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Field Notes: Where do your haiku begin?

Started by Peter Yovu, June 19, 2013, 01:09:53 AM

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Peter Yovu

You may have seen the rich variety of responses that panelists and others have posted in response to the first edition of Field Notes: Where Do Your Haiku Begin? If you haven't, do yourself a favor and please check them out. Make your own contribution if you wish.

Here are some excerpts. There will be more to follow in the next few days.

I believe that the origin of my haiku, and all of my poems, is a waking equivalent to the origins of my dreams.

John Stevenson

I often simply latch onto some observed phenomenon that strikes me as having haiku potential, then look around for other images to support it . . .

I work it over in my "mind's ear" until I settle on a precise form of words that appear to have some creative kick . .

Martin Lucas

. . . my haiku still begin [here]: in that young love affair that has begun to mature over the years of study and experience.

Billie Wilson

"The point at which the poem should really begin is often where, in some other intellection, it might have ended." --Paul Muldoon

I want to say my haiku begin in love.

note to self: resist the view that haiku conveys mysteries that other genres do not. How does it convey, how does it suit my voice?

Mark Harris

my shadow and I
we are inseparable
as long as the sun shines

Max Verhart

[My haiku] begin with some sort of stimulus-- a glimpse, a scent, a memory . . . it's the spark that ignited the curiosity. The second image . . . will be the discovery . . . .

. . .and so the pen kept moving, and I discovered . . .

David G. Lanoue

The process requires sensitivity and selection.  . . . sensitivity to my emotions.    . . .with patience I'll see what I need out of the corner of my eye (visually or intellectually), and the poem will snap into place.

It's not the recency of experience that matters but the vibrancy

Michael Dylan Welch

I begin in/with the Fertile Void

. . . with an increasing awareness of how everything I think is a reflection of change, of passing.

. . . the appearance of something as it passes on its way is "tzu-jan" or an "outbreak" from the fertile void.

The ethos of modernity. . . is not hospitable to such a notion . . .

Tom D'Evelyn

I see/hear/smell/touch only a small fragment of the entire view. It's this tease of the infinite that holds my brief attention.

. . . haiku uses words to express wordlessness; discrete moments in time to reveal timelessness.

Cherie Hunter Day

. . . those core moments [are] my interactions with the world. They [are] discoveries or bits of wonder. They [are] life, breath. But also imaginings-- which is also an interaction with the world.

Paul Miller

. . . my wife flossing. . . the word "zamboni" . . . a doorbell that sticks . . . smokestacks on the horizon . . . a pitcher set before the pitch. . .  the tracks  on my neck  . . . the neck of a bottle . . . a swab of saliva . . . saliva to drive a screw into wood . . . would that I knew where haiku came from.

Lee Gurga

They begin around me and then within me.

I think haiku like other good poems or any work of art are examples of new wholes

Gary Hotham

My haiku begin with . . . my relation to the universe and its visible and nonvisible nature. [It] is both a record of a moment and a realization coming forth in that moment.

Bruce Ross

As I know them, haiku begin with a motivating experience, a notable occurrence . . .

. . .  even if the finest things appear in an unlooked-for flash of inspiration-- a flash, it's worth noting, that took only a universe and a life to prepare.

Allan Burns

Images may remain, since they combine subject and object, while thoughts mostly won't.

I learned to trust in my perceptions, rather than in thoughts.

Dietmar Tauchner

I suppose it's a matter of me staying "in tune" . . . .  I find it a fantastic challenge to translate what I witness/experienced into a haiku.

Don Baird


Where id, ego, and super-ego converge.

Philip Allen
- from each star, a point to view -

Snow Leopard

Martin Lucas:
QuoteI work it over in my "mind's ear" until I settle on a precise form of words that appear to have some creative kick . . .

This strikes a chord with me. Not just the image. I too feel that the haiku-potential of something one has seen or heard can only be realized in the sonority and rhythm of the words chosen by a poet.

Peter Yovu

Here's another batch of excerpts from Field Notes: Where do your haiku begin?

--in observation/renewed awareness of world and word

--in the "feeling of presence, not concept" (Robert Duncan)

-- in the wish to acknowledge change and uncertainty; for a kind of home in homelessness

Philip Rowland

. . . with my writing whatever comes to mind or whatever I'm experimenting with or exploring at the time.

". . . putting to service the riches of our land and language, summoning the dexterity of Western writing tools." (Raymond Roseliep)

I began trying to write haiku about noticing things not there.

. . . our underlying motivation to write often comes from either a feeling that
something is wrong or broken. . . OR that everything is perfect . . .

tai chi
with my wife . . .
morning glories open

This edited version . . . comes from my playfulness with language.

school's out--
a boy follows his dog
into the woods

This title poem from . . . School's Out . . . came from my recognition about different types of consciousness-- the analytical thinking that occupies my mind as a teacher . . . and the intuition, spontaneous playful consciousness as a haiku writer. I learn and thrive from both types of consciousness.

Randy Brooks

I see something while walking, driving, looking out the window that does make me "ah!"

