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Montage #19


Montage #19, presented by Allan Burns, is now up here on The Haiku Foundation website. This week’s theme is “Quotidian Moments” and features the work of Dee Evetts, Carolyn Hall & John Stevenson.

                    winter commute
                    my hand finds a warm spot
                    on the handrail

                    — Dee Evetts

                                                                                the poultry truck returns
                                                                                with empty cages

                                                                                — Carolyn Hall

                                                                                                                                             evening light
                                                                                                                                             a loaf of bread
                                                                                                                                             on the cutting board

                                                                                                                                             — John Stevenson

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Wyeth’s “Wind from the Sea” is my very favorite – and I’m pretty sure Ferris Gilli won’t mind my including here one of my favorite haiku of hers, which definitely recalled Wyeth’s painting to me:

    a curtain billows
    before the rain
    scent of roses

    Ferris Gilli

    [Heron’s Nest 2:8 (August 2000), Heron’s Nest Award; HSA Members’ Anthology 2001; Gilli, Shaped by the Wind (2006)]

  2. Hi, Billie. Thanks for your comments. Wyeth is definitely one of my favorite American painters. As a test, I’m attempting to link to one of his resonant quotidian moments. :-) “Wind from the Sea,” 1948

  3. What a treat it was to visit this particular collection, Allan. I’ve enjoyed every one so far, and this one especially so. Dee and Carolyn and John are an inspired mix, and your choices are spot on.

    It was also cool to see the “juxtaposition” with Andrew Wyeth. One of the most dog-eared books in my library is the Boston Museum’s “Andrew Wyeth” that I’ve loved since 1971. No matter how many times I open it, my breath is taken away by his gift.

    One of the highlights of my life was visiting an exhibit of the work of all three Wyeths several years ago in Seattle. I could hardly believe my good fortune. There was one painting that remains the heart of that visit in my memory. It may have been Fence Line, but I’m not absolutely sure now that my memory isn’t what it once was. I could not walk away from that painting. The light within it was so intense, it just kept pulling me in. Good haiku does that too – and you’ve chosen some excellent examples of that.

    Didn’t mean to go on and on – but I did want to thank you.

  4. “… the image… retained its intuitive resonance without reducing itself to an idea or a statement…”.

    I’m reminded of some tidbits from early 20th-c. Am poetry that pointed me toward an imagistic/haiku aesthetic in the first place:

    “Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself”–Wallace Stevens

    “No ideas/ but in things”–W. C. Williams

    “A poem should be palpable and mute/ As a globed fruit,/ …wordless/ As the flight of birds./ …equal to:/ Not true./ …A poem should not mean/ But be.”–Archibald MacLeish

    Of course, all those are themselves abstract statements; their most perfect realization (in my experience) is not to be found in these poets’ own work but in haiku, “curling tighter” being an excellent ex.

    Thanks to John Stevenson for his comments. Maybe that extra level I’m having a hard time not finding in this haiku is because in the dead of winter my wife & I tend to drag our mattress out from the bedroom to before our wood-burning stove. Nothing like that radiant heat.

  5. John Stevenson says “I can only add so much to the discussion”. But he says something which adds, I believe, immensely:

    “… the image… retained its intuitive resonance without reducing itself to an idea or a statement…”.

  6. Have just seen the comments on “curling tighter” and the invitation to comment. I’m glad to accept, though I can only add so much to the discussion.

    I have a wood stove in my house and the poem came from experience. I saw this happening and thought, “That’s something.” The fact that the image seemed to retained its intuitive resonance without reducing itself to an idea or a statement made me think that it might be good material for a haiku.

    I find the comments about consciously encountering the image with one’s body strike a familiar chord with me. I’ve recited this poem a number of times for audiences and I invariably find myself acting out the action with my right hand. The gesture is a gentle, incomplete grasping. While it doesn’t amount to a kenesic idiom, asfar as I know, it does seem evocative. The gesture, like the poem, seems to be “something” without becoming a message.

    I appreciate the generosity of Alllan Burns in selecting poems for these Montage presentations, week after week. I think I have some conception of the effort involved.

    And I’m always happy to find my poems close to those of Dee Evetts and Carolyn Hall!

