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Messages - Lorin

Quote from: Peter Yovu on August 03, 2011, 12:25:22 AM
what we breathe
in human skin
and insect parts

                       Chris Gordon

A number of poems we've looked at are about transformation. We started with Jim Kacian's

in a tent in the rain I become a climate

which gives us an outside look at something experienced, not so much the experience itself. That said, I have a lot of praise for the poem. Other poems also, including Tohta's, tell us about the author's experience, tell us that he or she had an experience, but again, there is a sense of being outside. And I love Tohta's poem as well, and other poems of explicit "becoming".

But there are ways, and I believe Chris Gordon's poem may serve as an example, where transformation is what happens within and as the poem itself, and we are led by the internal force of it, to undergo a transformation. To experience it.  

Ambiguity is one way this may happen, a place in the poem where we are forced into uncertainty, a state in which we may experience, if only briefly, a sense of another reality. In Gordon's poem there are two simultaneous senses, and maybe more, but two are primary as I read it--

     what we breathe in:  human skin and insect parts

That is one reality, a somewhat familiar, if unpleasant one. The other is this one--

      what we breathe in human skin and insect parts

or, to be clear about this:

      there are things we breathe while we inhabit our human skin and our insect parts

This reality, which has entered through the door of ambiguity, is certainly less familiar, but because ambiguity and simultaneity act as wormholes into strangeness, we feel the truth of it-- or rather, we are less defended against the strangeness. If only briefly, until the rational mind says "yes, I inhabit my human skin, but not insect parts, forget it".

But what the poem enacts is the becoming something more than human, or perhaps something more human, if we accept that yes, we are also made in some way of insect parts. It is not a long shot from Issa's empathic haiku.

The poem works from the inside out, rather than from the outside in. Or it may be truer to say it works from the inside to a place deeper in, or different.

A poem like this gives me hope that what we call haiku is still alive.

"In Gordon's poem there are two simultaneous senses, and maybe more, but two are primary as I read it--

      what we breathe in:  human skin and insect parts

That is one reality, a somewhat familiar, if unpleasant one. The other is this one--

       what we breathe in human skin and insect parts

or, to be clear about this:

       there are things we breathe while we inhabit our human skin and our insect parts

This reality, which has entered through the door of ambiguity, is certainly less familiar, but because ambiguity and simultaneity act as wormholes into strangeness, we feel the truth of it-- or rather, we are less defended against the strangeness. If only briefly, until the rational mind says "yes, I inhabit my human skin, but not insect parts, forget it". - Peter

Interesting, Peter. The first (& 'primary') reading I had (catching up a little on this thread this morning) is the one you haven't mentioned.

what we breathe (is) in human skin and insect parts

what we breathe
in human skin
and insect parts

Everything you've said here confirms my feeling that this is a ku that might be better rendered as a one-liner, if we are to find ambiguity. If line breaks are to be ignored by the reader, why have them?

If what you say is right, then isn't there a deliberate misdirection by the author?

- Lorin
Other Haiku News / Re: Passing of Jan Bostok
September 07, 2011, 01:29:33 AM
After reading the sad news that Jan Bostok had passed away, I sat down and reflected on the strange but true story of how we almost, but didn't meet back in the early 60s. The memories came flooding in: Jan's memories, my memories, the stories we swapped and the gaps we filled in by combining those stories.

It was wonderful to finally meet Jan in person at the 4th Pacific Rim Haiku Conference,2009, in Terrigal. We'd missed crossing paths by barely a whisker, in younger years, in a very isolated community where everyone knew everyone. We shared many memories, nevertheless... a bush town, its people, a winding road that followed the old bullock trails, a river that flows into an estuary. By coincidence I'd stumbled onto the haiku path that Jan had been the pioneering spirit of in Australia for decades and as haiku editor for Stylus, Jan had encouraged me to continue.

My first contact with Jan was a time for remembering. Again, on hearing of her passing, it's a time for remembering and for being thankful that life did somehow arrange that we would eventually meet.

  incoming tide


the width of the river

(by Janice M. Bostok, from 'Amongst the Graffiti', Post Pressed, 2003)

- Lorin Ford

ps there are some messages on HaikuOz as well, and more expected over the next several days:
New Haikai Journal - A Hundred Gourds

The editorial team of 'A Hundred Gourds' welcomes your submissions to our first issue, which will be published online in December, 2011.

