Author Topic: Field Notes 5: Criticism  (Read 40782 times)

Karen Cesar

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #45 on: February 24, 2014, 12:37:48 PM »
In reading Jack's comments, I found the following site helpful:


http://eclipsearchive.org/authors.html


In terms of history and the way our minds try to organize/find/ impose meaning, something I found interesting regarding 'critique' is that in dipping in here and there on the referenced site  ( and I'm not sure which poem sparked this) one poem had the words 'green' and 'mile' in close proximity. My mind immediately went to the movie The Green Mile which would not have been in the poet's frame of reference due to when poem and movie came out, but which was obviously in mine.How often do we automatically do this I wonder?  And how resistant my mind is to 'the breaking of the vessel.' Thanks for an interesting & thought provoking thread.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2014, 12:53:11 PM by Karen Cesar »

Gary Hotham

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #46 on: February 24, 2014, 03:58:57 PM »
24 Feb 2014

1/ re Galmitz: "As to photography being around much longer than haiku, it's not quite accurate.  If we recognize Alfred Steiglitz as the man most influential in admitting photography into the modern art world, we can see some of his early "art" photography beginning around 1894."

There was excellent photography before Steiglitz.  Also in the early days of photography it was difficult to be an amateur.  And the Civil War photographers created photos by moving bodies and weapons around.  What would they have done with digital!  Steiglitz had an easier technology to work with.  Sort of like the haiku writers now don't have to deal with 5-7-5 syllable counts.  I suspect some don't even know there was such an inhibition!  Even without 5-7-5 it doesn't make it easier to write a good one.  Actually 5-7-5 makes it easy...

2/ re Galmitz: " Pound's Station of the Metro was published in 1913. Not that great a difference in time from 1894. And, I would say, without proof, that Pound's poem Metro remains and probably will always remain the greatest English language haiku written."

Pound may have written Station of the Metro in 1913 but where did the English language haiku go in the next 50 years?  I wonder if he was consciously writing a haiku at all.   It is sort of a fluke. And I would certainly agree at this time there is not much  proof for it being "the greatest English language haiku written."  I wonder when the Japanese realized Basho had written the greatest haiku of all time?

newtonp

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #47 on: February 24, 2014, 04:50:31 PM »

What is excellence in haiku and haiku-inspired poems? And is this a useful question?
   
It is always useful to talk poetry. Having said that, excellence is a subjective term. A judge’s ruling, so to speak. According to the laws of the land. There are many laws, rules in the land of haiku. To my ear, an excellent haiku is one I want to read again, remember and live with for the rest of my life.

A talisman of words that are threateningly obvious. A discovery of an unrealized reverence for life:

low tide:
all the people
stoop

(Anita Virgil)

Prayer beads of syllables. An instant appreciation. A visceral knowledge:

gone from the woods
the bird I knew
by song alone

(Paul O. Williams)

An excellent haiku needs to possess a certain clarity. Don’t know about others but I find overly intellectualized dense wordliness inscrutable as stone soup. A bit too tricky for my taste. See what I mean. No accounting for taste.

But others who admire hidden riddles and crossword puzzles might have a mind for a different kind of excellence. Excellence is when 9 out of 10 readers say: oh or wow or cool. Of course, who are the readers? You see the trouble with excellence. If we have a group of generally agreed upon arbiters of excellence then maybe we can agree on the best of the best. Plenty of arbiters to go around. But I think a poet knows when he's on the mark. Or at least within striking distance.

More practically speaking, maybe another approach to asking one big question in haiku: what is excellence? It may be useful to break it down into a series of smaller questions which when addressed individually to individual poems might contribute to an overall outstanding poem.

The overall question then becomes not what is an excellent haiku but how do we make our haiku excellent?

An excellent poem doesn’t forget the basics but exhibits an accumulation of talents and skills. I found this list below helpful when I came across it online years ago.

9 QUESTIONS TO ASK OF YOUR HAIKU:

(Taken from Anita Virgil’s interview on the blog, Haiku Chronicles, Episode 8, “The Crafting of Haiku” The interview was conducted by Donna Beaver and Al Pizzarelli)

#1.    Is it one particular event in the present?

#2.    Is it a moment in which the poet views with fresh insight and awareness? Some common occurrence that points out the inter-relatedness of man and nature?

