Proven practitioners of the art of haiku present their own 'testimony' as to their part in the past, present and future expressions of haiku and sharing something of their own creative processes.

The contributions may be made up of some biographical background, personal experience in working within the art-form, personal development of the art-form to give better expression to their inspiration, influences on how their work has taken shape and evolved, difficulties along the way, discoveries, initiatives and expectations for the future of haiku.

Contributors may select haiku by themselves and/or by others that have become, for them, personal exemplars of haiku with a brief explanation as to why they are pleasing.

 

 

MY HAIKU JOURNEY
by Adelaide B. Shaw

In college, the teacher of my art appreciation class,, encouraged us students to be observant, to use all our senses, to find beauty in both the spectacular and the mundane. This became a habit, and I sometimes found myself wanting to express my feelings about what I saw and experienced. My attempts were only worthy of the trash basket. The rhymed poetry read like bad greeting cards; the free verse was too long and rambling and plagued with clichés.

In 1969 I discovered the Peter Pauper Press series of haiku books. They were my introduction to haiku, and, after reading them, I knew this was a form I wanted to try. So much was conveyed in so few words. The brief introductions in each volume did not tell me enough about haiku, and I searched for more comprehensive books. Books by Harold Henderson, William Higginson, and R.H. Blyth became my teachers.

I sent my first batch of haiku to Haiku Highlights in early 1970. Michael McClintock, who was assistant editor, accepted one with a slight edit.

white petals
falling into the river
catch the floating moon

Michael eliminated the word “frailly” from line 1. Petals, by their nature, are frail. I was
telling too much . Today, I would even eliminate “floating” in line 3.

Many of my early haiku kept to the 5/7/5 format that was popular then, and thought by some to be the only form. With more practice, more reading of haiku and subsequent submissions and rejections, I wrote shorter haiku. More poets were realizing that haiku written in Japanese adhered to 17 sounds, not syllables, and that English language haiku should have fewer syllables. This freed up my haiku. No longer feeling it necessary to add a word to create 17 syllables, I let the haiku form naturally using 4/5/4; 3/5/3; 4/6/4; or any variety of combinations, including 5/7/5 if it felt natural.

The haiku I write, unlike the poetry I had tried to write years earlier, have many differences:

shortness:

river walk-
the scent of lilacs
and fresh tar

Kernels, Summer 2013

Conciseness and objectivity with no subjective adjectives and no repeated thoughts:

late winter cold–
long underwear
frayed at the cuffs

Daily Haiku, December 7, 2009

Experiences that are my own; an instant experience, not something that could be repeated tomorrow or next week:

a ripe plum–
the skin slips off
with the first bite

Notes from the Gean, Sept.. 2010

The experience is written as if it is happening now, even though it could be a memory.

hawthorns in bloom
her crayon trees
all the same shape

Notes from the Gean, March 2011

As English language haiku have evolved so has my writing of it. I use a kigo in most, but not always; some are all season.

empty beach
crossing the hot sand
a gull’s shadow

Simply Haiku, summer 2011

abandoned school–
the voices of the wind
through broken windows

South by Southeast, summer 2008

And, a few of my haiku are what Susumu Takiguchi, the founder of The World Haiku Club, calls vanguard haiku.

new jar of cayenne–
the years it took me
to get here

A Hundred Gourds, Sept. 2013

After forty-eight years of composing haiku I am still searching for that perfect gem, the one that shows the reader what I am feeling without telling him; the one that gives the reader a feeling of “Yes, I understand. I’ve seen that or felt that;” the one that resonates and is remembered.

Depression to Now!


When I came in contact with the external world through my foreign job in Malaysia, I was 26. Within few days of being independent, I realized that there is a huge gap between me and now. More often, I dwelled in the past. Through my new kith, I began to recover but the 26 years of grooming depression still pulled me back.

In early 2010, after being alone in Malaysia for a few months, I began to look out for a useful hobby that I could enjoy and improve on throughout my whole life. I chose writing. From childhood to that moment, all the writing I did was only academic.

I began to write movie reviews, then English translation of Tamil short stories and gradually came across a very warm poetry online literary journal, Muse India which ran and still runs a Your Space column for aspiring writers to share their literary works on a daily basis. It greatly influenced me to write free verses and share with them, I was rewarded too at times.

Through Your Space forum, in July 2010, I happen to read few haiku which impressed me as those were full of lives and brought joy to me. I was struck for few days in those haiku images. It gave me a reason to live every moment to the fullest to experience these little extraordinary moments myself. As I began to read more and more haiku, I began to observe extraordinary moments myself, my life got better as I began to use my senses effectively and I was speeding towards now more often.

Though I began to try my hands on haiku and share it in Your Space, Muse India: it took me six months to write a technically correct haiku.

winter twilight –
homing mynah
over my backstroke

Those days, my favorite and only exercise was swimming during the weekends at my condominium pool. I began to craft my experiences into haiku and above is one such haiku that beautifully fell in place and my first haiku to get published in an international haiku journal. I had to wait for three months till December 2010 to see it in print though. It was the longest wait in my life and the excitement I had when I saw it published cannot be expressed in words.

In 2011, I opened myself to international haiku scene and had more success through Simply Haiku, The Heron’s Nest and Magna Poets etc. I spent easily twelve hours a day on haiku throughout that year.

uphill walking ...
she takes me into
winter clouds

In 2012 I returned back to India permanently for personal reasons and my parents saw a new me and they were in awe on my significant improvement in health (body, mind and soul). Since then, I made it a habit to go for nature trips like wildlife safari, birding, visiting landscapes etc., as part of my bi-annual vacation. Most of my haiku are from those experiences.

twilight
my child stretches
the end of play

night blossoms
the elders swing dance
in the neighborhood

I also began to attend poetry festivals in various parts of India to read my haiku and more often I use Senryu to break the ice before reading the haiku with the literary audience. Organizers began to invite me often as they saw haiku providing a unique variety to the poetry audience.

working from home ...
my child asks if she can
study from home

Above Senryu came to me through my wife, that Friday (winter) morning, I was actually stretching my sleep. When my daughter enquired about me, my wife said that I would be working from home today to which my daughter replied she will also study from home.

autumn sky
patches of twilight
in the falling leaf

Another haiku from my direct experience with an autumn moment. The moment I reached my office desk, I penned this haiku; this scene happened while I was on the drive to my office.

The haiku seed I planted, six years back, has grown tall and wide and now it is in my veins, blood and everywhere within me and became me or rather I became the aesthetics of haiku. 2016 has been a phenomenal year so far with few international first prizes and with the amount of time I consciously invested in it and it has become subconscious now.

year's end
the spot I revisited
within me

I am seeing number of improvements in various aspects of my life; continuously improving consciousness is a direct benefit of reading and writing haiku; significant improvements in my personal, family, financial, general and spiritual life. While I continue to grow on these life aspects, I also sense that I am continuing to get detached from the materialistic values with time.

Giving me back to me is the biggest gift that haiku gave to me.

spring silence with every breath returning me

how many
breaths do I have left ...
spring stars

No matter where I am, I dedicate the Saturdays to crafting haiku. Some of my best haiku has come on the mornings of Saturday. Before and after writing haiku, I always sense a change in me; better alignment of my mind, body and soul.

spring cleaning
the shelves
of boxed grudges

I am continuing to write on my direct experience with nature, kith, poverty, spirituality, and foible.

As I have personally experienced cure from depression through haiku, in addition to meditation being used as a medicine for psychological illness in west, reading and writing haiku as a way to cure psychological illness could also be explored for healthy living.

waters of spring
father backstrokes
into healthiness

https://rrameshanand.com

haiku credits:
winter twilight - Gean Tree, uphill walking – Magna Poets, twilight – Frogpond, night blossoms - Modern Haiku, working from home ... - Cattails, autumn sky - AHG, year's end - THN, spring silence - Haiku Presence, how many - WHR, spring cleaning - Modern Haiku, waters of spring - Acorn.

Haiku: The Art of Words and My Maiden Journey

by Pravat Kumar Padhy


I used to enjoy poetic feeling and symbolic expression while composing essay at an early age of around thirteen. In school career, I sublimely endowed with the natural beauty and used to write articles pertaining to scenic landscape of resplendent nature. While writing essays in school, often I composed some proverbial short poems (one to two lines) at the end. As an intermediate college student, I submitted some of my poems in my mother tongue, Odia and one day to my surprise, the editor posted them on “Wall Magazine” in the prestigious BJB College Hostel. In 1978 a few of my haiku-like stanzas in my mother tongue, Odia, appeared in the “Deepti” magazine under the short- verses (3-4 lines) sequence 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, No.III Oct-Dec 1978
The Living Anthology

I had written an article on “Ezra Pound and His Poems” and was published in one of the leading Odia journals “Manas”, 4th Issue in February 1980. In an interview for the collection, ‘Interviews with Indians Writing in English' (Writers Workshop Publication, Calcutta,1992), edited by Atma Ram, I opined, “Poems come to my mind as fragrance to flower. Anything I see, it creates a symbolic frame in my mind......... when I see a small grain of seed, I feel it is tiny / because it nests with care / the mightiest in it”.

“A Better Living” (Kavita India, Vol.III, No. 2&3, 1990) is probably the one of the shortest poems I have ever written :

Try best
Like bird
Reaching
To its nest

I had a chance of over viewing the published review article on “Indian English Haiku and R K Singh” by Razni Singh in e-zine “Got Poetry”, December, 2007. I read the article carefully and the poetic esteem of gracefulness of three lines of expression. Dr R K Singh was my English professor in Indian School of Mines, (IIT-Dhn), Dhanbad. I scanned through my manuscripts of eighties and the published ones. To my surprise, I found that some of my short poems closely resemble (though in strict sense I was not aware of the Japanese short poems) with haiku and tanka. In Sept 2009, I posted a four-line poem “Pretending” in “Poetbay”.

They speak of volume
In reality it fills
Thin hopes
Of vacuum.

Poet Tai, UK with appreciation comments: “This makes a perfect haiku in three lines. Wise words, all the same. Really liked the imagery of thin hopes of vacuum”.

I started searching to know about the beauty and genesis of haiku poem. I could come across the age old exquisite poetic work of iconic literary pursuits of Japanese poets through internet and further corresponding with the leading writers. Since then it has been a thrilling experience of writing and reading haiku. I experimented with interaction by posting some poems in e-zines namely Akita Haiku International Network, The Four Seasons Haiku, Poetbay, Poetry Pages, Dreamer’s Reality, Lit Org, Critical Poet and others. The beauty of definition, more so the essence of aesthetic Japanese style, thrilled me when I got an e-mail from Werner Reichhold on 23 September, 2009 about acceptance of my haiku poem and republished in Lynx-Aha Poetry, XXV:1 Feb 2010.

Dog is misspelled
the child discovered
the Great

Lynx-Aha Poetry, XXV: 1 February 2010
(Original poem, “God” first published in “World Poetry Anthology”, 1992)

He writes:

Dear Mr. Pravat Kumar Padhy,

We received your submission and we will publish your haiku …., first line: 'Dog is misspelled...'

To get even more familiar with what is going on about Japanese poetry genres in the English speaking world, we recommend a book that's available at Amazon.com, named 'Writing and Enjoying Haiku'. It's a hands-on guide with a lot of useful information. I am sure you will enjoy it.

Best wishes
Werner Reichhold
23.9.2009

Later I could come to know that around the same time my first online haiku (composed earlier in 1990 as a short poem titled “Seed” ) appeared in “The World Haiku Review”, Vol. 7, Issue 2, 2009 with minor edits by editor Susumu Takiguchi.

creation is mystical
vast value of life
compressed in a seed

Werner Reichhold encouraged me to go through some of the haiku poems written by western haikuist with writing literature in Asian roots. He appreciated my observations of image building and encouraged me to turn these observations into poetry. His inspired words encouraged me in my journey towards understanding of the beautiful Japanese short form of poetry. Initially I wrote some of the haiku with sublime metaphors such as:

life takes an absence
amidst roaring cries--
a different silence

The Critical Poet, May 21, 2010

calendar pages—
between the dates
time escapes

The Critical Poet, May 2010
Paul comments: “ I'll play though abstract (with time escaping), this ku is actually closer to haiku because of its profound thought of what is between the pages, a metaphor for fleeting life….”.

Poetry is the essence of human urge and awareness. The mystic of art and literature delightfully reveal the kaleidoscope of science through colorful flair of human aspiration. It amalgamates the spiritual romanticism, aesthetic feeling and intellectual cadence of human beings in the perennial journey along the corridor of nature’s panorama of blissful beauty. Science is the composite reflection and poetry is its genetic soul. Let us put poetry to thrive in time and anti-time, in matter and anti-matter. Let it speak out the truth of human life and truthful endeavour. Let poetry light the lamp of humanism and brotherhood and let the flow of poetry escape with out any sound and merge with solace of silence. Writing haiku unveils the poetic essence and lively moments associated with all the entities within the fold of nature and human observations. Essentially it explores the uncommon in the common as put forth by Alice Frampton.

Art of haiku writing is a way of observing around nature, behavioural sense of man, animal and non-being entities with blend of kigo. The spirit of haiku embodies the use of kigo, kireji, ma, yugen with poetic credence. Haiku is unique in its form and simplistic expression with reference to season or nature as a whole. This makes it distinct style from other poetry. It should reflect simplicity and honesty in expression without scar of artificiality, complexity or pretention. The image that is created through haiku in its brevity is undoubtedly is the spark of self realization (zen moment).

My first printed haiku was published in the journal “Ambrosia”, Summer Issue, 2010, edited by Denis M. Garrison. It was a very simple poem coining images with juxtaposition and assimilating the intrinsic values. Gabi Greve and Alan Summers appreciated this haiku for its simplicity of expression.

rainy day
mud escapes
between toes

Ambrosia, Summer 2010


I have the opportunity of reading the scholarly articles by A C Missias, Jeanne Emrich, Jim Kacian. Jane Reichhold , Robert D. Wilson, Elizabeth St Jacques, Ken Jones, Martin Lucas, Michael Gunton, George Marsh, Fay Aoyagi and others. I learned basic guidelines from various articles published in different sites such as British Haiku Society, Haiku archival in World Haiku Review, Modern Haiku, Simply Haiku, AHA Poetry, World Kigo Database , Graceguts etc. The classical concepts enumerated by Haiku Masters Basho, Busan, Issac, Shiki and Chiyo-ni inspired me a lot.

I got special inspiration from the editors Gisele LeBlanc and Michele Pizarro Harman of Berry Blue Haiku, a journal specially focused for children. The following haiku, alongside with Jane Reichhold, appeared in Issue 2, September 2010 with a beautiful art background by Svett.

sudden wind
falling leaves meet
in one corner

Robert D. Wilson and Sasa Vazic of Simply Haiku, from time to time, critically assessed my haiku and encouraged me a lot. I shall cherish to remember some of the poems they have selected along with my maiden translation in mother tongue, Odia.

the tree—
spreads its branches
without noise

*****
drizzling day--
moon in the sky with
cloudy face

Simply Haiku, Vol.8, No.3, 2011

Publishing in The Heron’s Nest is indeed a great occasion to remember. I still cherish with fondness the e-mail I received from Alice Frampton along with references of classical haiku writings. She encouraged me a lot during my journey into haiku writing and I consider her as my mentor.

fragrance
fills the gap
between the flowers

The Heron’s Nest, Vol. XIII, No.1, March 2011

The haiku published in “The Mainichi Daily News” on November 3, 2010 was accepted by an’ya for display in the exhibition in Liberty Theatre at the Quarterly National Haiku Society of America Meeting in Bend, Oregon, USA, June 3-5, 2011. It reflects the beauty of nature and is associated with tender anxiety of a child.

half-moon—
the child wonders
the rest

There has been always a rainbow of pleasure from the critical analysis by iconic poets making my learning curve a splendid ladder.

flight of cranes—
bridging the sea
with the sky

Haiku Reality / Haiku Stvarnost, May 2011

“The haiku exhibits a simple phenomenon for the common observer. The flight of crane is a dynamic manifestation making an image of static linkage between the sea and the sky. The first line, in segment form, juxtaposes the genetic linkage with the other image expressed in the second and third lines.

Again, Jasminka and I both agreed on this haiku for Second Best of Issue. And again, I liked it for the visuals it presents of a whole "flight of cranes" bridging the sea "with the sky" . . . it was a difficult choice between first and second place for these haiku are actually similar, not in subject matter necessarily albeit they are both about the ocean/sea, but in the way they are both very well-written”- an'ya

The pristine juxtaposition or disjunction indeed heightens the essence of haiku.

barren branch
the lone bird choruses
with me

Chrysanthemum – 10, 2011

early evening
the bat moves
moonward

Chrysanthemum – 10, 2011

day light
the tunnel retains
its darkness

South by Southeast, Vol.18, No.3, 2011

Valentine day—
between you and me
a thin moonlight

A Hundred Gourds, Inaugural Issue, December 2011

green vegetables
my mother smiles with
morning freshness

Sketchbook, Vol. 7, No.4, Issue 43, 2012


John Daleiden comments with appreciation: “One of the most important qualities of a vegetable is "freshness", a trait Pravat Padhy associates with his mother's "smiles" in a unique juxtaposition”.

red carpet--
the monks walk
barefoot

Gems : An Anthology of Haiku, Senryu and Sedoka, 2014

wild flower--
I breathe my
loneliness

The Heron’s Nest, Vol. XVI, No.4 December 2014

flat palm--
so many cross-roads
to the destination

Wild Plum, Issue 1:2, 2015

frosty morning
I freeze
my final decision

Frogpond 38:3 Autumn Issue, 2015

early dawn--
millions of stars
in dark

EarthRise 2015: Years of Light, Haiku Foundation, April 16, 2015


The interrelationship between living beings and nature has been portrayed through haiku. It extends the association of the living creatures with nature in the form of haiku writings. The minute observations enlighten the natural images and enriches the haiku literature.

Midnight moon
a cow listens to the
flowing stream

Asahi Shimbun, September 19, 2014

autumn melancholy--
the shadow connects
the trees

Wednesday Haiku # 213, Lilliput Review, June 3, 2015

Kala Ramesh comments about the above haiku:

“Reading Padhy's haiku I was reminded of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, who said, "You may call a tree a standing man, and a man a walking tree, Ultimately the oneness of all things (WH # 213)”.

first rain
the paper boat carries
my childhood

Asahi Shimbun, May 31, 2013
Butter Fly Dream Anthology, 2013

I occasionally do experimentation by assimilating the essence of scientific fragrance with the petals of poetry. In one of my poems titled “The Other Being”, I wrote in “Poetbay” in 2010:

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

I have coined an idea of “Astro-Poetry” assimilating the essence of scientific entities in poetic canopy and manifesting it in haiku writing. It looks fascinating to extend the beauty of haiku to get assimilated into the images of space and beyond. David McMurray in “Asahi Shimbun” and Isamu Hashimoto in “The Mainichi Daily News” published some of my haiku based on such concept. Some are as follows:

counting stars
I move round
the galaxy

The Mainichi Daily News, May 25, 2011

rising moon
evening extends
to sky

Asahi Shimbun, October 21, 2011

End of year
celebrating the journey
around the sun

Asahi Shimbun, December 16, 2011

deep dark space
many cosmic townships
with their own light

The Mainichi Daily News, March 23, 2012

Isamu Hashimoto comments for the above haiku, ‘deep dark space’:
“To put it simply, this piece deals with twinkling stars. However, no one could feel sentiments more hearty than those the above depictions conjure up. This is the secret of haiku”.

blue earth--
lone robot on
the moon

Simply Haiku, Vol.10 No.1, Summer 2012

Donna Fleisher writes for the haiku ‘blue earth’:  “Your blue earth” haiku is extraordinary. A true gateway in consciousness. It shifts perspectives: the widest perspective shift occurs between outer and inner cosmos (planetary and cellular); and other perspective shifts involve human and cyborg, lunar and earthly, astrological and geological, cerebral and emotional; journalistic and poetic…..”.

black hole--
mystery of the universe
gathers light

NaHaiWriMo, February 17, 2013

deep silence--
planets move around
without noise

The Mainichi Daily News, March 20, 2013

firecrackers—
a snap shot of
big-bang

Culture Haiku Magazine, November, 2013

Association with historic events sometimes can be reflected through poetic membrane. Haiku literature can also link the historical sequences and major events in the form of archival and reflect the advancement in art, literature and science through time.

beyond horizon
a migratory bird
busy in nesting
Haiku News (NASA rover “Curiosity” on Mars Surface), Vol.1 No. 35, September 11, 2012

Neil Armstrong--
baby’s maiden walk
on bright moon day

The Kloštar Ivanić International Haiku Competition, 2014 (Award Winning Haiku)

A subtle use of metaphor, for correlation, coexistence and comparison, sometimes twists the fragrance of haiku.

flow of river--
I gather wisdom
at every turn

Diogen Haiku, May 2012
World Haiku Review, August 2012

I felt humbled when Poet Angela Leuck expressed her desire to make a poster on my haiku, ‘time and space’ that I had sent to her:

time and space
life – a season of its
own garden

wedding morning
the butterfly wings
its tender touch

Sketchbook, Vol. 7, No.3, Issue 42, 2012

Bernard Gieske comments:
“Pravat Kumar Padhy’s haiku was particularly meaningful to me. Just as the morning is the beginning of a new day, so marriage is the beginning of a new journey in life. The butterfly seeking the sweet gifts of flowers on this morning evokes a promising sunshiny day, the exchange of many gifts, and an array of colorful flowers. So too marriage is a promise of future joys. The butterfly has undergone the transformation of a past life as a caterpillar. The marriage couple now will undergo their own transformation. The wings of a butterfly are fragile and must be handled with care. So too marriage calls for a “tender touch”. The kind of desired transformation of those becoming one will need to take place under all the conditions of love which include tenderness, kindness, trust, faithfulness, and so many other things”.