'A Hundred Gourds' is a new journal featuring haiku, haibun, haiga, tanka, resources (articles, commentaries, reviews and interviews) and special artwork.

The journal's name is based on a haiku by Chiyo-ni:

hyakunari ya tsuru hitosuji no kokoro yori

a hundred gourds
from the heart
of one vine

(translation by Patricia Donegan and Yoshie Ishibashi)

'A Hundred Gourds' is managed by its editorial team: Lorin Ford, Melinda Hipple, John MacManus, Gene Murtha and Ray Rasmussen. Ron Moss will continue to support us in his valuable role of contributing and consulting artist.

We are dedicated to producing a high quality journal, and look forward to your submissions.

Books for review (hard copy only) may be sent to John McManus or to the haiku, tanka, haiga or haibun editor respectively.

* Submissions for the first issue of 'A Hundred Gourds' close on September 15th, 2011*

Submissions and enquires may be addressed to :

Lorin Ford, Haiku Editor:

Melinda Hipple, Haiga Editor:

John McManus, Resources Editor:

Gene Murtha, Tanka Editor:

Ray Rasmussen, Haibun Editor:;

Submission Guidelines

Submissions of up to 10 original and unpublished haiku and tanka and up to 3 haibun should be placed within the body of the email. No attached submissions will be opened for these sections.

Submissions of up to 10 haiga may be sent as attachments.

Please include your name and country of residence in all submissions.

*Note: poems that have appeared on Facebook, blogs or any other online source that may be accessed by an internet search engine are considered published and not eligible for submission.


Lorin Ford (haiku editor)
for the Editorial Team
A Hundred Gourds

modified: added Submission Guidelines
" I don't think that Mikajo Yagi's

The falling leaves--
rushing underground I notice
scales on my skin

would make the cut, and yet for me, it is truer, more genuine and has more depth, more interiority and planes than many that do." - Peter

This is a beaut! To me, though, it does (extremely well) what other seemingly 'ordinary' haiku do also: imply a transformation that's taking place, imply an underlying relationship (biological, in this case) which is a basis for transformation, suggest by creating the sense of a perceptive space/place that's between two 'realities' (for want of a better word) or 'worlds'... the literal and the mythical.

What happens next? Does the woman make an appointment with a dermatologist or does she find that she has turned into a snake? Does she catch a train home to the suburbs or does she begin to hibernate in a hole in the ground? Does she find that she's both woman and snake, like a Lamia?

But of course it's invalid to speculate which world is the 'real' one because at this time, the time of the poem, both worlds co-exist. This is the 'between-ness' that many good haiku (& other poems!) create for the reader to experience, some in small ways others more sweepingly.

I don't know what I can post of my own here in context. There are a couple that'll be published in journals later this year that might scrape in, but I can't post those.

I guess all I can do is share one which I believe carries a transformation, though a relatively quiet, even sedate, one and not a transformation of person:

afternoon tea –
each ant takes away
a granule of light           

- THN Volume XIII, Number 2: June, 2011.

That it is 'afternoon tea' time (between 3pm and 4pm) is essential.

Not quite what is wanted, though, I think, in the context of this thread. A couple of others might be closer, but have been accepted for publication later this year, so I can't yet post them.

- Lorin
Quote from: John McManus on July 27, 2011, 08:03:30 PM
Mark, I understand what you're saying, but I was talking more about the identities we create for ourselves and how they help us define our purpose and place. 

We do create 'identities' for ourselves, and adopt roles, neither of which reflect what or who we really experience as all of ourselves.

The terminology doesn't matter: we accept roles and adopt them and attribute them to others...mother, horse-rider, home-owner, cat-lover, gardener, student, Prime Minister (or "Mr President"), art lover, anarchist, Christian, Buddhist, housekeeper, poet, humanitarian, devil's advocate, etc etc

There are also common metaphors we use for ourselves or others: doormat, pig, sow, drongo, workhorse, fox, couch potato, sloth, tiger, chook, hen, rooster, chick, sheep, goats, iron man, petrol head, wolf, dog, bitch, beast, loan shark, bird brain... yes, 'swan' and 'ugly duckling', too  . . . it could go on & on, and most of the metaphorical names we could list are probably culturally specific.