#3.    Is it objectively presented? Does it allow the reader to experience the emotion, or does it tell the reader what to feel?

#4.    Does it avoid simile, metaphor, personification, clichés?

#5.    Does each word serve a vital function in re-creating the poet’s moment of deep response? Has your selection of words, the order in which you placed them, their sound, their tempo captured the quality of the experience?

#6.    If the poem allows for more than one interpretation through choice of words or punctuation or line breaks, does this add to or detract from the poem?

#7.    Has it growth potential? Does it convey more emotion than is experienced at the first reading?

#8.    What is the value of what the poet conveys?

#9.     Is this one of the very few poems that can be said to contain universal significance?

I sometimes refer to these questions when revising a few of my haiku. Most poems I write tell me where to go next. At times, it’s helpful to interrogate a poem. Make it stand up for itself. If it can do that, it has a chance at making something of itself.

An excellent haiku shows no sign of having been put through its paces. The ones above or any other rigorous renovation of words. Oh and then there’s the magic and the mystery. Key ingredients there’s no accounting for. But overall, an excellent haiku is an accurate reshaping of “the poet’s moment of deep response” as Virgil puts it above. It’s personal to the point of relating to us all.

JGalmitz

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #48 on: February 24, 2014, 05:06:30 PM »
While there were photographers who might be called artistic before Steiglitz, I think it is historically indisputable that he was responsible for the creation of photography as a medium capable of art as much as painting and sculpture.  With the aid of Edward Steichen, they created 291, on Fifth Avenue, an art studio that contributed towards the acceptance not only of photography as a legitimate art form, but also championed the modern art movement, which was in its beginning stages. It was at 291 that the works of Picasso, Rodin, Brancusi were exhibited. It was through the offices of Steiglitz that photography and modern art gained credence in the early 20C.
As to Pound's Station of the Metro, it was no fluke. He was working on theories for imagism and vorticism and it was through, at this time,  the (perhaps poor) translations from the Chinese of Ernest Fenollosa and his work The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry that Pound came to write the poems of Cathay (which WCW called amongst the most beautiful poems every written in the English language) and his haiku- The Metro.
As to not giving proof, well, I am really much too tired to have to convince anyone of anything they won't be convinced of anyway.  Let us just say that the haiku "the apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet black bough" is so fraught with a veil of ambiguity, undecipherability, as well as clarity and precision and that that contrast is repeated incrementally and variously in the second portion of the poem, not to mention that forever after "black bough" has belonged to the man, it didn't seem necessary to have to justify the statement I made.
Actually, it was through Pound and this poem that Pound released the ideals of modernism on the world: " to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of the metronome."
The poem and its relationship to imagism inspired the writing of WC Williams, H.D., amongst others too numerous to mention.
As to the next fifty years, I think there was Paul Reps and then the Beats and after, well, that's up to you how you see it.  But, as to the use of concision and parsing of language to the bone in Metro, not to mention the absolute exquisite beauty of it and the comparison of the vague faces with fallen petals and the darkness of the station and the wet black bough, well, tell me pal what isn't there to like and what poem can you find to put up against it?
As to Basho, well, he wrote in Japanese, so as to whether his poems were equivalently beautiful is beyond my ability to say, as I do not read Japanese.

JGalmitz

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #49 on: February 24, 2014, 05:13:26 PM »
Newtonp
and with all due respect, perhaps I am a culture vulture and nothing more, but Anita Virgil's rules for haiku lack the substance and insight of the lineage of poets and critics since Ezra Pound's Metro and their assessment of it.
I mean if we compare the poem Virgil is offering a variation on, that is, Chiyo-ni's
things picked up
 all start to move
 low-tide beach
I think we can see that
"everyone stoops," is kind of funny and ungainly and hardly in keeping with the original.  Especially when one considers that besides bending the word "stoop" also implies a loss of dignity (it doesn't seem a well-chosen word).
« Last Edit: February 24, 2014, 05:25:09 PM by JGalmitz »

