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Per Diem for January 2020: SciFaiku

Per Diem: Daily Haiku for January 2020 features Julie Bloss Kelsey’s collection on the theme of ‘Scifaiku’. This is what Julie has to say by way of an introduction to this theme:

Scifaiku, also known as science fiction haiku, is a crossover genre that explores speculative topics within the framework of haiku. Fantasy, horror, and science fiction haiku have been around for years, but the term “scifaiku” was officially recognized in July 1995, with Tom Brinck’s publication of The SciFaiku Manifesto.

This often under-appreciated poetry form is my personal favorite. I had my first haiku “aha!” moment reading scifaiku, and this experience led to me becoming a haiku poet. In my opinion, some science fiction haiku don’t delve far enough into the speculative realm to make good scifaiku. Similarly, some scifaiku don’t capture the elegance and precision of language to make good haiku. The best scifaiku do both. I am indebted to the poets in this collection for allowing me to explore the scope of scifaiku.

– Julie Bloss Kelsey

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  1. Haiku: A Scientific Art*

    Japanese literature is largely inspired by Chinese literature during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) in China. Kojiki (712) and Nihonshoki (720) are the books of the earliest Japanese mythology, history, and poems. The word haiku is the combination of two different words haikai and hokku. Haikai is a linked-verse (collaborative) in haikai no renga poetry style developed during the Edo period (1602–1869). Haikai, a type of renga poetry, consists of at least 100 verses in 5-7-5-7-7 pattern. Hokku is the name given to the opening verse (5-7-5, go schichi go) and the last two-line is known as wakiku. The book “Haikai-Shogaku-Sho” by Saito To Kumato was published in 1641. Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) was the pioneer of writing Hokku. Haiku consists of 17 ‘on’ or ‘morae’ (sound), written in a vertical single line (top to bottom).Haiku poetry came into existence from hokku of haikai. Masaoka Shiki named hokku as haiku (ha-i-ku, 3-sound in Japanese) in 1892 and subsequently, it became popular in the western world in form three horizontal lines in s/l/s format.

    Japanese short-form of poetry is a gift to the world of literature. It embodies a wide spectrum of entities comprising the beautiful nature, human behaviour, diverse cultural and ethical values and zen-feeling. The small poem, haiku, embraces the science of nature, the resonance of senses (smell, vision, sound, and taste) that expresses the distinct feeling of joyfulness and aesthetic ecstasy. Deeper in haiku writing and its evaluation speak about the physics behind light and sound, the chemistry of colour and aroma, and geological expression of the landscapes by encapsulating the science of beautiful nature (kocho-fuei). It extends the relationship of reflection of nature with man’s social behavior that often manifests the different aspects of Social science. The reference to living creatures and seasonal assimilations are another dimension of the science of habitation under an ideal environmental ambiance with biological inheritance. The ethical (zen) feeling emblems a contemplation of spiritualism, the realization of self, being a part of greater nature.

    There has been a consistent coexistence of science and art in the realm of poetry. The art of human philosophy, largely imaged in the cognitive sphere, is boundless. Haiku has no beginning and no end. It is an unfinished poem (seisensui) in the perennial search which is essentially an urge of the concept of consciousness. Precisely so, there is no uppercase at the beginning and no full stop at the end in haiku composition. Traditionally in Japanese literature, haiku is written with 5-7-5 format (with 17 ‘on’ or ‘morae’). These formats are indeed the phonic or sound expression which is correlated to the science of sound. The science of syllables (morae) counting in the original Japanese haiku format can be viewed as a harmony of mathematics in haiku poetry, if not exaggerated! And the contemporary schemata (s/l/s) is a simple geometrical presentation of a simplified precision of 5-7-5 (go-shichi-go) syllabic pattern.

    The haiku contains two images, the “fragment” and the “phrase” while writing in English with a causer or pause in between (Kireji). The “Kireji” (the cutting word expressed as dash or ellipsis) is a subconscious silence that explores the haiku feeling in the form of juxtaposition or disjunction of the two images. The art of juxtaposition (renso) is an exploration of reasoning. This poetic logic resides in one’s imagism sensibility of behavioural processes. The basic elements of haiku are the interaction of human brain waves about the happenings in the surroundings and even about the imaginative outer space. Hence scientifically the art of haiku writing is a way of imaging around nature (kocho-fuei) , behavioural sense of man, animal and non-living entities.

    The fundamental elements (teikei) of haiku such as seasonal reference (kigo), the surrealistic silence in the form of pause (kireji), depth and mystery (yugen), contained space (ma), becomingness (kokora), lightness (karumi) and creativeness (zoko) are the aesthetic assimilation of cognitive reflections of human being. The pause imbued in haiku writing has a psychological imprint. This subconscious silence or pause implies a cognitive process-response dialogue in the mind. The science of thinking process imparts on the readers a deep appreciation of poetic interpretation. The cultural reference along with seasonal context (Kidai) is more of an anthropological assemblage of human behaviour through time, and place and is well embedded in poetry, more specifically in the classical haiku writings.

