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Aesthetics in haiku

Started by pottygok, June 05, 2020, 09:49:04 PM

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pottygok

I've been thinking a lot about haiku aesthetics lately. Clearly, there are Japanese aesthetics we're all aware of: wabi, sabi, mono no aware, ma, yugen, makoto, etc.

But what are the Western aesthetics that we bring to haiku? I'm curious to know if the past 100 years of haiku study in the United States and elsewhere, and at least 50-75 years of solid haiku writing by various practitioners, has created any sort of Western aesthetics that we should consider when writing haiku? Susan Antolin speaks of "understatement" in one of her essays, and Lee Gurga has an essay about aesthetics that's more of a summary, but I'm wondering if there are others.

What do you think? What are aesthetics that you bring to haiku? What are aesthetics that you think are important, either inherited from Japanese or other poetic traditions?

AlanSummers

Hi Joshua,

A great question because it would be great to hear from a wide range of haiku writers, both new and long-standing, about their aims and practices.

My standing is both well-documented as well as well-known either through Call of the Page (formerly With Words) and across social media platforms.

I'm still journeying as haiku, unlike its pre-1896 haikai verses, is in constant flux, which makes it freer than most poetics.

Flux

Noun. 1. state of flux - a state of uncertainty about what should be done (usually following some important event) preceding the establishment of a new direction of action; "the flux following the death of the emperor"

State of flux - definition of state of flux by The Free Dictionarywww.thefreedictionary.com

flux. The noun flux describes something that constantly changes. If your likes, dislikes, attitudes, dreams, and even friends are changing all the time, you may be in flux. Flux can also mean being unsure about a decision. ... You're in flux until you hear from the potential employer.
Dictionary Definition : Vocabulary.com

We've reached another interesting flux with the extremism of governments formerly known as democratic institutions, the murder of Black citizens and other BAME humans, and Covid-19 Pandemic, through which climate changes and great social upheavals have all coalesced. How the heck do we absorb all of that, either piecemeal, or as a body of work, and incorporating this into our writing?



One of my main themes is the in-betweenness (society, natural history etc...) which is a culmination of MA (see below), 'now' and 'then' with acute contemporary, and "rêverie" observations, slip-realism, and social and natural history awareness. A tall order! :-)

How or can we use our old tools, either perceived ones from Japan, or Western and other non-Japanese essays and articles, or something else, as we are forcibly projected into the real 21st Century?

A lot about what I say about haiku does tend to go into the feedback documents that are sent out on the various Call of the Page email haiku group and individual courses, Skype, and Zoom sessions.

Occasionally I'll post something on my Area 17 blog, or be interviewed.

March 2020 interview:
https://www.inkyvoices.com/podcast/episode-023-alan-summers-amp-karen-hoy

February 2019:
https://haikucommentary.wordpress.com/2019/02/18/interview-with-alan-summers/

December 2016:
Interview with the Sonic Boom magazine regarding white space and white paintings:
http://media.wix.com/ugd/61020d_8aa281272a5d4522becef0eb4f4e5a3a.pdf 

September 2015:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VS36AGVI6s


Recent ebook collections show aesthetics which involve examples of monoku, monostich, and duostich:
https://area17.blogspot.com/2020/06/recent-haiku-poetry-collections-by-alan.html


I recently ran a monoku workshop with the South California Haiku Study Group in May 2020 sending ahead a new article with new exercises which I feel takes us out of any dangerously cosy risks of being too formulaic. We forget that haiku is not the haikai poetry that Basho and others wrote, and came of age pre-WWII through the New Rising Haiku movement, many of whom were reported to Secret Police by Shiki's student Kyoshi, and so a double irony, as it was Shiki in 1896 that created 'haiku' and it grew up in the protests against war profiteering. We don't have to include social injustice in our work at all, of course, but we are a small part of a larger group of communicators.

We also need to consider our versions of the Japanese MA, kire, vertical axis etc...


I've written extensively about white space/negative space which is part of our attempt at bringing Ma (間) in non-Japanese language haiku:

Ma (間) is a Japanese word which can be roughly translated as "the space between two structural parts." Ma is not something that is created by compositional elements; it takes place in the imagination of the human who experiences these elements. Therefore, ma can be defined as experiential place understood with emphasis on interval. Ma has also been described as "an emptiness full of possibilities, like a promise yet to be fulfilled," and as "the silence between the notes which make the music"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma_(negative_space)   

Some poets might avoid attempting Ma, and also of Vertical Axis, which would be a pity:
https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/juxta/juxta-1-1/beyond-the-haiku-moment-basho-buson-and-modern-haiku-myths/


Negative space in haiku
https://area17.blogspot.com/2014/03/negative-space-in-haiku-writing-poetry.html

Note that negative and white space (NWS) isn't just about the single word haiku e.g. tundra, but fuller haiku that still contain NWS.

More about monoku which Hiroaki Sato states is the common approach in Japanese. In this post back in June 2019 I investigate the 'now' in haiku via monoku:

Underlayment: The layering of meaning beyond the immediate, noticeable meaning:
https://area17.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-layering-of-meaning-beyond.html

Alan

Quote from: pottygok on June 05, 2020, 09:49:04 PM
I've been thinking a lot about haiku aesthetics lately. Clearly, there are Japanese aesthetics we're all aware of: wabi, sabi, mono no aware, ma, yugen, makoto, etc.

But what are the Western aesthetics that we bring to haiku? I'm curious to know if the past 100 years of haiku study in the United States and elsewhere, and at least 50-75 years of solid haiku writing by various practitioners, has created any sort of Western aesthetics that we should consider when writing haiku? Susan Antolin speaks of "understatement" in one of her essays, and Lee Gurga has an essay about aesthetics that's more of a summary, but I'm wondering if there are others.

What do you think? What are aesthetics that you bring to haiku? What are aesthetics that you think are important, either inherited from Japanese or other poetic traditions?
Alan Summers,
founder, Call of the Page
https://www.callofthepage.org

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