Philip Rowland

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #50 on: February 25, 2014, 09:45:29 PM »
Richard cited Helen Vendler among other inspiring critics; problems with anthologies have also been mentioned—omissions from the new edition of Postmodern American Poetry; in an earlier thread, HIE. Peter Yovu also said something interesting (though I can’t find it now) about Craig Dworkin’s reading of a haiku by Cherie Hunter Day (looking “into” her words). All of which reminded me of some comments on Vendler’s editing of The Harvard Book of Contemporary American Poetry, by another fine critic, Charles Bernstein. His argument (against, in part, complacency in the judging of excellence) seems relevant to some aspects of the discussion here. This is from his verse-essay, “Artifice of Absorption” (in A Poetics, Harvard University Press, 1992):

… As Vendler puts it,
“When we first read a poem we read it
illusionistically; later we may see its art.”
Vendler’s selections, insofar as they
do display linguistic self-consciousness, are
restricted to doing so in terms of discursive
stylistic practices. Disjunction
is almost entirely absent from the poems selected.

Vendler is very much under the spell of
realist & mimetic ideas about poetry. In this
sense, she still has much to learn from Stevens &
Ashbery. …
… But perhaps the most irritating thing about
Vendler’s manner of argument is that it is always
referring to what “all” poems do, making it
impossible for her to even consider that some poems
may come into being just because they don’t do what
some other poems have done. Vendler says
she hopes readers will be provoked by some of the
anthologized poems to say—“’Heavens, I recognize
the place, I know it!’ It is the effect every poet
hopes for.” I would hope
readers might be provoked to say of some poems,
“Hell, I don’t recognize the place or the time or
the ‘I’ in this sentence. I don’t know it.”

Earlier in this thread, Michael Dylan Welch and others argued for promoting the work of the best haiku poets so as to reach a wider audience. I’d add that it might be as important for the poets themselves to reach other audiences by reading and submitting their poems to publications that don’t specialize in haiku (but might, judging from the poet-reader’s interest in the work published there, be interested), despite the reduced chances of acceptance. This process could also be seen as a useful kind of criticism, especially if one agrees with the idea that “Poetry has no intrinsic categories,” as Laura Riding and Robert Graves state in their Pamphlet against Anthologies (1928).

Now I can’t resist sharing a provocative passage from their closely related Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927), in which they present their idea of an "ideal" or “genuinely modernist” poem:

“The ideal modernist poem is its own clearest, fullest, and most accurate meaning. Therefore the modernist poet does not have to talk about the use of images ‘to render particulars exactly’, since the poem does not give a rendering of a poetical picture or idea existing outside the poem, but presents the literal substance of poetry, a newly-created thought-activity: the poem has the character of a creature by itself. Imagism, on the other hand, and all other similar dead movements, took for granted the principle that poetry was a translation of certain kinds of subjects into the language that would bring the reader emotionally closest to them. It was assumed that a natural separation existed between the reader and the subject, to be bridged by the manner in which it was presented.”
« Last Edit: February 26, 2014, 04:19:30 AM by Philip Rowland »

JGalmitz

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #51 on: February 26, 2014, 08:26:05 AM »
The didactic (could it be?) poem by Bernstein is interesting, as is the essay by Graves and Riding, but just a few words about them.
Naturally, or unnaturally to be more accurate, language and world never meet, so it is "true" that the "ideal" modernist poem would not refer to nor need confirmation re relativity towards another world than its own.
However, the problem, at least as I see it, is that language, the new language-event, the creature in itself, however framed and referenced always will reference a world that while self-referential nevertheless refers to an image-idea of a world for which and from which it derived.  In other words, while language never reaches a referent it always has a signified, a reference to such.
So, the use of their word "subject," for instance, really means "object," doesn't it? The "dead" idea of a subject; but subject is interior? or does it mean subject as in object, that is, what something is about?
Funny, but if you read some of the poems of Riding and Graves you will find that they must- there is no other recourse in language (because it has "meaning") always mention, refer to a subject that is both in the poem and something thought of (meant- referent) outside of the poem): example, "dream" or "the world and I" or in "due form," whatever. In short, though the modernist poem may be referring to itself and language and events within the poem alone, it cannot help but, it cannot separate itself from what I take, perhaps incorrectly, as the basis of language, its reference, even if abstractly and not precisely, to things. Though each word may have only a sound mental-image and a meaning ( a reference) and no referent, nonetheless all words seem to yearn ( is that not what Riding writes in The World and I?) for such a relationship.
As to calling those who wrote high modernism, Pound for instance, writers of dead poems, if there was any fairness in the evaluation and not an attempt to usurp the time to themselves and their writing- think of pan here and how he became the devil with the advent of christianity- well, they would merely apply their own standards, as would Bernstein, and show that in Pound's/Eliot's poems, whatever the prejudice they claim existed in these poets, they would show, repeat, how the poems worked as poems only can work, that is, just the way they say they do and that these high modernists' works were new word-thought events, too,did not refer to a separate subject, etc.
As to Stevens, why yes, indeed, he makes it quite clear that human creation is not natural but brings nature to order, as in In Jar and The Idea of Order, and The Blue Guitar, et al.  But just look at those words- are they not sounds, i.e., mental-images, with reference and meaning, though lacking in a referent (an outside object; words as mere approximations always yearning for their imaginary solids).
So, interesting quotes indeed, Philip, and interesting thoughts, and thanks for that.

