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Montage #42


Montage #42,
presented by Allan Burns,
is now up
on The Haiku Foundation website.

The first of two winter-themed galleries, Montage #42 features haiku by Scott Mason, Ruth Yarrow, and Lorin Ford.

late December evening
      a fox tail tapers
          to nothing
— Scott Mason

                                                                                glacier-edged lake brimming
                                                                               with sky
                                                                                — Ruth Yarrow

a thing to cling to...
winter moon
— Lorin Ford

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Adelaide, many, many thanks for your astute post!

    ” The reader, on the other hand, if a kigo doesn’t make sense, needs to imagine where the poet is and try to put himself in the poet’s locale. Haiku is, and always has been, a poem for two people, the poet and the reader.” Adelaide

    This is so right. I’m used to checking what locale the poet is writing from. ‘Kigo’, for the Japanese, depends on shared culture.. We in the ‘West’ have learnt a little about kigo in order to understand Japanese haiku. Sometimes we have adopted Japanese kigo for ELH, but this often puts us in the position of being false to what’s really around us and who we really are, so our writing might become less authentic, less true. We leave the world as we know it for a stage set. Is there snow and ice in Missouri, USA, in Winter? Hawaii?

    I have no trouble reading Scott’s

    ‘late December evening/a fox tail tapers/to nothing ‘

    when I understand he’s writing from a locale in the Northern hemisphere. I simply imagine the short days, the long nights of Winter in the first week or two after Winter solstice. If I insisted on reading it in relation to my own locale, in relation to the long days after the Summer solstice, it would ruin the haiku: the connection of that ( magnificent, fully furred) tail ‘tapering to nothing’ with the long night wouldn’t work, I wouldn’t realise that the fox’s tail (and not the whole fox! 😉 I do love how we just get a glimpse, so true of foxes) is most likely close to human habitation and seen by electric light or torch light.

    (we do have foxes! near the city areas, even.They were introduced, like rabbits and blackberries, by the early settlers)

    Similarly, with Ruth Yarrow’s

    ‘north wind moans/ through a crack/ in my dream’

    if I insisted on reading it as pertaining to my own locale, I would have a very different haiku …in this case, I would have a scenario such as that of Iast January and February, here, when the relentless furnace of the North wind, the fire-bringing wind, blew dust and crumbling mortar through a large structural crack in my bedroom wall (caused by these 13 years of drought) as I tried to sleep. There was a spell of several days of temperatures between 40 and 45 degrees Celsius, and the nights didn’t cool down significantly.

    To make good sense of this haiku, rather than simply identify what’s happening with my own locale, I have to take into account the locale it is written from, quite as much as with calendar references. Without doing that, I don’t know that the wind blast in the haiku is a cold one.

    (A Southerly breeze here in Summer is welcome and cooling; a blast of the hot Northerly wind is something to be survived!)

    ‘bright sun on ice’? Yes, ice forms on puddles, roads etc. here in Winter (it even snows up in the high country) but this isn’t Antarctica or even the South Island of New Zealand. The ice breaks up and melts away in bright sunlight by mid-morning, usually.

    If we want to read haiku which aren’t written from our own locale, and to share our own haiku with readers who live in surroundings and climates different to ours, we need to widen our viewpoints enough make these adjustments, just as we do when reading ‘long’ poems or novels.

    ‘silent night’ . . .
    the shrill counterpoint
    of cicadas

    (In the original, ‘silent night’ is in italics.) We share the same traditional’Christmas culture’, the same traditional carols that originated in the Northern hemisphere, in Europe and the UK, but these do not coincide with the same point in the cycle of the seasons. This is not a case of ‘summer in winter’, though, nor is there a ‘double kigo’ involved.

    Aust. cicadas:


  2. Lorin may be experiencing summer’s warmth now, but she, as well as Ruth and Scott, surely know winter’s cold. The use of a kigo puts us right in the scene: the obvious kigo like winter, cold, snow, ice, and the subtle kigo, huddled, north wind. Scott’s

    a whitetail flickers/into birch…/what time I have left

    has the feeling of winter because of his use of white, the white of the deer’s tail, the white of a birch tree, and because of the last line.

    Certain kigo, such as naming a month or a holiday without mentioning something of nature in addition, such as ice, snow, cold wind, etc. to indicate the hemisphere, would not produce the same effect in the reader. Scott’s

    late December evening/a fox tail tapers/to nothing

    is an example of a haiku in which the reader finishes the poem. Here in upstate New York I think of bare trees and the wooded ravine behind my house and the fox I saw last winter running through it, the warmth I felt being in my house and not out with the fox. Someone in Australia in December would surely have different feelings, warm nights, freedom to run, the deep green of trees tuning dusky creating mystery.