Robert D. Wilson chose one of my haiku for the ‘Third Choice of the Summer issue of “Haiku Reality”, Vol.10, No.17 Summer 2013 and posted it on his own art.

crescent moon
the old man returns
from nowhere

Robert D. Wilson comments on ‘crescent moon’:
“Where is nowhere? Is the crescent moon a portal from oblivion to this earth? What is the correlation between the crescent moon and the old man? Layered, this poem can be metaphoric, and yet . . . This is a thinking person's haiku. It doesn't bore readers by telling all. It is our job as readers to interpret this activity-biased haiku. Perhaps an old man is stepping out of darkness into a patch of light painting by this sparse, thin moon”.
The Haiku Sequence can help stitching a long chain engulfing the impact of expression. “The World of Difference”, my maiden haiku sequence on the differently enabled children, has appeared on May 5, 2012 in “Akita International Haiku” with translation in Japanese by Hidenori Hiruta. The haiku are dedicated for the cause of those children who can still make the world a place of charm by spreading the light of beauty.

world disability day
they join hands for a
virtual circle

*****
moonlight--
the blind boy senses
from its calmness

*****
world of difference
she shares her smiles
with all absences

*****
rainbow sky
her broken voice adds
a lot of colors

*****
bright sunlight—
falling short of
for the blind

*****
tender breeze—
her feeling raises
high waves

*****
warm touch—
the stone melts
with grief

The fabric of resonance knits the inner feeling of poet and its relationship with the nature, human behavior, culture and spirituality. This is often expressed by haiku.

Religious conclave
tender breeze unfolds
the hymns

Asahi Shimbun, November 2, 2012

Prof. Dennis Woolbright of Seinan Jo Gakuin University of Japan appreciated the haiku and comments:
“This is a lovely haiku and one can easily imagine the spiritual peacefulness one would feel in that place at that time”.

Sunset--
the beggar lights up
candle of faith

Asahi Shimbun, April 5, 2013
festive day--
suddenly everyone
close to God

Bottle Rockets, February, 2014

A gentle feeling that unveils inner urge and gets associated with intimacy of the surrounding creatures is the key of aesthetic sparkling. That is what haiku is. Every living being has its importance in the creation. It is through poetry, we can recognize them with high honour. Their images through haiku assemblage a separate entity in literature.

desert land
measuring sand dune height
a lone lizard

The Notes From the Gean, Vol.2, Issue 1, June 2010.

straight road
the snake on its
meandering way

The Notes From the Gean, Vol.3, Issue 2, June 2011

winter morning
two butterflies
warm the garden

The Heron’s Nest, Vol. XIII, No.2, June 2011
The Singing Light Anthology, Nov 2014

naked tree
the crows veil
the darkness

Ginyu, No 53, January 2012

moonlit shadow
the old dogs lick
each other

Editor’s Choice, Icebox, February 8, 2012

old tree--
I feel warmth
of affection

LYNX, 28:1 February, 2013

wall painting--
the spider in the
war field

Under the Basho, Inaugural Issue, September 2013

spider web--
my thought caught
in between

Under the Basho, Inaugural Issue, September 2013

bird’s song--
I wish to translate into
my mother tongue

Mu International, Fifth Issue, 2013

migratory birds
across the borders--
same blue sky

Creatrix 26, April 2014

desert journey—
camels follow shadow
after shadow

Creatrix 26, April 2014,
Creatrix Haiku Prize 2015, WA Poets Inc, Australia

Morning dream--
an owl stares at me from
the hanging cloud

Asahi Shimbun, August 29, 2014

white pigeon--
it moves with its
shadow

Writers & Lovers Café, Fall 2014

smooth landing
of the helicopter--
a kingfisher departs

Atoms of Haiku, Author’s United, April 2015

confused decision
the house-fly jumps from
one place to other

Atoms of Haiku, Author’s United, April 2015

potholes--
a frog jumps into
scary night

Brass Bell , December 2015

Staying thousand miles away from Canada, one can still scintillate the blend of beauty of nature and spread the immortal aroma.

cherry blossoms—
the scent bridging
the long river

Honourable Mention, Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, 2013

One-line haiku (monoku), I often write, emits the feeling instantaneously. It has its own beauty and style of expression and it ignites the spark in the readers’ mind.


in front of the mirror I repeat myself

A Hundred Gourds, 3:1 December 2013

melting away my pain-- garden dew

The Heron’s Nest, December 2013

floating clouds birds fly the other way

Brass Bell, July 2014

snow fall he hardens his words

Gems : An Anthology of Haiku, Senryu and Sedoka, 2014

for all your denials the smiling Buddha

Under The Basho, 2015

The art of imagination needs to be extended in subtle form beyond the boundary so as to create the aesthetic beauty of haiku writing:

disputed land--
the trees share their
tender shadows

NaHaiWriMo, February 13, 2013

early morning--
the sweeper gathers
autumn wind

Haiku Presence, Issue 49, 2013

cotton flowers--
the sky blooming with
cloud-art

Shamrock No. 27, February, 2014

long walk--
the slum boys stare at
the distant stars

The Heron’s Nest, March 2014

The essence of haiku lies in unveiling the implied expression of the happening of the moment. I feel that haiku literature can have a psychological overprint in the form of tender healing touch. As an extension of solidarity to the suffered people on the event of Fukushima nuclear disaster, I shared my deep sorrow in the form of a haiku, published in the anthology “We Are All Japan”, edited by Robert D. Wilson and Sasa Vazic in 2012.

sunset…
unlike the other day
in the east

We Are All Japan Anthology, 2012

trees float
the river swells
with tears

The Temple Bell Stops: Grief, Loss and Change Anthology, 2012

Bewildered with the horrific cyclone in Odisha in 2013, I wrote:

rainstorm--
a lonely pigeon’s
heavy footsteps

Writers and Lovers Café, Fall Issue 2013.

The grief-stridden human migration in recent time pained me a lot and I penned the following one-line haiku for “Asahi Shimbun”. David McMurray, moved by the emotional scene of crossing of migrants across the Mediterranean Sea, chose it on the top of his selected Ten haiku:

Shadows swim across a floating migrant

Asahi Shimbun, November 30, 2015

she sleeps--
with her toys--
vast sunset

Haiku Foundation, May 2015 (Kathmandu Earthquake Disaster)

Interplay of pathos can be expressed in the form of haiku writings. This can be imaged to express depth of grief and anguish.

melting candle--
widow wipes her
burning tears

LYNX, 28:1 February 2013

sad news--
I miss the colors
of a rainbow

Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, Vol.1 No.2 August 2013

slaughter house
the morning sun lost
in darkness

Kernels, Spring Issue 2013

old well--
I pour excitement
into its loneliness

World Haiku Review, Summer Issue August 2013

temple bell--
the lone bird adds
its cry

Frogpond, 36-2 Spring/Summer Issue, 2013
A Vast Sky Anthology, 2015

One can reflect the surroundings through the art of haiku writings and create different platforms of exploration of socio-economic issues in subtle poetic style.

pale moon--
garbage darkens
the Ganges

Shamrock, No 20, 2011

old lake--
I feel closeness
to full moon

Award Winning Haiku, UNESCO International Year of Water Co-operation, Irish Haiku Magazine, 2013

One gets assimilated with the nature and shares feeling through crafty way with simple words that carry meaning beyond the boundary.

house shifting--
unfolding pages of
old memories

Simply Haiku, Vol. 8, No. 3, Winter 2011

sunrise--
the morning enters
without a knock

Frogpond, Winter Issue, 2012

autumn wind--
her long memories
hinge on my door

3rd Qrtly European Kukai, September 2013

village pond--
the fisherman’s grief
still drowning

Cattails, Premier Issue, January 2014

tree to tree--
I walk along carrying
shadows

Issa’s Untidy Hut/Lilliput Review, Haiku #149, 2014

distant waves
the sound creates
my own ocean

Chrysanthemum 14 , October 2013 .
The Blue Riband of the Atlantic, Per Diem Archive, The Haiku Foundation, March 2014

flowing river--
the bereaved girl hold
a palm-full of water

Acorn, Issue#33, Sample Poem, Fall 2014

thick clouds--
a gap takes me
to the ocean

Modern Haiku, 46:2, 2014

spring morning--
the butterflies paint
the gentle wind

Haigaonline Vol. 15, Issue 1, Spring 2014 (Haiku featured in Barbara Ann Taylor illustration)

flower garden—
Buddha and I
smile together

hedgerow #15, 2015

Poetry creates a fabric of resonance to transmit the human essence in the living world of physics and geology and further into a greater space. It directly bridges the poet’s inner feeling and his relationship with the nature.
Bam Dev Sharma, President, Campus of International Languages, Tribhuvan University, Nepal recently comments:

“P K Padhy’s haiku create beautiful collage of internal human conditions and the beautiful and bountiful nature—the sun set, the sea, the twilight, the amorous sky. To put this broadly, we can say that he is expert in blending the body with ethereal delight, the flower with fluid, the birds with feathers, the physicality with the celestial beauty. As soon as I picked up some haiku, I was moved by their vibrant images, the sense of hybridization, and immaculate articulation of natural exposition. I was amazed the way he used his quizzical expression in profound aesthetic propensity. We can find some traces of his exquisite quality in the following haiku:
sunset-- / the vast sky filled with / drop of tears

Times of India, July 28, 2015


summer breeze--
a dragonfly above
the old helipad

The Mainichi Daily News, July 2, 2015

thunder clouds
the stagnant voice
in between

hedgerow #41, August 7, 2015

I enjoyed reading his haiku. I find a rhapsody of beautiful cosmos which is singing for the poet and communicating with him. As a reader, I am sparkled by intriguing feelings and mood of pensive thought. There is deep layer of ironic exposition with enchanting imagery in the same way as William Wordsworth got enchanted to see everything in the clouds--the daffodils, the chariot, and throne, the beautiful child, and so on. I find poetic perpetuation with immaculate scenic description exposing not only beauty, but pouring imagination. …………So, in his haiku, to be precise, there is pastiche of human mood, the nature, the diverse natural panorama with image vibrancy which is peculiar quality of the poet. These reflect the beautiful combination of seen and unseen, the language that is felt and the language to unspoken yet”.

Nature is the mother of all living beings, matters and antimatters. When we honestly try to unveil the beauty and correlate with others, we do become philosophical. You start pouring respect to everything within the ambient of nature. The inner feeling slowly mingles with the soulful light through creative writings leading to possibly self realization and enlightenment. The tiniest object of nature has its genuine worth in this world and it is associated with us in different forms. I feel it is the realisation of this truth that has given rise to the genesis of Haiku poem.

God particle--
search for the mightiest
in the tiniest

Haiku News, Vol.1, No.11, March 2012

desert art--
sand mountains
of womanhood

A Hundred Gourds, 1:2 March 2012

The haiku discovers the meaning of each entity through aesthetic way. Haiku imparts life to every object of realization and its vivid image. Essentially the genre of expression acts as a diligent medium to have a wide spectrum of exploration within ourselves associating with the rest. Writing haiku unveils the poetic parlance and lively moments conjoined with all the entities within the ambit of nature and human behaviour. This leads you to start realising the value of the tiniest dust particle to diamond, rain drops to ranges of mountain, distance of the sun to closeness to your shadow, tender grass to the giant General Sherman and rhythms of sound to the voice of silence.

Discussion on syllable counts, whether to express in one, two, or three lines or four lines may remain as debatable point, specially in the neo-literary revolution. The image-moment around us, phrasing and its poetic association with human behaviour, love, emotion, humour, season, climate, observances, plants, animals, geography and elements of senses are to be poetically embedded to enliven the soulful feelings of haiku writings. The basic ingredients need to be respected with a fair degree of modernity. At the end it should reflect the wisdom of poetic credence in line with the aesthetic spirits and contemporary values. The original haiku in Japanese language is a class of its own. One can perceive the spark-moment of the unique style. The time and topography have been changed over the years. Haiku should reflect the surrounding and preserve the poetic history of the land at large. Rightly Basho said, “Learn of the pine from the pine; learn of the bamboo from the bamboo”.

One can try to evolve contemporary sketch of neo-haiku irrespective of whether he lives in village, urban area or elsewhere. That is the beauty of Japanese masters’ craftsmanship. Let us revere them and their classical contributions even we dream to shift to Moon or Mars!

It has always been to have trans-creation of tender expression of the nature through the art of words for the readers to derive emotion, goodness, quietude and divine pleasure of the haiku moment. The poem needs to carry the essence of Zoka (creativeness), Yugen (depth and mystery), koko (becomingness), wabi-sabi (austere simplicity and solitude : Japanese aesthetic virtues) and ma (opening, space).
Solemnly I still continue to march ahead with my tiny steps! An incredible journey so far!


Biography: Pravat Kumar Padhy, Scientist and Poet, hails from Odisha, India. He holds a Master in Science and a Ph.D from Indian Institute of Technology, Dhanbad. His literary work referred in Interviews with Indian Writing in English, Indian Literature, Spectrum History of Indian Literature in English, Alienation in Contemporary Indian English Poetry, Cultural and Philosophical Reflections in Indian Poetry in English etc. His poems have been featured in anthologies and periodicals of repute. His haiku, tanka, haibun and haiga have appeared in Poetbay, Kritya, The World Haiku Review, Lynx, Four and Twenty, The Notes from the Gean, Chrysanthemum, Atlas Poetica, Simply Haiku, Red lights, Ribbons, Lilliput Review, hedgerow, Under the Basho, Haigaonline, Daily Haiga, Acorn, Frogpond, Skylark, Brass Bell, The Heron’s Nest, Shamrock, A Hundred Gourds, Magnapoets, Bottle Rockets, Asahi Shimbun, The Mainichi Daily News, Mu International, Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Invitation 2013, Presence, HSA “Haiku Wall” in Bend, Oregon, USA, The Bamboo Hut, Haigaonline, World Haiku Association, tinywords, Modern Haiku, Creatrix etc.

Recently his tanka appeared in the anthology, “Fire Pearls 2”, Keibooks , USA. He is featured in “The Dance of the Peacock : An Anthology of English Poetry from India”, Hidden Brook Press, Canada, 2013, “Epitaphs”, Inner Child Press, USA in association with Shambhabi, West Bengal, 2014.

His haiku won the Editor’s Choice Award at the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, Canada, UNESCO International Year of Water Co-operation and The Kloštar Ivanić International Haiku Contest, Creatrix Haiku Commendation Award and others.

“Songs of Love: A Celebration” published by Writers Workshop, Kolkata is his latest collection.

 

Not Haiku Tips For The Budget Traveler, Just My Journey

by Ernesto P. Santiago


A few years back I was used to suck out my timid soul from my adventurous body, hoping I had verses poetically romantic enough to share with wifey before bedtime. My poetry journey was still somewhere within the unknown where the future silently resides, and the road I traveled was only diverted by awareness taken from somewhere else to a much shorter road with a passage to haiku consciousness that was so vaguely unconvincing until I out myself from my freeverse­cum­rhymer old self. And as a complete novice in haiku poetry, so thrilled when one of my very first haiku won in the international haiku contest. Since then I was hooked.

never knowing 1
when it will end –
the turtle’s trip

My first ‘meet and greet’ with the haiku world was in 2011 when I was invited to be a part of the Quarterly National Haiku Society of America Meeting in Bend, Oregon as part of the downtown Bend, Oregon First Friday June Art Walk, where I recited my haiku to a delighted crowd. Many thanks to an’ya, haiku poet and UHTS cattails principal editor, for her warm support and for making me feel at ease in my very first haiku reading in front of strangers.

the sky is ready... 2
embracing unknown spirits
I smell my pillow

I asked myself, why haiku? Well, I am fascinated by the admirable brevity and structure of haiku, and even more by its universal appeal that charmed me to join in. To be honest, I prefer haiku because it is written in the present tense, the way I want to live and see my earthly life. Ah, life is too short to live in the past!

briefing 3 

on the broken air condition
dead fly

To define haiku, I tune into the rhythm of my five senses for I believe they are the essentials in unlocking the aha! to the now moment where haiku resides. If I go with my senses, most probably my haiku piece of art would have a sense of pride...

my haiku 4 

not spectacular —
just this red sunset

and with the help and positive criticism of some willful haiku poets in the advancement of my haiku life I know I can offer my readers and silent admirers a cherry scented haiku too.

under the cherry tree 5
a lover asks
for an eraser

Haiku offers too many definitions, too many misunderstandings? In certainty, haiku offers unbidden flashes of joy to experience the small world big world of this Japanese ancient art form of writing. I think haiku is a beautiful destination, a natural wonder with awe­inspiring views, where a budget traveler like me can go. A desk ku is nice too, especially when it is homemade. However, it would be great to go outside and observe nature where haiku will fill us in. Forced haiku is not my thing and I don’t force myself to haiku, so relax when you write haiku. Don’t haiku to grieve!

grieving mosquito dead too, dead too 6

When writing haiku, I tend to lose my thought when counting syllables. So, to enjoy this haiku travel, I trained myself to learn and break the rules, and I came up with haiku word count called dos por dos­ 2 / 4 / 2 word count scheme. Mostly if not all, I write my haiku in this form of haiku for I can easily spot the s/l/s or short/long/short characteristic of English haiku.

that elusive 7 

"je ne sais quoi"~
fingered citron

Still, in whatever haiku form I decided to write I keep in mind... a haiku master always bleeds haiku. That being said, I am open to any definition of haiku to which I can be a part of and/or I can relate to, because I want to see the haiku world more often as possible without missing the so­called aha! moment that goes along with the travel. Up to this day, I treat haiku as a short walk to nature’s personality with my five senses absorbing it. On a more personal side, I take haiku as a leeway to success, to attaining serenity than I would have ever dreamed of, and I use it to break the undue stress of working life’s daily routine.

dawn breaks 8
the cheap hue
of desk light

Lastly, I write haiku because this is what I want. Haiku is life, and I am open to welcoming the abundance in all forms that it offers. And that’s the essence of haiku in my day­to­day existence.


Haiku Publication Credits:
1­ “never knowing” ­ Ripples ­ HSA Newsletter, Vol. 26, Number 2, 2011, USA; Living Haiku Anthology
2­ “the sky is ready” ­ Featured / Published on the HSA "Haiku Wall" exhibited in the historic Liberty Theatre Gallery at the Quarterly National Haiku Society of America Meeting in Bend, Oregon on June 3­5, 2011 as part of the downtown Bend, Oregon First Friday June Art Walk; A winning haiku, The International Library of Poetry (2006); Published in my poetry book The Walking Man (Outskirts Press, 2007), The Haiku Foundation; The Living Haiku Anthology
3­ “briefing” ­ FInancial Times Haiku Contest Winner, and FT poetry at work: best of 2015

4­ “my haiku” ­ Notes from the Gean, p. 50, Volume 3, Issue 4, 2012; Living Haiku Anthology

5­ “under the cherry tree” ­ 2015 Haiku Invitational Winner ­ International Sakura Award, Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival.

6­ “grieving mosquito” ­ Bones 5, Nov. 15, 2014; Haiku 2015, Edited by Scott Metz & Lee Gurga
7­ “that elusive” ­ The Germ, Vol. 2, Issue 1, Spring 2014

8­ “dawn breaks” ­ Winner, Financial Times Workplace Haiku Contest ­ Nov. 11, 2015

Brief Bio:
Ernesto P. Santiago lives in Athens, Greece, where he continues exploring the poetic myth of his senses.

My Haiku: From Making to Being

by Terry Ann Carter


I realize now that when I first began exploring haiku almost twenty years ago, I was “making” poems. My senses informed and shaped the moment I was in. Some of the poems recorded moments in the natural world:

end of summer
the Great Blue Heron stretches
into its shadow

some from the human world:

fingers
of the kite master
flying

and some from a hybrid of both:

underground parking
no space
for the moon

When I retired from a thirty-five year career in teaching (kindergarten to college) I began to travel. Because of my husband’s kidney transplant, most of the journeying was solo, which resulted in poems such as this:

alone in Tokyo
even the chopsticks
in pairs

By the autumn of 2015, my husband was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. Our lives changed. Irrevocably. So did my haiku. The intensity of this knowledge has cracked me open to a heart-knowledge of the haiku moment.