  7. Also love the sound of it: the hard “c” at the beginnings of lines 1 & 3 and the concluding near rhyme of “tighter” and “fire”. Trochaic rhythm of L1 reversed to the iamb of L2 then resumes in L3. Falling rhythm seems apt for incineration. There’s a rightness to it that makes it hard *not* to memorize.

  8. Faluting highly . . .

    Peter is on to something. With John’s curling leaf and his keen awareness of it, is the human, the poet’s, interaction with fire. This is where you may be Plato-like, Peter. That some deep element of collective memory OR of genetic makeup — your choice — draws us to fire. To stare into a bonfire, a campfire or into a fireplace — into the night, other lights off, Plato’s shadows dancing on the walls or against trees … ? I think a font of poetry or philosophy is also another great element: water. Sometimes while driving the Interstate highways I cross over or beside some large body of water. For me, personally, it is a coming back to loved places even to drive by in a car at 70+ mph. I sigh, at least in posture, let out my breath … and I have become aware of doing it. For a necessarily brief moment I am elsewhere. So too with air — facing a wind. The other classic element — earth. This too is the stuff of philosophy and haiku poetry. The smell of earth, the color, the fecundity.

    So, yes, there is stuff of the elemental in us and in this Stevenson poem.
    – Paul (MacNeil)

  9. Some high-falutin on “curling tighter/ a leaf/ catches fire”

    I too have witnessed this phenomenon, and I enjoy the fact that JS has chosen to give it expression. It speaks to that aspect of haiku that many have noted: it can nourish a feeling of common humanity by implicitly saying: look, we are looking at the same thing, maybe from different perspectives, but maybe in the looking itself (experiencing) we are united. Sometimes it takes a poet to show us what we are looking at, to show us that there is something to be seen.

    And yet I experience this poem kinesthetically. The poem has a body which I experience in my body. I feel it, and I am only able to feel it to the extent that I become it. So here’s something I think about a lot, and I’ll express it this way: I don’t know if a poet chooses to write about “outer” phenomena unless it resonates with inner experience. By inner experience I am not referring to memory, but at the risk of sounding Platonic, I am referring more to something prior, something preexisting in or as consciousness, the psyche, the soul, what have you.

    Watching a leaf curl tighter then catching fire, absorbed by the observation and perhaps for a moment not separate from it, is one not revealed as a leaf, as curling tighter, and as bursting into flame. Are you not all those things? To feel something, you have to be it. No? Is there anything a human being cannot be?

    It may be a treasure hunt, but for me it’s an important exploration because it relates to notions around objectivity and subjectivity. There are many examples in gendai haiku and elsewhere where the poet says something like “watching the fire I become a leaf”.
    The quick take on this may be that it is subjective, that it is merely the writer indulging in a personal reverie or being provocative (rather than evocative).But such a poem, and I probably should cite an actual example (too lazy this early to do it) may simply be saying “I too have fire nature, and leaf nature, (and curling tighter nature”). The question then becomes, is the insight realized in the words and rhythms and interplays of elements, or is it only asserted. I would say to be realized, it has to be embodied.

    Perhaps I have faluted rather highly here. Partly because I am exploring something which essentially is a mystery to me. So questions arise which I will throw out, and which may formulate themselves somehow for a future “Sailing””

    What is objectivity; what is subjectivity?
    Is writing haiku writing about something? As something?
    Why do you choose to write what you write. Or if your response is that haiku choose you, still, what is being chosen?

    Well, the questions proliferate, and this begins to feel like a lecture with homework. Fact is, friends, I am selfish. I want to hear what I have to say. Sometimes that is not different than wanting to hear what others have to say. Sometimes, je est vous.

  10. Just to qualify something I had written earlier–

    There are rare instances when a participle with an implied subject will direct us to something other than the poet/observer. Nick Virgilio provides a classic instance:

    barking its breath
    into the rat-hole:
    bitter cold

    The dog is not mentioned but clearly implied.

  11. Well, Peter, a haiku will have to wait for some inspiration or coincidence with your lovely word. In the interest of making our haiku and senryu more “mainstream” one poem did just occur to me …

    The barmaid said don’t make a fuss,
    took a can of hairspray, don’t muss.
    After hours, have your way,
    oh but please will you say:
    My Dear, you’re pulchritudinous!