No-one bats an eyelid if someone says, "She became his doormat" or "For all of the holidays, I was just a couch potato", or even thinks of literal or surrealistic transformation because the metaphors are understood (or cliched, if seen in literature) Still, even these common and cliched metaphors condense meaning.

New metaphors... such as " I become a motorbike"...we have to work out for ourselves in context.

- Lorin

But 'after' doesn't carry the metaphorical connections with 'motorbike' that 'exhausted' /tsukushi does. So why would translators ignore tsukushi ( a rich word, in context) and replace it with a mere preposition (indicating place in time, and no more) in English?

- Lorin
Quote from: Gabi Greve on July 26, 2011, 07:18:52 AM
gekiron tsukushi michi-yuki ootobai to ka su

gekiron ... geki ron

the RON is the argument, but the GEKI is only "heated" in my English translation, since it is an English expression, I think, to have a "heated argument".

the GEKI in Japanese is not about temperature. not a product of combustion.

it is more in the vein of "vehement".


gekiron tsukushi michi-yuki ootobai to ka su

" gekiron ... geki ron

the RON is the argument, but the GEKI is only "heated" in my English translation"

Yep, that fits , Gabi...but where is tsukushi in the translations?

heated argument exhausted
I go out into the street
and become a motorbike

(or "a motorbike passes" ?)

Sherlock Ford  8)

ps. in which case there would be an implied sense of "vented" , "venting" [one's emotional attachments to one's own position in the argument] as well. The argument (or the topic of it) is exhausted, but also one's emotions, in relation to it, have been 'exhausted' in the sense of 'safely carried away/ given an outlet', like the exhaust from an engine is carried away ( or 'vented') by the exhaust pipe.

vent 1 Pronunciation (vnt)
1. A means of escape or release from confinement; an outlet: give vent to one's anger.
2. An opening permitting the escape of fumes, a liquid, a gas, or steam.

It fits for me, anyway.

modified: added the ps.
" After a heated argument" --- heated:   the product of combustion?

"Definition: Combustion is a chemical reaction that occurs between a fuel and an oxidizing agent that produces energy, usually in the form of heat and light. 

Internal Combustion Engine:

"The internal combustion engine is an engine in which the combustion of a fuel (normally a fossil fuel) occurs with an oxidizer (usually air) in a combustion chamber. In an internal combustion engine, the expansion of the high-temperature and -pressure gases produced by combustion applies direct force to some component of the engine, such as pistons, turbine blades, or a nozzle. This force moves the component over a distance, generating useful mechanical energy.[1][2][3][4]"


ex·haust Pronunciation (g-zôst)
v. ex·haust·ed, ex·haust·ing, ex·hausts
1. To wear out completely. See Synonyms at tire1.
2. To drain of resources or properties; deplete: tobacco crops that exhausted the soil. See Synonyms at deplete.
3. To use up completely: exhausted our funds before the month was out.
4. To treat completely; cover thoroughly: exhaust a topic.
5. To draw out the contents of; drain: exhaust a tank gradually.
6. To let out or draw off: exhaust vaporous wastes through a pipe.
To escape or pass out: Steam exhausts through this valve.
a. The escape or release of vaporous waste material, as from an engine.
b. The fumes or gases so released.
2. A duct or pipe through which waste material is emitted.
3. An apparatus for drawing out noxious air or waste material by means of a partial vacuum.
[Latin exhaurre, exhaust- : ex-, ex- + haurre, to draw.]

In relation to the poem, the "I'' of the ku still has energy after exhausting the topic of the 'heated discussion', and goes out into the street only to recognise himself (metaphorically) in a motorbike, still having more 'fuel' for more combustion and therefore able to go a further distance?

- Lorin
" tsukusu means to use something to its fullest, to do all that can be done with it," - Gabi

yes, so does 'exhaust' (verb) 'to exhaust the supply', 'to exhaust the potential' of something. Yet this is connected (in English) with 'exhaust' as used in relation to motor vehicles. The 'exhaust pipe' is what carries the remaining gases from exhausted fuel away from the engine. The remaining gasses and carbon left over from the exhausted fuel are called "the exhaust" (noun)

having exhausted the hot topic
I go out into the street --
a motorbike passes

;D well, I like it, anyway. The connection/ relationship between discussion topic and motorbike is implied, as is the relationship of the sound of a motorbike to the sound of people arguing a 'hot topic'. . . people sounding like motorbikes, a motorbike sounding like people expressing their views strongly.

gekiron tsukushi michi-yuki ootobai to ka su

After hateful words,
I roar off
like a motorcycle.