For example, when I came home from the doctor’s visit that revealed the cancer news, I saw our Christmas cactus on the window sill, blooming. It had been dormant for months, and now the tiny tips of the green cactus were flowering like small pink parachutes. I remember taking the plant from the sill and sitting with it in my lap. I remember weeping.

diagnosis
the Christmas cactus
begins to bloom

Here’s the thing. A reader who doesn’t know the situation would read this poem and (correctly) assume that the diagnosis was not a good one, that some illness or disease was beginning to grow. And this would be true,

But for me, the writer of the haiku, the blossoming of the Christmas cactus was part of my experience of understanding death in a whole new way. I would say that I was part of the bloom. That the bloom was part of me. I was the poem.


Terry Ann Carter
Victoria, British Columbia

Don Baird

 

My career is one of Martial Arts -- Kung Fu. It has been a 54 year physical and philosophical journey as both student and teacher. Amidst the many philosophies I've pondered over the years, is the following (regarding the use of technique):

correct (technique)
simple (technique)
direct (technique)
appropriate (technique)

This has been the core of my self-defense and of my life.  It also has been and remains today a defining force behind my writing haiku/hokku.

As time has passed I have become someone who redacts everything -- to the fewest actions or words possible. I'm one who could write a book of 75,000 words and then quickly reduce it to 50!

I've attempted other styles of poetry. But, it is brevity and the power within brevity that continues to attract me to haiku — not the kind of brevity where I would use one word, necessarily; rather, the kind that employs a few common words of which lead the reader into a stream of thoughts and associations:

Nagasaki;
in her belly, the sound
of unopened mail

HaikuNow 1st Place, 2013; Touchstone Award 2013

I imagine I could write a small book or a very long haibun utilizing this haiku, but then again, why not invite the reader do some work? I used nine words to describe one of the worst events in the history of inhumanity. That's haiku; and, that's what has attracted me to it for so many years.

There is nuance and mystery,

chilled bones then the moon and not

Ink Zero, 2015; Don Baird

there is heart,

    rising tide
    the waterfall gives birth     
    to a hummingbird          

Ink Zero, 2015; Don Baird

and hurt,

    something of a scar
    of ocean left
    rolling cigarettes          

Ink Zero, 2015; Richard Gilbert

I enjoy twists and turns -- the surprises that haiku often bring. I explore imagination and wonder what haiku would be without it. Is haiku a statement of facts? Is it a story? Is it limited to the words within the poem? Or is it something that lunges  toward the deepest woods of the reader's mind?

    between pages memories pressed

    Haiku - the Interior and Exterior of Being, 2014; Don Baird

    hanging mirror the shape of my thoughts

Ink Zero, 2015; Don Baird

The body has limitations and boundaries. The Spirit is infinitely free.

    whispering
    the butterfly's unusual
    path                            

Haiku - the Interior and Exterior of Being, 2014; Don Baird

Imagination and connection to the Creator,

    filling in
    the distance between stars    
    a cricket

As the Crow Flies, 2013; Don Baird

Pain and tragedy,

    marching
    in the field of death   
    a number

Haiku - the Interior and Exterior of Being, 2014; Don Baird

    curbside garbage
    the carefree attitude   
    of money

Haiku - the Interior and Exterior of Being, 2014; Don Baird


    a drowning man
    pulled into violet worlds
    grasping hydrangea

Ink Zero, 2015; Richard Gilbert

Occasionally, I wonder where haiku come from? "Where in the heck in my brain did that one come from?" I'm often surprised by words -- when they show up out of nowhere -- uniquely transforming what I am feeling into something concrete such as a haiku. And, I leave myself in the dark as a result:

    fading rainbow
    the thought of stars
    that never were

Haiku, the Interior and Exterior of Being, 2014; Don Baird

However, deep hurt from war, from conflict, and from strife connect with me the most:

    wrapped —
    but not held together
    her tiny hands

    tears
    in the sand
    of her eyes . . .

    rocket blast —
    souls ascend, in clouds
    of blood

    AK 47;
    the suddenness
    of it all

    white wrapped —
    the damascus steel
    of hate

    tormented —
    the brown eyes
    of someone

Haiku, the Interior and Exterior of Being, 2014; Don Baird

Haiku depicting moments such as these dig so deep in my heart that I must often take time to breathe after writing one. The pain is deep by the thought of humanity at such a low ebb; the feeling of hate in the air mixed with blood and red fog scares me. When innocence is killed, terror inflicted, and the continuum of rejection of people with differing tastes, ideals and beliefs, and where the word understanding no longer dwells, it darkens my soul.

    lost in dreams
    I've never grown up
    to play war

Haiku, the Interior and Exterior of Being, 2014; Don Baird

In the balance, there is joy and the beauty of nature and its wildness all around. I love the little things such as butterflies and ants; I admire and am astonished by the power of nature, its force, its unwavering desire to fold and unfold in its own way without my regard, without my control. It's exciting to recognize this about nature and to react to it through words -- through haiku:

    each rose the wind leaves behind  

    minuet . . .
    the things I see
    in clouds  

Haiku - the Interior and Exterior of Being, 2014; Don Baird

    at the end
    of a bamboo shoot
    blue whale  

Ink Zero, 2015; Don Baird

    without thought a bird anyway   

Ink Zero, 2015; Don Baird

    winter twilight;
    the elegant pause
    of a birdsong      

Haiku - the Interior and Exterior of Being, 2014; Don Baird


As life goes on there will be more things to ponder. I suppose that once my pondering is over the following haiku may become relevant; and, I'm ok with that:

    — an old bear
    slowly through the marsh
    into the stars —

Haiku - the Interior and Exterior of Being, 2014; Don Baird

 

Anna Maris

 
To me, haiku is perfect poetry in so many ways. It is concise, yet full of meaning, contemporary, yet classic. It is global, reminding us how similar we are as humans in the observations that we make of this world, no matter where on the planet we live.
 
Haiku helps me see the world from different angles. It is a way to reinvent my thinking. By writing haiku, I have to view the world with new eyes every day.  I think most people who write haiku regularly would agree: It becomes a way of being.
 
sunlight
on the bedroom wall
a new window
 
My own love for haiku is probably also a cultural thing. Being Swedish, haiku expresses emotions with a minimum amount of fuss. Scandinavian esthetics are in many ways similar to the Japanese. An appreciation of the functional and the minimalist. The clean lines. My haiku are often very simple and matter of fact.
 
bus stop
the old man
never gets on
 
I have always been a lover of all things Japanese. Our family lived in the UK for some 15 years. There, I used to train Wado Ryu karate, I am an environmentalist and subscribe to some brand or other of wabi-sabi. I very much enjoy Japanese food, I watch Miyazaki films, I read Murakami and I dress myself in clothes from Muji. It isn’t exoticism. It its just that in this global world we can pick whatever influences we want. And I do, simply based on preference. 
 
About a third of the haiku I write can be translated straight into English. About one third I work on to adapt. One third I just forget about translating, as it is not worth it. If the idea behind it is good, I may recycle it from a different perspective all together, but not bother to use the original at all. 
 
Many Swedish two-syllable expressions do not translate into less than five words in English, which sometimes makes translation if not impossible, at least not meaningful and always clunky. The expression “lost in translation” really is a thing! 
 
 
moon river
thoughts wandering
out to sea
 
mångata
tankarna vandrar
ut på havet
 
 
I was a rebellious child and have always detested any sort of rules. I must be some kind of paradox that I am drawn to a poetry form with a huge set of rules. I guess the more rules there are, the more they can be broken.
 
I started writing books and stories as a young child and landed a youth-reporters job at the age of 16 with the local paper. After that I studied to become a journalist. First at Nordiska folkhögskolan in Sweden and eventually, I was awarded a masters in Journalism studies at the University of Westminster in London.  I worked as a journalist and writer for many years, but took a job managing a museum when we moved back to Sweden from the UK.
 
winter solstice
commuters stand still
on the escalators
 
 
Two things influenced me to return to writing.  Firstly my middle son made an enormous red pencil in woodwork class at school when he was little, which I was given as a present for my birthday. I held it in my hand and thought to myself “why has my son made me this giant pencil?”. The answer came quickly: “Because I am a writer!”.  I suddenly realised how much I had been missing writing.
 
The second thing that happened was that I came upon a small book in a thrift shop. It was simply called Japanese poetry (Japansk lyrik) and printed in 1958. I became aware of the haiku form when I read Kerouac as a teenager in the 1980s, but this little vintage volume inspired me to decide to explore haiku and that was it. 
 
autumn winds
the yellowing leaves
of a diary
 
 
The first challenge I set myself was to write one haiku per day, which I did for a year. The discipline was brilliant. I would not go to bed unless I had written the haiku of the day. Good, bad or downright ugly didn’t matter. 
 
I returned to journalism for a time, but after three years I gave it up, as it took all of my writing energy.  I went into a career in life-long-learning and also work within the transition movement. It is a privilege working with things you enjoy and get paid for doing it. 
 
Now have the luxury of writing on inspiration. Haiku often comes to me when I am in some sort of state of heightened emotion. 
 
first frost I give a beggar nothing
 
 
Although I read a lot of haiku, I don’t ever follow other writers or try to write like them. The purpose for me when it comes to reading haiku, apart from the sheer enjoyment, is to find out what is already written, so that I can write something else. 
 
Often my work is a reflection of anger, passion or wonder about the world. I will become a full time writer when my children leave home and my time is only mine again.
 
Until such time, I write haiku, as there is no time for anything more.
 
 
 
Haiku credits: “Sunlight”/Chrysanthemum issue 17, “Bus stop”/Frog Pond 36:3,  Moon River/Acorn fall 2014,  “winter solstice”/Heron’s Nest Vol XV No 4,  “Autumn winds”/Shamrock issue 30, “first frost”/Frog Pond 38:2.
 

Alexis Rotella

 

When did you become interested in haiku?

I discovered the form while working on an undergraduate Zen thesis at Drew University, an old Methodist school which focused on Western thinkers. When I presented my oral paper to the chairman of the philosophy department, his response was Zen monks must have diseased minds. The Zen practice of burning books was a concept that he found most uncomfortable.

Although I received an A- for the paper, along with a bruised ego, I learned something really important – know my audience!  An important lesson in the School of Hard Professor Knox.

In 1978 while visiting the New York Cloisters, I came across two books that would change my life forever–Harold Stewart’s A Net of Fireflies and A Chime of Windbells. The illustrations were captivating and even though the haiku rhymed, I loved reading them.

 

When did you first start to publish?

My first publication was a longer poem called Purple, first published in East West Journal. Through life I went for 29 years thinking I wasn’t creative – that art and poetry were out of my reach. Then one afternoon Purple wrote itself. The Muse tapped me on the head with a feather to say, Wake up.

Click here to read Purple

It’s a poem that has been like a chain letter finding its way into many venues including writing and architectural texts.

 

When did you start to publish haiku?

Having been smitten by the haiku form, I began sending my meager attempts to Randy Brooks’ High Coo journal. Each week my little poems would come back to me in SASEs with sorry scrawled on the top. I kept it up until finally the day came when

Husband home from work
haiku for dinner
again

was accepted. I guess one could say it’s a senryu about a haiku. And while lying in bed one morning, a haiku seemed to drop into my frontal lobe:

The monk
sounding a butterfly
out of the bell

While there have been haiku written about butterflies asleep on bells, this one was a new slant. I felt like my heart was the bell and I was being awoken by Destiny herself for after that time haiku began pouring from my fingertips and in all these decades, no matter what I’ve gone through in my life, the flow has continued.  You might say the Muse paid me a visit and never left. I didn’t have to get down on my knees and pray for her help, I didn’t have to listen to pep talks on how to get through writer’s block.

 

You were one of the early presidents of the Haiku Society of America. When was that and what was the experience like?

In 1984 HSA President and translator Hiroaki Sato asked if I’d serve as president of the Haiku Society of America (Japan House, NYC) after Gerrie Clinton Little’s reign. Long story short, Frogpond, its house organ, was on its way to extinction. Members were threatening to demand back their dues. Gerrie and Vice President, the late Prof. Herman Ward, encouraged me to take that job on too. I asked many poets if they’d be willing to assume the responsibility of getting Frogpond back on its feet but there were no takers.

Editing Frogpond was a great experience especially since I was the only decision maker. It was a pleasure to publish many writers such as Raymond Roseliep, Bob Boldman and David LeCount. Sometimes I’d devote pages to one poet which irked a number of readers.

I also published my own one-word haiku simply because I thought another journal would never do it. Jim Kacian refers to it as the second most famous one-line haiku ever written.


                                                 shark


Everyone knows Cor’s

                                                 tundra

is number one. 

 

What was it like back in those earlier days?

Long before I came on the scene, Hiroaki Sato, Alan Pizzarelli, Anita Virgil, Bill Higginson, Nick Virgilio, Cor van den Heuvel and others were meeting at Japan House regularly and ironing out 'dos and don’ts' of how haiku ought to be written in English. They were a serious bunch and rather intimidating to a newbie.

Long before email, poets corresponded by snail mail or phone. It was Cor van den Heuvel and Rod Willmot who really were open to my work and from there, I started getting calls from Al Pizzarelli, Nick Virgilio and Virginia Brady Young. We’d chat on the phone about haiku, commented on each other’s work, and just got to know one another.

The haiku community was relatively small and consisted mainly of poets from North America. While I was still a newcomer in the early 80's, I traveled to Santa Fe where I met Elizabeth Searle Lamb (Roseliep’s First Lady of Haiku). Her husband, Bruce, had just had surgery so we didn’t linger at their adobe-style home, just long enough to have tea and cookies and get a tour of their rooms where we saw her famous harp with the broken string.

I also traveled to Maine to see Arizona Zipper where he let me use his kitchen and some of his precious vanilla to concoct a kudzu apple pudding. He smoked his pipe the entire time, didn’t indulge in the dessert and didn’t share any haiku. He and his charming mother lived in a rambling Colonial that took up the whole block.

The high diver
takes off her cape
in the stars.             
                 (Haiku Anthology, Norton)

is an Arizona Zipper classic.

We entertained a number of haiku writers in our Mountain Lakes, New Jersey home including Hiroaki, Cor, Bob Boldman, Hal Roth (editor of Wind Chimes Journal), Gerrie , Rod Willmot and Adele Kenny. I had a garden party in honor of the publication of Cor’s Haiku Anthology (Norton) where afterwards we all walked around our community’s beautiful namesake lake. I remember Cor stopping to lovingly place an arm around his wife, Leigh, to take it all in.

I remember when Rod was visiting from Canada, Cor spent the night at our house and decided to get up at the crack of dawn. Unbeknownst to each other, I also got up before the house began to stir, slipped on my black kimono and painted my face with cold cream. I wanted to catch my breath before another day of haiku talk commenced but it wasn’t long before Cor set the security alarm off. I dashed down the stairs to find Cor pale as a ghost. "You scared me ! I thought you were a kabuki dancer," he gasped.

 

Any other stories you’d like to share?

Nick Virgilio would often call to run a haiku by me. He used to tell me he was standing on his head as we spoke and I chortled when he said, "Alexis, you and I could make beautiful music together."

My response, "Nick, you’ve been drinking too much carrot juice."

Allen Ginsberg via Al Pizzarelli sent me a few haiku to be considered. Looking back, I wish I had published them, not because they were great, but to show how big-name poets wrote haiku. In fact, just recently Haiku Chronicles featured a Poem in the Pocket --one of the haiku that appeared there was one of Ginsberg’s. It may have been one that I rejected!

Poem in the Pocket on Vimeo

Poem in the Pocket on YouTube

Another poem featured in the latest Haiku Chronicles was one I wrote years ago that appeared in my meaty out-of-print collection of tanka, Lip Prints (Modern English Tanka Press):

My first haiku book
long out of print–
I find it
in a shop
for a dime.

It was actually a true story that took place in Pacific Grove, California. I wandered into a used bookstore where I noticed a box containing some of my books and a number of Frogponds which I edited. I introduced myself to the proprietor who was wearing a black sweater and brown scissor-pleated skirt. I complimented her on her color combination which I found unusual. When I looked down at her desk, there were a dozen or so of my haiku cut out and glued to cards! She said she was going to send them to her friends.

 

Is all of your work based on true experience?

Don’t try
to figure me out–
everything I write
is fiction
all of it true.

is another tanka from Lip Prints. I write from direct experience, dreams, imagination. On a White Bud and Affair an Affair which put my work on the radar screen were really based on a challenge I gave myself after reading Chekov’s Lady with the Dog.

After watermelon
shivering
in his arms

was inspired by a scene in Chekov which stimulated my own imagination.

The butterfly
from last night’s dream
waiting on the mailbox

was based on real life.

 

Who do you think is the most interesting haiku writer you’ve ever met?

Alan Pizzarelli is a colorful figure who is famous for his droll sense of humor. He married his soul mate, Donna Beaver, back in 2008--it has been an amazing
ride for both of them. When two good heads came together Haiku Chronicles came into the world for our viewing and listening pleasure.

Every Halloween I simply must watch on YouTube their incredible You Put a Spell on Me  musical number.

 

You lived in New Jersey for a long time.  Where did you head next?

In 1993, my husband was transferred to the San Francisco Bay Area where we lived in Los Gatos for five years. When I first moved there, I thought I would be more involved in the haiku community, but it turned out not to be so.

One afternoon I drove to San Francisco to meet another haiku poet. His first words were, No one deserves to have so many poems in an anthology. He was referring to van den Heuvel’s Haiku Anthology where several pages were devoted to my work. He actually counted the number of Alexis’ haiku which I myself had never bothered to do.

 

That was quite a welcome, wasn’t it? I hope you didn’t have many more experiences like that.

Well, there was another time when a fellow writer called to inform that a certain member of the Northern California haiku group seemed to be on a mission to prove that not everything Rotella wrote was great stuff. Years later I confronted that same person about his routine dismissal of my work, but there was no acknowledgment or apology.

One of my closet friends from my California days was the late Pat Shelly, best known for tanka. She was a widow in her 80's and we had many interesting outings together. I recall the afternoon she and I were headed toward Los Altos to a restaurant but became so engrossed in our conversation that we drove miles away from our destination until the spell wore off and we realized we didn’t know where we were.

I attended her memorial service and every time I passed the cemetery where she was laid to rest I waved. People have always been more important to me than poetry even though poetry may have been the catalyst that brought us together.


There was a time when you didn’t publish much. Why was that?

I began acupuncture school in Santa Cruz where I didn’t stay long. I wasn’t keen on the traditional Chinese Medicine approach, but more attracted to the Five Elements System which is a more holisitic methodology so I transferred to a school in Miami to which I commuted every few months for training and in between did clinicals in California. Learning Oriental Medicine required a lot of memorizing and in order to become licensed, I had to put my nose to the grindstone. I rarely submitted to journals but in my spare time I began corresponding with ai li, editor of Still journal. She and I created many renga offshoots such as colorenga, catenga and surrenga. They’re still online.

Ai li and I also shared recipes and life experiences and for a year or two we were project soul mates. She’s a great poet and gifted photographer; I hope she makes a comeback.

Carlos Colon and I rengaed back and forth for years via snail mail. We finally met in Winston-Salem at a Haiku North America meeting in 2007 where we read one of our renga. I also read of  my tanka which would soon afterwards be included in Elvis in Black Leather

After my father’s funeral
I lift the shroud
from the TV set
and let Elvis in black leather
break my heart

I don’t know if that tanka was an incentive for Carlos to become Haikuland’s own Elvis, but I like to think it may have planted a seed.

Carlos published Sassy, a collection of our linked poems.

As you can see, quite a bit took place during my haitus away from publishing in journals. I was frankly relieved for the respite away from the usual poetry politics. I also realized early on that California is a state of mind and I am, at heart, an East Coast girl.

California friends
here today
gone today  
                ​(Ouch, Senryu that Bite, MET Press)

 

Then where did you land?

When my husband was hired by a Washington, D.C. law firm, we moved to the Annapolis, Maryland area. I was soon licensed and opened an acupuncture practice. Within a few months I had the mercury removed from my teeth, got really sick and somewhere along the way I was also diagnosed with Lyme disease. But I’m not going to get into the miseries of having an illness that doctors said was all in my head. Instead I managed to take baby steps, study, and incorporate what I learned into my own healing practice. Life throws at some people an incredible maze and it’s up to us to try to find our way out.