    Forgive me, I won’t do it again — well not too often.

    You asked. – Paul, who really is sorry, everyone. Its ALL Peter’s fault. I’ve been led astray . . .

  12. Paul and Allan, so let me understand. Are you saying that quotidian is not pulchritudinous? (Of course, I only bring it up in this august blog (nice seasonal reference, what) because I hope one day that I or someone else will use that 5 syllable word as the last line of a quotidian haiku. My thoughts on JS’ poem a bit later. Any other takes on it?

  13. Peter, I interpret John’s leaf poem pretty much as it reads. It is very closely observed and carefully phrased — but, it is, after all, by John Stevenson. It could be in an uncontrolled fire, but I see it as kindling for a campfire or a leaf that tagged along on a stick of firewood and got into a hot fireplace. Just before it literally explodes into fire, the kindling temperature is reached, it may smoke out the ends. A curled (dried) leaf curls even tighter as what little moisture it still had is boiled out causing it to constrict _just_ before the quick flame, quickly done.

    This is quotidian… a word with two close meanings — all a matter of a single space. Something every day — or — something everyday. I was vamping on the great multi-syllabic nature of the word itself and that it is neither of the everyday or seen every day.

    OK, I’ll play — from the new Montage, juried by Allan, one that got past us as a senryu (who’s to say?) and into the Nest — a place, usually for haiku. Yet, see p. 7 of the printed Annual Nest Book, Vol. 10 for words about haiku and senryu… written by… none other than John Stevenson, hiss own seff. It is both hard for us to pass up a good poem, and there is that place, the one just between haiku and senryu …

    From The Heron’s Nest and Montage #19, John Stevenson’s:

    late night —
    a waitress repeats
    the list of pies

    I am then reminded of another waitress poem:

    Dee Evetts prize-winning senryu (a senryu contest, Boston H. Society), also from his book “endgrain”

    with a flourish
    the waitress leaves behind
    rearranged smears

    and an old senryu of mine:

    the bent tines
    of a fork
    bus-station pie

    – Paul (MacNeil)

    Thus filling the quotient for quotidians Writ Large.

    – Paul

  14. As to Paul on “quotidian”: I take it he’s saying the word itself is, ironically, not quotidian.

    As “diminutive” is not diminutive.

    And for that matter “big” is not big….

  15. Comments much appreciated, Peter & Paul. (So New Testament, eh?)

    As to John’s (oh, brother!) haiku–I see two basic ways of reading it, with or without a cut after L1. There is no punctuation, so my tendency (and it is only that) is to see it as a “single-image” haiku: the leaf curls tighter and catches flame. Something that as the owner of a wood-burning stove I often witness in winter–and so a good ex. of what I meant by things before us we don’t necessarily think to translate into poetry. Read this way, the poem evokes seasonality and a cozy but perhaps solitary atmosphere–maybe a cabin with nothing but the fire between the poet and extreme cold. It possesses an evocative perfection I find quite attractive and leaves me space to “enter” (more fully than I will do so in this para.).

    But we should keep in mind that in the same collection (quiet enough, Red Moon Press, 2004) we also find the following:

    engrossed in work
    the snow
    begins to stick

    The grammatical structure is the same: participial phrase/ article + noun/ verbal phrase. No punctuation here either.

    This one we surely have to read as being cut. It’s the poet/observer “engrossed in work” not the the snow, right? I don’t think the intention is to anthropomorphize the snow….

    So, we could also read “curling tighter” as modifying not “a leaf” but something else implied rather than stated. Lovers would be the best bet, I’d think–although this interpretation might not definitively close the door on, say, a cat. Nonetheless, my tendency is always to read participles with implied subjects as referring to the poet/observer or a group of some sort including the same. So: lovers before the fire. A very different scene to contemplate than the poet alone in a cabin. And suddenly “catches fire” takes on new meaning.

    As an aside: Unlike some others who have voiced opinions on the matter of “dangling participles” in haiku, I have no problem whatsoever with this technique. Haiku elide all sorts of grammatical stuff, and the effect in this instance actually resembles a Japanese haiku in which the subject is implied. There’s the argument that English syntax shouldn’t mimic that of a foreign language–but as this effect dovetails with the self-effacing impulse of the genre, I see a justification that transcends simple grammatical considerations.

