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Per Diem for April: Between the Words, Beyond the Senses

Christopher Patchel has come down with a case of ‘sehnsucht.’

He writes:

The German word sehnsucht [zane-zuhkt] has no adequate equivalent in other languages, though the feeling it attempts to name is universal. ‘Longing’ or ‘yearning’ is the closest English translation. An “inconsolable longing” for “we know not what” is one way C.S. Lewis describes it, and another, ” . . . the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

Being elusive by definition, sehnsucht can often be taken for wanderlust, homesickness, nostalgia, or other wistful desires. But however indefinite the object, the desire itself can seem more significant than all else, as expressed in the closing lines of Walt Whitman’s Song of the Universal:

Is it a dream?
Nay but the lack of it the dream,
And failing it life’s lore and wealth a dream
And all the world a dream.

Haiku is rooted in sensory perceptions of tangible realities in the here and now. How then does it fare with the indefinable? The 30 poems that make up this sequence suggest or evoke some sense of sehnsucht for me. Perhaps some of them strike a similar pang in you as well.

See if these poems don’t give you a frisson that’s hard to name. Enjoy!

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. Hi Christopher,
    I am pleased too about the sequencing in the Archive.
    The poem “summer’s end” is not available to the Archive yet, as it is still up as today’s Per Diem! I’ll be taking it down tomorrow!
    The other poem, “autumn sunset”, is a poem that existed in the database prior to your collection; now in its ‘copy’ status it does not appear in the Archive – we are currently having a problem with copies of poems from the database appearing in the Archive and are looking into this.

  2. I’m happy to see that the archived version of the April Per Diem did sequence the poems correctly, only it left two poems out. ‘summer’s end’ by Martin Lucas should follow ‘ebb tide’. And ‘autumn sunset’ by Christopher Herold should follow ‘migrating geese’.

  3. Hi Folks. A reminder regarding sequencing of poems in Per Diem: poems are selected for display by a randomizer, so whatever order you put them in isn’t maintained.
    Recently, with the addition of the Archives, we are able to reproduce the sequence of poems sent to us in the Per Diem Archives (not in Per Diem) with the exception of the poems already in the THF database. These are copied rather than entered anew – to avoid duplication – and their position in the sequence cannot be controlled at present.
    Another issue some of you have noticed is that some poets who are in the THF Haiku Registry appear without links in the Per Diem Archive. This is due to a problem with our software and we are looking into it.

  4. The same thing happened with the Per Diem I edited. I even gave all the poets the date their haiku would appear. Maybe the archived version WILL be like the original.

  5. Thanks, Carmen.
    Fyi, I intended the poems to be a sequence, so it was disappointing to learn that the order is randomized. My fingers are crossed that the archived version will restore the original sequenced order.

  6. ebb tide
    the shell I keep reaching for
    carried further away

    — John Crook

    Ah, this haiku by the late and beloved British poet fits perfectly in your
    collection, Chris.
    yearning perfectly.

  7. at the break of day.
    I remember all my nightmare
    but not as much as dream

  8. writing at my desk
    I look out across the sea…
    words slip their moorings

    – Caroline Gourlay

    I’ve always loved Caroline’s haiku. She has such a way with words.

  9. Oh, I love the goldenrod every year, and today’s haiku by John Wills:

    and in the distance

    I appreciate the way Per Diem links to the Haiku Registry, if the poet has a page there.

    The goldenrod and wild roses in the yard inspired this:

    growing older
    goldenrod and roses
    refreshed by rain

    Thanks for both Per Diem and the Registry. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed when I got more involved again, but this much every day surely adds up over time. I also like checking back to read the comments and poems by others. Ellen

  10. An intriguing theme, Christopher, and I’ll look forward to each new one. Today’s selection is one of the first haiku I think of when someone asks me if I have some special favorites:

    a curtain billows
    before the rain
    scent of roses

    – Ferris Gilli

    Ferris was one of my first mentors and continues to be a guiding light along my haiku pathway. This haiku has haunted me from my first encounter with it and I’m pleased to see in it your lineup.

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