As I started to make progress and was able to think more clearly, I dug into that big box in the closet that contained thousands of haiku, tanka and other poems that were written over a period of thirty years. Coincidentally I heard about Modern English Tanka Press and its founder, Dennis Garrison. He said he’d be interested in publishing a collection of my work.  Poems on scraps of paper morphed into Lip Prints. On a lark, I asked Michael McClintock, tanka scholar and exceptional poet,  if he’d take a look and tell me what he thought. I was shocked at the response – he loved the manuscript and wrote a long thoughtful foreword.

Dennis published Ouch (Senryu that Bite) which is another large collection, as well as Eavesdropping (a reprint of Clouds in My Teacup, Wind Chimes Press, 1981), and Elvis in Black Leather, my love affair with the King, and Black Jack Judy (Growing Up Italian in the Bronx), my husband’s autobiography written mostly in tanka form.

Regrettably my MET books are all out of print although I still have a few on my shelf if anyone is interested. When I see them for sale on Amazon, I grab them if they’re not selling for $100.

I gradually began submitting poems to journals, my favorite being an’ya’s moonset newspaper. An’ya and I did a long epic renga together about our growing up Slavic which won a Tanka Splendor award. On another lark, I sent a haiku to the 2007 Kusamakura Annual International Haiku Contest and won a trip to Kumamoto, Japan where my husband and I were given the red-carpet treatment. In 2006, I met Roberta Beary at a haiku gathering in 2006 where she piqued my interest about that contest. Her haiku won the 2005 grand prize for:

thunder
the roses shift
into shadow

My winning entry was:

Near dusk
sound of the last
fishing boat

 

When did you become interested in haiga?

Dennis asked me to put together a team of editors for a new on-line journal, Modern Haiga. Linda Papanicolau agreed, as did Dennis and Raffael deGruttola. I was a fledgling at haiga, having just started to play with PhotoShop. It was a safe environment in which to experiment. There was a dearth of haiga outlets and I like to think we were a springboard for other editors to start their own online journals as well as others to experiment with haiga. I never dreamed so many poets would jump into the haiga pond.

Before I became involved with Modern Haiga, Linda Papanicolau published a number of my works on Haiga-on-Line. She’s an excellent teacher from whom I’ve learned a lot.

 

Where do you publish most of your poetry?

For the past several years, I’ve been posting my poetry and haiga on Twitter and Facebook. I recently joined Michael Rehling’s Virtual Haiku for members. It’s a safe place to share one’s newest creations. Michael, also a prolific poet, shares his words on social media regularly. He’s a good friend to poets and writes reviews of books he likes on Good Reads.

Just a couple of months ago I began submitting again to journals and am finding it takes a lot of time and energy. I haven’t entered a lot of contests lately–I’m not driven to do so.

 

Were you interested in writing as a school girl?

When I was just a young girl, I was enamored with the blank page, especially the smooth end pages of the few books we had on the shelf. I remember running my fingers over the silky white sheets and thinking, One day I want to fill up these pages with something that means something to me, something that comes from myself, not other people.

So the metaphors were there long ago even though it took me years to understand them.

 

Who would you say influenced you the most?

The editor of Alembic Press who published Raymond Roseliep’s Listen to Light and Rabbit in the Moon saw my potential even though I didn’t. With just a few suggestions, I was able to hone my nature haiku into more personal moments.

Convertible top stuck
raindrops water
my flower-print dress.

In the pool hall
spouting zen
the young stud                  
                     (Eavesdropping, MET Press)

Raymond and I corresponded at least weekly. I published much of his work, both in Frogpond and Brussels Sprout. Raymond was eager to share his experiences and he was a new voice who wrote about his childhood which in turn got me to look at my own growing-up memories which I published in Middle City and Musical Chairs.

Here is a sampling of Raymond’s haiku from The Haiku Anthology:

brushing my sins
the muscatel breath
of the priest

the cat
lowers his ears
to the master’s fart

buttoning his fly
the boy with honeysuckle
clenched in his mouth

Sadly, Raymond wasn’t with us long–he had a heart attack in the dentist’s chair.

Bob Boldman was a short-lived star but while he wrote, he shone and showed us all how to minimize. He was also a master of concrete poetry. I didn’t believe Bob when he told me his writing career would soon be over; I thought he was exaggerating. I was happy to see that Red Moon finally put out Boldman’s everything i touch, which was awarded a 2012 Touchstone Distinguished Books Award First Prize for Best Individual Collection by The Haiku Foundation, and a Second Prize in the 2012 Kanterman Awards from the Haiku Society of America.

Boldman is a Zen practitioner and probably the most spiritual man I’ve ever met. Here are three of my favorite Boldman haiku (The Haiku Anthology, Norton).

mirror   my face where I left it

face wrapping a champagne glass

in the temple
a
heartbeat


Scott Montgomery, another minimalist,  was also a big influence. I met him at a Haiku Society of America meeting before I became president. We hit it off immediately. He too disappeared from the haiku scene before he could show us what he was all about. But we’re all lucky Cor noticed his work:

evening lecture
a shadow hangs
from the pointing finger

crying
she moves deeper
into the mirror

I published an illustrated chapbook, Drizzle of Stars, where I included two renga with Boldman and one with Montgomery. It didn’t get much notoriety, but is probably my favorite book of everything I’ve done to date, except perhaps for Lip Prints.

Before I met Hiroaki Sato in the flesh, I read his tome, Country of Eight Islands and again fell in love with his one-line translations. They stirred something in me as did his renga with Marlene Mountain.
Their collaborations can be read 
on Marlene Mountain's website.

 

Have you judged contests?

I’ve judged a number over the years including the Hawaii Educational Association Contest in the early 80's with Kenneth Yasuda and Hiroaki Sato. A Japanese television station was on the scene to interview the male judges but they didn’t bother to look my way.

For two years in a row now, I’ve been a Touchstone Awards judge and feel honored to have read so many books by so many haiku writers. This year John Stevenson’s (d)ark won first place. Even though they weren’t award winners, I was touched  by Elizabeth Crockett’s not like Fred and Ginger, a small chapbook with a big subject.

Mike Rehling says of this haibun collection:

"I am glad that Liz has both survived cancer, and shared the journey in this way for the rest of us."

Another fine read is Robert Epstein’s What My Niece Said in My Head, haiku written for his niece thousands of miles away.


It’s been a while since you published books. What are your plans?

In April of this year Red Moon published my haiku collection, Between Waves for which  Michael McClintock and Grace Cavalieri wrote favorable blurbs. Here are a few haiku:

Telling its story
gurgle
of the creek

Pushing winter
in deeper
owl hoot

Autumn
I sit inside
its holiness

I was also honored that I was Grace Cavalieri’s April’s featured poet/artist at danmurano.com which showcased a number of my haiga.

 

You’re posting a lot of art on social media. What’s with that?

When I post haiga, photographs, or iPad art, I’m really sharing my daily journals. There aren’t enough outlets for my work – the poetry and the art just keeps coming forth. My best work will probably never be seen in journals. Life moves on. What better way to feel alive than to live with the Muse on a daily basis? Friends and family members come and go. Poetry and art are forever.

 

What’s next?

The present
moment
my address

I’ve had a number of haibun accepted in the last few months–that’s an art form that has really taken off. It’s exciting to see how many haiku poets are writing it, and writing it well.

 

Who are your favorite modern-day writers?

W.S. Merwin, Thomas Transtromer and Ted Kooser are my favorite longer poets. I’m impressed with Jane Hirschfield’s essays on poetry. As far as those writing Japanese forms in English, there are so many and I’m sure I’ll hurt a lot of people by not mentioning them, but off the top of my head there’s Margaret Chula, Penny Harter, Roberta Beary, George Swede, Carole MacRury, Bob Lucky, Ron Moss, John Stevenson, Debbie Strange, Jim Kacian, David Terelinck, Beverly George and Tom Clausen.

 

Do you want to add anything?

I could go on for days but all things must come to an end. Thanks for letting me share.

Michael Rehling

 

Since the initial purpose of this section is to share my journey toward haiku I will offer a few observations. What is more important, in my own mind, is how someone stays on the journey, since that is the hard part.

My first contact with the haiku form came in high school. A wonderful English teacher gave us an overview of poetry that stuck with me the rest of my life. She covered every form, not just haiku, but encouraged us to write poetry in our own voice. I wrote continuously from that point forward, and I still think of her kindness in reviewing my first efforts and sharing her comments.

When I arrived at Michigan State University, as a Theatre Major in 1964, I went to the Student Bookstore, and at the checkout there was a copy of “Haiku Harvest”, published by Peter Pauper Press. I bought it, and although by today’s standards the translations are less than stunning, they were the best you could get for a buck. It should also be said that some of the haiku included in the book were not haiku at all, but zen koans. Oh well, it got me thinking about and writing haiku.

Sometime in 1965 Alan Watts came to speak at one of the many Kivas at MSU that served as lecture halls by day, and in the evening were the site of other speakers invited by various groups at the university. He was asked by someone about haiku, and he correctly answered that they were not a part of the practice of zen, but that the writing of haiku could be a valid means of expression for students of zen. I should note that Alan Watts wore a black suit, black tie, and write shirt. He also smoked a pipe, and afterwards had a few drinks with some of us. He was about as unconventional a zen buddhist I have ever seen, but his sincere and passionate love for the teachings impressed me. I followed his writings and tapes for the rest of his life. And, besides all admonitions to the contrary, believed that haiku and zen were somehow connected for many years. They are most certainly not connected, I know that now, but when you are eighteen, what the hell, I wasn’t listening to anyone anyway, so Alan Watts be damned.

My haiku were almost universally unpublished nonsense, and I drifted to free verse, but limited myself to nothing more than 22 lines. I have no idea where I came up with that number, but it stuck. As my poems grew shorter and shorter they got published more often. That whole ‘brevity is the soul of wit’ thing seemed to be paying off for me. I kept writing, but marriage, two sons, and the usual ‘stuff’ of life kept me busy and unfocused on haiku again for a couple of decades, and zen was a peripheral philosophical sideline.

Fate then dealt a determining card in the late eighties when I went to work for a Japanese medical firm, and then for a large Japanese Bank. I was suddenly able to talk to real Japanese about their culture and their poetry. As you might guess, they were more than happy to see a blonde haired, blue eyed american who had a real interest in their culture. Two executives at the bank also wrote haiku in Japanese, and were interested in finding out about English haiku. It gave me a chance to hear from them how they viewed both zen and haiku in Japan, and it was an eye opener that both of them wrote haiku, but not well, and studied zen although they did not practice it. They laughed at my initial ideas of Japanese culture, and kindly corrected me along the way. Not to leave out that we drank a lot, that is also a Japanese cultural ‘thing’. I still was not writing very good haiku, but I now had Japanese friends who did not write good haiku either. Strangely it gave me hope.

As my career path took me upwards, I still wanted to write poetry, and somewhere in the 1990’s I decided to just focus on haiku. So, since I now traveled all over the USA and a good chunk of the world, although not to Japan, I looked for books on haiku in english everywhere I went. Bookstores in London seemed filled with them, and strange as it may seem I bought my first copy of “The Haiku Handbook”, by William Higginson and Penny Harter, in a bookstore in London near the British Museum. Quickly, I latched on to Bill Higginson’s books, snapping them up as quickly as I could and reading them over and over, I often tell others that if you don’t have a copy of “Haiku World”, you are missing the best of Bill’s teaching. A copy is never out of my reach even as I type these words.

Once I got going, and developed a sense for what a ‘real’ haiku was, the one thing that kept me going was reading the work of other poets. Today if anyone wants to know about haiku, I tell them to read good haiku, and point them to the places where they can see well written haiku in a variety of styles. It is so important not to get stuck in one corner or the other of the ‘haiku world’, especially on the Internet, and to find both a style and a poetic voice that is uniquely your own. Don’t listen to self styled ‘experts’, even if they are well intentioned poets in their own right. Every great haiku poet in Japan or America has taken a path of their own. Don’t let anyone sell you their path, blaze your own. That said, let me share some of the resources that I have found most useful.

 

Print Journal Influences

There are only two print journals that are must have, in my opinion, and they are Acorn Journal and Mayfly. Why, you ask? Because they both have just haiku. No opinions, nothing to confuse you, just wonderfully presented haiku. They both are small, so you can carry them in your pocket, and both come out twice a year. These two are the crown jewels of print journals in haiku. Save your money and just focus on these two.

 

Internet Resource Influences

I would not be writing haiku today without the Internet. The ability to read good haiku in quantity is something only the Internet can give you. Some of my favorite spots include the Haiku Society of America site, and for starters their definitions. Hundreds of books have been written discussing the definition of haiku in English, but before you spend your money start by reading these, and don’t read too much into them. They also have a large collection of haiku, senryu, and haibun from their contests that run every year, and you can find them easily. Check the contest results out and read some of the best haiku written in English in the last few decades. You will see after spending time here that there are more ways to express yourself in this form then you can see anywhere else. I go back once a year and just read, and it is the best learning and inspirational tool you can give yourself, and it is free. Listen to everyone who has anything to say about haiku, BUT find your own voice, and develop your own patterns and ‘rules’ to govern your writing of haiku. No one person, group, or organization owns the definition of haiku, either in English or Japanese, period. Never forget that fact.

 

Internet Journal Influences

The Internet, Facebook groups, and Twitter are all filled with the work of excellent haiku/senryu poets. You can easily search for them by name. If you see a poet in one of the online journals simply search for them on any of the social media sites and you will find many more examples of their work. Pick your own favorites to read. Learning from example is one of the great teachers for all of us.

Below are some of my favorite online journals:

A Hundred Gourds
Haibun Today
HaigaOnline
Heron’s Nest
Prune Juice
Under the Basho

All the above are open to be read by all, and have extensive archives of past issues. You can find many of the best haiku poets on these sites.

A few of my favorite haiku poets, and this is a very short list since I have many good friends who write fine haiku, are included here:  Ron C. Moss, Terri Hale French, Roberta Beary, Alexis Rotella, Sheila Windsor, Marlene Mountain, Paul David Mena, Sondra Byrnes, and Johannes S. H. Bjerg. There are dozens more, but if you google any of those listed above on Twitter or Facebook you will find many other poets interacting with them on other Internet platforms as well who are equally talented. Many of these folks have been, or currently are, editors of respected journals in Japanese based forms of art and poetry. The range here will show you poets who are also artists in other forms as well, and who clearly stand out above the fray in whatever they attempt. That said, I have hundreds of others who influence me every single day. Some are beginners, some are ‘old hands’ at the form, but all of them excite and teach me daily, and for free on the Internet. I am most influenced by poets who brave the web and share their work openly.They are the ones, in my opinion, who will keep the haiku form alive into the future.

 

What about me?

Well in the last twenty years I have had over 1000 haiku/senryu/haiga/haibun published. Most all have been in online journals, and my work is in dozens of anthologies published in many different languages as well, and that has been humbling. It has also been a lot of fun. I don’t submit much to print journals, and I don’t publish paper books. I just hate the thought of trees being felled for my little words. That said, you will find a lot of my work on the Internet with simple name searches. I have been an editor of several fine online journals, and done what I could to promote the form on the Internet. I truly believe that Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are where the genre is heading, and even though I recently began my 70th year on this planet I plan to be in  the ‘cloud’ with my poems and fellow poets for some time to come.

Some links to my work, and readings by me can be found at The Living Haiku Anthology. There are many other fine poets also there, and you will be amazed at the wide variety of styles, topics, and forms of haiku embraced by some of the best poets writing haiku in english.

One of my favorite poets is Lew Welch, and when people ask me to explain haiku to them I point to some of the resources I have listed above, and give them this quote from Lew:  “Somebody showed it to me and I found it by myself.” Good advice. All the so-called experts in haiku can confuse you, but if you read good haiku, as found in good journals, and as written by good poets, you will find the joy of it for yourself. If anyone says you are just ‘making it up as you go along’, smile and say:  YES, yes I am! No sense being a liar. Peace to you...

 

 

Silences as seen in Indian Aesthetics
by Kala Ramesh

 

The Indian theory of anaahata baani (the un-struck sound) and rasa (the aesthetic essence) – still practised and kept alive in all Indian art forms – has aesthetic correlation to the interval in time and space or, in plain words, the silence used in haiku poetics. I call this dialogue the run of the umbilical cord because I strongly feel that all art forms are integrated into the same principles that seamlessly hold them together, and that one feeds into the other.

For long, I’ve also held the view that techniques are the banks that allow the spirit of creativity to flow. Without these banks, there would be devastation and the saddest thing is that the river would be lost. There are two sides to every coin. So if we consider this creative spirit as a river, then we need to keep it flowing – which demands the need to enquire, expand the banks and dig deeper – for we all know that stagnant waters stink.

In this essay I want to look deeper into what we mean by silence and how is it employed in haiku.

Observe the built-in silences in this poem:

on a bare branch
a crow has alighted . . .
autumn nightfall

     (Basho Tr. by Makoto Ueda)

 

Buddha says in the Heart Sutra: Here, Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.

               (From The Buddha’s Heart Sutra Tr. by Edward Conze)

 

Since silence is frequently seen as a kind of space, I will now explore more extensively into what I mean by space.

Space is divided here into four categories:

1. Utilizing space
2. Creating space
3. Space that expands
4. Held breath, knowing those spaces within our body

1. Utilizing Space

I was seven years old. My sisters were giving their arangetram (debut performance) in Bharatanatyam, one of the eight classical dance forms of India. Their dance guru, my mother and my aunt were having a serious discussion. The auditorium chosen had a huge dais. How could these young girls be taught to ‘cover’ the stage? Reminiscing about it after so many years, I am amazed that the basic principal techniques in art have not changed at all. But then, why would they?

Let me come to this from a different angle, through word play. Let’s break up the word space:

space
pace
ace

An ace service in tennis is the ultimate dream of any tennis player. So an ace service means something that cannot be reached or returned: par excellence! Now, speed and placing is inbuilt in that ace. Let’s call it ‘the time factor’. So also, an excellent movement in music is captured in rhythm and taal (Indian beat cycles). In short, art is embedded in time and to go beyond time is what true art is all about. I would call this “utilizing space.”

Let us study this mantra of the Prajna Paramita in relation to what I have said above:

gate gate pāragate pārasamgate bodhi svāhā

It is interesting to observe that this mighty Buddhist mantra from the Heart Sutra, recited all over the world, has a count of seventeen sounds.

Please also note: Indian classical music employs extensive use of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 rhythmic beat cycles. A student of Indian music spends years in training to master these rhythmic cycles.

In Sanskrit this mantra means: “gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, awake, ah!” (There are various translations for this mantra.)

The silences embedded in the repetition of the words in this mantra, hits a deeper truth each time.

gate – gone
gate – gone
pāragate – gone beyond
pārasamgate – gone completely beyond
bodhi svāhā – enlightened, so be it.

As a student of Hindustani vocal classical music, I have spent a lot of time pondering how to effectively use ‘space’ in music, which is very different from the way it is done in dance. In music, one way is to go up and down the octave showing both space and time. But it is equally important to accentuate the space between each note. These full, half or quarter pauses or silences between notes give a fillip to the emotional quotient when a melodic piece is performed. In truth, all art forms demand this fundamental requirement of utilizing space within a specific, given time.

This space mentioned above exists naturally between notes, dance movements, brush strokes or words. An artist only attempts to perfect this technique, to give the dramatic and aesthetic touch needed, to make it visible not only to a connoisseur, but also to a lay person.

                         almost autumn so many holes to another universe

                                (Karen Cesar)

 

2. Creating Space

There are effective ways to make space visibly present. I would like to call this “creating space.” This is so subtle that people do not pay much attention to it. So, I would like to give a visual example that makes it clear.

During a visit to London, I entered the art gallery in Trafalgar Square to see a group of visitors guided by a curator who was explaining a few selected paintings. We reached Caravaggio’s painting of Jesus Christ. The curator spoke about Christ’s smooth-shaven face. The special treatment of the fruit bowl that was slightly jutting out of the dining table and the non-believer’s arm extended towards us, were particularly striking. She spoke of the lateral space that Caravaggio has depicted so effectively in this painting. She said it tempts the viewer to quickly step forward and push the fruit bowl back before it falls off the table!

I was taken aback by her pointers. I’ve known paintings that show space by not cluttering the canvas, the stark use of white, negative spaces or by the different treatments in brush strokes, but I had not seen anyone talk of lateral space. This technique has remained deeply etched in my mind, ever since.

between the sky
and the spin of the earth
this falling leaf

 (Laryalee Fraser)

 

3. Creating space to expand it

What I find most fascinating in all art forms is the contrapuntal use of ‘solid’ and ‘vacant’ spaces to create wholeness, the sense of balance and thereby a unity. Contrapuntal means having two or more independent but harmoniously related melodic parts sounding together.

This haiku is an example of using contrapuntal spaces:

the pause
in a dragonfly’s glide
noon shadows

                        (Kala Ramesh)

Lines 1 and 2 state an image – but line 3 shows the dragonfly’s action as a shadow. So I look down and see the dragonfly’s dance and its pause. The solid spaces are in lines 1 and 2. The vacant spaces are all in line 3.

