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Introduction: Field Notes

Started by Peter Yovu, June 19, 2013, 01:07:42 AM

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Peter Yovu

Welcome to Field Notes. With each installment, a number of writers representing a variety of points of view are invited to form an online panel to explore questions pertaining to haiku. No limits are set; participants are free to interpret each question in any way he or she chooses.

We hope there will be, at intervals of six weeks or so, many such explorations. And you are welcome to add your response to this and all subsequent topics.  To add a response, you'll need to register on our forum.  Click the Register link at the top of each page.


All who participate in our discussions are expected to follow The Haiku Foundation's Code of Conduct. If you have a question or a problem with the forum, please use one of the methods described in Reporting Problems.

Peter Yovu

I want to take a moment to talk about Field Notes. In a sense, it is comprised of two parts. The first I think of as a symposium which my online dictionary characterizes as: a collection of essays or papers on a particular subject by a number of contributors.

These contributors were told in advance what the current Field Notes topic would be, and in the course of two weeks or so wrote what you now have available to you. Like you, they are seeing each others' responses for the first time.

The second part is discussion. If this were an actual conference, it would be the time when the audience is invited to ask questions, offer comments, or express their own views on the topic under consideration. One difference is, the "panelists" of this online conference may or may not be available for discussion. Online discussion, the kind some of us might wish for, requires a commitment of time and focus that not all of us (perhaps few of us) have at our disposal.

Even so . . . .  A few people have written to me saying: okay, there's a lot of good and varied stuff here-- now how do we get the discussion started?

I am hoping that you will help answer that question.

There are a number of entry points. The first one is to simply take your place on the panel and offer your response to the topic. As was true for the panelists, you may do so however you wish. Interpret the question in whatever way makes sense for you.

Another is to say how a given response affected you. If you are logged onto the forum, you can use the "quote" function available with every post. This places the text you wish to quote in a reply window. You may now edit this to select only the parts you wish to comment on, and then proceed to your comments.

Another is to ask for clarification or expansion on something someone said. You never know, you might get it. (And here, too, the "quote" function is useful).

All this may be pretty obvious, but I just want encourage you to jump in.

By way of offering one more entry point, let me ask a variation on the question Where do your haiku begin?

Was there a haiku in your life, or a haiku poet, all those years or months ago, that got you started-- hooked, perhaps--  as a writer, reader, scholar or aficionado of haiku. With which haiku (or poet) did your love of haiku begin? And what can you say about that?

Oh, and one last thing: is there a topic of great interest to you which you would like to see addressed on Field Notes? Let us know.

martin gottlieb cohen

Can the panel or anyone else, talk about how the four Japanese masters experienced hokku/haiku that the late William J. Higginson mentioned in his scholarly Haiku Handbook compared to the recent world-wide Gendai-haiku movement. I realize that there are essays that if put down page by page could pass the moon and continue to the early known visible galaxies. However, I thought it would be nice to talk about it in a casual setting.

Peter Yovu


I am fairly certain that your suggested exploration will be taken up in one form or another in coming months. The question of the relationship between traditional and modern haiku (in its various forms) is a significant one, and it would indeed be good to hear what panelists and others have to say about it.

Thanks for your post. 

Peter Yovu

Over on the Forum I have posted a number of excerpts from the first edition of Field Notes and will continue to post additional ones over the next few days. Have a look, and take a moment to reflect for yourself on the question

Where do your haiku begin?

and let us know what you find.

Snow Leopard


A fascinating topic and a great array of thought-provoking responses.  :)

I wondered if the following might be possible questions for future Field Notes' discussion.:

Does one need to know who the poet is to read and understand their haiku?

How is one's reading of a poet's haiku affected by what one knows about the poet?

Thank you,

Snow Leopard

Peter Yovu

Thanks for the encouragement Snow Leopard. As to your suggestions, all I can say is:

stay tuned.

Peter Yovu

Look for another batch of excerpts from Field Notes: Where do your haiku begin? over on the Forum.

Peter Yovu

Look for the third (and last) batch of excerpts from Field Notes 1: Where do your haiku begin. It's ovber on the Forum.



Very generous of you to offer highlights, a kind of Reader's Digest version of all the poets' responses to the question: "Where do your haiku begin?." You've given me a chance to quickly revisit the pieces I so enjoyed reading.

I like your alternate/ follow-up question as well: "With which haiku, or haiku poet, did your love of haiku begin?" . . .so many that I'm still thinking that one over. Certainly, one poem that influenced me early on was Bob Spiess':

Becoming dusk--
the catfish on the stringer
    swims up and down

As a beginning haiku poet, I got up early, way before work, to read the poems of others further along the path, as they say. Bob Spiess was one of the first poets I read. He seemed like a quiet, simple man living out there in Wisconsin. A Midwesterner like myself choosing his life and words carefully.

His poem "Becoming dusk" affected me by redefining what a writer is. I was used to longer poems by long-winded poets. More "intellective" poems, as Bob often warned about my early haiku efforts. I had to "learn how to unlearn" as Marge Piercy advises the poet.  Spiess' ability to zoom-in on this one image of a fish in a bucket at the end of the day captured me. The fish's time is up. . . And yet, and yet. Up and down. Up. Down. The very motion of life.
That striving toward life struck me as exactly what I was trying to do with these short poems about simple scenes. Perhaps, what all poets strive toward. The value of one unforgettable image. That catfish on a short leash is inside me, an engine of sorts, or rather, an energy source for my own haiku.


Peter Yovu

Thanks, Peter.

I too had an early soft spot for "becoming dusk". I think much of its power comes from the sound of it. Do you think so?

The next installment of Field Notes should interest you and I hope a few others-- it looks at some of what you've mentioned here. We should be online with it on Saturday, July 27. There'll be an announcement.

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