    Celestial Science and Haiku Writing

    The heavenly bodies related to astronomy, celestial or heavenly phenomena (tensoo) have been included in the seven Japanese categories of haiku and related kigo reference. There has been a wide poetic citation of haiku with reference to heavenly bodies and cosmic references.

    According to Basho, there are two planes in haku: fueki ryuko ie. Eternal and Current. The cosmic plane relates to haiku that is associated with nature and landscape. Shiki in his classification mentions ‘Nature and Celestial and Earthly’ aspects of haiku. He further adds that the essence of haiku is beauty bi (positive beauty, sekkyokuteki and negative beauty, shokyokuteki) in the relative sense, not in absolute.

    The following classical hokku by Basho has a brilliant celestial reference.

    ara umi ya
    sado ni yokotau
    ama no gawa

    rough sea !
    Sado over stretch-across
    heaven ‘s river

    R H Blyth translates it into English referring ‘heaven’s river’ as ‘The Milky Way’:

    A wild sea,
    And stretching out towards the island of Sado,
    The Milky Way.

    The science of haiku expression lies in writing exactly what you see as Shiki used the term as Shasei. Poet Federico Garcia Lorca could come to know about haiku in early 1920 and when he was a student in Madrid he aptly writes:

    Some day…
    You will leap from one star
    to another.

    Interestingly in the introduction to ‘Haiku in English, The First Hundred Years’ (2013) Billy Collins concludes with:

    “…I want to end by stretching an analogy between haiku and physics. Just as matter is composed of atoms, which give off a great energy when accelerated to the point of collision, so time is made up of moments, and when a single moment is perfectly isolated, another kind of cosmic energy is released. I like to think of the haiku as a moment-smashing device out of which arises powerful moments of dazzling awareness”.

    Yasuomi Koganei in his article, “Haiku Poems” published in Chrysanthemum No. 21. April 2016 says:

    “Thus using haiku, an author can express his thoughts as well about a landscape not existing on the Earth to easily appeal to readers’ neuron circuits. In April 2014, NASA found underground water on Saturn II Enceladus. It implies the possibility of life outside Earth. The universe is filled with scenery not existing on the Earth and haiku may well be able to describe it in advance of being actually recognized by scientific probe. In the future, sceneries in the universe may be normally described in haiku, and I would like to read them by my own eyes, if possible”.

    towards distant flashes
    sailing along the Milky Way
    reflected in the lake

    Jane Reichhold in her book, “Bare Bones: School of Haiku” mentions the ‘Celestial’ in haiku writing:

    “You can organize your poems by the five seasons, divided by mention of the season or its attributes; celestial – all the haiku about skies, weather, stars, planets; terrestrial –references to parts of the landscape; livelihood – human activities common to a certain season including holiday activities; animals – ones associated with a certain season; and plants – that reflect the season. Within these categories, one can arrange the subjects alphabetically”.

    She further adds, “Many of the kigo for the season/climate category (such as “bright skies” or “south wind”) could more accurately fit into celestial phenomenon leaving a category free for emotional states, which to me, are as much a part of any season as a bird or flower”.

    Many poets explore the beauty of celestial science and correlate it with profound interest and curiosity. One of the thrilling examples of celestial connotation in haiku literature is Michael Dylan Welch’s poem:

    meteor shower . . .
    a gentle wave
    wets our sandals

    He says, “….. I hope you can feel the enthrallment with the meteor shower, and then the surprise wetness from a wave, showing how nature, in this case through the changing tide, caused by the gravitational pull of celestial objects, can touch us in unexpected ways….”

    My Experience

    Alfred Tennyson, the Victorian-age famous poet, was a great believer of science. He blended nature, scientific observations, and faith in a holistic style in poetry. He reconciled science and faith in “In Memoriam”:

    “Give unto God what is God’s and unto science what is hers”.

    Perennial search for life in other celestial bodies remains as an ambition of mankind. During the early seventies, I had composed a poem, “Saptarshi ra Satabdhi Prasna” (One Hundred Questions of the Seven Stars) portraying time, space, and the celestial mystery. In one of the speeches in a school function, I spoke about the relationship between art and science: “The beauty of a flower is a divine art, the colour is the physics, the aroma is its chemistry”. The essence of poetry nestles in the diligent fragrance of the flower, simplicity of the flow of the river, the gentle spread of leaves, calmness of the deep ocean and embellishment of soothing shadow.

    The poetic ecstasies and journey of human life are parallel and perennial, beyond space and time. Quite often I experiment references of celestial bodies to render another dimension to poetry writing.

