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Messages - Richard Gilbert

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Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« on: March 02, 2014, 10:28:03 PM »
Phil writes:
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:
(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:
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:
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 -- 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.”

Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« on: March 02, 2014, 11:34:20 AM »
Ghetto Creep

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):

"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."

“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?
    glazed with rain

    beside the white

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
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)

“… 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)

done you know and

it comes again for a moment

you thought what was you knew

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; 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!
or as was what one was

comes rolling in

as a you and a huge !

I can’t get there, maybe you can.

Field Notes / Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« 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 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, I keenly feel the hole left by the Roadrunner Haiku Journal 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:

Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology, by Paul Hoover, ed.
Review by Michael Robbins (July 2013):

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:

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." A paragraph in her lecture reads:

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" (April 2013), published on "the centennial of 1913, that annus mirabilis for avant-garde poetry." I'm also reminded of 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; 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)

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)

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 and Mind, Mouth and Page 1 -- Williams). Poet/professor/critics are numerous; in North America, two recent luminaries would be Anne Carson (b. 1950; professor at McGill, Princeton; MacArthur Fellow, etc.) and 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)

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.

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:

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:

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.

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

. . . 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. 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:

“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,, 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

the galactic aquarium shatters
our arms ending in starfish

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


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

(Peter Yovu, Sunrise, (RMP 2010) qtd. in New Zealand Poetry Society / Te Hunga Tito Ruri o Aotearoa, book review by Sandra Simpson,; link to Yovu reading from Sunrise (THF Readings, 2012):

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

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)

Greetings fellow night sky travelers,

Here, an update following two lunar cycles of submissions. We've received a a number of poetic works, and hope to see more in the coming months:

Please send your haiku, haibun and short-form poetry to:


There are two topics to mention in this update:

1) We haven't received any graphic images or photography yet, and would encourage your abstract as well as realist-naturalist inclinations. (We can arrange for the receipt of large files via FTP, etc., if needed.)

2) Speaking of realism, the great majority of submissions have been composed in realistic-naturalistic narrative modes -- we'd like to encourage thoughts and musings on "cosmos" that are as extensive as imagination allows, including works that touche on sociality, political reality, psychological truth, interiority, dream, fantasy, etc. Our anthology is not restricted to haiku and tanka genres. By way of example:

water as a magic potion
stars through the broken cistern
how broken this

Here we are less concerned whether the above is seen as "haiku" or "short-form poem" though certain associated characteristics are appreciated. To date, few known poets from North America have submitted works, so we invite your participation.

The projected deadline for submissions is the Solstice of June 21 (Universal Time).

More detailed information is given here:

Some queries have been received concerning haiga.
We are not inviting haiga, as text and images are to be treated separately within the anthology.

Thank you and Happy Solar New Year,
Richard Gilbert

The original post (October 30, 2013):

The Natural Night Haiku Anthology
is seeking submissions, for a book to be published by Red Moon Press, next year.

Please see the above link for additional information, and spread the word by link via FceBook, blogs, etc., if you don't mind.

Seeking your poetry: haiku, haibun and short-form poetry.

Seeking your: images, photographs, graphic designs, etc.

Previously published works are fine (please include the source citation and your permission to use).

There is no firm deadline for submissions; publication is planned for spring-summer, 2014.

Thanks very much,
Richard Gilbert (editor)

Greetings fellow night sky travelers,

The Natural Night Haiku Anthology
is seeking submissions, for a book to be published by Red Moon Press, next year.

Please see the above link for additional information, and spread the word by link via FceBook, blogs, etc., if you don't mind.

Seeking your poetry: haiku, haibun and short-form poetry.

Seeking your: images, photographs, graphic designs, etc.

Previously published works are fine (please include the source citation and your permission to use).

There is no firm deadline for submissions; publication is planned for spring-summer, 2014.

Thanks very much,
Richard Gilbert (editor)


. . .  that a poem can be easily grasped and still work. The kind of poetry I'm talking about is a rare thing, but I am interested in rare things. Maybe a sense of this, which brings in the feeling of longing, can be heard in something Christian Wiman says in a wonderful book My Bright Abyss: "I have wanted some image to open for me, to both solidify my wavering faith and ramify beyond it, to say more than I can say". . . .  But who knows what experiments-- most of which are likely to fail-- may lead to?

Those poems, the ones I praise and aspire to, require a different kind of attention than do those I'm calling "all too clear".

(some further thoughts, based on Peter's, Don's, Devora's &c., comments:)

I think of poetry (not just haiku)
as being created in many many ways --

If it's not something new, in-process, with each new instance, i think you don't usually end up with good "media" (art product -- art is about production as a goal; a making).

So we can talk about what Gary Snyder called "The Real Work." For Don "clarity" is key, a keynote, and a keyword. For myself, it might be: "the amorphous" or "the cloud of unknowing" -- the way of "via negativa." What comes into "focus" may be things I find only later find sweetbitter, later grasp.

