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Do you play it safe?

Started by John McManus, May 07, 2011, 07:12:38 AM

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John McManus

Hi everyone, does anyone feel that when they are writing haiku they find themselves taking the safe approach for fear of being told you're not playing by the rules or you simply don't think others will get it?

I know there are alot of different schools and styles of haiku, but how many of us actively try our hand at trying styles we are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with?


 

AlanSummers

Hi John,

Good post!

I do tend to see a lot of safe haiku, and loads that are natureary but not Natural History in depth.

As a challenge I decided to concentrate on writing gendai haiku for the NaPoWriMo challenge and it's been very interesting.  I also posted a handful onto NaHaiWriMo's Facebook for the April writing prompts.

My gendai haiku can be seen at my Area 17 blog.

Looking forward to comments from others re your post. ;-)

Alan

cat

Interesting questions, John.

I'm not sure I agree with your premise, though.

But in answer to your first question --

No.  I have no fear of being told I'm not playing by the rules in haiku or in life, although I do believe that if you write in a form, you need to respect and honor the form you're writing in.  (On the flip side, it's always fun to see just how elastic "the rules" really are.  But does ELH have rules?  That is the question.)

And yes.  If I think others won't "get it", I try another approach.  Perhaps there are two kinds of writers -- those who believe in the supremacy of self-expression and those who believe that writing is first and foremost communication.  I'm with the communicators.  If what I write leaves readers in the dark, I don't believe I've done my job.

As far as "actively try[ing] our hand at trying styles we are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with", I am not quite four years into my haiku journey and I am still mastering the basics.  I believe the foundation needs to be in place before you put up the fancy woodwork. 

cat

"Nature inspires me. I am only a messenger."  ~Kitaro

John McManus

Hi Cat and Alan thanks for coming in on this, I think you both raise very good points.

Alan, I have been reading your gendai haiku and find them engaging and intriguing. Do you feel writing gendai is going to help you in your other writing in its various forms?

Cat, I decided to put this question up as a bit of a follow on from a few topics that have been on the boards for a while, specifically the is the clock ticking on haiku thread.

I feel if we as active poets continue to try to push the limits of what haiku can be and what topics they can cover then it surely makes the form of haiku all the more fresh and valid.

I completely concur with your assertion that we need to form a solid base of understanding and skill before we move on to things like gendai, one liners, and the other rather obscure styles there is to try out.         

AlanSummers

Hi John! ;-)

Quote from: John McManus on May 07, 2011, 09:25:40 PM

Alan, I have been reading your gendai haiku and find them engaging and intriguing. Do you feel writing gendai is going to help you in your other writing in its various forms?


Intriguing question. 

I've studied gendai haiku for many years, and felt ready to at least take a stab at ELgendai.  Glad they piqued your interest. ;-)

I teach haiku as a tool for other writing forms/genres, and although it's predominantly through shasei, sometimes I add abstractness to bang against a concrete image.

For haiku workshops for people interested in haiku I will show a few examples of gendai haiku just to help vanish the nonsense of haiku being 575 pretty images of nature. ;-)

Advanced haiku classes will see the gendai as examples, but I do doubt that I'll use gendai for the moment for novelists etc... But that could change, you have me thinking! ;-)

Quote

I feel if we as active poets continue to try to push the limits of what haiku can be and what topics they can cover then it surely makes the form of haiku all the more fresh and valid.


I agree. ;-)  I don't know if you've read Luciano Costa's controversial cloned crows post?  I'd be interested in what you have to say, even if you disgree. Everyone else has disagreed after all. ;-)

all my best,

Alan

Laura Sherman

I love this question!  As a beginner I do tend to play it safe. But now and then I feel brave and I try something completely different. I think those haiku usually don't work out as well, they don't communicate what I want, but I think I still need to try those ideas, so that I can grow and learn.

Lorin

"I always feel when sitting in company with Kikako at the same party that he is anxious to compose a verse that will please the whole company. I have no such intention." - Basho

(from:The Essential Haiku - Versions of Basho, Buson & Issa)

:D. . . there are many reasons why I love that old fox, just one being that he had the integrity not to be a crowd-pleaser, but instead continued to develop his insights.