(tr. by Lucian Stryk)


After a heated argument
I go out to the street
and become a motorcycle

(tr. by Makoto Ueda)

I can't understand why tsukushi didn't make it into the translations. There has to be a reason.

- Lorin
Quote from: Gabi Greve on July 25, 2011, 11:52:41 AM
Is tsukushi a kireji, then?

No, it is not a cut marker.
It is derived from tsukusu ...  to exhaust

You can check the most common kireji here

I am still trying to find out if Tohta sensei used a motorbike at that time, maybe to drive home from the haiku meeting after the heated discussion.



Thanks Gabi... just intuitively (which is as often wrong as right) this (prose) sense occurs:

" having exhausted the topic of the heated argument"

I go out into the street
and become a motor bike

...which emits an identifiable motorbike sound through its exhaust pipe (& pollutes the air?)

In other words, could there be, lurking somewhere in this ku, the same pun on 'exhaust' in Japanese as there is in English?

With the word "exhausted [the topic of conversation]"  echoed by the implied sound coming from the exhaust pipe of a motorbike as it starts up and takes off?

If that's the case in the Japanese, then there's a piece of the puzzle entirely missing in the English translations.... tsukushi ( "derived from tsukusu ...  to exhaust") appears not to have found its way into the translations, anyway.

I know that Tohta (I think it was Tohta) used a sound pun in a dandelion...tanpoppo? ...haiku, that you explained somewhere.

- Lorin

modified: found I'd posted my comments within Gabi's quoted comments  ::) so corrected that, then added the 2nd last sentence to (hopefully) clarify what I mean by my guess. Then added the last sentence.
Thanks for the romanji text and translation, Gabi. Looks like Uedo's is closest.

Is tsukushi a kireji, then?

"This seems about the haiku poets enthusiastically discussing the development of modern haiku until late into the night." - Gabi

;D  8)

Funny, different people have different associations with motorbikes...'danger', 'rebellion' seem to be a couple that've been mentioned. Another, for some, is 'freedom' and another, 'independence'.

- Lorin
I've been reminded of a pictorial example which uses the metaphor of 'instant' metamorphosis which appeared in many local (Australian) newspapers and magazines this century and which was designed to be (and was) immediately accessible to people who might not have read a page of poetry in their lives, let alone know the term metaphor.

The picture is of a dinner party, all seated around the table. Centre of picture is a man with the head of a very vicious-looking, snarling Doberman Pincer, fangs bared, spiked collar and all, and a woman seated next to him starting back in shock and horror. The impression is of instant transformation, and we do not mistake the man for an ancient Egyptian, jackal-headed god.

Most Australians would not need to read the text to understand that the man with the dog's head was about to "bite the woman's head off" (a metaphor in common speech) or that this sudden change was about to be attributed to loss of social poise due to his overdoing the alcoholic beverages. And some of us would recognize one source of this 'transformation into wolf man' metaphor in the C19 novel, "Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde" and werewolf themes. In common culture, we are used to people 'turning into' something else, metaphorically speaking. Circe's pigs are not as rare as we'd like them to be and many a Drongo is distinguishable from the actual bird only by his inability to fly and lack of literal feathers.

But which translation of Kohta's 'motorbike' haiku is closest to a true rendition of the original?

After hateful words,
I roar off
like a motorcycle.

(tr. by Lucian Stryk)


After a heated argument
I go out to the street
and become a motorcycle

(tr. by Makoto Ueda)

In any case, I admit that my preference for the Kacian 'in a tent in the rain...' is because I can imagine myself into it, it seems to invite me to be the 'I' who becomes a climate and allows me the basis for doing that, whereas Tohta's seems to be telling me something about himself. As does Fay Aoyagi's 'application to become a crab'. Though I find humour in both and can appreciate them to a certain extent, I find that I am 'audience' to these poems, rather than participant. To me they are 'quirky', individualistic, in a way that the Kacian ku is not.

(Maybe this is the result of having listened for too many years to 'confessional' performance poetry before I found a welcome change in many haiku?)

