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Messages - Lorin

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

- Kaneko Tohta

Do you remember those toys, originated in Japan, called Transformers? My son had them. With this ku, I can't get beyond those toys. (My failing, most likely) The 'transformation' seems somehow artificial.

But with Jim's

in a tent in the rain i become a climate

I get a sense of recognition, & one which I wouldn't have had I not read this ku. The sense of 'how true!', though I'd not thought of it before. To me, that's important.

Is it really "impossibly true"? Perhaps, but only until one has read this ku. In a small tent, one-man or two-man, the rain outside only emphasizes the difference between outside & inside: inside is going to be warm and humid from one's breath and body heat. How can one separate oneself from the climate inside the tent, in reality, since inside the sealed  'skin' of the tent one is separate from the conditions outside and this micro-climate is completely made by one's own body in interaction with what air there is inside? "i become a climate" is true, unless one insists on considering 'I' as something not-body, separate from the physical, separate from one's breath and sweat and body heat.

I like your analogy of the Babushka dolls, Scott, but this ku goes inward only to gain an expansion, as you say, at the point of the "imaginative surprise" of a new awareness. From here, from the awareness that the micro-climate in the small tent is inseparable from "I", we might gain a glimpse into more that we are always inseparable from. The ku is not closed. (Though the tent is  8) ) The transformation is the transformation of awareness and it isn't a delusion.

But I can't honestly say that about the 'become a motorbike' haiku, which to me is more fanciful than truly imaginative. I just can't see that someone becomes a motorbike, though I can understand that someone can become like a motorbike in some ways (eg fuming, noisy etc).

Those Transformer toys were fun, though, and they led (in my son's case) to some rather stunning ideas about what humans might become in the future, what with the "Technological Singularity" looming.

- Lorin

" Perhaps most importantly he discusses Shiki's concept of shasei, and shows how incredibly maligned and misread it has been over the years directly because of Kyoshi (not surprising considering he was a megalomaniacal fascist). " - Scott

Yep.  8) ...and it's so good to hear a spade being called a spade again, Scott.

- Lorin
Quote from: Don Baird on July 19, 2011, 04:39:45 PM
I believe this ELH point of view has emersed us into a lightless tunnel of hypocrisy.  When the Japanese were first writing poetry, they used the Chinese language to do so.   It wasn't until later that the Japanese poets wrote their poetry in the Japanese language (which developed later).  When the Japanese began to write primarily in the Japanese language, the reference became "Japanese Language poetry" not dissimilar to what is being forced on English language poets of today.  But, what folks are not saying is that the JLP designation was soon to be ignored.  EHL needs to be soon ignored and haiku needs to be called what it is in any language - "haiku".

There are those today who insist on English speaking poets to continue to use such a designation as English Language Haiku, ELH.  My premise is that it isn't necessary to do so.  And it's the hypocrisy of the century in haiku and poetry in general to force the odd term ELH on anyone, especially if it was being done by someone who is actually Japanese!  For now, the most vocal folks pushing this concept on English speaking poets are other English speaking poets or at least, non Japanese poets.  I find that particularly interesting.  

Remember, Japanese poets originally wrote poetry primarily in Chinese.  As they switched language, over time, they began new collections of poetry in their own language.

Again, I ask all haiku poets to stop referencing our work as ELH or any other designation than haiku.  At the same time, I also suggest that English speaking haijin intensely study the Japanese ways and style of haiku in order to carry haiku forward into the world of non English speaking poetry while simultaneously retaining the integrity of the Japanese ways.  It's called respect.

Vocabulary: haiku, kigo, kireji, ma, yugen, zoka.  There is no reason why non-Japanese poets cannot use Japanese words as part of their vocabulary.  They are easy enough to say and it keeps the thought alive that we are indeed writing a historical style of the Japanese culture.  