 

4. Held Breath: knowing those spaces within our body

Another very subtle but important aspect of silence is the held breath while singing or reciting a poem:

Words there be that cut the very heart-strings,
And words may lead to profound renunciation,
Words may work as soothing balm or may strike misery,
Some of them inspire hope and others engender helplessness.

                                                         (Sant Kabir)

If an uttered word could hold so much power and magic, can you imagine the power of an unspoken word or sound on the human psyche?

The difference in quality of a silence coming from a spent breath and one coming from a lung that is almost full is remarkably “felt” by the listener. One might wonder what the difference is. A silence coming from a spent breath is devoid of emotion because there is no vital life left in that breath. It is almost dead. Whereas silence, even if it is only a half pause, when it comes from a full lung, it is pregnant with emotions.

an autumn note . . .
my breath holds even
the song’s silences

                                   (Kala Ramesh)

What is a pacemaker? The online dictionary says:

1. A person or animal who sets the pace at the beginning of a race, sometimes in order to help a runner break a record.

2. A device for stimulating the heart muscle and regulating its contractions

We’re more aware of the second meaning isn’t it? It is a combination of both the meanings I’ve tried to bring into focus here. In this mad rush we call life, let us set a pace which is comfortable for us each day. Knowing the importance of silence, these essential pauses and breaks in our day-to-day living can never be over emphasised. It is an art as subtle as it can get to internalise the silences embedded in nature into our being – to observe and to understand these quiet moments and how to use this as an important tool in all our pursuits. The beauty of what it is to stand and stare and to help weave in a pause, a breather into our hectic lives!

Little drops of water make a mighty ocean... so also each step taken to understand how the mind receives and handles emotions, is a step taken towards understanding how the creative force of nature interweaves vigour, and vitality with silences.

                                                               And, we all create only in silence.

 

                        Basho's frog...
                        four hundred years
                        of ripples

                                          (Al Fogel)

 

Bio:

Kala Ramesh is an award-winning poet who has been instrumental in bringing school kids and college youth onto the haiku path. Neck deep in these Japanese poetry forms, her latest obsession is to paint city walls with haiku.

 

Notes:

Indian thought has travelled far. . . For we know for sure that Dhyana (Dhyana yoga or meditative absorption) from which the Chinese "Cha'an" was derived, which when transported to Japan became "Zen". Dhyana yoga was taken by Bodhidharma from Kancheepuram, South India to China from where it penetrated into Japan.

Six hundred years ago Sant Kabir was born in India (in 1398 AD). He lived for 120 years and is said to have relinquished his body in 1518. The hallmark of Kabir's poetry is that he conveys in his couplets (Doha), what others may not be able to do in many pages.

—Boloji.com, Rajender Krishan.

Publishing credits:

almost autumn  – Karen Cesar, Modern Haiku: 41.1, 2010
between the sky –Laryalee Fraser, Mainichi Daily News, 2006
the pause– Kala Ramesh, tinywords: May 2008                      
an autumn note– Kala Ramesh, Acorn: # 23, 2009
Basho's frog – Al Fogel, Paper Wasp:17:3, 2011

 References:

The Dance of Shiva – Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy
The Transformation of Nature in Art – Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy
The concept of Rasa – Jaideva Singh
Raga and Rasa – Govinda S. Tambe
The Bijak of Kabir – Translated by Linda Hess and Shukdev Singh
Poems of Kabir – Translated by Rabindranath Tagore

Transformation by haiku
by Alegria Imperial

 
on a bare branch
a crow settled down
autumn evening
 
Basho
(trans. by Jane Reichhold)
 
“How true!” was all I could say of these lines, the first of Basho’s that I have read-- my introduction to haiku. The spare lines also stunned me yet they opened up spaces akin to meditation. Perhaps, I had thought, I should read it slowly as in praying and I did. The passing scenes I’ve seen in drives through autumn had suddenly turned into an immediate moment and I, in it. I recognized the feeling; it also happens when a painting or performance draws me in.  Of course, I was reading a poem and I understood it or so I had thought. 
 
I can’t recall from what collection I read ‘on a bare branch’ among the few books I found at the Enoch Pratt Library eight years ago in Baltimore, where I was then staying. I had just stumbled on haiku then, surfing the web for poetry and clicking on the page of Baltimore haiku poet Denis Garrison.  Browsing through the posted works, I thought how easy to do it and so, with the spunk of an ignoramus, I wrote one, responding to his submission call. He sent it back with kind words. It had possibilities, he said, and he even rewrote a line. How encouraging! 
 
I had just ended a long career in media and journalism and on the daring of a friend, had taken up fiction writing in New York and later, poetry—dreams that long hovered in my hard working years. I thought haiku would come as easily as both, which I tackled the way I had wielded words in thick gray slabs. I had studied American, English and continental literature in the Philippines, a country closer to Japan, but had not been aware of haiku until then. And so, I wrote a few more of what I thought was haiku, imitating how Denis demonstrated it and sent these again; I received an outright rejection that miffed me. Yet his advice (or was it a command?) for me to read up on haiku goaded me up the marble steps of the Baltimore library. 
 
The haiku shelf nestled in an alcove of special collections on a mezzanine. The small table felt almost intimate. The few haiku small books felt ancient in my hands, the pages fragile. I could not take them home. I had to take scrap paper from the librarian’s desk to write on. Only Basho’s ‘bare branch’ remains among bales of my notes and haiku drafts. I’ve read more of Basho and volumes of other haiku poets since. I’ve learned that the simplicity and immediacy of the ‘bare branch’ that entranced me had also deceived me. Haiku, after all, is a centuries-old art.  I realized I might never get to an iota of what makes it what it is. But haiku has transformed me since.
 
Nature and I have turned into lovers, for one, as if I’m seeing clouds, the sun and the moon for the first time, or flowers and birds. Yet, as a child, I prowled bamboo groves and shaded streams to catch dragonflies and wait for the kingfisher’s shadow. As an adult, I walked on streams of blossoms shredded by the wind, relishing fragrances and dreams. I used to throw open our windows for the full moon for me to bathe in. I thought I had shed them off when I left home for North America where I finally live the four seasons with blossoms like daffodils and cherry blossoms or trees that inflame in the fall like the maple that I used to know only as words in poems and songs in a borrowed language from an implanted culture I memorized as a child. But haiku has lent me ways to see things simultaneously through the past into the present, as well as from a pinhole as in a bee wading in pollen to the vastness of a punctured moonless summer sky. I leap from image to thought and feeling simply and exactly losing myself in what a moment presents like how I felt reading ‘bare branch’ the first time. 
 
Some writings on Basho especially in his later haiku identify such a moment as Zen. As a Southeast Asian, I know Zen. It’s part of my heritage. But how come I’m ignorant of haiku? It must have been our destined Western colonization that encrusted our Eastern beginnings with layers of European and American culture, hence, blocking it. In an unfortunate historical accident when Japan occupied the Philippines during World War II, my parents could have learned haiku and passed it on to me. Instead, those years inflicted so much pain that I grew up with my mother’s family trying to survive a pall of sorrow from my grandfather’s execution by the Japanese Imperial Army. Japan, for me, represented the horror of cruelty. Then came haiku. I hadn’t thought of that sadness I inherited when I first started reading on it, delighting even at Basho’s Oku-no-hosomichi (Back Roads to Far Towns) leading me through inroads to Japan.  When the Fukushima tragedy struck, I plunged into it, writing a haibun about families being rescued and some haiku, finding myself in tears. I realized a healing has crept deep in me, of which my grandfather must have had a hand.
 
From my first imitations of Basho, I kept writing haiku that I later found out from rejections were but fragments. Yet two flukes won for me awards in 2007, one from a growing volume of fragments that I kept tweaking as a single entry to the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, the other, another failed haiku I expanded as free verse for the Passager Annual Poetry Award (Baltimore, MD). These fired me to keep on. I haunted more sites on the web, picking beds for my haiku; soon a few got published as more rejections from other journals pounded on me to give up. I didn’t.
 
My prose and free verse had started to crackle with a ‘textured richness’ as one editor described it--obviously influenced by my practice of writing haiku—and made it to literary journals. I’m writing less of both these days, finding in haiku the closer bridge to pure image and thought—more of my haiku, a few tanka, haibun  and haiga have been published in other journals since, and gaining a few more awards. I’m also reading less of descriptive texts, dropping the first sentence if lacking the synthesis in a line like haiku. I can’t hope to fully know all I must or even write a perfect haiku but I step into its waters everyday and steep myself in its calmness, its virtue that first drew me in.
 
Originally appeared in Notes from the Gean 3:4 March 2012 
 
Bio sketch
A former media person and journalist in Manila, Philippines, Alegria Imperial, who now lives in Vancouver, began writing poems after she stumbled upon haiku and the other Japanese short poetry forms in 2003. Her first published haiku also gained an award in the 2007 Vancouver Cherry Blossoms Festival (VCBF) Haiku Invitational. More have been published since in international journals among them, Bones, LYNX, The Heron's Nest, A Hundred Gourds, and The Haiku Foundation’s Per Diem feature with a few more awarded like the 2014 Sakura Award also at VCBF, Commended, Traditional Category, the Haiku Foundation's 2012 Haiku Now Contest. 

Richard Gilbert

Dr Richard Gilbert has contributed his comments on Peter Yovu's Field Notes series on The Haiku Foundation's forum, interviews and a commentary on his work by Jack Galmitz.
 
He writes:
"I would never select a small sample of haiku as my "favorites," as it would show undue preference. I will say that in 2013, I have 275 favorite works,  which are all previously published haiku, re-published in The Disjunctive Dragonfly.
 
This past week, you heard the Translatlantic Poetry reading Roberta Beary and Richard Gilbert // Transatlantic Poetry on Air
 
My reading begins at minute 22. During the reading, I selected 26 haiku by 26 different poets, from Haiku 2014 (Gurga & Metz, eds., Modern Haiku Press, 2014) to read -- so they are favorites in 2015 -- but only from that book! There are so many more haiku to consider as "best" or "excellent" composed since Disjunctive Dragonfly was written -- I mean during the time-period, July 2013-April 2015 (the present)."
 
Readers are also referred to an interview between Dr Richard Gilbert and Rattle Editor, Tim Green part of which is available at http://www.rattle.com/poetry/from-a-conversation-with-richard-gilbert/​

 


ALL THAT ASIDE
Richard Gilbert partially answers the three profound and mystifying questions posed (in reverse order).

 
1) Why do you write [xhaikux]?
2) What other poetic forms do you enjoy?
3) Of the many wonderful [xhaikux] you’ve written, what do you consider to be your top three?
-------------------------------
 
ALL THAT ASIDE: Partial answer to Question 3:
3) Of the many wonderful [xhaikux] you’ve written, what do you consider to be your top three?
 
In Field Notes 3, I wrote:
Reply #1 on: September 14, 2013, 07:34:34 AM
http://www.thehaikufoundation.org/forum_sm/index.php?topic=5575.0
-------------------------------
It’s rare to experience a poem that has caused me to rethink my approach. By “rethink,” I take this to mean “expand” widen my conceptual range or understanding; to become aware of new modes of possibility or approach within the form. Haiku that have catalyzed such experiences have been presented in various articles and books I’ve published since 2000. 
 
I’d like to share a poem which has most recently caused me to see haiku in a new way. This same poem catalyzed a new category of disjunction, which I termed “forensic parthenogenesis,” and is now found as one of the newly coined “disjunctive techniques of ‘strong reader resistance’” in Disjunctive Dragonfly (Red Moon Press, August, 2013, 132 pp.). By way of explanation here is an excerpt describing this poem—with some additional examples (from pp. 98-100):
 
In “Forensic Parthenogenesis,” particulars of non-human sentient beings self-generate a cosmos (as environments, a wilds, expressions of nature) through strong disjunction; such beings appear as autonomous creatures (i.e. not as pets, or associated to the human body). Concerning notions of sentience, haiku that do not place themselves so strongly in alternate types, such as “misplaced anthropomorphism” or “displaced mythic resonance,” and usually utilize the genre-style of naturalist description. 
 
 In haiku with strong parthenogenic disjunction, transformative elements, though presented as objectively descriptive fact (naturalistic), will also often be “impossibly true.” As relatively urban/nature-insulated moderns, surrounded by environments of utility and digital realities, technology, etc., haiku possessing forensic parthenogenesis reveal something about how we sense wild nature. There seems an urge or desire for new forms of mythos here being expressed — new ways of animal dreaming — that are at the same time, animals dreaming us.
 
inside a bat's ear
a rose
opens to a star
 
Eve Luckring, 2011, RR 11:3
 
(The haiku which inspired this category. The idea that an animal (or animal particular) provides a motif or fulcrum for a new poetic cosmos, impelled via disjunction. The poet draws the reader into a unique contemplation, from “inside a bat's ear,” within its dark auricle, drawn from a creature of darkness, colorblind, ultrasonic, navigational, acoustic — and offers a mysterium coniunctionis (“mysterious conjunction”; a final alchemical synthesis) which may represent the unification of body, soul and spirit.)
 
in the nucleus
   of a migrating cell
      the summer sea
 
               Mark Harris, 2012, MH 43.3
 
within mist
the blueness of a fox
falling petals death in war
 
                Kaneko Tohta, 2012, Selected Haiku, Part 2 (Gilbert et al, trans., RMP)
 
clouds in a mare’s eye the fracture beyond repair
 
               Clare McCotter, 2012; HIE 314
 
never touching
his own face
tyrannosaurus
 
                  John Stevenson, 2011, Acorn 27
 
(As Tyrannosaurus Rex couldn't even touch its mouth, with arms so short. This poem of realism forges a connection between that most terrible king of predators and our own face, by implied contrast: with the crucial difference of touch.)
 
ants begin to look like an idea
 
                 Scott Metz, 2009; lakes & now wolves (MHP, 2012)
 
as the world fails saxophone in the lips of a walrus
 
                Marlene Mountain, 2009; H21 130
 
Disjunctive Dragonfly: A New Approach to English-language Haiku http://bit.ly/1to12kB
 
Richard Gilbert
===================
 
H21 -- Haiku 21 (Gurga & Metz, eds.), Modern Haiku Press, 2011.
HIE--Haiku in English (Kacian et al eds.), Norton, 2013.
MH--Modern Haiku Journal. http://modernhaiku.org
MHP--Modern Haiku Press. http://modernhaiku.org/mhbooks
RMP--Red Moon Press. http://redmoonpress.com
RR--Roadrunner Haiku Journal. https://roadrunnerhaikublog.wordpress.com
       (see also: "is/let." https://isletpoetry.wordpress.com)
 

ALL THAT ASIDE:  Partial Answer to Question 2:
2) What other poetic forms do you enjoy?
 
Field Notes 2: What can haiku poets learn from other forms of poetry?
September 11, 2013, 09:19:37 PM
 
I think of poetry (not just haiku) as being created in many many ways --
 
If it's not something new, in-process, with each new instance, i think you don't usually end up with good "media" (art product -- art is about production as a goal; a making).
 
So we can talk about what Gary Snyder called "The Real Work." For Don [Baird] "clarity" is key, a keynote, and a keyword. For myself, it might be: "the amorphous" or "the cloud of unknowing" -- the way of "via negativa." What comes into "focus" may be things I find only later find sweetbitter, later grasp.
 
And maybe there was something automatic, something like a trance, something like self-extinction.
 
"Clarity" poses a "something." It is a positive. Perhaps a centering, a "truth" -- in any case a "thing." An evident suchness; of this -- but not: that. However, in-process (poetic process, as acts of consciousness) I'm likewise deeply attracted to experiences of, as Chet Baker puts it: "Let's Get Lost." 
 
When Jim Kacian wrote [the haiku] "pain fading the days back to wilderness" -- I felt instantly an engram of this experience -- as part of what impels me, as an explorer, a searcher; with a sense not of forging, but following. That's where I feel to go: or it leads me, or opening before me, as if in view, though purely imaginal: back to wilderness. Wildernesses. Not chaos and not clarity; a third thing.
 
The paths wind on, out, dissolve, into senses (sensibilities) of infinity. "Distance is the soul of beauty" (Simone Weil). And then you may meet up with a rock, a tree.
 
In the Buddhist Lojong mind-training system are 59 slogans. A few are related with absolute Bodhicitta ["the mind that strives toward awakening and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings" (Wikipedia)]. Primary is "Regard all dharmas as dreams." ("dharmas here means "things," "things in themeselves," "thing-as-such," "stuff.")
 
"Mind is fundamentally poetic in nature." Soul is "that which deepens" (James Hillman).
 
We tend to approach reality dualistically: there is literal, i.e "real" experience -- and by contrast there is fantasy: thoughts, dreams, fiction. Both Hillman and Vajrayana Buddhism cause us -- or, call us, to deeper contemplations -- to view consciousness, mind, life, less superficially. Hillman discusses this interestingly in his revolutionary work Revisioning Psychology. And in The Dream and the Underworld and in Healing Fiction.
 
It's quite significant to me -- this question or Koan -- of regarding all dharmas as dreams. Dreams bring us close to a peculiar experience -- at the moment of the dream it feels completely real, and yet the moment after, what has happened. Something, perhaps something powerful, even life-altering -- yet how do we place it? In Hillman's dreamwork, the key is not to extract meaning or symbolism from the dream (thus ending its story); but rather to return in active imagination -- to attend upon it, attend upon psyche. To learn what psyche wants or asks of us. The image here is that of turning towards a unique, unknown face. (A face likewise can be a landscape, a specific topos.) Hillman describes the process of "de-literalizing the literalizing function." The "literalizing function" is his better term for "ego."
 
I don't know about you, but for me, living in a purely literal world, as a literal being -- is like psychic death. A kind of pure fundamentalism -- even a form of idiocy. But that was the world I grew up in, the messages I received. So, just say "No!" to literalism (or singular, or rank literalism). Oh, it's been a lovely road -- to finding one's love.
 
You recall the dual rivers of Eros and Thanatos -- the sense of possession in love, the rapaciousness of death (Persephone in Hades). The great Rivers (psychic streams) of the underworld; Lethe, she of forgetting, her sister Mnemosyne, river of remembrance. Dis-habituation is part of the action of poetry. 
 
This relates to the irruption of habitual mind, a "falling" "slipping" "forgetting" of your step. Suzuki Roshi in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, discussed this concept as "shoshaku jushaku" -- living life "as one continuous mistake" (from Dogen Zenji).
 
In this context, what is clarity and what do we mean by it? To regard all dharmas as dreams, for Tibetan Buddhism, is a hint -- perhaps a finger hinting at the moon. "shoshaku jushaku" -- similarly. I'm not talking about haiku in particular here -- more about consciousness in creative-poetic flow. I don't think haiku necessarily present a particularly "special" form of poetic consciousness (what do you think?). In fact, we know that some number of poems appearing as haiku were first born in lines of longer poems, in letters, from hypnagogic pre- or post-dream states; from all sorts of places.
 
"Enriching" -- is a kind of keyword for me. To make ourselves more wealthy, culturally, psychologically -- in embodiment, in actuality, in the fullest sense of the word. The Cartesian dialectic of clarity/chaos seems at best primitive, psychologically. More evident to me -- more relevant is the dialectic: normal/abnormal. Is "ordinary mind" an oxymoron? A tautology? Who are we? 
 
That's why I like the taste of haiku -- it's not an answer, it's food you develop a taste for.
 
So that's another keyword: nourishment. Sensuous, kinesthetic savor. Truly the pleasure of the text.
================
 

ALL THAT ASIDE: Partial answer to Question 1:
1) Why do you write [xhaikux]?
 
 Re: Field Notes: Where do your haiku begin?
« Reply #21 on: June 19, 2013, 08:35:08 AM »
 
Richard Gilbert:
 
 
silence, what is
 
to be mentioned: 
 
as far as how to speak where things concatenate
 
seems to be there is no me to be
 
I say "I prefer," the preference for a given word, 
 
definition of rhetoric: 
 
to persuade. silence 
 
is what I see, the power of symbols to create reality. it serves no purpose 
 
to belittle language, what is silence 
 
for a languaged being.
 
options.
 
an argument against.
 
opting out.
 
co-opting in.
 
choosing "not."
 
choosing not to knot or unknot.
 
no having to cut silence in two.
 
before / after.
 
craving something.
 
just a minute or moment.
 
between space and fear.
 
not having to compose a list.
 
not having to beg a word for prayer.
 
mostly not.
 
not that anyone would care to listen.
 
not a performance.
 
not silence, not the choice not to utter.
 
not shutup not invisible not mine.
 
that's what i like; when i prefer not
 
to communicate.
 
you remember the shapes of silence
 
as time transmits space, time unburdens itself
 
time does not dream or have a past or a book
 
time fuck shit piss blue mine love mend leaf kiss must call
 
an instrumental four letters, analogous
 
silence because I want you to find out
 
silence because I want you to look
 
silence because I want you to take the time
 
not to speak, silence because the ear
 
is made more sensitive to pressure variation
 
surrendering to the plenum of acoustic space
 
alive with endless reflection; all what has
 
been said, to rest to rest to rest, at times
 
silence is like this repeating itself
 
a book with pages of folded knowledge
 
silence has levels of silence,
 
resting silence
 
thoroughly resting silence
 
completely thoroughly resting silence
 
silence which is neither thought nor unthought
 
silence which has no name
 
so with a will I need to be
 
so I must call to you
 
without sound.
 