I think that the 'safe' approach is good for beginners, to some extent...'choose some rules to work with' (it is a matter of choice, the 'rules' are not engraved in stone by a supernatural force). But always remain open to further possibilities.

- Lorin

John McManus

Hi Lorin, thanks for adding your voice to this, and for adding such a great quote to boot. I agree developing common rules for yourself is a must at the beginning.

warm regards,
John

Asa-gao

Quote from: John McManus on May 07, 2011, 07:12:38 AM
Hi everyone, does anyone feel that when they are writing haiku they find themselves taking the safe approach for fear of being told you're not playing by the rules or you simply don't think others will get it?

I know there are alot of different schools and styles of haiku, but how many of us actively try our hand at trying styles we are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with?


 

Agree with Alan, excellent question.  In my first years as a student, i was very careful, seeking not to ruffle the feathers of those i kept company with, who were more "knowledgeable" than my self.  Then, i began the task of reading Basho, Buson, and Issa .. after that life was never the same.  My eyes had been opened to some big rule breaking, i liked it, and i now let haiku write me.  Had to spend a few years justifying my existence, in that regard, but it has been worth the effort.  One can write for the company they keep, or they can write for themselves - both have limitations and rewards ... so, i guess it becomes a matter of personal choice & consequence.  As the information we receive from Japan about this art becomes more trustworthy, it can actually be seen that this is an art that was meant to grow and expand, and not be limited to the point that everyone is writing the same, or as if cloned copies of each other.  I am no expert, and will always be the forever student, struggling to write that perfect haiku ... so, just my two cents at this point in the journey :)


AlanSummers

Hi asa-gao

That particular question was posed by John McManus, and it is a good one. ;-)

Your answer is a very useful one and very astute. Thank you!

Alan

Quote from: asa-gao on August 01, 2011, 10:44:38 AM
Quote from: John McManus on May 07, 2011, 07:12:38 AM
Hi everyone, does anyone feel that when they are writing haiku they find themselves taking the safe approach for fear of being told you're not playing by the rules or you simply don't think others will get it?

I know there are alot of different schools and styles of haiku, but how many of us actively try our hand at trying styles we are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with?


 

Agree with Alan, excellent question.  In my first years as a student, i was very careful, seeking not to ruffle the feathers of those i kept company with, who were more "knowledgeable" than my self.  Then, i began the task of reading Basho, Buson, and Issa .. after that life was never the same.  My eyes had been opened to some big rule breaking, i liked it, and i now let haiku write me.  Had to spend a few years justifying my existence, in that regard, but it has been worth the effort.  One can write for the company they keep, or they can write for themselves - both have limitations and rewards ... so, i guess it becomes a matter of personal choice & consequence.  As the information we receive from Japan about this art becomes more trustworthy, it can actually be seen that this is an art that was meant to grow and expand, and not be limited to the point that everyone is writing the same, or as if cloned copies of each other.  I am no expert, and will always be the forever student, struggling to write that perfect haiku ... so, just my two cents at this point in the journey :)



Asa-gao

Thank you Alan ... i meant to say, that i agreed with your comments and that John's question was excellent.  Posted rather early in the morning & left out a few words .. a downside to the art of brevity  :)

AlanSummers

Ah, yes, done that to at times. ;-) 

It is sad that some famous mainstream poets are also pressurised into writing not so good but 575 English-language construct haiku attempts, rather than allowing them to write what could be a good haiku.

I'm sure we've all seen famous poets attempt haiku, and rarely succeed.

Exceptions that spring to mind are Seamus Heaney and Phillip Gross.  Any others you feel have caught the spirit and the "non-form" of haiku? ;-)

Yes there are always those who are more "knowledgeable" on the surface, and can hold us back alas.