Just my thoughts.


ps ...  "If Japanese re-write their haiku in English, what is it called?  If USAians re-write their poems in Japanese, what is it called?  This is in part a reason for "developing vocabulary"." chibi

Answer:  it's called a translation. Otherwise, it is haiku.  The need to change Japanese terms into other languages is a frivolous waste of time.  It also distances foreign writers of haiku from the history and cultural ambience that needs to be retained, actually.  It's important for foreign poets to understand the words and concepts the Japanese use in order to keep from straying from the integrity of haiku and its principles.  haiku, kigo, kireji, ma, yugen, zoka, and all the rest need to be studied intensely, as I've mentioned.  How we reference those skills later might not matter, also.  For now, while we learn more about the haiku ways of Japan, the Japanese terms should continue to be used.

I've just now read through this whole thread, with interest, and every much appreciate the thought as well as the passion revealed in many of the comments.

I'm one who does call haiku in English 'ELH' for short, and I'll say why: it's been to avoid harassment by representatives of one school of thought re Japanese haiku, the most vocal and reactionary of the various schools of thought about haiku in Japan, those whom, to paraphrase Max Verhart, seem to have forgotten all about the Matsuyama Declaration.

You'll find among the text the hope that the various world regions will find their own keywords for their haiku, an acknowledgement that kigo is essentially Japanese that isn't necessarily the right thing to imitate in other-than-Japanese haiku. There is no implication whatsoever that haiku which doesn't follow the Japanese language pattern or use of kigo isn't haiku.

Max Verhart's 'correspondent's report' in the current MH, a recent musing upon some of the issues raised in this thread, is titled "A Missionary of Rather Conservative Persuasion" and focuses on the recent European tour of Mayuzumi Madoka, as an official, Japanese government endorsed, 'cultural ambassador'. It is inconclusive, but ends with:

"So maybe we Western poets will be allowed to keep calling our short poems haiku after all."

I recommend it.

I agree, Don, wholeheartedly, that to call our haiku anything other than haiku would be disrespectful as well as a waste of time and an exercise in absurdity. It is an admirable thing about the English language that it has a tradition of acknowledging the source of its poetic imports.

I also agree that it profits us best to learn all we can about haiku, its history and its aesthetics as practiced by the great Japanese haikai poets from Basho to Shiki and beyond into the contemporary era where haiku practitioners are to be found both in Japan and many other world regions.

I admire the succinctness & pithiness of the whole of your ps (quoted above) especially, Don.  :)

Of course a translation is called a translation, and a translation of haiku, if it's a competent one, is a haiku.  Wish I'd said that and so well. 8)

"It's important for foreign poets to understand the words and concepts the Japanese use in order to keep from straying from the integrity of haiku and its principles.  haiku, kigo, kireji, ma, yugen, zoka, and all the rest need to be studied intensely, as I've mentioned.  How we reference those skills later might not matter, also.  For now, while we learn more about the haiku ways of Japan, the Japanese terms should continue to be used."  - Don

My only reservation has to do with your bundling in of kireji and kigo in with the aesthetic terms, and this has to do with confusion in EL haiku circles about what kireji and kigo are.

are words. When a haiku is read out, in Japan, the kireji are pronounced along with the rest. We do not have kireji equivalents in English (though as I have humorously mentioned many times before, there are some regional dialects which have something like kireji) The aesthetic concept of kire, though . . . the caesura, 'cut', space. . . is something we can and do use within Western haiku, usually either marking it with a 'cut-mark' or by a clear syntactical marker.

are essential to study and understand as well as we can for an appreciation of Japanese haiku, but ( & here is the only part where I'm in agreement with Dennis) one needs to understand them in relation to Japanese haiku and the whole cultural history of Japan.

An example from Gabi:

"Cicada (semi)"

"utsusemi ... cicada shell..."

cicada being born, semi umaru 蝉 生まる 
..... This is a kigo for early summer ."

So far, so good. But just as an indication of the cultural loading of kigo:

""Utsusemi" is also the name of a character in the "Tales of Genji".
The first Chinese character, 空蝉, means "emptyness" or the sky. Symbolically it is used for the frail life of humans in this world and often used in Japanese waka poems."

When we adopt Japanese kigo, we often do it without knowledge of the many implications of the word or phrase, so we use kigo crudely, mostly only as a seasonal reference. When we make up our own seasonal references and call them kigo, do we really all agree (as the Japanese do about their kigo) as to the meanings and references of these words or phrases beyond the seasonal designation?