                                               ***
         
         Haiku as groupings of trees
 
it was in the trees that the smell of the air came through her writing
never at night in the radiator sounds of home-baking and old bones
along the slice of water and sky where beneath the surface a poem
glides along. time stopped for the present. a moment or two. then 
with new determination an ecology of selves shining and new 
what was in the trees to begin with just before and just after love
when he had almost saved her. that she could write.
 
 
as a body born of words, inasmuch as clinginginto forms thoughts
as a body bones of words, in arrears as forms of whatstheuse of 
words to which the world happens to be. how my furthering 
unfurls against moving horizons as she writes preoccupations. 
not everyone is safe, who can be saved, who can be safe and 
these days our world tilts while I hold the sun without capture:
backlit skirted pantsuit in umbral fortitude descending the nautilus day.
 
taste the asian pear, gingko berry, the seed hidden within.
moon cradled you recall the voice of another I might be the distance
measured by drawing out string from here to there: do you remember
someone will remind you one day will say not I am here but I am there
that the thine that becomes the subject of one stroke of genius no as-if
about it, on the beach by the trees between two moments. that is me.
                         ***
 
Commentary on track
 
I don't know that I can write "where do your haiku begin" in a prosaic manner. I seem to psychologically strongly resist the thought -- so I’m glad you left the form [thread moderator: Peter Yovu] and genre style open, as to comments. A lot of my writing is about some kind of contemplation of origins and poetic/consciousness process-experience (in my fantasy). Referring to the two poetic statements I sent to you [the poems above], I feel they are sincere or honest in addressing the question, in that their answers have arisen as unintended consequences, coming to your question at a tangent. In both writings, I later published a line (of four-letter words from “silence”), and several lines from “trees” as haiku, with little or no alteration. 
 
As praxis, the answer of “where do your haiku come from” is “they came from there” (in these instances). In the midst of composition of (such) a longer piece, when writing those (later-extracted) haiku lines, I was sometimes partially consciously possibly aware of perhaps composing something with the power and form of haiku then and there in it; like hey, that cuts well, says it; yeah, Daddy-O. Yet it was after the fact of writing, later (much), working from an editorial head – like almost everyone, I’ve come to realize – that I saw there was autonomy. Luckily Roadrunner Haiku Journal is open-minded regarding experiments—the fact of R’r’s existence can’t be overstated; I felt encouraged, knowing there was potentially a place for them, a collegial, even receptive audience—unlike the longer poems themselves, which were posted as notional letters to a few friends; kind of like nightstands with doilies. 
 
This compositional method isn’t typical; it’s just something I thought to try. The pieces were written within a week of each other; and I was thinking about haibun; the idea of embedding haiku into longer poetic forms; loosening the genre-concept of poem versus prose; hardly new ideas. Yet if writing for the reader always ends in 'goodbye'; to give that goodbye gist is something like mono no aware -- that cutting moment of resolution, wholeness/emptiness in presence/absence -- where a world breathes, dissolves, and conjunctives such as ‘and’; an abiding ‘with’ or an ‘or,’ or ‘however’ may exit the palette (so, an elemental palette?), along with similes like ‘like being’: A flowering world, lacking simile? Isn’t language always “like” something? Isn’t a poem, read, heard or sung a dynamic simulacrum? Simulacrum, yet paradoxically, the real thing. It's good to ask the question, though as a self as a national park as a managed trail as an air there I don't immediately find the ferry. Haiku take us here to there; wee ferries of the invisible or surely certain ineffable secret fantasies. Plus cargo. Like any good instrument that places the cosmos in your hands, it takes time to work the tools; the payoff is they can effect novel navigations to near and foreign shores. That's why I like reading excellent haiku, because haiku always begin there. And goodbye.
 
Haiku taken from the longer poetic writings above, and later published:
 
there in the trees to begin with just before and just after love
 
moon cradled you recall the voice of another I might be the distance
 
(Published in R'r 11.2, 2011.)
 
 
about it on the beach by the trees two moments between that is
 
 
time fuck shit piss blue mine love mend leaf kiss must call
 
 
along the slice
           of water and sky
     never at night
 
 
as a body born of words
as a body bones of words:
preoccupations she writes
 
 
that the thine that becomes the subject of one stroke no as if
 
(Published in R'r 12.2, 2012.)
 

 
2005 Interview  - Richard Gilbert
by Robert Wilson and Richard Gilbert
 
(Originally appeared in Simply Haiku 3:1, Spring 2005)
 
RW: Recently you said, "Contemporary Japanese principles and techniques of haiku have yet to be properly integrated and valued in English haiku composition and thought. It may also be said that the era when the English haiku itself might provide an effective, autonomous aesthetic basis for critical judgment has yet to arrive.” How different is Occidental haiku from Japanese haiku?
 
RG: The question you ask could well become a book in itself—there are many facets and perspectives one could start from. I’ll direct my comparison to the modern Japanese haiku sphere. Specifically, the phrase “contemporary Japanese principles and techniques” is meant to contrast with the classical Japanese tradition, which has been the main focus of western haiku thought and practice. Contemporary or gendai haiku (“modern Japanese haiku”), while retaining classical principles at heart has undergone a series of radical evolutions much as the western arts have, say from post-impressionism (roughly contemporary to Shiki) to our artistic and cultural present. I have come to value, theoretically and compositionally, the magnitude and diversity of change in Japanese haiku over the last century. Many of the issues raised by modern western artists were likewise raised by modern Japanese artists, though of course in a different historico-cultural context. There are points of commonality in confronting “the modern.”
 
I wonder whether the English haiku world, through a classicist/traditionalist focus on one variety of haiku, has so far avoided not only modern Japanese literary history, but also our own modern-art corpus. By setting out a narrow set of classicist-inspired rules and definitions, the English-language genre seems to have largely sidestepped western art theories and perspectives concerning poetry, modernity and reality. There may be some irony in that gendai haiku represent a century of modern challenges to haiku form; consequently, there is an observable integration and validation of gendai haiku within contemporary Japanese literature. In fact, postwar gendai evolution was contemporaneous with the developing “traditionalist” English haiku!
 
Educating ourselves as readers involves the incorporation of modern Japanese and western perspectives alike, including cubism, surrealism, dada, magical realism, postmodernism and such, as these relate to haiku. I'm reminded of the gendai poet Hoshinaga Fumio, who recently commented that “realism . . . was a brief, temporary movement.” We might fruitfully discuss the problem of realism in western haiku; it seems the valuation of realism is a sticking point. In Japan, such discussions were on the table decades ago. And, aren’t classical haiku really a form of modern poetry to us, in English? In a curious twist, when I began reading Bashō, thirty years ago, I found his works to be postmodern—before that formal literary category existed! There’s something about the haiku aesthetic and style, classical or otherwise, that is very fresh, postmodern, futurist. All haiku are modern to us, aren't they?
 
Modern poetry often uses language freely (slang, dialect, idiolect) and irruptively (Stein, cummings, Cage, Language poetry, etc.). Japanese gendai haiku continues to undergo development. Imagine meeting a person who felt that the evolution of painting ended with post-impressionism—you might consider such an attitude provincial. Broadly speaking then, gendai Japanese haiku exhibit many of the principles, theories and techniques found in modern poetry or modern arts generally. Specific techniques would need more space for discussion. A number of haiku critics have rightly upheld the unique stylism of haiku, but overstated or reduced the intention, and thereby misread the modern. To give an example, George Swede declared that Ezra Pound’s 1913 In a Station of the Metro “is often described as a haiku by persons with only a tenuous knowledge of the form.” Notwithstanding his remark, Pound’s poem has also been described as an excellent haiku by those well-familiar with haiku. It's worth quoting Swede’s reasoning: "Successful as a short poem, it fails as a haiku because only the first line deals with an immediate experience while the second line involves the memory of an image that the poet uses overtly as a metaphor. A haiku is a haiku because all the images it conveys occur simultaneously in a person's present preceptions (sic) of the world (Haiku in English in North America (paragraph 3). http://raysweb.net/fall-haiku/pages/swede.html)."  [As of 2015, in his more-recently published haiku, Swede seems to have evolved well-beyond his 1997 conception.]
 
I don’t think such a statement can be accepted, in terms of what Swede is saying about memory. In fact, the memory he’s speaking of is occurring “in a person’s [the reader’s] present perceptions of the world” along with the rest of the poem, isn’t it. I feel that Swede overstates and reduces the genre in his sine qua non, elegant as it is. I’m reminded of this haiku by Jim Kacian (found in his Presents of Mind):
 
swallow flight
looking out the window
long after
 
which plays with the ‘moment’ of time and memory as a central feature of its haiku action. Which moment is immanent? I like this haiku precisely because immanence is distributed, so to speak. Swede uses this phrase: “haiku is a haiku because” in his critique. I think the truth of what haiku are, considering the range of haiku, is rather more difficult to nail down than a “because” and a definitive answer-in-a-phrase, as regards moments, memory, metaphor. This is one of the new departures that is now occurring in the genre: an expansion of technique and validation.
 
By examining gendai haiku, we may be aided in finding linkages, means and modes in which haiku fundaments can be fused or blended with elements of modern poetry. In other words, rapprochement. I wonder to what extent the western haiku genre has rejected other modern poetic genres in its quest for exclusive definition? Have we thrown out too much of the baby with the bathwater? The two questions, what is haiku? and, what can haiku be? are as relevant now as they were in 1950. Regarding gendai haiku principles and techniques, there are challenging issues of cultural context and translation to consider, as we’re talking about twelve decades of modern art. Where have our haiku pundits been, in these recent decades? One answer is, developing a tradition, laying down the bedrock; certainly valid work. But along the way, western haiku writers who have had modern ideas, and wished to experiment (often in ways similar to Japanese gendai haiku poets) have became discouraged, and even been castigated for their efforts.
 
Since we already have “modern haiku” in English, it’s not easy to choose a term which would imply contemporary—in an expansive sense. Gendai principles and techniques do exist uniquely in English; something presented in The Disjunctive Dragonfly [referring to the 2004 article in Modern Haiku Journal, available: http://research.gendaihaiku.com -- expanded to a 2013 book (132 pages), Red Moon Press]– certain disjunctive types may be more effective in English than Japanese—imagistic fusion, for instance, and certain forms of rhythmic usage. I find modern haiku to be tremendously exciting, profound and fresh, and wish we’d been able to forge a bond with our Japanese gendai brethren of the 60s and 70s. That would have been interesting, as many of those poems were allied in topic or perspective to modern western poetry in those eras.
 
Any excellent haiku is uniquely creative, existing in a national, regional context and language. While gendai haiku are an inspiration in English, techniques that are fitting in a Japanese context (concerns that crop up in a 400-year-old genre), may not be relevant. So a gendai development in English isn’t necessarily a matter of “capturing” a tradition—emulation takes you only so far. In this sense, one of the biggest differences between Japanese and occidental haiku is that of validity. Japanese haiku is central to the identity of Japanese literature, while English haiku has not yet produced a well-known poet writing in the genre as a means of recognition; we’re still working towards that day.
 
Some want their haiku cooked and spiced in certain ways, elucidated from specific perspectives. Others have a broader or more flexible palette. The same is also true in Japan; not everyone who writes haiku writes in gendai style. One can join haiku circles of every stripe. When it comes to judging important competitions, there’s generally a broad representation of judges. Tohta Kaneko (a gendai haijin and literary luminary) for instance, often appears as a critic or judge in a variety of haiku-society formats. So I would like to avoid altogether the issue of which haiku style is better, more pure, preferred—it’s mostly a matter of taste and perception. It comes down to “what is haiku”: not as definition, as some would have it; any “hard” definition that would cover every style becomes basically insensible when carefully analyzed. Gendai haiku have great breadth and have had a remarkable evolution. Perhaps wisely, there is no exact definition of haiku given in Japanese dictionaries. What does gendai haiku, east or west, have to offer? The ways modern reality can be uniquely spoken in haiku.
 
RW: While attending the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, you said you hung out with Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, and other Beat poets who have had a major impact on American poetry. They, of course, are a lot older than you. Ginsberg has since passed away. (I too met and corresponded with him, by the way.) How did they, as elder statesmen, influence your concept of haiku and poetic expression?
 
RG: Naropa Institute, now Naropa University, was a fantastic place for an alienated poet. My association with Naropa, as undergrad, grad student and later, event coordinator, grant writer, general factotum and uninvited guest, lasted a decade (1980-1990). During that time the school changed from an unaccredited hole-in-the-wall walkup on the Pearl Street Mall into a substantial, accredited, endowed institution. In December 1980 I arrived in Boulder from Danbury, Connecticut, sleeping in my ‘69 Dodge panel van, all worldly possessions within; mostly a tiny dresser and typewriter. Slept in the IHOP parking lot. In the previous two years I’d been rebuilding engines, and managing a steam-generation component-assembly division, in order to save for the school tuition. With a friend, had started “The Plant,” an alternative community to the isolated social hell of Danbury. Our group created a café society, producing several local arts festivals in 1979-80.
 
Just prior to settling in, I’d wondered if there would be attempted cult brainwashings, but to my surprise in the ensuing months I could hardly get anyone on the Naropa staff to talk about Buddhism, much less the odd-looking Tibetan gentleman glimpsed smiling or glowering from small desktop photographs. Instead, I was quickly caught up in a marvelous, spontaneous cultural experiment, not particularly florid in terms of drugs and booze (though Boulder was no desert), blooming with arts collaboration. There were plenty more dancers than poets in our student body of approximately 120 (including part-timers), so I got involved in dance, music performance and production. I’d come to Naropa to learn from those who had become successful poets, rather than studying with teachers who just talked about poetry—analyzed—and my expectations were not just exceeded—events went far beyond anything I could have imagined.
 
Everything that happened related to Naropa has affected my “concept of haiku and poetic expression,” which is, basically, life. One of the great gifts of Naropa was the lack of social barriers between teachers and students. Many of us were older students; I arrived, still BA-less at age 26. There was an emphasis on perception, direct examination and emanation of mind and the moment; teachers taught whatever they wished in whatever way they wanted. To mention a few examples, Larry Fagin read from his work journals, Anselm Hollo taught the Objectivists, Patricia Donegan taught East Asian poetry (and notably, haiku), Alan taught Blake. Gary Snyder avoided Naropa for some years, but began visiting summers to read and teach Beat history, the environment, and relations between poetry and Zen. A multitude of soirées, performances, parties, political actions—all sorts of events. Summers were filled with symposia: international students and teachers arrived from all corners. I was lucky enough to explore many new forms of therapy which involved energy, somatic focus and the arts—Lomiwork being a high point (with gratitude to Melissa Soalt, Christine Caldwell and Paul Ortel). A high point was the 1985 Jack Kerouac conference, in which most of the still-living Beats met together, many for the last time. Tim Leary was present, Burroughs, Paul Krasner, McClure and a number of others, along with the Naropa crew. I may be guilty of waxing romantic, but there’s a lot of unknown history and achievement connected with Naropa worth acknowledging. For those interested in research, the Naropa library has a unique and sizable archive of audio and video from the 70s on.
 
You have to be a bit loony to enter “The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics,” [http://www.naropa.edu/academics/jks/ug/writing-and-literature-ba/index.php] the moniker Alan gave to our Department. It’s difficult to describe the influence of a disembodied poetics, but it was Kerouac’s spirit that had created the context for the teachers and students and classes existing together, allowing space for the essential paradox of a 1200 year-old Tibetan Buddhist religious tradition intersecting with a bunch of autonomous and irascible American artists. The Beat spirit was perhaps vapor, but the Beats themselves were largely present in embodied form. As such, influence was direct, personal and idiosyncratic. I learned for instance how Greg Corso approached and taught poetry, and how he read (brilliantly); drank together and such. Did an internship with Alan, transcribing sections of his journals, so I got to know him. In exchange, he read and commented on my poems. Professional poets and artists are busy enough without teaching, and Naropa didn’t pay much, so we were all busy, crossing paths and hanging out in various contexts over the years. It wasn’t exactly chummy, yet we were in a small community in this trendy hick town, so there was a tight container and plenty of intensity.
 
The confluence of the Beat tradition and American poetic tradition on the whole never quite settled out of a somewhat confused stew for me during my time at Naropa—maybe the question wasn’t uppermost in teacher’s minds. I would have wished for stronger academics (which now exist I'm told). Sitting six students in a circle: Peter Orlovsky’s class. We start breaking down the word “white” into phonemic sounds, chanting, whispering “wh-“ “wh-“ “wh-“ “wh-“ “wh-“ “wh-“, until it’s no longer a word-part, just strange freaky energy, a few go on to the “”i-” “i-”, we get louder, softer. The energy locked into words. What is language? I recently performed this word/sound experiment with a college class here in Japan, as part of a “Nature Writing in American Literature” class. Bill Douglas teaching “Bebop Etudes” (musical poems) exploring polyrhythmic syncopation, left hand beating 3 against 4 with the right. I got into meditation and became a Buddhist. So, many personal encounters and phenomenal experiences, leaving me quite changed. I’m not sure that my concept of poetry altered greatly from studying with Naropa poets but it expanded into real living beings who offered unique discoveries—I particularly want to mention Pat Donegan’s love of haiku, patient critical comment on student haiku, personal mentorship and friendship, and her own publication of "Hot Haiku," now a treasured text. Discovery wasn’t just of knowledge per se, but the passion, life and interest of those presenting it. Sixteen of us entered the Poetics BA in January 1981, resulting in two graduates, myself and Gary Allen, now a poet and teacher. I've often wondered what happened to the 14 classmates who flew on. At the time the school existed in a state of great social flux, and something of the living Beat tradition was passed on in this context. How not?
 
RW: Your life has been a "wild toad ride." You've studied Asian poetry with an emphasis on haiku, psychology, Buddhism, music, diving . . . worked as a psychologist, built guitars, played in a band, produced and directed television programs, and currently work as a professor at the Faculty of Letters at Kumamoto University in Japan. And somehow you manage to meditate and write haiku and haiku related research papers. How does this zeal for life shape your haiku and haiku spirit?
 
RG: Maybe haiku and haiku spirit have shaped my life, rather than the other way round. I’d like to answer your question by discussing haiku and sacred space, since both define my supposed career. What is poetry, why do we need it, what does poetry do—to us, for us? In The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, Lewis Hyde affirms a sense that the poem, indeed all art, is fundamentally created as an offering. Our culture commodifies artworks, a rather aberrant activity, apparently, when viewed from the broad perspective of global art history. Hyde reminds the reader of a truth concerning artwork—the desire to offer a gift, not only to humanity but to the cosmos, the sky, sun, moon, animals, plants, universe, to the moment, to history, one’s ancestors, to the invisible. To offer in a sacred way. Mircea Eliade discusses another aspect of offering in The Myth of the Eternal Return, the means for constructing sacred space, and of enacting life within that space (and timeless time) of the sacred. Experientially investigating the absence and presence of the sacred has been a high value in my life, and also a “saunter”: a sense of being sans terre, without Earth, which has involved a meandering desire for holiness (cf. Thoreau’s essay “Walking”), a goal echoed in the last stanza of Goethe’s “The Holy Longing”:
 
And so long as you haven’t experienced 
This: to die and so to grow, 
You are only a troubled guest 
On the dark earth.
 
A portion of my research has concerned oblivion: the figure of Lethe (personification of Oblivion), mother of the Graces. Why might Forgetting give rise to Splendor, Delight and Blossoming, the three Graces? Heidegger writes,
 
The oldest of the old follows behind
us in our thinking and yet it
comes to meet us.
 
That is why thinking holds to the
coming of what has been, and
is remembrance.
("The Thinker As Poet," Poetry, Language, Thought, Harper & Row, 1971, p. 10)
 
To remember that thinking is remembrance . . . It seems the sacred is easily forgotten, and entering again, in the encounter is a sense of remembrance, a return of “the oldest of the old.” I’ve been interested in why not only the sense of poetry but the experience of poetic dwelling becomes lost. The danger inherent in a world, in any society, which loses poetic dimension and thereby becomes overtly literalistic is a danger perhaps greater than that of terrorism, perhaps a contributing cause. To know or feel the sense of poetry in life is to know “the coming of what has been,” to desire remembrance: to re-member the world, cosmos, oneself, a leaf, a tree. It may be that a necessary means of entering the zone of the sacred is the experience of oblivion.
 