JGalmitz

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #52 on: February 26, 2014, 08:38:17 AM »
Not to kick a dead horse, but we shouldn't forget that while language (never mind the exclusiveness of poetry, since, at least according to the philosphy of Bernstein and Riding and Graves, what they say about poetry applies equally to all language) may never be about things, it sure does help in the language loop (besides the fact that Bernstein et al are speaking in the Swiss, French tradition, not the Anglo tradition).
WC Williams, for instance, a writer surely of dead proportions- NO THOUGHTS BUT IN THINGS- god what an idiot, was a doctor and it certainly helped to have words refer to body parts and not just be sprung newly minted creatures in themselves on pages, else he wouldn't have been able to deliver Allen Ginsberg and serve all the sick in Paterson, N.J.
All this is not exactly in keeping with Wittgenstein either is it?  A man who speaks a language knows the language- enough said.  Bernstein could learn something himself from Williams- the world is built upon these non-existent, non-referent bearing things called words.  There would be no world to be separate from words if not for words (which built the world).
Dead of not, modernist or not, obsolete or not, Pound's Metro is still the greatest haiku ever written in the English language says I.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2014, 08:52:12 AM by JGalmitz »

Tomdevelyn

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Re: Field Notes 5: Excellence
« Reply #53 on: February 26, 2014, 12:04:24 PM »
For the ancients, excellence is another word for virtue. Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Apply this to poetry and you see that a poem comes about because of habits of perception and expression, and these habits are acquired by repetition, practice. Poets practice poetry.

The name haiku sticks to lots of different kinds of verse. We need a taxonomy of haiku. Looking at the world-wide phenomenon of haiku-in-English, it seems that there are basically two practices of haiku: one that goes back to the Japanese form, and one that departs from this form. It “seems” this way from the look of the poems on the page. The more traditional haiku, which I shall call hokku, look like what we have been taught a Japanese haiku looks like. The other kind – let’s call it ku -- doesn’t. I have already discussed a number of “ku” as found in volume 8 of NOON. I shall be posting more pieces on such “ku” at formsofauthority.wordpress.com

Hokku reflect traditional practices that have roots in Chinese Taoist culture (see Pipei Qiu, Basho and the Tao). The practice of Taoism is very complex but not impossible today. There is a vivid scholarly debate on just what beliefs Taoism entails; see especially now Brook Ziporyn (Ironies of Oneness and Difference, SUNY 2012). The central belief is that of the Tao as “Mother,” the fertile void. Modern interpretations of “Mother” as Nothingness need revamping, according to Ziporyn; Taoism is not to be confused with modern nihilism. Nothing is a relative matter; the Taoist is a relativist. Well, it’s complicated, and eventually Taoist coherence is ironic, according to Ziporyn.

The practices that promote hokku may be seen in Mark Brager’s piece I found it on the Simply Haiku Winter 2013 website: Brager is a featured poet there.

Quote
pale blossoms . . .
the first of many
blackbirds


The way this hokku taps into the fertile void is not as simple as it looks. Essential to the fertile void is finitude: this is nicely touched upon in the “kigo” “pale blossoms.” The paleness suggests the finitude of the blossoms: they are almost beyond the pale of the life that they express. The two-line base of the hokku reaches into the contemplative sources of understanding. Within the strictures of temporal existence, pale things, seen in their abundance, almost make one forget finitude, almost give one the feeling of oceanic infinity. This joy is sourced in the fertile void. It has no other ground.