    We rush every moment
    Into the cave of future
    The universe extends
    To the extension of time
    And time nowhere ends to itself

    Pan-continental Premier Poets: The Ninth Biennial Anthology, 1985-1986 (Eds. Bohumila Falkowski, Edwin A. Falkowski and Marie. L. Nunn)

    One of my earliest poems,“Halley’s Comet” was published in Canopy, March 1987, edited by I H Rizvi:

    A perfection of creation
    An edge
    Of discipline
    A torch of truth
    Are at sight.
    In the sky high above
    It is the
    Halley’s Comet.

    The poem, MAN-II, with envisaged images of alien, has been portrayed with a message of peace from the other world. The poem was first published in Poetry, vol. XIII, no. 1&2, 1988, edited by Niranjan Mohanty and later included in the anthology, ‘ East-West Voices”, 1988, edited by V S Skand Prasad.

    Creatures, quite different from us,
    Come from thousands of light year distance
    Stand on their pointed legs
    They look through their rounded eyes
    Nodding their conical heads
    They laugh for a while
    And fly away
    Leaving a painting behind
    Will this world be able to discover?

    The poem titled “The Other Being”, published in Kritya, Vol V, Part III, edited by Rati Saxena, Aug 2009 and in Poetbay, 2010, edited by Anna, paints the colour of astronomical science:

    At times I wonder
    Perhaps we are the
    Living images
    Of distance cosmic rays
    At an imaginative focal length.

    The haiku, with its simulation of poetic-science, many a time explore the socio-cultural entities. It reflects the agony and quests for a better side of living. We can create images of pleasure, anguish, sufferings through the touch of scientific propensity. Based on the scientific inkling, I tried to mingle the art of haiku writing with celestial objects. A few of my haiku-like stanzas written in “Odia” appeared in the Deepti magazine, under the short- verse sequences “Satyameba” (Truth Alone). The translation of one of the poems, Jibanata (Life) is as follows:

    half-moon in the sky
    her body veiled in mixed
    colours of clouds

    Deepti, Vol.8, Issue III, Oct-Dec 1978

    Albert Einstein once said: We are slowed down sound and light waves, a walking bundle of frequencies tuned into the cosmos. We are souls dressed up in sacred biochemical garments and our bodies are the instruments through which our souls play their music.

    I conclude with my haiku published in Under the Basho, 2019 (Haiga)

    the Ω of galaxy–
    the ∞ and boundless Σ
    of Ramanujan and Hawking

    Pravat Kumar Padhy

    Under the Basho, 2019 (Haiga)

    * Extract from my recently published haiku Collection, “Cosmic Symphony” (2019). Part of the Article published in “Atoms of Haiku, Vol, II”, Edited by Archana Kapoor Nagpal, Author’s United, 2016

  2. depleted plutonium
    the creases in a photo
    run across a face
    Alan Summers
    消耗したプルトニウム 写真のしわ 顔を横切る
    Japanese by Ban’ya Natsuishi 

    Honorable Mention, 2nd World Haiku Association Haiku Contest 2017
    Main judge: Ban’ya Natsuishi 
    WHA Home Office 3-16-11 Tsuruse-nishi, Fujimi, Saitama, Japan
    Anthology credit:
    Dwarf Stars 2018
    The Best Very Short Speculative Poems (2017)
    ed. Deborah P Kolodji

  3. racing to Mars
    the dog on a skateboard
    in the lead

    reaching Saturn’s rings
    close behind the bugler
    the rhino and me

  4. you leave me among an infinite number of civilizations

    the rainbow’s colors
    of your strange world
    are different waves lying there
    love, unlike here on rigel iv?

    vernal equinox
    she helps me with
    compression stockings

    61 cygni without google i try to find you

    amidst the perseids
    it comes to me:

    my jeans
    too tight

    vom großen Zeh
    fliegt fort ein Stück

    big toe
    away it flies
    star dust

    sasanian empire
    it ends today
    in the orion nebula

    (Kreischen der Kreide – The Screech of Chalk)

    the economy of a solar system our daughter’s first date

    (frogpond 38.2/Dwarf Star Nomination 2015)

  5. .
    For sale: space boots, still worn.
    “after Hemingway”
    Alan Summers
    Prune Juice: Journal of Senryu, Kyoka, Haibun & Haiga
    Issue 26, November 2018 ed. Steve Hodge


    1. I have seen a very similar scifaiku written by John J Dunphy:

      the alien’s language
      lacking a word
      for war

      1. I can’t see the website article as it doesn’t allow EU readers, but John does an excellent article on haiku in general! :-)

        John Dunphy explains scifaiku: science fiction haiku
        21 Jul 2011 – Imagine English-language haiku, one of the most demanding of all poetry … will differ from ours. the alien’s language. lacking a word. for war.

  6. space travel—
    the professor’s expired gum
    circles the can
    — Robert Kingston
    Other worldly 2019

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