    Sometimes it’s simply more effective to imply rather than to state the pronoun. It’s one way haiku leave readers with something to find.

    Let the grammar police rewrite the following, if they’d like :-)

    not seeing
    the room is white
    until that red apple
    (Anita Virgil)

    halfway up the stairs–
    white chrysanthemum
    (E. S. Lamb)

    where the river goes
    first day of spring
    (John Wills)

    sitting here
    without the mountains
    (Gary Hotham)

    to read the sign
    (Alan Pizzarelli)

    waking far from home
    the sunrise songs
    of unknown birds
    (Charles B. Dickson)

    Family reunion–
    again explaining
    what a haiku is
    (Garry Gay)

    exploring the cave…
    my son’s flashlight beam
    disappears ahead
    (Lee Gurga)

    paper route
    knocking a row of icicles
    from the eave
    (Michael Dylan Welch)

    splitting wood–
    for a moment the log
    holds the axe
    (Jim Kacian)

    coming out of the woods–
    the sound of crickets,
    the empty sky
    (Peter Yovu)

    autumn heat reopening a scab
    (Scott Metz)

    climbing in shadow–
    the canyon rim
    brightly lit
    (Allan Burns)

    Just for starters. And if you know haiku conventions, none should be difficult to read.

    Anyway–I think John’s haiku can be read at least two basic ways (grammatically), and this multivalance is part of its attraction (and part of why I selected it for Montage). Being no fan of a “rule-based” approach to art, I like that either way it breaks a so-called “rule” (“Thou shalt cut!” or “Thou shalt not employ dangling participles!”). Two birds with one leaf.

    John has posted here before. Maybe he’ll share his thoughts on his own poem?

    And thanks for digging deeper into this one, Peter.

  16. Clarification of last post: when I said “say something about a haiku familiar to you”, I was referring specifically to John Stevenson’s poem, familiar to Paul. The open invitation is to say something about how you experience the poem.

  17. This post will get to a J. Stevenson poem in Montage.

    First, about quotidian. Paul you say “…it isn’t what it means” am I right in assuming you’re saying that “dailiness” does not equal “mundane?” or “commonplace?” Personally, though not altogether a wild man, I do like to liberate the id in quotidian now and then, and you can quote me, daily if necessary.

    More seriously (it’s what my superego wants…)–
    I appreciate you’re saying “I’m not looking for a treasure hunt or polemical joust when I read haiku–“. It’s a good reminder for me not to take things too seriously. Polemics, of course, can put folks poles apart.

    I come across wondrous moments sometimes, and they seem to want to be captured, or at least held and released, but a dogged pursuit of the nature of consciousness itself and of inner experience leads me often on a treasure hunt. I’m only bringing it up because I do carry this question on my voyages: how much can haiku bear? (Damn that bear– keeps coming back to the bird-feeders!)

    I would like, as an exercise and appreciation of Montage poets (and a big thumbs up here to Allan) to make at least brief comments on poems therein from week to week. Maybe. But for now I want to ask you, and readers in general, how they see John Stevenson’s:

    curling tighter/ a leaf/ catches fire

    Quotidian for sure, but much more also.

    The question could be– *what does this poem do (to you?*.

    I will refrain, for the moment, from giving a response myself, and hope that you, Paul, will say something about a haiku familiar to you, and I invite others to do the same.

    It seems that sails are being hoisted in many places on this blog.

  18. Friends at THF, it is 19 weeks now that Allan has been pulling fine rabbits from his hat. Quotidian Moments is another such.

    This was perhaps the first Montage where I knew all of the haiku. Great to see old friends again. Yours were great choices, Allan.

    And “quotidian” — what a hoot of a word. I’ve always been amused that it isn’t what it means. A “two-dollar word” if ever there was one. Perfectly applied by you. NOT a criticism. These haiku are some I love for lots of reasons. I’m not looking for a treasure hunt or polemical joust when I read haiku — or write them. A wondrous moment, perfectly captured. It doesn’t have to be a huge or beautiful moment.
    – Paul MacNeil

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