And maybe there was something automatic, something like a trance, something like self-extinction.

"Clarity" poses a "something." It is a positive. Perhaps a centering, a "truth" -- in any case a "thing." An evident suchness; of this -- but not: that. However, in-process (poetic process, as acts of consciousness) I'm likewise deeply attracted to experiences of,

as Chet Baker puts it: "Let's Get Lost."

When Jim Kacian wrote "pain fading the days back to wilderness" -- I felt instantly an engram of this experience -- as part of what impels me, as an explorer, a searcher; with a sense not of forging, but following. That's where I feel to go: or it leads me, or opening before me, as if in view, though purely imaginal: back to wilderness. Wildernesses. Not chaos and not clarity; a third thing.

The paths wind on, out, dissolve, into senses (sensibilities) of infinity. "Distance is the soul of beauty" (Simone Weil). And then you may meet up with a rock, a tree.

In the Buddhist Lojong mind-training system are 59 slogans. A few are related with absolute Bodhicitta ["the mind that strives toward awakening and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings" (wiki)]. Primary is "Regard all dharmas as dreams." ("dharmas here means "things," "things in themeselves," "thing-as-such," "stuff.")

"Mind is fundamentally poetic in nature." Soul is "that which deepens" (James Hillman).

We tend to approach reality dualistically: there is literal i.e "real" experience -- and by contrast there is fantasy: thoughts, dreams, fiction. Both Hillman and Vajrayana Buddhism cause us -- or, call us, to deeper contemplations -- to view consciousness, mind, life, less superficially. Hillman discusses this interestingly in his revolutionary work "Revisioning Psychology." And in "The Dream and the Underworld" and in "Healing Fiction."

It's quite significant to me -- this question or Koan -- of regarding all dharmas as dreams. Dreams bring us close to a peculiar experience -- at the moment of the dream it feels completely real, and yet the moment after, what has happened. Something, perhaps something powerful, even life-altering -- yet how to we place it? In Hillman's dreamwork, the key is not to extract meaning or symbolism from the dream (thus ending its story); but rather to return in active imagination -- to attend upon it, attend upon psyche. To learn what psyche wants or asks of us. The image here is that of turning towards a unique, unknown face. (A face likewise can be a landscape, a specific topos.) Hillman describes the process of "de-literalizing the literalizing function." The "literalizing function" is his better term for "ego."

I don't know about you, but for me, living in a purely literal world, as a literal being -- is like psychic death. A kind of pure fundamentalism -- even a form of idiocy. But that was the world I grew up in, the messages I received. So, just say "No!" to literalism (or singular, or rank literalism). Oh, it's been a lovely road -- to finding one's love.

You recall the dual rivers of Eros and Thanatos -- the sense of possession in love, the rapaciousness of death (Persephone in Hades). The great Rivers (psychic streams) of the underworld; Lethe, she of forgetting, her sister Mnemosyne, river of remembrance. Dis-habituation is part of the action of poetry.

This relates to the irruption of habitual mind, a "falling" "slipping" "forgetting" of your step. Suzuku Roshi in "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind," discussed this concept as "shoshaku jushaku" -- living life "as one continuous mistake" (from Dogen Zenji).

In this context, what is clarity and what do we mean by it? To regard all dharmas as dreams, for Tibetan Buddhism is a hint -- perhaps a finger hinting at the moon. ""shoshaku jushaku," similarly. I'm not talking about haiku in particular here -- more about consciousness in creative-poetic flow. I don't think haiku necessarily present a particularly "special" form of poetic consciousness (what do you think?). In fact, we know that some number of poems appearing as haiku were first born in lines of longer poems, in letters, from hypnagogic pre- or post-dream states; from all sorts of places.

"Enriching" -- is a kind of keyword for me. To make ourselves more wealthy, culturally, psychologically -- in embodiment, in actuality, in the fullest sense of the word. The Cartesian dialectic of clarity/chaos seems at best primitive, psychologically. More evident to me -- more relevant is the dialectic: normal/abnormal. Is "ordinary mind" an oxymoron? A tautology? Who are we?

That's why I like the taste of haiku -- it's not an answer, it's food you develop a taste for.

So that's another keyword: nourishment. Sensuous, kinesthetic savor. Truly the pleasure of the text.

. . .  The wind itself is confusion.  A poet noticing the affect of wind on an ant, is clarity.  The swinging of a sword is chaos; the tip of a sword is clarity.

In consideration of this topic, and Don's above partial comment, though off-topic, a review of Jack Galmitz' recent work, quoting Don (in Reply #7, this thread) with reference to clarity:

Jack Galmitz — Experiments in Languaged Obliquity

And, just this morning, caught an NPR interview with John Zorn. It's long, so I abridged it to focus on the topic of clarity "at age 60." Zorn also speaks about creativity (the link to the freely available source-transcript is on the page):

John Zorn on Clarity

That's all for now.

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