- Lorin
Quote from: Jack Galmitz on July 24, 2011, 08:02:23 PM
Briefly, our Western tradition is fraught with metamorphosis and books that utilize it as their center piece.  Consider Odysseus and his relationship with Circe, who turns half of his men into swine.  And, throughout this epic the very gods themselves are literary deus ex machina brought into the "real" to resolve problems.
Then, Ovid's Metamorphoses, which tells the stories of mythological figures who have undergone metamorphosis.
Or the Golden Ass of Apuleius, an allegory of a man possessed and transformed into a donkey and his journey and learning towards release and salvation.
Not to mention the transfiguration of Christ in the New Testament.

I'm sorry if I gave the impression that I'm an advocate of strict 'realism', Jack. Perhaps my expression isn't as good as it might be. I tried to show how one haiku ("in a tent in the rain...")was more successful and immediate for me than another ("I become a motorcycle").

Whilst I admit that my head spins when I try to absorb the various dialects of linguistics (I find the abstract difficult... too many signifiers and signifieds and I'm bushed! I am poor at maths, too)  I'm quite aware of metaphor as the great connector in the English language, am familiar (& love) the Greek myths and also Ovid's greatest work, 'Metamorphoses'...have also read Kafka and Neruda. And my favourite play is Shakespeare's last, 'The Tempest'. Also, being Australian and from the country, familiar with many of the Dreaming stories.

In fact, I love the myths of the world.

I like where this thread is going, too, and will continue to read all of the posts with interest and an eye to my further education...maybe even ask a question or two along the way for my own benefit.

"We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep."

The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158

- Lorin

Cold rain-
in the paper bag crabs
begin to clamber
- Jack Galmitz (From the Effects of Light, AHA 2002).

cold rain—
my application
to become a crab

- Fay Aoyagi

It well could be that Fay's ku was inspired by yours, Jack, though to me it doesn't seem to be a parody but rather a humorous extension on a subjective level. . . "in this cold rain I'd rather be a crab in that paper bag than standing here getting soaked to the bone", sort of response, made 'poetic' by importing the idea of formal 'application' (such as an application to the relevant authorities to become a citizen of a new country) and applying it to the passing whim of wanting to be a crab.

Playful. . . the use of extended hyperbole? And like so many of Fay's haiku I've read, very 'Fay-centred'.

This is a difference I've been noticing between contemporary Japanese haiku and many current EL haiku.

Whilst the "I" in Jim's "in a tent in the rain" ku both 'becomes a climate' and disperses within that climate, the "I" in both haiku by Fay Aoyagi quoted here by Scott, like the "I" in the Kaneko Tohta haiku, is rock solid and placed dead centre in the poem.

Is this an aspect of Post-Modern poetics? I'm reminded of that quip of TS Eliot's (one who spoke for the Modernist poetics that he helped form)

" Poetry . . . is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things."

- 'Tradition and the Individual Talent', 1922

- Lorin
in a tent in the rain i become a climate

For me, "become" is working very well here. Something I find both interesting and admirable is the way time is encapsulated here. Contrasting with the speed of reading the ku is the time it takes for a process to happen (the process of 'becoming something' ) One recognises (or I do...interpretation is ultimately personal and according to experience) that this kind of 'becoming' is common in the world...the same basic process as in butterfly or cicada metamorphosis. A natural process that happens over a certain amount of time.

No-one waves a magic wand and suddenly a caterpillar is a butterfly. Jim doesn't zip up the tent and immediately 'become a climate'. That might be 'impossibly true' or simply untrue.

In a way, the haiku itself, the words as they are set out on the page/screen, is like the sealed tent, which in turn is like a biological test tube or the alembic or retort of the alchemists of old. Within this sealed environment, a natural process happens and the process takes as long as it takes under the conditions needed for it to take place, whether that is a zillionth of a second (in some sub-atomic processes or the chemical/ electrical changes in our brain synapses) or a month or so (in the case of caterpillar to butterfly) or an hour or so (in the case of someone in a sealed tent in the rain)

The thing is, this haiku is entirely plausible because the 'ground work' ("in a tent in the rain") is done before the seemingly implausible "i become a climate". Yes, there is a shift (and maybe this is what Scott means by 'semantic shift of register' ? ) . . . it's something like the shift of view that happens if you look at a drop of blood then put it under a very powerful microscope and look again. What's transformed? One's awareness.

Such poems are memorable for the change they make in our awareness.

- Lorin
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