To what extent is the authenticity of the experiences we hope to convey in our EL haiku compromised if we use Japanese kigo? What if I (with my own Western cultural background including literature and my familiarity with cicadas) associate a cicada shell, not with "the frail life of humans" but with wondrous transformation or metamorposis (& its metaphors, ala Ovid & the classical Greek myths) or

". . . And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. . . ."

- 'Little Gidding' - TS Eliot

Or, to what extent is the authenticity of the experiences I hope to convey compromised if I use eg. a Canadian or Croatian seasonal reference?

Can we (authentically) compile lists various EL seasonal references and call them kigo immediately, since we in the Western nations do not have consensus or agreement as to what 'essential meaning' these words or phrases contain?

I don't have the answers here, only the questions, but I continue to think about these things.

btw, Alan, I loved the humour in the Bill Manhire poem you quoted (thanks for that  8)  ) Exaggeration often makes people think, to good purpose. But I think people should know the position he's coming from, which is clearly that of being familiar with TS Eliot's 'Tradition and the Individual Talent', which is probably the most influential Modernist essays. In it's insight into the currency of the great writers of the past and our relation to them, it still rings true for me. (No, we don't have to 'kill them off'  ::)  )

So here it is, for anyone who's unfamiliar with it, but interested:

(Sorry Scott, you've posted whilst I was down renewing a cup of coffee, so I haven't read your post yet to be able to take it into account here...I'm a slow old typist)

- Lorin

Sails / Re: Sailing 14.5 How Do You Spell Haiku?
July 02, 2011, 11:26:49 AM
" Keith: Of course, the meaning changes the sound. The sound and the meaning, you can't entirely separate."

ah, yes. Thanks, Eve, I can relate to that, and to everything in your extract here. The other statement, taken by itself, isn't something I could come to terms with. I'm so glad he didn't mean it!  :)

- Lorin
Sails / Re: Sailing 14.5 How Do You Spell Haiku?
June 30, 2011, 11:10:50 AM
"I think he is talking about the idea of pinning down meaning and closing down multiple readings, as if there were "the" meaning of a poem to be found once and for all." - Eve

well, if that's what he's doing, he's going back a few hundred years, at the very least. That just hasn't been the case in EL poetry since before the 1920s, at least, and I suspect much longer.

- Lorin
Sails / Re: Sailing 14.5 How Do You Spell Haiku?
June 30, 2011, 01:56:11 AM

out of the water
out of itself

- lorin
Sails / Re: Sailing 14.5 How Do You Spell Haiku?
June 29, 2011, 11:31:36 PM
Quote from: Peter Yovu on June 28, 2011, 07:09:50 PM
When Waldrop says: "You get a poem and you're supposed to figure out what it means. Once you know what it means, you throw the poem away because you have the meaning. That is the destruction of poetry. I want the words to remain and if people don't know the meaning of them I don't think that's as bad as losing the sound"-- I'd say he speaking directly to what we've been discussing here. I'm not sure what there is to add to this, but I wonder what you think. For myself, I greatly value poems whose "meaning" resides in, or remains implicit in sound, and which cannot be quite grasped.

I admit that I don't understand. Couldn't one just as well say:

"You get a poem and you're supposed to figure out what the sounds are. Once you know what the sounds are, you throw the poem away because you have the sounds. That is the destruction of poetry. I want the words to remain and if people don't know the sounds of them I don't think that's as bad as losing the meaning"

Both Waldrop's statement and my reversal of it seem to me to be absurd in relation to poetry. Of course poetry can't be reduced to a prose rendition of the meaning of the words. Of course sound, musicality, is important. But can we designate one of these 'baby' and the other 'bathwater'?

What if the 'baby' is a fish and the 'bathwater' is the estuary?

