long-legged
wading; wader, wading bird

candil: olive-oil lamp; tine (of an antler)

cadaveres: corpse; cadaver
cadava:  burnt stump of furze

habitation: habitation; house; dwelling; room; biol. habitat

8- (9-10) – (5-7)

* my count depends on how one pronounces 'Alguien' and 'habitation.'

In the oil lamp corpses
of mosquitoes. Someone sobs
in the house.

* I would like to lengthen the verse in English but ... the problem with translating 'solloza' as either 'sobbing' or 'is sobbing' is that there is a construction for that.

* the problem with 'living room' is that the author could have specified and did not.

What I want to bring out here is the possibility that Umberto Senegal may be referring to an olive-oil lamp (which is what my old Spanish dictionary has for candil). In which case, if the lamp is sufficiently open, the mosquito bodies are floating.

I am voting for Senegal's verse – in Spanish.

Why I wonder the translations rewriting the verse sans punctuation?

The verse when read in Spanish has the sound of water. Every element of the haiku serves a purpose. Lineation, word choice, punctuation etc. It has duende.

Of course Fay's verse is very good too ....


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