    A poet writes for himself.If his poem touches others in more areas than his own locale, he has a gift. The reader, on the other hand, if a kigo doesn’t make sense, needs to imagine where the poet is and try to put himself in the poet’s locale. Haiku is, and always has been, a poem for two people, the poet and the reader.

    Merry Christmas to all at Haiku Foundations and to its readers.


  3. lorin, Thanks for the “merriment” of your post…:-) Somehow I can’t help thinking of Gabi’s “fan in winter” when I think about summer in winter… and I agree about foot ball. Yet I’m an absolute nut about base ball in the summer time…different kind of sport entirely.
    I guess, as I read the selections of this post, the winter solstice just seemed to permeate them. And I have to tell you, I go through a bit of a psychic schitzo phase this time of year as part of me mourns the lives and loves lost and the darkness and the cold take over…and the other part of me absolutely revels in the love of those around me. Christmas absolutely smothers me in loving people and the joy of that comfort. Yet today my joy was being absolutely quiet in my studio…and just listening to the silence…the crystal clear sounds of silence…a mystical music of the stars above me…that brighten our winter sky here and your summer sky…and I know that the human heart must hold it all. The joy and the sorrow. The love and the loss. And the knowledge of this makes every poet I read so much more meaningful to me…so much more of a treasure.
    A blessed Christmas to you and a New Year of healing and filled with all good things.

  4. Merrill, thanks very much for your comments…much appreciated!

    I need to say that the ‘merriment… and busy rituals and gatherings of …(Winter)… time of the year’ where I live are mostly limited to football . It is like a religion to those who follow it, but about the only ku I’ll ever write about football might be one about strangling someone with a footy team scarf 😉

    😉 …and a footy team scarf (long, woolen…or acrylic, too, these days) would be a seasonal reference for much of Australia, Gabi, even, for goodness sakes, the tropical regions! That’s culture for you!

    Don’t forget that Christmas and New Year are calendar events, Merrill, occurring at the same time in both hemispheres (as Allan pointed out in his introduction)…your Winter, but my Summer.

    Yes, today is solstice! (winter/summer, depending where on Earth we live) and nearly Christmas now! I wish you a very happy and peaceful Christmas and delightful new things in the New Year. 🙂

    ( I have bought myself some American perfume today…’Pure Turquoise’…and it goes perfectly with the ideal, not-too-hot Summer weather we’re having at present…mid to high 20’sCelsius with a slight breeze in the evening.)


  5. Hi, Gabi, Thanks for the reminder. I notice that most of the haiku in this Montage seem to me to reflect upon a certain Winter mood. It seems to start here with Scott Mason’s

    returning sun –
    the glitter of snow where I sowed
    my father’s ashes

    Tonight is the Winter solstice. The last winter solstice of the first decade of the new millennium. That haiku resonated with me with the contrasting ashes/returning…death and returning life of the whole season.

    Then the next one to touch me personally is Lorin Ford’s

    finally getting
    the why of loneliness –
    bright sun on ice

    There is that contrast between the sharp pain (bitter cold) of being alone and the awareness of one’s own being yet still too hard to define like bright sunlight is too hard to see glaring off the ice. When one finds oneself totally alone in the world in and of itself suggests that that awareness is impossible to explain or to share with anyone else for there’s no one there.
    But it’s not necessary for anyone to be there to understand such things. And her:

    a thing to cling to…
    winter moon

    It’s a cold knowing.

    And then the brief winter sights that bring a winter knowledge:

    a whitetail flickers
    into birch…
    what time I have left
    by Scott Mason

    echoes the “a moment white and gone forever” theme.

    And in this brief moment that we share with each other we find

    cold enters with her –
    the snarl of her zipper
    before her words
    by Ruth Yarrow

    the disappointment of a relationship that has turned “cold”….

    This Montage lacks any of the merriment of the winter season.
    I often wonder, now that I have learned the widow’s lesson if the merriment and the bon fires and the busy rituals and gatherings of this time of year are something of a psychological
    wall against the suggestions of death. And yet perhaps they are a pathway into understanding that the concept of death itself may be an illusion … a doorway that must be gone through. Being alone, without a thing to cling to … on this the longest night of the year, the sun starts to stay with us a little longer, but as Lorin points out the moon too is gaining and giving light even in the darkness.

  6. Traditional Winter kigo for Japan do not only include “nature words” of weather, plants and animals, but also a lot of activities that people do during the months of snow and ice.

    There are also many festivals and rituals held in winter, which are kigo.

    I am sure there are plenty of regional activities and festivals during the winter months in other countries, that could be picked up as “season words” for the respective areas, if poets choose to write haiku about them.

    Click on my name for a list (under construction) of these kigo.

    I am still working on them, there are 356 kidai, which means much more than double that number of kigo … ufff, still a long way to go!

    Thanks for a fine selection, Allan!

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