Haiku are not always instantly irruptive, do not always enact a sudden shift, yet they seem to draw us into a new resonance, creating a sense of the sacred. Hoshinaga Fumio's haiku,
 
nigemizu e sengo no chichi wo oitsumeru
 
toward the mirage of water
the postwar fathers
chasing after . . . 
            (Kumaso-Ha, Honami Shoten, 2003)
 
is a haiku which seems to have layers (allusive adumbrations) of mirage: of image, time and space – Escher-like heads curling round tails. It's a haiku I work into, never quite out of. There’s an unfolding, sensed as lament which echoes back through millennia, through a myriad of cultures. I recall this haiku by Dimitar Anakiev:
 
spring evening -
the wheel of a troop carrier
crushes a lizard 
            (Knots: The Anthology of Southeastern European Haiku Poetry, Red Moon Press, 1999)
 
Its main image is violent, shocking. But this haiku is not merely violent. There is also a sense of sacredness. The context or field of reality is only partly given by the poem; the haiku requires rapprochement on the reader’s part. That is, the genre itself indicates the boundary lines of the sacred, and it is within the landscapes of the sacred, oriented by the genre as a whole, in which image and action occur.
 
Concision, disjunction and image elements largely contribute to a haiku’s effect, but these elements alone aren’t enough. If one reads the above poems quickly without a pause they lose much of their drama and vividness. So, what happens when we slow down, allow this unique poetic form to come to life? I would argue that in some measure we experience oblivion(s), if for instants, and through such psychological moments, remembrance. Mnemosyne, anamnesis, Lethe’s sister, is mother to the Muses. Such may be said for any art one becomes absorbed in and passionate toward; nonetheless, haiku are quite uncompromising in the way they cut into reality. There is extreme and concise rupture.
 
To my knowledge, the phenomenology of poetic process has not been explained by science. In fact, qualitative conscious experience itself has not yet been demonstrably elucidated—there is so much we experience and feel which remains immeasurable. Without being able to precisely measure or define, it is nevertheless apparent that haiku becomes a genre due to demonstrably unique modes of poetic encounter and dwelling. I should say that what is truly unique isn’t the experience itself, but its prevalence and intensity, when compared with other poetic and artistic forms.
 
We may tend to devalue the significance and importance of poetic movements which open us to the sacred, to remembrance, because of their immateriality; contrastive with the predominant materialist cultural ethos. I know I have, and it’s one reason for my returning to the wellspring of haiku. The haiku genre (which includes a reader) constructs an environment within which its language (i.e. symbolic representation) uniquely occurs. It may be a zest for life that draws me to haiku, but likewise a zest for oblivion and erasure. Not necessarily erasure in itself so much as what happens through it.
 
Some years ago, Barbara Dilley (Merce Cunningham dancer, Naropa Dance Program Director and former President) introduced me to “square work,” in which a length of bright red yarn is made into a large square on the dance floor, tacked down with a few bits of masking tape. What is within the square is defined as sacred space. Dancers (people) relate to the fact of the square, and to entering and exiting that space. It’s quite difficult to remain conscious as one steps across the boundary. A gap in consciousness occurs right at the apotheosis of transition. This is one of the consciousness research-questions we explored in an embodied manner as dance. There’s nothing much to taking some twine and making a square on a patch of bare ground. The square has only as much meaning and significance as is intended by the participants, and what grows from experiences of many crossings and movements (object and human arrangements) within and without. After the dancers have gone, seeing that red twine on a darkened stage, would an aura exist? Is there a magical quality to that bare ground, so carefully demarcated? I would say, yes, to a sensitive reader there is, because there is an intentional architecture, much like a temple or church, just much more minimalist. Haiku likewise possess an intentional architecture; hence natively embody natural and nuministic aspects of being.
 
These days I watch Sumo on television; the dohyo, or fighting square, is a sacred space. Rikishi (wrestlers) climb the steps and enter the outer-square area throwing salt, an act of purification, as they step across the sacred rope boundary embedded within the clay ground, into the inner ring. Above, a temple roof hangs suspended, emblemizing the divine. Such an arrangement of objects in space is an example of an archetypal sacred architecture, explored in Eliade’s works. The sense of sacred space existing or inhabiting cultural constructions is no doubt a deeply archaic if not intrinsic aspect of the human spirit. Haiku as poems are a bit like that length of red twine, though the boundaries and evidences of sacrality may appear more subtly. An objectively intentional aspect exists, not necessarily in the poem itself, but in the fact that sacred space inhabits the poem, the genre, out of which the poem presents new ideas of reality. Isn’t this what is implied by the term “poetic tradition.” The oldest of the old follows behind us in our thinking and yet it comes to meet us.
 
mirai yori taki o fukiwaru kaze kitaru
 
From the future 
a wind arrives 
that blows the waterfall apart 
            (Ban’ya Natsuishi, A Future Waterfall, Red Moon Press, 2nd ed., 2004)
 
In that art is an offering to the cosmos, the reader is returned by that offering to a cosmic sense or scene. Returned to the world purified and renewed by the “first” moment, the moment before creation.
 
Rising from the sea shedding the tank it’s surprising to be distant from fish, feeling weightless in the strangeness of air. What was that dreamlike place, filled with unblinking creatures, turtles with flippers, sharks large enough to blot out a far-off sun? The twine like sunlight is imaginal, extending along an invisible line between land and sea. Returning, vivid instants of memory quickly fade as a drop of ocean coheres within, adamantine. It is for that one drop so pure and crystalline that haiku seem to speak.
 
RW: You stated in your paper, The Disjunctive Dragonfly, "In virtually every aspect of haiku (form, metrics, content, kireji, kigo, etc.) the Japanese genre from Bashō onward reveals complexity and creative experiment, marked by a diversity of schools and sensibilities. One school or style cannot definitively be said to be more "proper" than another." Care to elucidate?
 
RG: Bashō articulated the concept of fueki ryūkō:
 
“eternal truth – trend, vogue” 
 
不易流行 (ふえきりゅうこう)
 
which has been translated as ‘immutable mutability.’ This paradoxical concept indicates that while there may be eternal verities, one moment is not the same as another, and one time or era is not the same as another; there is progression. So in order to properly articulate truth, one necessarily inhabits the zeitgeist. If “fashion” were not significant, we could simply curl up with Bashō forever and never need compose another poem. That sort of idea seems decidedly contrary to his radical spirit. In each era there are new developments or unique articulations, and these also serve to inform later generations of poets.
 
RW: In a book review you wrote about Ban’ya Natsuishi's book A Future Waterfall: 100 Haiku from the Japanese, you state: "Throughout the past century, Japanese haiku culture has undergone a kind of reverse-mirror process to that in the West: a national, classical poetic form has been reformed, abandoned, rediscovered, and extended numerous times, as poets brought together their classical tradition with modernity." Why is this so?
 
RG: Yes, this is what I was discussing above, how gendai haiku in Japan have encountered and met numerous challenges of modern art and historical movements over the last 12 decades.
 
RW: You say "Haiku comes from the Earth." Please explain.
 
RG: This is a topic I hope to pursue at length in the future. Here are some speculations and two poetic excerpts, as partial explanation. Do you often contemplate the questions “what is poetry,” and, “what is haiku”? What is it about haiku that create their distinct taste? And, what do we mean by the Earth? As you approach the question, what do you think of first—and last? I just thought of sneakers, dreams and the smell of a skunk at night, visualizing its longitudinal white stripe running down a black back. What I’m reporting to you is subjective and phenomenological—I’m relating personal experience. We participate in the shared images I just offered, through language. A smell, a dream, an object—to what extent are these symbols—that sneaker (a bit dirty, untied, white and just inside a front door) has been somewhere, is representative of feet, persons on the move—childhood, perhaps, a sport. Every sneaker tells a story. But it’s also just what it is—an image. Its existence is psychological in the original meaning of the term: a logos of psyche, an aspect of the soul’s knowing, or depth. When we slow down and contemplate any image we begin to unfold and the world deepens—the world comes to us. This is a rather poetic statement, but if you’ll permit me, the sneaker you image and mine are different, with the qualitative differences impossible to sort out. My moon is not your moon and our moons are shared. Like the image, the poem is never singular. The image is diverse—as diverse as our communal human experiences of that image, and perhaps more. Any image in a poem has valence, varying with each reader. In pausing, contemplating, images take on “life” as we give them time, space, and attention; we attend to them, attend to their life, how they live, experience the nature of that life. By ‘image’ I don’t mean merely something visual: I’m largely following James Hillman’s view of images here (cf. Archetypal Psychology: A Brief Account).
 
Jung once said that it is not psyche which exists within man, but man who exists within psyche. It’s still a radical idea, that the world is soul. This idea is expressed in the ancient idea of Anima Mundi, the world soul. Poetry may have an enormous number of features, “mean” and act upon us in diverse ways, but for me its primary function is ensouling. I am nurtured, nourished and revivified by poetry. From this fact, I can acknowledge a phenomenological loss of soul, and a desire for learning—a desire to learn what soul has to teach: the way images bring life and depth, and through these, shared community. Also as good poetry is an adventure, curiosity cannot be discounted. Haiku encounter and create “image complexes in time,” to paraphrase Pound, in unique ways; they speak the world uniquely. While it may finally be impossible to define this uniqueness, it seems worth trying, if only for the journey. Haiku travel, they have velocity. Haiku instigate journeys—which continue, opening out—haiku are celebratory! There are many features to haiku: lightness, fragmentariness, concision, brevity, humor, disjunction, paradox, etc. Yet the relation between haiku and Earth seems particularly relevant. The two Wallace Stevens texts below (Opus Posthumous, pp. 88 and 115) point to approaches to haiku in relation to the Earth—realities:
 
THIS AS INCLUDING THAT
 
It is true that you live on this rock
And in it. It is wholly you.
It is true that there are thoughts
That move in the air as large as air,
That are almost not our own, but thoughts
To which we are related,
In an association like yours
With the rock and mine with you.
 
TWO LETTERS
 
In a secrecy of words
Opened out within a secrecy of place,
Not having to do with love.
A land would hold her in its arms that day
Or something like a land.
The circle would no longer be broken but closed.
The miles of its distance away
From everything would end. It would all meet.
 
RW: What one event or individual has had the greatest influence on you as a poet?
 
RG: Thank you, Abigail. Why did you leave, why did you never call?
 
RW: Haiku: To kigo or not to kigo?
 
RG: Do kigo exist in English? Or do you mean “season words,” “seasonal reference,” “seasonal theme”? Looking at what kigo are in Japanese haiku, it seems unfortunate that we use the Japanese word for something which is actually a different kettle of fish in our own literature. That being said, there seem to be two underlying issues. The first has to do with the traditional sense of Japanese haiku, which have kigo, developed from the hokku, and going back to renga, waka, and Chinese antecedents. The second issue has to do with nature. I would like to refer you to Hoshinaga Fumio’s comments [http://www.gendaihaiku.com/research/hoshinaga/interview2004.html] regarding kigo. He addresses certain language and cultural issues between Japan/non-Japanese haiku. Hoshinaga comes to kigo after discussing his means of composing haiku as “touch[ing] upon human heart and feeling by creating human mental images.” And earlier in the interview he states, "I do not believe the truth that the sea is blue. That I believe it is blue: an encompassing state of affairs that limits as blue, via the comprehension of my eyes: I believe only that."
 
I’m in sympathy with Hoshinaga’s perspective, which impinges on the use of kigo and seasonal reference, in that the sense of nature is irrupted out of realism. Hoshinaga concurs with the idea that, “You feel kigo through your heart (inner sense), not through seeing, touching, and so on.” His is a perspective that avoids the psychic poverty and bad poetry involved in literalism.
 
For me, the pith arrives in Hoshinaga’s statement that, "The Japanese sense of nature is in harmony, or the harmony of — person (human being) and nature [— no separation —] in its widest sense. Without the sense of harmony with nature, Japanese literature would become very weak. So to write about nature—from that position— embodies traditional haiku, and my position is the same."
 
Harmony as ‘no separation,’ in its widest sense, between man and nature. So, I would say that kigo or seasonal reference can create a sense of environment in haiku, which has been part of the traditional context, and is part of the modern as well. Yet it remains an open question as to what ‘environment’ pertains to. The question “what is nature” is likewise a poetic challenge. Hoshinaga also states, “sometimes you have to write naked.”
 
Kigo generally have a literary and evocative power in Japanese that does not exist in English—and can be highly idiosyncratic. Who would have thought that “athlete’s foot” (mizumushi) is found in kigo compendiums, or that the word “obscure” (oboro) would be a spring kigo (as it implies dreamlike, foggy), mist being a kigo phenomenon of spring.
 
There are now several projects afoot to create official kigo bestiaries for English haiku. As such projects move forward it seems important that modern Japanese literary history concerning the reasons why kigo have been resisted, subverted and rejected is accounted for in our own kigo programs. I’m not sure if we would want a haiku genre in which athlete’s foot must equal summer, and a rule for haiku in which “athlete’s foot” and “mist” cannot co-exist in the same haiku. After all, it’s a formal rule of kigo that there can be only one in a haiku.
 
In English we are used to a sense of freedom in terms of what can be allowed into haiku by topic and association—what sorts of relationships can occur. Using kigo as they have been applied in Japan, many types of objects and phenomena cannot co-exist. You’d have a lot of trouble getting a magnolia into an autumn haiku. It happens that this year in Kumamoto we’ve had unseasonably warm weather following two typhoons; consequently an ancient cherry tree in Haksui Village has bloomed in October. But you can’t mention this astounding occurrence in a haiku, unless it’s a gendai haiku—you’d be breaking kigo rules. Kigo can create social bureaucratizations of reality. In a haiku circle I belong to, I just received the message that we are to write on two kigo for our next meeting: ‘snow in a blue sky,’ and, ‘winter chill.’ Well, it barely snows in Kumamoto city in a given year, and it’s also been unseasonably warm. How could it have come to this, I wonder. It is difficult for us to entirely grasp the reasons why Hoshinaga and many other modern haiku writers have come to subvert kigo. I think we need to temper our kigo zeal, and not make the destructive critical choices that have occurred in some Japanese literary societies. I hope that consideration is given to the consequences of ordering and dissecting phenomenal reality into vapid sugar-plum visions of seasonal appropriateness. Our haiku thinking seems too often to be both restrictive and parochial as it is; why step backwards into artifice? At the same time, there is plenty of middle ground. I like Hoshinaga’s phrase “sense of environment.” I think it’s a useful idea, though more definitive in the Japanese context. As you know, I quoted Haruo Shirane’s expansive definition of haiku in Disjunctive Dragonfly (in the unabridged version here: http://www.gendaihaiku.com/research/):
 
Echoing the spirit of Bashō's own poetry . . . haiku in English is a short poem, usually written in one to three lines, that seeks out new and revealing perspectives on the human and physical condition, focusing on the immediate physical world around us, particularly that of nature, and on the workings of the human imagination, memory, literature and history. . . . this definition is intended both to encourage an existing trend and to affirm new space that goes beyond existing definitions of haiku (“Beyond the haiku moment: Bashō, Buson, and modern haiku myths.” Modern Haiku, 31:1, 48-63. p. 60).
 
It’s a general definition, written in the modern spirit which allows for a later discussion of technique and specific formal properties. One can see that haiku are not being defined by any particular technique or restriction on language use—kigo is not mentioned, nor is seasonal reference. Rather haiku “is a short poem . . . that seeks out,” and has a primary focus on, “the immediate physical world around us, particularly that of nature” (rather than a definitional focus on season specifically), and by conjunction extends to “the workings of the human imagination, memory, literature and history.” It’s a definition befitting the validation of haiku as a serious literary genre.
 
Reading Shirane’s definition over and comparing it with the new Haiku Society of America (HSA) definitions of haiku and related forms just published, I think a great opportunity has been lost. Discussing the HSA definitions will require another forum, but the quoted material below is relevant to Shirane’s definition by way of contrast: "Metaphors and similes [in haiku] in the simple sense of these terms do sometimes occur, but not frequently. A discussion of what might be called “deep metaphor” or symbolism in haiku is beyond the range of this definition (HSA Newsletter, vol. XIX, 4, November 2004)."
 
This rather obtuse if not tortured language seems problematic. I’d like to offer the following 10 inquiries to the above two sentences.
 
  1. There are haiku existing which are “beyond the range” of the definition of haiku being given. What kind of definition is that? Wouldn’t this really be a definition of “certain varieties of haiku” rather than “haiku”? 
  2. What does “deep metaphor” mean? It’s not a known literary term, so 
  3. what is it doing in a definition, without explanation? 
  4. What exactly is the “simple sense” of a metaphor or simile in poetry or literature? Since this is not illustrated,
  5. why is it assumed that we would all agree with whatever that would be for haiku (imagine how the reader unfamiliar with haiku might be confused by the use of these terms)?
  6. The idea that symbolism “is beyond the range of this definition” as much implies that haiku are mainly non-symbolic—though it’s known that a number of exemplary haiku, classical and modern, utilize varieties of symbolism—is quantity to be valued over quality? In any case, 
  7. haiku utilizing symbolism (whatever that might be—it remains unclear) are “outside the range” (reach) of a definition. How hard is it, really, 
  8. to include symbolism in haiku within the range of a definition? The upshot is that, 
  9. haiku which utilize any ‘out of range’ techniques are marginalized; by definition. 
  10. It seems that the HSA definition isn’t defining haiku at all, it’s defining a restricted variety of haiku and leaving ‘out of range,’ and hence out of visibility, varieties, features and qualities of exemplary haiku which it hints at, or dismisses (with the term “beyond”).
 
The definition put forth seems mainly that of what can be called a traditionalist haiku in English. I am amazed that the various ideas put forward in the last few years regarding haiku and the modern spirit both in America and Japan have been almost completely ignored here—with the nods to “deep metaphor” and “beyond the range” acting to mystify.
 
RW: The love for haiku and writing haiku has become a global affair, thanks in part to the internet and other electronic media. Yet there is a diversity of styles and teaching as to what haiku is and isn't. This has been confusing at times. One school of thought teaches this, another school of thought teaches that. Is there a common thread between these schools of thought?
 
RG: I think this question is difficult to answer without looking at specifics. Briefly though, I would say that haiku is a global genre that exists as a multitude of separate, autonomous literatures—I like your word, “affair.” We can discuss the global genre, but the idea of a “global literature” seems problematic, not least because of language issues—which leads to your next question.
 
RW: A follow up question. As the world becomes a closer-knit community via electronic access, will there be a symbiosis of synergy and focus regarding the understanding and composition of haiku?
 
RG: I think an energetic symbiosis has been occurring, to everyone’s benefit. There are some political questions, for instance the problem (and promise) inherent in the prevalence of English (or any one language) as an international means of communication; and associated issues of cultural ignorance and insensitivity. These issues or tensions wouldn’t exist, however, without the ongoing act of sharing, publication and interactive worldwide communication. Also, in that the haiku world is one of small publications, it is exciting to find online sites such as your own developing where haiku resources persist and are easily and instantly available and searchable. As I mentioned above though, if we consider that global haiku is not literature but “literatures,” we can expect diversity, idiosyncrasy, hybridization rather than lowest-common-denominator similitude, because haiku exist most strongly in their particulars and uniqueness, rather than purely in their universals. Tolmin, Slovenia is not yet L.A., thank god, and Kumamoto is definitely not Tokyo.
 
RW: One final question. What is the biggest fallacy propagated today in regards to the writing and understanding of haiku?
 
RG: Well, I’m very much a student of haiku and particularly living in Japan, ever the neophyte, I hope that my own fallacies will be amended over time, and don’t want to put myself in the position of the expert haiku knower. My writing for this interview has been speculative and extemporaneous—you’ve given me a platform and context I don’t normally have, and I thank you for the opportunity.
 
In terms of fallacies, there are various levels of fallacy. I am saddened by the new HSA definitions, as you’ve gathered. I feel they promote and maintain limited views of haiku which have plagued the critical theory in English for decades. Probably though, the most tragic fallacy is one which hasn’t been promoted by the main haiku community for some years, that English haiku are composed of 5-7-5 English syllables.
 
In general, strict haiku definitions seem problematic for the reason that such definitions lead to fallacies of restrictive validation, with the result that the genre can’t be taken seriously, in terms of how it critically defines itself. I mean, the great poems contradict the definitions! In both cases the fallacy is one of an imagined purity (of form, style, etc.) that ends up being reductive and short-sighted in terms of how it treats both the genre and poets. I think this sort of fallacy is about done, because many are interested in moving beyond an imagined “pure” traditionalism. In saying this, I hope my appreciation for Bashō, for instance, is evident. I contemplate his work on a daily basis. However, in many ways, modern works are tremendously exciting and inspiring—fresh and alive. The biggest fallacy we have may be that the best haiku arrive from the past. Likely, haiku come to meet us from the future, as remembrance.
 
