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become (haiku & transformation)

Started by Scott Metz, July 23, 2011, 04:06:16 AM

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Jack Galmitz

I would like to take credit for the poem you think I wrote, but the poem you quote was John McManus' and I critiqued it.
Also, I don't think he meant "homeless" to be part of the haiku: it was a reference, I believe, to what I had posted earlier about feeling homeless, that I had no place to call my own in the haiku-journal world.
If I am wrong, please let me know John.

Peter Yovu

I'll offer a poem from Sunrise.

word of his death
bees streaming out of a hole
in the dictionary

Transformation upon hearing devastating news. . . in terms of "becoming", something like:

hearing about his death
I become a dictionary
drained of meaning

The prose restatement, of course, doesn't carry other possibilities implied in the original.

John McManus

You are spot-on Jack, I was reffering to what you were saying about being homeless, and thanks so much for your suggested edit. I'll certainly have a good think about it  ;)

The thing that strikes me about all the poems offered is that they're bold and carry alot of depth. They do remind me of my daily transformations, but they also offer a wonderful opportunity to peak into the inner realities of poets who write such poems.


Jack Galmitz

Glad to hear from you, John. I thought I might have offended you.  And, anyway, you do have one admirer of your work who gave it big kudos.
Keep up the good work.


Quote from: Jack Galmitz on July 30, 2011, 10:26:51 PM
I would like to take credit for the poem you think I wrote, but the poem you quote was John McManus' and I critiqued it.
Also, I don't think he meant "homeless" to be part of the haiku: it was a reference, I believe, to what I had posted earlier about feeling homeless, that I had no place to call my own in the haiku-journal world.
If I am wrong, please let me know John.

Thank you Jack - sorry John ... modified the posting.  Apologies .....

Homeless ... kind of worked as a post script.

Mark Harris

Yutei's flock of cranes
are life-size and move so much
I become a crane

- Jack Galmitz

the silence grows
teeth- a tree
with cracked windows

- Scott Metz

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

- Mikajo Yagi

word of his death
bees streaming out of a hole
in the dictionary

- Peter Yovu

a selection of the poems offered on this thread. Some might find them too far removed from observation. Or too far from the implication of metaphor. Beyond the pale, as the English used to say. Are they against nature and against haiku rules, or against preference? What makes a haiku believable? I'm reminded of a Peter Yovu essay that four years ago appeared in a frogpond 31:1

"Perhaps all that is called for here is more openness and honesty about the role of imagination in our haiku, and giving ourselves permission to be "authentic" in ways that go beyond received notions of what that means. For some people it means experimenting with writing purely from the "imagination" and finding out what is real in it. The worst that can happen is that what you write will strike you as false, though the false, as you may have discovered, is often a cover-up for what's true, and a way station toward it."

Gabi Greve

人間になりたい海月ぷかりぽかり  鎌倉佐弓

ningen ni naritai kurage pukari pokari

ningen ni naritai kurage pukari pokari

jellyfish with a wish
to be a human
bobbing, floating

Sayumi Kamakura

from "Haiku Shiki" ("Haiku Four Seasons," a monthly haiku magazine) ,  July  2010 Issue, Tokyo Shiki Shuppan, Tokyo

Tr. Fay Aoyagi

naritai ... could also be translated as ... to become

the jellyfish wants to become a human


Peter Yovu

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.

John McManus

Hi Peter, excellent example. I am a big fan of Chris ;)

How about this one from Scott that does something similar

the war awakens the face of an insect in the mirror

He makes no reference to himself or any other human presence, and yet when we reach the end of the poem we know instinctively that he is talking about himself as well as humans in the general sense of how war makes each of us ugly.


Jack Galmitz

A fine, solid reading, Peter, of Chris's poem and an exemplary poem of what you are naming haiku transformation from within.
Frankly, Chris Gordon is the unsung hero of haiku, with a range unequalled, in my view, by any other haiku poet.  And, to think he has stood alone, guiding this modernism, for 17 years, without fanfare or the search for praise says a great deal of his character.
His Chinese astronaut series, his crow series, his Everything stops here but the bus series, his invisible circus series, these alone are amongst the most ingenious, insightful, farcical, imaginative haiku we have in English. For me he stands out as perhaps the best haiku poet of our time.
The effectiveness of the poem you cite and others of Chris's depend upon his willingness to break lines differently than the expectations we bring usually to poetry; in the cited poem merely shifting the word "in" to begin the second line creates the ambiguity you discuss; he brings a brilliant sense of line to haiku, something rarely even envisioned by most of us.

Jack Galmitz

Then, we have John Martone's simple/complex concrete poem that doesn't work so much by transformation, but by observation, something he is the master of:

vulture my other side

We have the creator, the lover, the family member, giver, etc. on one hand and the devourer of death flesh on the other; that is what we are; doesn't need transformation and it is "hardly" a metaphor, but more a concretization.

Mark Harris

Jack Galmitz

Perfect. Mark.
Of interest here is Martone's "the neolithic re(turn) in poetry. Have a read of it.

Mark Harris

Ah. Jack

thanks, hadn't read that one. And posted on the web--his sense of humor. I like:

"The poem as medicine. And life today is nothing if not in need of healing."


"Finally even the best discussions of poetic language offer only an academic quantification of primal efficacy. We need a rebirth of awe."

whatever and whoever else transforms, first and last a poem is (sometimes becomes? when?) "an OBJECT bearing energy."

lapidary or chattery? fashionable we're not (I think) and while our thoughts here might not become objects, they carry energy



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