I may get half the poem at the moment and have to search for the other for days or weeks.

Aubrie Cox

silence, what is

to be mentioned:

as far as how to speak where things concatenate

seems to be there is no me to be

. . .

                       what is silence

for a language being.

. . .

silence because I want you to find out



with new determination an ecology of selves shining and new


the idea of embedding haiku into longer forms . . .

. . . if writing for the reader aways ends in 'goodbye'; to give that goodbye gist is something like "mono no aware"-- that cutting moment of resolution, wholeness/emptiness in presence/absence--

Like any good instrument that places the cosmos in your hands, it takes time to work the tools; the payoff is that they can effect novel navigations to near and foreign shores.

Richard Gilbert

Writing haiku is taking up the challenge of expressing in words and images what is often inexpressible.

My haiku come from a pleasurable anticipation of play and discovery.

Kristen Deming

From gazing into the windows of a locked farmhouse whose Japanese owners had been forced to leave...  .

From the Russians shipping my paternal grandparents from Riga to somewhere in Siberia where they died.

From a need to seize the moment.

From watching a butterfly balance on a begonia.

George Swede

That space between noise and silence when something gets written, and later I do not recognise the poem as having been written by me, because I couldn't possibly. . . write like that if I tried.

. . . it's a blinking out of normal space and time.

Alan Summers

Don Baird

I was asked why I write haiku a year or two ago by a fellow poet; my response was, "because their there".  I think that would further explain my thoughts on the subject we have at hand for discussion.
I write haiku because they're there to be written ...

storm drain
the vertical axis
of winter

Peter Yovu

Here is the last batch of excerpts (they can't do the full postings justice)  from Field Notes 1: Where do your haiku begin? (Which does not mean the topic is closed-- please add your response).


If I try to trace it, from something/somewhere beyond me that tingles and quivers something/somewhere inside my body, hangs on a few words, and then slips away again.

In the Between.

Eve Luckring

My haiku begin in memory. . .  As a little bump of something felt . . . A memory with a tactile presence to it: raw material, pre-lingual. I think it's probably something my subconscious has already done a lot of work on.

When we read a haiku our mind peels it off the paper and transforms it into another kind of energy; it's that energy that goes into our memory as "the poem". That's how a haiku becomes a metaphysical reality.

I've this memory--
riding my father's shoulders
into the ocean,
the poetry of things
before I could speak

Michael McClintock

The night and where by light
I am undone and done again.

Peter Yovu

My haiku begin about 3,00 years ago in a wasp's nest in Iberian Gaul.

My haiku begin where my ability to explain things fails.

My haiku begin when I have nothing left to say.


Sometimes I think our haiku are so focussed on exactitude . . . we lose the opportunity for open meanings . . . for hinting at the narrative fragments haiku may possess if we change our lenses and allow for uncertainty.


a loveletter to the butterfly gods with strategic misspellings

. . . It just sounded so beautiful and and mysterious and profound. Who sent it to me? That's up to you.

Chris Gordon

I walk each day . . . to get from Point A to Point B. But I make it a point of my daily writing practice to walk from Point A to wherever I end up.

Haiku happen at just the right speed.

. . . Each seems to lure me closer. . .  A treasure hunt for language.

My haiku begin where there's a void . . . The worlds I discover . . . are the moments I'd like to remember. . . At the same time, my haiku begin by getting lost

Peter Newton

As I live my life I trip over haiku, one step at a time.

Often it is something I see everyday and suddenly realize I am seeing . . . in a new light . . .

Garry Gay

Everything from nothing, nothing from everything: the question is the answer.

Gauguin . . . said:

Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

And he said it as a creative act.

Don Wentworth

I mostly have my "haiku" awareness in image form . . . but every once in awhile . . . words come to mind and startle me.

A very strange thing happens often. I end up living my haiku.

Merrill Ann Gonzales

I was struck by the brevity of [paul reps'] poems.

So I wasn't thinking these reps things were like haiku or anything like that. They just had an immediate charge to them.

He called them telegrams.

Adam Traynor

Sometimes it's laid out as a gift already written for me . . .

heat lightning
the tree's blossom unfolds
into an egret

Other times I have to dig and never find it.

Martin Gottlieb Cohen

H. Gene Murtha

Where do my haiku begin?  Interesting.   Actually many of my haiku derived
from my field notes as a field biologist.   Some come from old free form
poems, performance pems, etc.  How each poem developes
depends upon my mood.  Just about everything I've ever written
is in the moment,  or at least,  in part.

Just because a poem is tiny, it's not necessarily haiku.  Carl Sandburg's
Handfuls, is a good example,  even Gary Snyder's Tiny Words
(if I remember right?) are not examples of haiku, although everyone
is aware that Snyder wrote haiku.

Scott Metz

"The poet writes the history of his body."

