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Scott Metz: hopes for English-language haiku in the new year

One of the greatest gifts I was given in 2011 was given to me by Michael Dylan Welch when he invited me to Haiku North America. I filled one notebook after another taking notes at each presentation.

Two of the realizations that came to me during Richard Gilbert’s presentation were centered around Scott Metz: One, I really love his work and two, his poems seem important in the haiku world.

Like Wallace Stevens’ jar on a hill, Metz’ work changes English-language haiku with its presence. While many have noticed the bird and bush, Metz has clearly also studied and continued to build upon the foundation that modern poetry has given us.

“My hopes for English-language haiku in this year of the dragon (2012) is applicable, really, to any future that it has,” writes Metz in an email reply to my question, “What are your hopes for American haiku over the next year?”

He continues…

One of my hopes is that the aesthetics and techniques—the poetics—that have become traditional (classical?), and entrenched, in English-language haiku (with all its wonderful and creative misreadings, limitations, misinterpretations and ahistorical stances) continue to flourish and intensify, and deepen. With an emphasis on transparency (and directness) of language, simplicity, plainness, literalism, direct experience, season words, and “ordinary reality”, a remarkable, timeless foundation has been created.

Another one of my hopes for English-language haiku is that it will continue to diversify and evolve; that poets will continue to play (the hai in haiku) artistically (with language, modi operandi, imagery, structure, culture, media, history, literature), go where they need to go—go where they must go—and continue to question and resist. I’m excited to see the unchartered territories the art form ventures into, the nu/neu/neo directions, worlds, microclimates, seasons and infusions created and encapsulated—both the beautiful failures as well as the successful experiments. . . . And that by utilizing the first eight centuries or so of ku (from renga and uta to hokku, senryū and haiku) we can continue to refresh, renew, strengthen and expand this unique and extraordinary global literature.

In addition, I hope that not only will English-language haiku become more integrated and fused with the larger poetic world (as it is, in fact, beginning to), but that it will become more infused with American, English-language and Western poetics by its authors.

I look forward to the craft and artistry and invitations in everyone’s poems: all the doors and windows left open and/or cracked, all the lights on in the attics, all the latches and locks left undone. I hope for more of all of it and thank everyone for sharing it.
Scott Metz is the editor of Roadrunner. With Lee Gurga, he co-edited Haiku 21: an anthology of contemporary English-language haiku (Modern Haiku Press, 2011). He is the author of lakes & now wolves (Modern Haiku Press, 2012).

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. it was a compliment regarding you as an editor Michael. Nice story! Wasn’t it Francine
    Porad who made the suggestion: be your own editor first (not an exact quote)? I am all for Writer’s Groups, whether online, or local such as Route 9. It just boggles my
    mind that week in and week out you see the same poets on the same forums posting
    an idea, rather than at least attempting to write their own poem. It’s like haiku (among
    other genres) are becoming a genre of coauthors. At least give it an attempt. And so
    what if it takes three months to think of a seasonal word or kigo that works for a poem.
    Sharing is one thing but what I see going on is not sharing. I believe that Vigilio wrote
    that it took him 15 years or whatever to write one of his haiku. I don’t know, maybe I
    am getting old?

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Gene. I didn’t know Bill has said that to you about me. As for the value of learning the craft of haiku — and simply sharing them — as a higher virtue than collecting publishing credits, you might enjoy a short story of mine, first published in Modern Haiku in 1991 (time flies!), which speaks directly to that issue. It’s called “The Wriggling Koi,” and it’s online at http://sites.google.com/site/graceguts/stories/the-wriggling-koi.

    I would also add that there’s nothing at all wrong with publishing one’s haiku — it’s part of how we share our work. I recall Randy Brooks describing an editor’s selection of one’s haiku for publication as a “blessing” upon the poem. We “bless” poems when we select them in a kukai (even if they’re not the overall winners). We “bless” poems when we click Like for them on Facebook. It is also useful feedback on learning one’s craft at haiku to see which poems are blessed (including by publication) and which ones are not.

  3. honestly, I wish I could have been there, maybe if Bill was still alive I would have
    been? At one point within my career, Bill told me that Micheal was my man and not
    him. Now, that is a compliment! gene

  4. oh, yeah, here is something to ponder:

    dawn
    caught In a dewdrop–
    the empty swing

    THN, vol. 5:2. 2003

  5. Interesting. For whatever reason, haiku poets like being published: Personally, I would
    like to see more poets learn the craft of writing rather than collecting publishing credits.
    The truth of the matter is, some of our most prolific poets within the community cannot
    write their own poetry. Now, that is sad.

    Personally, I am for banding workshops, other than writer’s groups, either home or online.

    h. gene murtha

  6. I have seen a copy of Haiku 21, the new anthology edited by Lee Gurga and Scott Metz. I think there is work in this book that Robert D Wilson would applaud, and some he would not.

    I believe it is good that some people feel strongly about haiku as he does. What I look for from him, and from others who see the same way, is good work, and for them to be able to say what makes it good work. That helps me appreciate it.

    On the other hand, this appreciation doe snot block the enjoyment and sometimes the illumination I get from work which varies from what anyone, *anyone*, says haiku is supposed to be. I go to the raw experience of the words on the page. I might later say that they fulfill this or that quality of haiku as I understand it, or I might not.

    So Mr. Wilson, so Mr Gurga and Mr Metz– give me your best work; give me your raw experience; show me that there is a real world out there, and that there is a real world in here to embrace it!

  7. I thank God for the haiku Svetlana gave this world. She is the 21 st century’s first haiku master. Her haiku has sent the world a much needed, clear msg: there is only one genre of haiku. Look to the freshness of her poetry; the activity biased outlook that understands role in haiku.

  8. “One of my hopes is that the aesthetics and techniques—the poetics—that have become traditional (classical?), and entrenched, in English-language haiku (with all its wonderful and creative misreadings, limitations, misinterpretations and ahistorical stances) continue to flourish and intensify, and deepen. With an emphasis on transparency (and directness) of language, simplicity, plainness, literalism, direct experience, season words, and “ordinary reality”, a remarkable, timeless foundation has been created.” ~ Scott Metz

    I hope for this as also. Well said!

  9. Scott’s awareness that misunderstandings, misreadings, etc. reveal new paths and perspectives is heartening to me. I love the fact that he values the quest of going where the poet must go…where the haiku itself will take us. No wonder Scott’s haiku have always penetrated so deeply into my own misunderstandings. I am most grateful. Thanks Gene for this post.

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