I hope someone will be able to explain this idea of throwing meaning away to me. Why keep words, then, since words mean, whether alone or in relation to other words?

bzzz bzzz brrm brrm splat

- Lorin

Sails / Re: Sailing 14.5 How Do You Spell Haiku?
June 11, 2011, 11:52:16 PM
Hi John,

I'd say you're onto something with "moves me from my present deep into the past, and I feel that is what is so magic about this particular spell." Who hasn't, in childhood at least, seen faces in trees? One reason why woods can seem spooky at times. In fact, we are hard-wired to recognise faces... it even has a scientific name: Pareidolia.

"faces in the trees" shows our continuing connection with deep history and with all animal life after the evolution of the eye in the Cambrian 'big bang'. Before the eye, of course, there can have been no visible light. No wonder then that Martin's ku takes us to a place of mystery yet of deep connection. It is a mystery that we all participate in.

You can be sure that people saw faces in trees before they thought of carving them in or enhancing what was there.

- Lorin
Hi Nu,
           It might be good if you could find those EL haiku again & post them here for discussion. That way the extra problems of whether a translation which uses overt simile is accurately reflecting an overt simile in the original Japanese or not wouldn't have to come into it. I think I've seen a couple, too, but where I don't know.

- Lorin
Sails / Re: Sailing 14.5 How Do You Spell Haiku?
June 05, 2011, 10:56:06 PM
" the meaning of anything is downright slippery when one is navigating the broadness that is the English-speaking world (and let's not think about what happens when we venture any further afield)." - Sandra

It's true, Sandra, that some words don't mean exactly the same things across the English-speaking world (my story about how a friend, a Sister of Mercy, got back at a priest at an American conference who kept  telling her that he was "rooting for her" will have to wait  ;D ) And it's understandable that an image such as 'faces in the trees' would put you in mind of those 'tikis' carved into trees (and what a sad yet impressive history to those people...I followed yr links & read)

But I think some misreadings disappear when we consider the whole of a haiku, For instance, 'faces in the trees' in context of 'after rain, they're visible.' What kind of faces might not be visible (but not necessarily non-existent) without certain conditions, such as bark being soaking wet? To me, that precludes carved faces or any humanly wrought faces, which might be more (or less) visible 'after rain', but not invisible under other conditions.

Every word counts!

But it does help, in EL haiku to know where in the world the writer is writing from so that we don't interpret haiku only from the insular perspective of our own region. Japanese people reading Japanese haiku don't have that problem, but we do.

- Lorin

modified: changed 'writing' to 'reading' in last sentence
Sails / Re: Sailing 14.5 How Do You Spell Haiku?
June 05, 2011, 10:20:40 PM
" Language poetry also seeks to involve the reader in the text, placing importance on reader participation in the construction of meaning. By breaking up poetic language, the poet is requiring the reader to find a new way to approach the text". -

Language poetry & haiku do clearly have the first in common, and often the second, too (though I'm not at all sure that the 'new' isn't redundant there in relation to Language poetry  :) for me it's implied...a way to approach the text, any way at all we can find to get in! has to be 'new' to any particular reader.

Despite this joke ku, early in my 'haiku' writing

after the lecture
on L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry
... not a word spoken                    

- published in The Mozzie, Feb. 2005

and despite that I have reservations about a poetry movement in which the theory is so often more interesting than the poems themselves, the efforts of the Language poetry people have influenced late C20 -C21 'mainstream''s all part of the river.  

I'd recommend that anyone interested in following where this thread looks like leading read Ron Silliman's charming, intelligent, unpretentious and relatively accessible The Chinese Notebook. It can be downloaded free here:

(We have Chinese Boxes & we have The Chinese Notebook.  8) )

Apart from The Chinese Notebook, which might be a poem... it's certainly not your average discursive essay, it has something in common with Peter's 'Sailings' ideas (propositions & contemplations)...of the various essays on Language poetry I skimmed, those by Lyn Hejinian appealed most to me.

" 131. Sad is Faction. That sounds alone are not precise meaning (in the referential sense) means that before the listener can recognize content he/ she must first have the perception of the presence of words.

132. But if one denies the possibility of referentiality, how does sad is faction differ from satisfaction? How do we know this?