The irony of the poem is that the reference in the base is not to the multitude of pale blossoms but to another multitude, this time one less endearing, perhaps, and certainly marked by difference: blackbirds!

The swerve caused by “blackbirds” reframes the image that had been aborning in the reader’s mind. We now know from Ziporyn that this kind of irony is essential to Taoism. That is, the kind of coherence Taoism trains us to “see” is ironic. It is not Confucian; it is not “ideological.” It depends on a further, transcendent source of truth, the truth we can never possess but in our best moments may feel truthful to. Hokku is truthful or mindful of such ironic truth.

But without the firm establishment of the community of creatures under the sign of the fertile void, the poetic image is no sign but a sort of echo of a subject, perhaps of the poet, perhaps of a persona the poet assumes when being a poet. At least for the hokku community – and self-awareness regarding these roots is limited by circumstances-- community is rooted in practice, the practice of the Tao.

Gary Hotham

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #54 on: February 26, 2014, 09:52:00 PM »
Re Galmitz:  "Pound's Metro is still the greatest haiku ever written in the English language says I."

Yes, I think it would be good to provide some evidence for the judgement about Pound's Metro in a critical essay.  Have you read the essay, "Ezra Pound and In a Station of the Metro," by Nick Avis?  Right here on the The Haiku Foundation website:  http://www.thehaikufoundation.org/2009/11/17/fluence-1-part-1/  You might interact with that essay since it is focused on whether or not Pound's poem is a haiku.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2014, 06:14:40 AM by Peter Yovu »

JGalmitz

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #55 on: February 27, 2014, 06:00:53 AM »
Sorry, Gary, but I think I'll pass on Nick Avis's opinion about Ezra Pound.
All the best to you,
Jack

Gary Hotham

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Re: Field Notes 5: Excellence
« Reply #56 on: February 27, 2014, 09:41:08 AM »
27 February 2014

Take the Challenge

re Philip Rowland's:  "Earlier in this thread, Michael Dylan Welch and others argued for promoting the work of the best haiku poets so as to reach a wider audience. I’d add that it might be as important for the poets themselves to reach other audiences by reading and submitting their poems to publications that don’t specialize in haiku (but might, judging from the poet-reader’s interest in the work published there, be interested), despite the reduced chances of acceptance."

I would strongly second this as a way of creating a wider audience for haiku. I think most haiku poets enjoy poetry in general and probably subscribe to and read various literary and poetry journals.  I encourage those who are writing the excellent haiku that we see in the mainstream haiku journals to take the challenge and submit their work to those other poetry and literary journals.  I have done this  for many years now. It can be rather discouraging - especially if one's work is usually accepted for publication in those mainstream haiku journals.  My haiku have showed up in various non-haiku journals but mostly the experience is one of form rejection slips - or form e-mails now.  Sometimes one receives an actual comment by the editor for the rejection - such as:  we never publish haiku; haiku are too short for us; haiku don't fit our format; appreciate the craft of haiku but we don't publish them; I don't have a way to judge good ones from bad ones.  The comments don't tell one anything about the quality of the submission.  But by submitting one's best work, if nothing else, the editors will become aware that there is another world of haiku out there than the one they think they know.
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Peter Yovu

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #57 on: February 27, 2014, 11:03:51 AM »
REQUEST

I posted a request yesterday whose language, it was pointed out to me, may have been misleading.
Here it is again, clarified.

I've been looking into ways to build a greater degree of coherence into Field Note's discussions. It is inevitable that several topics get picked up at once, and at times get tangled.

For now, what I request is that posters make it as clear as possible which previous post or topic they are following at the beginning of their posts. How does it relate to the overall subject of FN5: criticism?

One focus of this discussion was taken from Michael Dylan Welch's initial post, part of which brought up the issue of promoting and demonstrating excellence-- in individual poems and poets-- in the greater poetry world . Which led me to ask: what is excellence as it relates to haiku? What is the role of the critic in this regard?  What are some examples of poems you regard as excellent? Does the question have implications which trouble you? Etc.

As I said, other topics have emerged. But again, if possible, please identify the conversation you are having at the outset. Locate us in your lineage.

Peter Yovu

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #58 on: March 01, 2014, 08:43:38 AM »
This post follows Gary Hotham’s recent post above re:  “promoting the work of the best haiku poets so as to reach a wider audience” as stated by Philip Rowland.

