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Montage #31


Montage #31,
presented by Allan Burns,
is now up
on The Haiku Foundation website.

#31’s theme is “The Little Truths” and features the work of Issa, Cherie Hunter Day and Ferris Gilli.

   The pheasant cries
as if it just noticed
   the mountain.


                                                                                night heat
                                                                                nothing moves
                                                                                but the gecko’s eyes

                                                                                — Gilli

a skull no bigger
than my thumbnail
jasmine in bloom


This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Peter, You’re amazing! What a great list…consider what a bird might do…or a caterpillar… or the fish in our “river of life”… trying to find the silence that will allow another voice to answer.

  2. Ten things a cat might do after sleeping, yawning, getting up and going out:

    1. Decide whether the sound it has gathered into its right ear is the susurration of a breeze through the grass or the imprudent rustling of a mouse.

    2. Roll over on its back to feel the starlight on its belly.

    3. Make it pupils shrink by staring at the moon.

    4. Be taken by an invisible string attached to some cat-organ not yet discovered into the territory of Snaglip, the tom who tore its left ear last winter.

    5. Go back to the gutter where it smelled fishy dishwater once.

    6. Sharpen its claws on a scare-crow’s legs.

    7. Stare blankly into the night, an action which may or may not by a series of seemingly unconnected occurrences lead to Keats thoughts around Negative Capability.

    8. Decide whether what it has gathered into its torn ear is the inscrutably pink-sounding scurrying of mouse-paws or someone far way calling: “Issa, Issa”.

    9. Feel the microscopic tingling of its brain-cells as its teeth are shaken by the presence of a sleepless sparrow in the reeds.

    10. Counteract the powers of darkness by its electrical skin and glaring eyes forever hoping to catch a glimpse of Christopher Smart.

    11. Disdain numbers.

  3. Yes, I think Allan can keep it up as long as there are posts interested in the insights this affords. The combinations are limitless and he seems to have an aptitude for research in this area. What do you think, Allan?

  4. The other day I came across a caterpillar … had to stop as I’ve been getting dizzy from this flu. As I sat under the shade of a tree by my drought brook, I noticed it. Got up to take a look and was amazed at how gorgeous it was. All white hairs – long hairs…immaculately white…with a fine line of diamonds down its spine. I couldn’t help but wonder how it kept so clean, crawling around in the dirt the way it did. Couldn’t find it in my reference material so it’s still a mystery to me. But I sure would have liked to have been able to have a conversation with it…it looked so determined in where it was going. The whole incident sort of felt like “Alice in Wonderland” for me so I can imagine why Issa (given the life and pressures he lived under) could daydream a bit about what these creatures think and feel…and I’m sure a great deal of it is projected on them…and have always read it that way. Issa’s haiku seem to inform me not only about the natural world he lived in, but a little about himself too. Still there’s just enough scientist in me to appreciate more modern haiku practices. Still, I’m glad there’s both…side by side…

  5. I’ve always found Issa to be the most troubling of the haiku “masters.” His anthropomorphizing can be bothering. In the first poem, he thinks he knows why the cat goes outside (to make love), yet he can’t really know. Likewise, he doesn’t know what is in the pheasant’s mind–I doubt thoughts of the mountain. I suspect these are matters of presentation, of style, that he is imposing his persona on the cat and pheasant, which isn’t a bad thing, and well within the haiku tradition; the way Buson took on the persona of a widower, or Natsuishi a Flying Pope. Yet by telling us he knows what the cat thinks he only puts the cat further from himself. He makes each thing separate. Gilli’s and Day’s poems do the opposite, it seems to me. By layering an emotional atmosphere (I’m thinking of Gilli’s female cardinal here) Gilli brings for a moment the cardinal and herself into the same space. She also inserts herself into the cardinal’s mind, but she brings us along as well, and I feel less separate from the bird because I have had to make the discovery. Perhaps what I mean to say is that Issa makes me an observer of what the cat feels, while Gilli lets me feel what the bird feels.

    As always, a wonderful series! How long can Allan keep it up, I wonder?

  6. To see such fine details the poet needs to slow down his daily pace, as these very fine poets have. We miss so much by rushing. Quiet moments open our eys and relax muscles and provide nurishment to the soul, as these wonderful haiku do.


  7. My time living in Queensland taught me to appreciate the small truths of wildlife. Haiku is an incredible device to reminding us us of those small worlds so vital to us.

    For instance, if flies disappeared overnight the human race would cease to exist within hours. Now who here is fond of flies with the exception of Issa perhaps?

    heavy downpour
    a hover-fly goes deeper
    into gerbera

    Alan Summers
    2006 Haiku Calendar (JULY), Snapshot Press

    spooned from rioja
    the winefly stumbles
    over damp assam teabags

    Alan Summers
    Blithe Spirit (march 2000)

    the fly
    rubbing its hands
    on my yellow t-shirt

    Alan Summers (after Issa)

    Commended, Fellowship of Australian Writers, Queensland Scope Haiku Competition,1994

    Haiku Quarterly, (Dec 94) ed. Kevin Bailey (U.K.)

    shoulders dotted with flies
    i cycle on

    Alan Summers
    Azami Special Edition, Osaka, Japan (May 1994)

    This last haiku is about bushflies around 5am in the morning,when I went for a bike ride after feeding the horses.

    I used to either have a black cloud of them around my head (like a cartoon) or on this day, they just stayed on my shoulders taking moisture, but oddly comforting as I marvelled at yet another Queensland morning around sunrise in farmland country.

    There’s something about a time of day when the world really belongs to the wild.


  8. All of these haiku bid us take a closer look at the small things that pass our notice each day… Given the two hundred years between Issa and Ferris Gilli/Cherie Hunter Day, it’s encouraging to me that a certain sensibility remains since we are so much further removed from “small wild worlds” than the ancients were. Having poets sensitive to spiders and lizards give me hope that we have not completely walled ourselves off from nature.

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