133. "Post-syntactical" implies that syntax was a historical period of language, not a condition inherent in it. Rather than seeing language as a universe whoe total set cannot be dealt with until all its conditions are brought into play, this designation opts for an easy and incorrect solution. Occasionally, it has been used in such a fashion as to assert some sort of competition with "syntactical" writing, with the supposedly-obvious presumption that, being later in language's various conditions, it is more advanced. Such a view distorts the intentions and functions of abandoning syntactical and even paratactical modes.

134. Terms, out of context, inevitably expand and develop enlarged inner conditions, the large field of the miniaturists."

- from The Chinese Notebook, Ron Silliman

Extracts do not do justice, though. It does need to be read as a whole , since it is a whole of interrelated parts.

...& of course I was thrilled that Ron Silliman liked this ku of mine:

their wings like cellophane remember cellophane  

- 1st pub. Roadrunner IX:2,Mar. 2009

So I wrote this one, for him:

white wind
where in the word
is the world?

- Roadrunner,  Issue IX: 4, November 2009

- Lorin

modified: corrected typo (or Freudian slip?) - "Apart from Chinese Boxes, which might be a poem..."  ::)
" In Japanese haiku, by using the cut marker carefully,
we can imply a comparison
without mentioning it directly." - Gabi

Yes, that's the point that Jane was teaching (in the quotations earlier in the thread) ... though overt simile has been a no-no in EL haiku, implied simile is fine  :) It is done in the Japanese and it can be done, and is done in English.

Though Cat's point as to whether it technically should still be called simile is valid, nevertheless it's a good teaching point. The implicit simile is working in Pound's much-anthologised 'In a Station of the Metro' :


    The apparition of these faces in the crowd ;
    Petals on a wet, black bough.

(and I'm not going to argue whether this is a haiku or not, here...all I will say is that I have found it a great 'bridge' poem to show to people familiar with poetry, and writing it, within an introduction to  EL haiku)

In what way or ways might 'the apparition of these faces' be like 'petals on a wet, black bough'? Taking a subway station into account, with gas lighting (then, in Pound's time) or fluorescent lighting now, taking the black stretch of tunnel in an underground station and that chill wind that precedes and follows a train coming into the station, we have plenty to begin with. It is a simile with quite a few layers, but it's implied. It's left to the reader to find the similarities.

But overt simile does have it's place in EL poetry, if not in haiku at this time, and it is possible to use it well. The lyrics of Leonard Cohen's song, 'Bird On a Wire' uses simile superbly, to moving effect, imo.

( available by googling if anyone doesn't know them)

- Lorin

Sails / Re: Sailing 14.5 How Do You Spell Haiku?
June 04, 2011, 09:10:14 AM
Catching up, because I suspect that I have a chance to learn things here. Please bear with me if I seem off-course. If I am, it's because I don't yet understand. But I'd like to.

"But, I think we do ourselves a disservice by suggesting that poetry is more akin to music than language per se.  Poetry operates by usages most of which we are familiar with and sound as meaning, as influencing meaning, is one of them." Jack

Yes, Jack, that seems right to me, sound is one of them, but not he only one by a long shot. In ordinary language, as in poetry, words have meaning, emotional, rational and metaphorical meaning. Disruptions of meaning (but not necessarily of the rational) happen often, and this is obvious in the ordinary course of any beginners class in ESL, whether through odd syntax or pronunciation. As it would happen, to listeners, to English speakers learning a foreign language. Disruption of meaning, and therefore of the listener's perceptions about what's being said, happen accidentally in this way.

A very simple might hear, for a split second, the startling claim, "I came to Australia on a sheep." So sounds do not have their own inherent meaning, as they mean different things in different languages. The sounds of language are culture specific and region specific. My hair used to rise when I had a Chinese couple living next door to me. It seemed, from my EL interpretation of sounds, that the wife was always at least giving her husband a good roasting whenever she spoke, and maybe was even about to commit violent murder, whatever time of day. It was not the case, of course. And English seems to be a 'flat' language to some cultures, as tonality and pitch do not count as much in regard to meaning. Vietnamese, for instance, seems more 'musical' to me than English. The way pronunciation changes, even across the English speaking world, subtly changes how a word is interpreted once we leave the literal meaning. eg...I never got the 'tulip' pun to be found in many American haiku I've read until I realised that Americans (though not all, I'm told by an American native to the Maine area) pronounce the word so it sounds like 'two-lips'. I'm used to hearing it pronounced as 'tule-lips'.