Philip goes on to say: “it might be as important for the poets themselves to reach other audiences by reading and submitting their poems to publications that don’t specialize in haiku (but might, judging from the poet-reader’s interest in the work published there, be interested)”

I think that last part is important. I take Philip to mean here that one may be able to determine the possibility of a journal’s willingness to look at haiku by what it has already published. It seems to me a journal which publishes minimalist poetry, for example, might be more inclined to accept haiku than would say, American Poetry Review, or Ploughshares.

However, there are reasons a number of journals put out the “no haiku” sign. One, quite frankly, is that they are looking for poetry. A lot of what is published in haiku journals does not look like, or appear to be poetry. It looks like haiku. In a haiku journal, that may be fine; in  a poetry journal, haiku are likely to stand out as something akin, at best, to translation, as something requiring context.

Qualities that are typically considered to be elements of poetry are often absent in haiku, even what is considered “excellent” haiku. Qualities such as attention to the sounds and rhythms of words or to the image as act of imagination rather than reported picture, while not exactly universals in poetry in general, are rare in haiku. There is a feeling one gets, bolstered by statements made about haiku, that many writers do not see haiku as poetry. If one writes from that point of view, which I am not saying is a bad thing,
perhaps one should not seek publication outside the haiku journals.

I suspect many editors are most open to work that, while it may have a clear form, plays with that form and also tests it. In a sense this is what poetry (or any creative act) is--  a pushing against (womb, world, reality) until something is born.

Haiku, wrongly or rightly, are likely to be seen as asserting and maintaining form. If the energy of creation is reduced to maintaining form, the best one can hope for is a closed system, something which pre-exists and is now replicating itself.

Scott Metz and John Martone are two writers whose work does not announce itself foremost (form-most) as haiku. Gary Hotham’s well known poem

fog.
sitting here
without the mountains

is included in Succinct   The Broadstone Anthology of Short Poems

which also includes work by poets such as Robert Creeley, Galway Kinnell, and Jane Kenyon. I don’t believe the word haiku comes up anywhere in the book. I am reasonably sure that many readers coming upon this poem for the first time and in this context would not decide, upon first or even tenth reading that it is a haiku.

In the context of Modern Haiku, though, one would clearly and happily accept the lineage. In the context of say, Otoliths, which has published some of Metz’ work, one is more likely to see very brief, or minimalist, or even avant garde poems.

The haiku community, (roughly defined by someone on this forum I believe as the group of people who publish in the haiku journals), to a large extent provides the context which determines what haiku is. There are certain parameters beyond which a poem is not likely to recognized as haiku by that community. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing-- but it’s certainly a deeply influential thing. The “ghetto”, as Michael Dylan Welch calls it, pretty much maintains itself.

All of which may be less true in the past ten years than it was earlier. The “community” appears to be more porous, which delights some and disturbs others. But I believe that if one is serious about bringing haiku into the greater community of poetry, one essentially risks change. Attempting to publish, in a “mainstream” poetry journal, something which one holds onto dearly as haiku first and foremost and wants to have embraced as such, is in my opinion bound to result in rejection.

If one wants to publish haiku in any of its currently accepted forms, there are numerous journals available-- and I’m glad for that, truly. But seeking publication in other journals requires a degree of exposure to them which may result in one’s being influenced by what’s beyond the ghetto.

There’s a question most of us have no doubt asked at one point or another, perhaps as teenagers:
can one be oneself and at the same time be open to other? The more mature question becomes, can one be oneself if one is not open to other?

The paradox, I believe, applies to haiku.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2014, 08:46:06 AM by Peter Yovu »

Philip Rowland

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Re: Field Notes 5: Criticism
« Reply #59 on: March 01, 2014, 09:25:16 PM »
To respond, first, to Jack’s thoughts on the Riding and Graves extract from A Survey of Modernist Poetry: when they write (disapprovingly) of “a natural separation” being assumed (by Imagists and the like) to exist “between the reader and the subject,” by “subject” I think they just mean “what something is about.” Yes, they were proposing an alternative “modernism” (though keep in mind that this – in 1927 -- was an early use of the term); and they do discuss poems by Eliot, Pound, et al critically in light of their view. Needless to say, in quoting I’m not subscribing to their view of other modernist movements as “dead” (valuable as it is to critique their limitations, as did the Objectivists with respect to Imagism, for instance) or to the ideal of poetry as purely self-referential, though don’t we always try to let a poem as far as possible “interpret itself” (as R & G suggest) in trying to make sense of it? Isn’t the extent to which, in dwelling on a poem, we keep finding layers or webs of interrelated meaning one measure of its excellence?
     
