Author Topic: kireji  (Read 15553 times)


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Re: kireji
« Reply #15 on: May 04, 2011, 08:03:50 AM »
The kireji (cutting word or phrase) in Japanese poetry is very distinct and has a very distinct use.  It can occur in the structure of the poem at the break at what we as other language readers and writers perceive the end of L1, L2, or L3 and somtimes in the body of L2, but, the L1,L2,L3 construction is an appendage/vestige of our languange (if it's English) and not of the Japanese.  It is for convenience as most haiku written in Japanese is one vertical or horizontal line.

The kireji thus is difficult if not near impossible to represent equivocally in English.  We've settle for some grammatical set of symbol(s) such as: " -- ", " ... ", ":", and such.  Usually, these symbols are not alphabetic letters (although in Japan the kireji is an alphabetic letter or letter combination).

Given our (I speak/write as a native speaking/writing USAian) penchant to use by any means our vast ASCII character set creatively and with great imagination (not that I consider that bad) we can and with some profound rightiousness use many symbols and symbol combinations to express the idea of "kireji" (although, most common are: ":", "-", "--", "...", "!", and "~").  This can be placed at the end of any word or phrase that strikes our fancy/style/gender/political proclivity, etc., ...  So, my unasked for but cheerfully volunteered advice is be creative and explore... but please don't call the result you write, "haiku", because it can't be.

I can not - do not write any haiku in English.  What I write (as do, I feel, the rest of us write) in English is loosely based upon some of the attributes of Japanese haiku.  And, really, that's OK.

So... now I've expressed the my basic belief, my favorite cut is the elipse "... ".  Just seems to fit my style although I've used a large variety (as I began writing short poems).  I do not limit myself to just the elipse, but, mostly my heart/head gravitates towards that; and, my muse seems to be most happy.


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Re: kireji
« Reply #16 on: May 04, 2011, 03:00:35 PM »
folded umbrellas
   a swan tucks itself
   in the rain

Oh, I love this version monstrously, Paul!

I'm still puzzling about the use of any punctuation anywhere but at the end of a line, though. Let me put it another way: it seems that the most common structure for EL haiku these days is three lines, two of which form a contained and fluid syntactical unit. (Stanford M. Forrester very cleverly used three toy blocks of two colors to demonstrate this in a workshop I attended with him a few years ago). I have only recently come across the idea that, in cases in which the "2/3 unit" comes first, a poet might start the image of the "1/3 unit" in the "2/3 unit" by using a semicolon (or comma)—and call it kireji. Does this pretty much only happen in poems in the 5/7/5 format? Alan, is this why you say
There used to be a lot of haiku writers that used mid-line punctuation

"I have only recently come across the idea that, in cases in which the "2/3 unit" comes first, a poet might start the image of the "1/3 unit" in the "2/3 unit" by using a semicolon (or comma)—and call it kireji." - Mary

         To call any punctuation symbol used in EL haiku a kireji is wrong-headed because it is misleading.  A kireji is a vocalised sound which acts as verbal punctuation in the Japanese language. In the Japanese language, there are norms of usage applied to kireji, much as in written English there are norms of usage for our punctuation symbols. Each has a different nuance. In Japanese haiku, written, there are symbols corresponding to these kireji. In English, there is no spoken/verbalised punctuation which has a standardized usage, therefore there is no equivalent to kireji in English.

Kire (without the ji) translates into English as 'cut' or 'caesura'. Kireji means something like 'cutting word' or 'cutting sound'. ( I do not read or speak Japanese.) In EL haiku, to mark the cut/ caesura, we use the symbols that we also use for prose punctuation and/or rely on breaks in syntax or use spaces to graphically represent the caesura.

A friend ( a fellow Australian) and I once considered how kireji might be better approximated in English and along the way considered some of the sounds used informally as punctuation of speech in English. This is what an approximation of kireji in English might look like, using English verbal punctuation from various English-speaking regions of the world:

old pond eh
a frog jumps into
the sound of water

(Queensland English; Canadian English, too, I'm told)

old pond innit
a frog jumps into
the sound of water

(London Cockney English?)

old pond like
a frog jumps into
the sound of water

(USA-originated, 'Beat' English' ?)

old pond hum
a frog jumps into
the sound of water

(USA-originated – New Jersey?)

old pond ya-know
a frog.....

(USA & Australia)

old pond see
a frog jumps into....

(Australia and NZ)

old pond right? (or right!)
a frog...

(NZ & Australia)

old pond yunnerstan
a frog ...
( Mafia Movie English)

old pond yeah?
a frog...

(probably international English)

old pond ahem (or any written approximation of a throat-clearing sound)
a frog. . .

(world-wide, academic English)

...and a recently added one:

old pond yo!
a frog ...

(U.S.A. - originated)

. . . anyone who listens to everyday speech in their region could probably add more.  :)

There are pretty obvious reasons why we would not want to immortalise any of these EL 'kireji' in EL haiku, though it's fun and useful in training the ear to note the different effects. I'd advise anyone to think of this list whenever they're tempted to call the punctuation symbols we use in EL haiku 'kireji'.

So let's remember the old K.I.S.S. adage and call the symbols we use in EL haiku 'cut marks' or 'caesura marks'.

There is no reason why a cut mark shouldn't appear anywhere in an EL haiku (or translation). There are no valid rules about where to place it, apart from the rule of common sense: a cut mark appears where the cut is. Here's a ku by Dhugal Lindsay:

kabutogani jouriku-no yo-o kasei moyu

horseshoe crabs
make landfall, this night
Mars burns

- NFTG, vol.2, issue 3, December 2010

In the English version, Dhugal has chosen a comma to mark a 'soft' caesura. We could play around with the various cut marks and notice the different nuances. (It would be better, imo, if we didn't refer to the various cut marks in haiku as 'punctuation marks', for the sake of clarity, since they are not always used according to the prose norms for punctuation.)

Here's a haiku with two cut markers:

out of the water. . .
out of itself

- Nick Virgilio, 'American Haiku, Issue #2'

                    ( I'm not interested in the tired old argument about whether haiku in any language other than Japanese is haiku or not. One might as well say that Shakespeare in any other language than Elizabethan English is not Shakespeare, 'magic realism' in any other language but Spanish is not 'magic realism' or the Bible in any language but Hebrew is not the Bible. Haiku is an established loan word in the English language, just as omlette is an established loan word in English and Japanese. A French person might say that an omlette isn't an omlette if it's not French, but the omlette has been adopted and adapted into the cuisine of many countries. In Japanese, btw , the loan word is 'omeretsu'.

EL haiku will become, as Bill Higginson said, what EL haiku writers make it become, and over many generations.

- Lorin

 modified: added 'haiku', originally omitted, to my 1st sentence.
              added 'or use spaces to graphically represent the caesura' to the end of par 2
              added 'and adapted' to sentence beginning, 'A French person. . .'
              added 'or the Bible in any language but Hebrew is not the Bible'.

« Last Edit: May 05, 2011, 07:39:03 PM by Lorin »