Alan



Quote from: asa-gao on August 02, 2011, 10:49:20 AM
Thank you Alan ... i meant to say, that i agreed with your comments and that John's question was excellent.  Posted rather early in the morning & left out a few words .. a downside to the art of brevity  :)

Don Baird

Interesting thread and question.  In martial arts, beginners are taught strong basics.  The more advanced they become the greater freedom of movement and tactics they acquire; more creative.  I think basics are important and once mastered, freedom is discovered as a result of those basics.  I do believe, however, that regardless of how advanced someone is in music or poetry and etc., that if they move too far away from the purpose of the form, it is no longer the form.  IE:  A concerto moved to far away from its structure is no longer a concerto (in a classical sense).

Just some thoughts.

Don
I write haiku because they're there to be written ...

storm drain
the vertical axis
of winter

Asa-gao

#13
I agree Alan - it is sad that anyone is pressurized into exclusively writing 5/7/5.  Just as this "count" is used as an elementary teaching tool in Japan, to develop the art of brevity, certainly it can have a similar application in other languages.  To make this an exclusive rule however, does an enormous disservice to the art, and its original design.

We have an initial historical misunderstanding of the art in its entirety, beyond the borders of Japan, to blame for this.  The good news is, that with current technology, things are rapidly changing and the knowledge base is rapidly increasing and becoming more mainstream.

Just as there is ancient Roman and Greek literature that few are educated in, or able to keep alive today; so it is with Japanese poetry.  A surprising look into the ancient may be found here, thanks to the efforts of Thomas McAuley from Sheffield University: http://www.temcauley.staff.shef.ac.uk/introduction.shtml

Thanks to Basho, Buson, and Issa (and a host of others) haiku has evolved into both a scholar's, and a people's art.  The best guidance i have found for my own personal artistic path (as a people and not a scholar), has been from haijin and Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature (Columbia University), Haruo Shirane.  He has much to say about writing haiku in English: http://www.haikupoet.com/definitions/beyond_the_haiku_moment.html  Because of such mentors (and those like  yourself Alan), as haiku evolves beyond the borders of Japan, and takes on much artistic expression - I try not to judge from what i think i know .. but rather from what i hope to learn.

Several years ago, i corresponded with a young woman who was born, educated and living in Japan.  She explained to me that haiku was taught as part of standard curriculum early on - along with the learning of three alphabets; in addition to English as a second language.  She shared with me haiga using photography.  Some may find the haiku surprising - and that it does not fit "rules" we have been given.  And yet her work stands as testimony to the evolution of the art within its own borders today.  The sharing was one of those defining moments for me.  I would like to share it with the workshop. She wrote it following a trip to the park with her boyfriend - he had found the tiny acorns and scooped them up, and ran to her to show them.  Once home she journalled the memory (permission to share granted long ago):



Thank you so much for sharing the Seamus Heaney & Phillip Gross references ... i was not familiar with these and am reading up on them now.  VERY interesting so far .. and this will now no doubt cause me to part with even more hard earned money towards yet more books :-)  Reading this now: http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=10190

Quote from: Alan Summers on August 02, 2011, 11:43:25 AM
Ah, yes, done that to at times. ;-)  

It is sad that some famous mainstream poets are also pressurised into writing not so good but 575 English-language construct haiku attempts, rather than allowing them to write what could be a good haiku.

I'm sure we've all seen famous poets attempt haiku, and rarely succeed.

Exceptions that spring to mind are Seamus Heaney and Phillip Gross.  Any others you feel have caught the spirit and the "non-form" of haiku? ;-)

Yes there are always those who are more "knowledgeable" on the surface, and can hold us back alas.

Alan



Quote from: asa-gao on August 02, 2011, 10:49:20 AM
Thank you Alan ... i meant to say, that i agreed with your comments and that John's question was excellent.  Posted rather early in the morning & left out a few words .. a downside to the art of brevity  :)

chibi575

I feel I've been blessed with ecclectic taste buds and I will try anything, learning such lessons as presentation, expectation, tradition, exploration,...  and a bowl to barrel full of other "...tion", and I can sum it up with, try it, you may like it, but, there's nothing like the love of Mom's cooking.  I love haiku.

Good question, pivoting on the interpretation of "safe" which I interpret as "comfortable" and expanding that "comfort zone" is usually based on diversity of experience.

ciao...
知美

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