At any rate, it’s an interesting “ideal” (as well as a kind of antidote to Imagism etc.) to which some of Riding’s poems in particular come close. Hard to locate, for instance, much “outside” reference in the poem of hers they quote as an example of “what might be called a modernist poem," "The Rugged Black of Anger" -- which, they claim, seems difficult only because it so straightforwardly “says what it means.” Here’s the first stanza:

The rugged black of anger
Has an uncertain smile-border.
The transition from one kind to another
May be love between neighbour and neighbour
Or natural death; or discontinuance
Because, so small is space,
The extent of kind must be expressed otherwise;
Or loss of kind when proof of no uniqueness
Confutes the broadening edge and discourages.

I suppose part of my point in quoting from Riding and Graves was (on the topic of criticism) to raise the question of whether “the principle that poetry was [merely] a translation of certain kinds of subjects into the language that would bring the reader emotionally closest to them,” which R & G consider to have been taken “for granted” by “dead movements” such as Imagism, has tended to be taken too much for granted by writers of haiku in English. Perhaps one could say (to adopt R & G’s terms) that an excellent haiku does much more than “render a poetical picture or idea existing outside the poem”; that it has more of “the character of a creature by itself.” Examples, examples, I hear Peter say… so here, on the basis of this rather eccentric criterion for excellence, are a couple of haiku that spring to mind (from the latest issue of NOON), by Peter Yovu and Cherie Hunter Day, respectively, both of which seem more creaturely-by-themselves (and more self-referential) than most:

words furred over my awkward animal toward you now

an ashen language in the drive-by of our bones

And here are a couple of excellent ‘oldies’ in the same line of the tradition as the above, by Martin Shea and Robert Boldman:

Moving
     through the criteria –
                           a breeze

leaves blowing into a sentence

Then I think of Mark Harris’s “burl bark grown into a wound a word”… Eve Luckring’s “the metallic taste / of what / I can’t imagine / negative tide"... (It seems there’s been more recurrence of language “itself” as subject-matter in contemporary haiku over the past 10-15 years, giving the impression that it's been catching up, as it were, with developments in the wider scene of postmodern poetry.)

Jack also commented on WCW’S “no ideas but in things,” an idea that relates closely, of course, to haiku. To follow up briefly, here’s George Oppen interpreting it in a way I find helpful: 
“I have always wondered whether that expression didn’t apply to the construction of meaning in a poem—not necessarily that there are out there no ideas but in things, but rather that there would be in the poem no ideas but those which could be expressed through the description of things.” (from an interview with L.S. Dembo in 1968).

I’ve just seen Peter’s latest post; very much agree with his statement: “I suspect many editors [of publications not specialized in haiku] are most open to work that, while it may have a clear form, plays with that form and also tests it. In a sense this is what poetry (or any creative act) is – a pushing against (womb, world, reality) until something is born.” Surely “excellence” is hardly possible without some sort of “testing” of the genre in which one is writing.

Speaking from my own little patch, certainly these are qualities that I’m looking for in choosing what to include in NOON: journal of the short poem, in which none of the haiku are labelled as such; nor, in my opinion, need they be. I want readers to encounter them as poems; and it’s always pleasing when poets and readers who have had, to my knowledge, little or nothing to do with the haiku scene, mention having found certain haiku from an issue particularly interesting and want to seek out more of that poet’s work.

Also good to find Peter’s “answer” to the question I mentioned hoping to raise in connection with the Riding and Graves passage, where he suggests that “Qualities such as attention to the sounds and rhythms of words or to the image as act of imagination rather than reported picture [the latter akin to Riding’s and Graves’s “rendering of a poetical picture … existing outside the poem”] … are rare in haiku.” I would hope, however, that many of the poems in Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years do show “such attention”; likewise, some “testing” (even, subtly, in many of the more “normative” haiku therein).
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