Whatever Walter Pater meant by

"All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music"

He didn't mean that all art, including poetry, was music, or that sound was the basis of all art. But what is this 'condition' to which it might aspire?

- Lorin

Sails / Re: Sailing 14.5 How Do You Spell Haiku?
June 04, 2011, 06:14:02 AM
"Is he perceiving the real, or an alternate reality? Either way, I believe." - Mark

yes, I believe so too... or that reality is big enough for both to co-exist. The poem is grounded, the concept made approachable by that realistic image of the worm's activity though. The human activity (working out how to get in) is like the worm's activity. When we accept that, the door to the poem is open.

Ok, I suppose it takes imagination to get to that acceptance, but engaging the imagination doesn't mean the same as 'disrupting the rational', does it? I'm asking, because I'm not sure exactly what 'disrupting the rational' is, unless it applies to jokes and nonsense verse...but even there, it seems to me to be 'accommodating the irrational', but not losing the rational. Are imagination and the rational opposed?

What do you make of this one?

the river the river makes of the moon

          Jim Kacian

To me, it gives a clear visual image...the moon's reflected path on the water, flowing... a river of light (metaphor), and yes, the river 'makes' this moon river of the moon by its own quality of reflecting light. But dwelling on that, doesn't it also as a whole become a metaphor for perception? When we perceive things, do we not make them into something like ourselves or something known, project qualities of our own onto it in order to comprehend it? That the Milky Way has been referred to by so many unrelated cultures as a river shows that we bring new things into our range of comprehension by finding similarities with the known. Far from being 'just a landscape' doesn't Jim's 'river' poem use metaphor to suggest another metaphor?

Do you know Yeat's "High Talk", one of the Last Poems ( and written whilst Pound was his secretary, I think)

"All metaphor, Malachi, stilts and all. A barnacle goose
Far up in the stretches of night; night splits and the dawn breaks loose"

(well, there are a couple of spellos/ typos in that text, but the other sites I found seem to be making the same ...L 5 should be "make but poor shows", L6 should be "his timber toes" & I don't think that "stalks" should be capitalized  )

- Lorin

Sails / Re: Sailing 14.5 How Do You Spell Haiku?
June 04, 2011, 02:39:22 AM
"...the poem's face and interface use a different strategy than the ones Peter's navigations suggest to me." - Mark

ok, Mark, that makes sense to me.  :)  I also think that Martin's concerns (mainly, when it comes down to it, that we might consider haiku's potential as poems more fully than many of the more formulaic haiku demonstrate) show that it's time that the haiku community woke up to the variety of strategies possible in poetry. I really don't think that Martin is advocating a new formula of 'disruptive techniques' to take the place of the old formula, but rather a broadening view of the possibilities.

Poetry is not aimed at the rational mind, or poetry does not aim at the rational mind alone but at our wider capacities of perception. We are required to willingly 'suspend disbelief', to put the rational mind 'in neutral' perhaps, but not to turn it off completely. We are asked to participate more fully than with just the rational mind.



to get

          John Martone

This poem which you cite, as much as Martin's, brings a mythology, a world view & the concepts of that mythology/ world view into consideration... Buddhist instead of Druid. It is actually a more intellectual poem, relying on a concept and the reader's knowledge of that concept, than Martin's 'faces in the trees'. To me, its strength is that the concept  (emptiness) is given life and, yes  8) plausibility, by that comparative image of the unearthed earthworm twisting instinctively to get back into it's sustaining habitat, the earth.

So how does this poem "disrupt the rational mind"? It suggests, imo, to the rational mind that the true dwelling place of the mind is emptiness (the Buddhist concept of emptiness). In my view it engages the rational mind rather than disrupts.

But you're probably right that I don't understand the direction that Peter would like discussion to go in.

Am enjoying reading the thread, though.  :)

- Lorin
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