—Henry David Thoreau / The Journal of Henry D. Thoreau: Volumes I-VII 9.29.1851

my wife and my daughter

" . . . its willing limitations; "its "sensationism"; its unsentimental love of nature; its lack of [...] elegance; its appreciation of imperfection; [...] its skilful unskilfulness; its "blessed are the poor"; its combination of the poetic vague and the poetic definite; its human warmth; its avoidance of violence and terror; its dislike of holiness; its turning a blind eye to grandeur and majesty; its unobtrusive good taste; its still, small voice. . . .

. . . There is nothing improper in ornamenting one's works by means of religion or philosophy or morality or romance or superstition, provided that there is something fundamental which it ornaments, the pure sensation. Or to put it another way, all the "thoughts that wander through eternity," the "unheard melodies," the "eternal passion, eternal pain," the yearning and despair, the desire for immortality, the desire for death itself are pedagogues to lead us back to the infinitely meaningful touch and smell and taste and and sound and sight."

—R. H. Blyth / A History of Haiku (Volume Two) [xxxi-xxxii], 1963

cumin seeds and cardamom pods; garlic and chilies; fresh herbs; fish; vegetables; lamb; cheese; bread; sour beers

"All of this attention to the exact, occurring right now in a world of blur, often feels like a political statement, a politics [...] dedicated to sharpness, to specificity. [...] [A generation that] explicitly rejects the glaze. It has, I suspect, less to do with craft than with ethics."

—Ron Silliman (5.28.2010)

living in the woods by the sea

"—forms of appropriation. Composition as transcription, citation, writing-through, recycling, reframing, grafting, mistranslating, and mashing—such forms of what is now called Conceptualism on the model of Conceptual art, are now raising hard questions about the role, if any, poetry can play in the new world of instant and hyper-information."

" . . . recycled text, the poet functioning as arranger, framer, reconstructor, visual and sound artist, and, above all, as the maker of pivotal choices. [...] to repeat, delete, juxtapose differently, all in the interest of sound, rhythm, and the look of the poetry on the page. [...] could not exist except in the digital age, where reproduction as well as instrumentation play a crucial role."

"In the poetry of the digital age, "othertextual" echoes inevitably play a primary role."

"Increasingly, the "true voice of feeling" is the one you might discover with an inspired, if sometimes accidental, click."

/ "Poetry on the Brink: Reinventing the Lyric" by Marjorie Perloff [2012]

Noam Chomsky
Cornel West
Glenn Greenwald
Matt Taibbi
Mr. Fish
Democracy Now
Charles Davis
Jeremy Scahill
Naomi Klein

"... poetry is not made of images but of words—and unlikely words at that."

"As mediated by the internet, no poem can be fully "natural"; on screen, it is always already simulated and simulatable. In the same vein, the debate about reader construction (who owns the text?) becomes irrelevant, the reader having the "privilege" of transforming any given text into something else. Even a forwarded email is no longer the "real thing," for the forwarder can edit it at will, all the while presenting it as belonging to its original author. The resistance to commodified language thus becomes less interesting than the ability to cite that language and "write through" it or to play it off against other discourses."

/ "Avant-Garde Community and the Individual Talent: The Case of Language Poetry" by Marjorie Perloff [2004]

my grandmother

"Not images, but "afterrimages," as Joan Retallack's sequence by that title makes clear. "We tend to think," says Retallack in the frontispiece of her book, "of afterimages as aberrations. In fact all images are after. That is the terror they hold for us." "I do not know which to prefer," writes Wallace Stevens in "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," "The beauty of inflections / Or the beauty of innuendoes, / the blackbird whistling / or just after." In Retallack's scheme of things, this becomes "After whistling or just ______": in our fin-de-siècle world, every image, event, speech, or citation can be construed as an "afterthought" or "aftershock" of something that has always already occurred."

/ "After Free Verse: The New Non-Linear Poetries" by Marjorie Perloff [1998]

misheard song lyrics

". . . forms of textual density, including metaphor, allegory, symbolism and allusion, as well as through the constant search for new topics."

"But it could also be fictional, something born of the imagination."

". . . the need to explore not only metaphorical and symbolic possibilities but new areas—such as history, urban life, social ills, death and war, cyberspace."

"The hokku [haiku] was only the beginning of a dialogue; it had to be answered by the reader or another poet or painter."

/ "Beyond the Haiku Moment: Basho, Buson and Modern Haiku myths" by Haruo Shirane [Modern Haiku, 31.1 (2000)]

e rain, the wind, and th

     and the feathers so

and the nerves so


/ "The Cockfighter" by Scott Walker (Tilt, 1995)

my path from home to work work to home

", and he often wrote about other worlds,"

/ "Beyond the Haiku Moment: Basho, Buson and Modern Haiku myths" by Haruo Shirane [Modern Haiku, 31.1 (2000)]


"Poems rise not so much in response to present time, as even Rilke thought, but in response to other poems."

—Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence (in Traces of Dreams by Haruo Shirane)

) fog (r

"It is for this reason that the audience takes pleasure in very subtle variations on familiar themes."

from "Beyond the Haiku Moment: Basho, Buson and Modern Haiku myths" by Haruo Shirane [Modern Haiku, 31.1 (2000)]

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