 
 

The Spirit of Freedom
Aspects of Contemporary Haiku
 
Richard Gilbert talks with Udo Wenzel
(Originally appeared in Haiku Heute, 2007)
 
 
 
Udo Wenzel: Since the nineties you have been living, teaching and researching in Japan at Kumamoto University. During this time you have gotten a deeper insight into contemporary Japanese haiku life. Besides so-called “traditional haiku” there are also “gendai (modern) haiku.” What are the main differences between these two trends?
 
Richard Gilbert: Prior to my arrival in Japan, like most of my American-poet friends, I had virtually no knowledge of gendai haiku, was looking forward to researching the classical tradition and haiku fundaments. It was only after living here for a couple of years that I began reading more gendai haiku, and meeting poets. I can say that I found the poetry, techniques, and critical ideas to be eye-opening.
 
Your question about the differences between gendai and traditional haiku is challenging, because a reasonable answer involves a bit of relevant history, and not only aesthetic but also socio-political considerations. Ito Yūki (Ph.D. candidate, Kumamoto University), has just completed an article on the origins and evolution of gendai haiku, tentatively titled, “New Rising Haiku: The Evolution of Modern Japanese Haiku and the Haiku Persecution Incident”  [http://gendaihaiku.com/ito/new-rising-haiku.htm]. He focuses especially on the wartime persecution of the New Rising Haiku poets – instrumental to an understanding of contemporary Japanese haiku. Unfortunately, his paper has not yet been published; in fact, it’s not certain he can easily publish it. Below, I’ll paraphrase from two relevant sections (though would have preferred to quote directly).
 
 
In the early 20th century, Takahama Kyoshi, one of the two main disciples of Masaoka Shiki, presided over the Hototogisu group (and its journal), which he had inherited from Shiki. Due to his dictatorial and uncompromising style, by the 1920s, several prominent poets had broken with him. Paraphrasing Ito, the ‘New Rising Haiku movement’ (shinkô haiku undô) wished to compose haiku on new subjects, and utilize techniques and topics related to contemporary social life. These poets frequently wrote haiku without kigo (muki-teki haiku), and explored non-traditional subjects, such as social inequity, utilizing avant‑garde styles including surrealism, etc. Therefore, along with aesthetic and technique differences, the New Rising Haiku poets, who began the gendai (modern) haiku movement in earnest, had strong philosophical, sociological and intellectual differences with Hototogisu and Kyoshi. During the war, over 40 New Rising Haiku poets were persecuted; they were imprisoned and tortured, and some died in prison. These progressive poets were also made to sign false confessions and denounce their own and others’ poetry and thought. Various progressive journals were banned and printing presses destroyed. Many of these poets, after a stay in prison, were sent to the front lines of the war. Ito writes that Takahama Kyoshi became the president of a haiku branch of the fascist government culture-control/propaganda group known as The Japanese Literary Patriotic Organization (nihon bungaku hôkoku kai), which was devoted to both censorship and persecution, along with a host of other war crimes. At the time, the Director of the society was Ono Bushi, whose title was: The Agent of Investigation of the Minds of the Nation’s Citizens (kokumin jyôsô chosa iin). Perhaps the most notorious statement published by Ono reads:
 
I will not allow haiku even from the most honorable person, from left-wing, or progressive, or anti-war, groups to exist. If such people are found in the haiku world, we had better persecute them, and they should be punished. This is necessary. (Kosakai, 169; trans. by Ito, with Gilbert)
 
At least one poet who survived imprisonment reported that he was commanded by the Secret Police to “write haiku in the style of Hototogisu” (Kosakai, 79). According to the fascist‑traditionalists, to write haiku without kigo meant anti-tradition, which in turn meant anti-Imperial order and high treason. As such, all New Rising Haiku was to be annihilated. Ito writes, “We are reminded of how the Nazis preserved so-called pure nationalist art, while persecuting the modern styles of so‑called ‘degenerate art.’” (Cf.Kosakai, Shôzô. (1979). Mikoku: Showa haiku danatsu jiken [Betrayer/Informer: Showa era haiku persecution]. Tokyo: Daimondo.)
 
One sees that, historically, “freedom of expression” in the gendai haiku movement was not an idle aesthetic notion. A significant context to modern Japanese haiku history links certain influential persons and groups promoting traditionalist haiku culture with Japanese national-socialism. It would be a mistake to assume, regarding these facts, that traditional approaches are inherently lacking or that traditional haiku culture is by nature nationalist, particularly these days – however, history leaves little to the imagination; more light needs to be shed on these facts, if only so that people outside of Japan can obtain a clearer understanding the context of gendai haiku.
 
The war ended half a century ago, and much of this information has been surprisingly hard to dig up, Ito has found. Clearly, the spirit of the gendai poets in the face of fascism, repression and persecution is laudable. The liberal, democratic spirit and freedom of expression exhibited by the New Rising Haiku poets remains at the core of gendai haiku.
Udo Wenzel:In the West, we know especially the “traditional haiku” or the classical haikai of the Edo-period, while gendai haiku is almost unknown here. Do gendai haiku appear in the literary public in Japan, in comparable measure to traditional haiku?
 
Richard Gilbert: Yes, definitely. There are likely several reasons for the lack of knowledge of gendai haiku in the West. First, there has been a strong focus on the classical tradition, as a traditional and well-established aspect of Japanese high culture and art. We might see this as a general cross-cultural convention; for example in the study of canonical Anglo-American literature here in Japan, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, and Austen may be academically valued in a way that 20th century authors are not. Conversely, there has been a stronger interest in Heian-era writers, The Tale of Genji, haiku of Bashō, that is, mainstays of the canon, in American studies of Japanese literature.
 
A second reason for the lack of knowledge of gendai works may have to do with the complexities of modern culture, and modernity. Classical works and authors have an established body of criticism and historical treatises to support research, compared with the modern era; their value is not usually questioned, while modern reputations tend not to be firmly established (in fact, a number of postwar gendai haiku poets are still living). Accelerations of history, rapidity of cultural change, and language reformation also play a role, and not just in Japan. As well, the gendai movement has been anti-establishment – perhaps another reason why academic acceptance, particularly outside Japan, has been slow. It may also be that the poetic techniques and references found within gendai poetry are interpretively challenging. The esteem now expressed for Santōka for instance is relatively recent (as Hoshinaga Fumio reports). So, this reason is related to the first, and has to do with interest and cultural value, both within and outside Japan.
 
Another reason may have to do with a combination of language, geography and literary aptitude, concerning translators and translation. As well as interest in gendai haiku, one needs knowledge of Japanese, colleagues, co-translators, and some integration into gendai society. Else, how is one to cope with, for instance, irony, nuance of era, sarcasm, cultural reference, slang, elements of wordplay, etc.? Translations from Japanese as well need to have power in whatever target language they arrive in, to create poetic impact. Generally speaking, when the co-translators are competent poets in their mutual native languages, the results stand a better chance than those produced by academicians or prose translators without a strong background in poetic composition. One of the problems with historical haiku translations has been an over-reliance on dictionary translation from afar, combined with a lack of familiarity with the cultural and linguistic contexts involved. This is especially true with concepts of kigo, ideas of naturalism in haiku, and syllable counting, among other issues.
 
Udo Wenzel: Why do we find here (in the West), where modern poetry has arisen, an interest primarily on the so-called traditional haiku? If you ask those responsible in publishing houses, you will hear that only the classical Japanese haiku is saleable. From where are these blinkers are coming? Is the gendai haiku - because of its content and structure - harder to understand in a foreign culture than the image which one might have of the “traditional haiku”?  Or, is the West ever searching for something else, which is not available here?
 
Richard Gilbert: It is a bit ironic, isn’t it? I think I’ve touched on these topics in the above responses, but can add some remarks. Certainly, there are linguists, rhetoricians, Asian Studies researchers, scholars of culture, etc., investigating modern haiku around the world, though they are working for the most part in Japanese. For whatever reason, one sees few professional articles on gendai haiku. Looking to those groups involved in haiku, in North America, serious interest in haiku in English is not very great, judging by the small number of relevant journals, and one wonders about the future of this fledging genre. Within these American haiku groups, there has been a predilection for ‘strict’ traditionalist-classicist approaches. This is not always a bad thing when trying to establish ground rules, definitions, and compositional guidelines for a young sub-genre. On the other hand, many published haiku are formulaic, lack authorial creativity, and possess little sense of language creativity. At this point in time, the old guard which has presided over the North American scene for some decades is being enriched and provoked, if not replaced, by new views and voices. The interest in gendai haiku is part of this enlargement of the possibilities for, and valuations of, haiku in English. 
 
The future of haiku as an international genre remains unclear. There is not yet a poet in North America who has achieved wider recognition as a haiku poet, and one wonders how seriously haiku will be taken until this occurs. Notwithstanding, haiku do not need to first become popular in order to be highly valued, so it’s my hope that new anthologies and critical essays will be published which select fresh and excellent haiku, from an expansive viewpoint, and discuss them, as we are only beginning to realize the potency of this new poetic form.
 
Udo Wenzel: You are engaged intensively with the problematics of kigo (Japanese seasonal words), and seasonal reference. Following your proposal, the transfer of the Japanese kigo concept or kigo culture into the west is very problematic. Would you please explain why?
 
Richard Gilbert:  I think we have been utilizing something we call ‘kigo’ in English-language haiku, assuming there is a simple relationship between the word and its naturalistic indication. That is, “spring moon” or “autumn night” is exactly that, right? These words merely indicate the season, and provide a background ‘natural’ environment for the scene of the poem. What I’ve learned, and attempted to write about in the kigo articles, is that the naturalistic depiction of season is not the most significant connotation of kigo, in Japan. The paradigmatic differences are so striking, it seems best not to use the term “kigo” at all, outside of its Japanese context, and rather to stick with “seasonal reference” to avoid conflation and misinterpretation. In reality, kigo do not ‘belong’ to haiku, it’s the other way round. Haiku participate in kigo culture, a complex, idiosyncratic, aesthetic literary environment stemming from ancient Chinese literature and culture, creatively adumbrated and evolved over the many centuries of Japanese literature and genius. It is a cultural treasure, and does not seem universalizable. We no longer live in the kind of Confucian/feudal/aristocratic/mythic/animist pre-industrial world out of which centuries of kigo have been spawned, nor are we an island culture with a single ‘local’ context and set of myths. It is unfortunate that the literal translation of “kigo” is “seasonal reference,” because kigo, if taken in their purely literal sense lose nearly all of their (Japanese contextual) poetic resonance.
 
Another aspect of this misfortune for “kigo in English” is the historical emphasis placed on naïve imagism in haiku. The ‘thing in itself’ and ideas of ‘direct observation/depiction of the image’ (qua Imagism), which have resulted in the primacy of the realistic, naturalistic image in haiku, involves a savaging of the haiku environment. If this idea of “sketch of life” as applied to the naturalistic haiku is held to be a primary impetus and expression of Japanese haiku it is both mistaken and reductive – not just in relation to gendai haiku, but to the haiku of Bashō as well. How can the image (or image-schema) arrive which connotes more than naturalism or literalism, without leaving these entirely behind?  Perhaps the creation of a novel kigo culture is a fool’s errand, but kigo is not what are most fundamental to haiku, in any case. If this were true, haiku would lack the universality they clearly possess.
 
For a further discussion of kigo, I’d like to recommend the first paper on the list shown here: http://www.gendaihaiku.com/research/kigo.html
 
Udo Wenzel:  As a result of your teaching activities in Japan you came across various complex problems related to the syllable in haiku. How many syllables does a haiku need to be a haiku, or are we following, here in the West, certain wrong suggestions about what is counted in the Japanese Haiku?
 
Richard Gilbert: The question of ‘syllable’ counting is not all that complex, until you begin looking closely at the linguistics of it. One of the early surprises I encountered in Japan was that no one I met here, including haiku professors and scholars, knew the word “onji.” This surprise resulted in my first research paper written here: “Stalking the Wild Onji,” which details the whys and wherefores of syllable counting, which terms are used here, and some basic information about the history of haiku terms. The short answer is that Japanese people usually use the word “on” which means “sounds” for counting. And, “sounds” are not syllables. So we can say that most Japanese haiku have 17-on (sounds).
 
The article on “onji” I mentioned is available here:
 
 
Or as a PDF here:
 
 
I am not a trained linguist, but was helped in my research by two professors of applied linguistics, Judy Yoneoka, and Masahiro Hori, both at Kumamoto Gakuen University (and both bilingual). Judy Yoneoka and I wrote a long paper on haiku metrics, which can be found here:
 
 
or as a PDF here:
 
 
What we were able to experimentally show in our findings, corroborated by linguistics research, is that there is no one-to-one relationship between Japanese “sounds (-on),” and Indo-European-language-based syllables (we stick to English in our paper, so my expansion remains hypothetical). One reason for this fact is that Japanese is a moraic language, that is, ‘syllable-timed,’ while English is accentual-syllabic. Rather than a simplistic one-to-one syllabic relationship with -on, we found instead an accord at a ‘higher’ level of organization, that of the metrical template. What this means in practice is that the ‘best’ emulation of the Japanese verity is not and cannot be based on any set number of syllables. This idea is solipsistic, a linguistic dead end. Rather it seems one needs to consider phonetic rhythm, stress and (musical) time in accentual-syllabic language, in relation to (linguistic) metrical pattern.
 
We were able to demonstrate how haiku in English with six syllables accord well with 17-on Japanese haiku and were able to show how haiku in English with over 17 (English) syllables can also metrically accord with Japanese haiku form. Notwithstanding the potential variability of syllables possible in haiku in English, there are limits related to the metrical template of haiku, and we suggested that this metrical sense not only seems to govern the genre in English, but that almost all haiku compositions written and published in English serendipitously follow the metrical stylism we observed. The metrical template of 8-8-8 (three linked metrical phrases of 8 ‘pulses’), works as an identity between the two languages, Japanese and English. By ‘metrical’ I do not mean poetic scansion (not the idea of regular poetic meter), but refer to an underlying time structure apparent within haiku phrasing. The paper shown in the links above looks at the issue in more detail.
 
Udo Wenzel: You emanated from the American Beat tradition. In your early days, you had contact with writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder on the West Coast. They were less interested in kigo and syllable counting; from their beginnings on, they hoped more to achieve a sense of Zen-content in haiku. How do you see the importance of Zen for haiku today?
 
Richard Gilbert: I arrived at Naropa University at the age of 26. Prior to that, by 1978 a friend and I had founded “The Plant”, an arts organization in Danbury, Connecticut; I had published poetry in a few small journals. I grew up as an isolated bassoon-playing kid and early on got into geodesics, taking the train down to New York City’s “Town Hall” to attend lectures given by Buckminster Fuller. When in the 10th grade, our high school got a Moog synthesizer, which they stuck in a closet that I inhabited when not reading science fiction. Sometime later, I was accepted into the Department of Electronic Music at Hampshire College, at that time a world-class scene; but penniless, moved into a South Norwalk, Connecticut, slum. After two years of selling high-end audio gear in Norwalk, doing electronics work, welding whatever I could melt, and rebuilding some motorcycles and sports cars, I moved to Danbury, Connecticut, and became an apprentice engine rebuilder. This lasted about five years. The pay got me through a chunk of college as a Math/Computer Science major. Later, I joined a union shop as Director of Electronics Component Assembly at a steam power plant factory. My department assembled and tested the control panels for the steam generators we built for ships, schools and hospitals. Dickensian dinge toxic paint fumes no ventilation and noxious waste; you’re close to the money.
 
So, “The Plant” had an ironic connotation. “The Plant” was a revelation. A Friday night café society was created above a bar in the middle of town, in the midst of this violent, isolative society of immigrant Danbury, which spawned workshops, exhibitions and arts festivals. Around this time, a dancer friend, Colleen, who had driven with some friends cross-country, returned with glowing reports of the Naropa summer symposium, commanding me: “you have to go there.” After looking into the courses, I saved my shekels. Around this time I hired the first African-American worker in my company, who also happened to be the first woman hired to work the assembly floor. I was fired less than six weeks later under false pretences (she wasn’t, as she was in the union). As I had read Chogyam Trungpa’s Myth of Freedom and Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, I was, on the one hand, hungry for spiritual knowledge, while on the other paranoid concerning the possibility of some sort of cultish brainwashing at the hands of those weird people living in the mountains of Boulder, Colorado, at some wacko school 2000 miles from my home stomping ground.
 
When I arrived in my rebuilt van, December 1980 (possessions contained within), I slept for two weeks in the parking lot of the International House of Pancakes and ate at same, until taken in by Larry who was on the dole due to his psychosis – he had an extra room. I was less stable then he, and grateful for his kindness to a stranger. (In a weird twist of fate, eight years later I became his therapist for a short while.)  A few weeks later, during Naropa Registration Day, I was yanked on the arm by Frank Berliner, then-Director of Shambhala Training, who looked me in the eye and said, “Have you ever done meditation, do you want to learn? Do you want me to be your instructor? I’ll be your instructor.” As an alienated, depressed mess it was hard to say yes or no I just showed up a week later to give it a try and the rest is history.
 
I’m not really answering your question, except perhaps to point out that though I became involved in Tibetan Buddhism and committed to meditation practice and training, I’ve never located the perfect hot dog. Naropa and meditation have been two of the great blessings of my life, and there are many people to whom I owe a debt of gratitude, including Frank Berliner, Chogyam Trungpa, Barbara Dilley, Paul Ortel, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Patricia Donegan, Lisa Haight, Shari Cuzelis, Lomi practitioners, dance therapy teachers, and many others. Naropa was at that time an unaccredited school of some 120 degree-attending students and a pretty wild and open situation. My experience is that poetry can’t be taught and meditation insight can’t be taught; however, teachers can open their minds to you in various ways, offer critical feedback, design various experiential happenings, practices, workshops, studies, and the like. My teachers were at times able to enrich my presence via their own, and extensive permission was given to explore presence, perception, and technique. I already had a sense of what “The Real Work” was (in Gary Snyder’s terms), and Naropa represented my first Real education, in terms of institutional possibilities. It was a lot easier than getting hot sulphuric acid off engine blocks – at first. Later, the moon cried “Mary”; I lost all hope and sense of self. Much later, it was those engines which led to an experience of the interiority of haiku, their cosmic alchemy, and I began to understand the power of alchemy in the elements of welding, burring, surfacing, quenching the psyche – the sensuousness and sheen of surfaces in the shops where I’d been annealing improvisational skills along with valve seats. In this manner I began to understand more of the human.
.
I think the question of Zen in haiku, or meditation and poetry (and the arts) is a touchy one and tends to float off to the aetheric heights, and thereby loose soul. I don’t believe there is a “Zen haiku” as such, only people who think that’s what they are. There are haiku that do relate directly to Zen experience, just as there are baseball and tennis haiku. That said, there is a long and noble history of Zen interpretation, or a "Zen reading" or "Zen treatment" of haiku in Japan, although not generally outside of Zen institutions. A somewhat similar sense of interpretation can be found in R. H. Blyth, whose voluminous works were a direct inspiration for the Beats (as described in Jack Kerouac's novel, The Dharma Bums). Due to this interpretive focus in North America at least, it seems that historically a Zen-like interpretation has been at times over-emphasized to the point of displacing or strongly mis-interpreting the main intention and even brilliance of haiku as a literary art. Blyth himself, his brilliance and knowledge of Zen notwithstanding, was not an involved practitioner of Zen in the traditional Japanese sense, if by that we mean 'a practicing meditator within a school and lineage, studying under a teacher generally acknowledged to be accomplished in Zen practice,' nor have been the bulk of western commentators who have applied Zen-like interpretations to haiku. There is a long history in Japan of utilizing certain haiku in association with koan practice in the Rinzai-school tradition, and Zen culture and perspectives may have much to say about haiku; at the same time, interpretation is not poetry but rather an avenue of discussion, usually directed to a certain purpose or goal. Bashō opened hokku to the field of mind, and thereby made what would later be coined “haiku” into a high art; Bashō composed haiku (hokku), not Zen haiku. In Buddhism, there are three jewels, the Buddha who serves as an example of actual human possibility; the dharma, which is the teachings; and sangha, one’s community. Usually, “sangha” refers to the community of fellow practitioners, a sort of insider’s group. Yet in a talk about sangha, Shunryu Suzuki once remarked, “Sangha is whatever awakens you.” In this sense, haiku may be sangha. It depends on you.
 
Udo Wenzel: Finally, would you please introduce some of your own haiku?
 
Richard Gilbert: I’d like to introduce three haiku:
 
a nun beats a drum;
fretful by the shrine
at nightfall
 
a drowning man
pulled into violet worlds
grasping hydrangea
 
dedicated to the moon
I rise
without a decent alibi
 
Published in NOON: Journal of the Short Poem, volume 1, pp. 25-27 (Tokyo: 2004). http://noonpoetry.com
 
Udo Wenzel: Thank you very much for the interview.
 

A Brilliant Literature: Robert Wilson Interviews Professor Richard Gilbert Part I (2008)
Robert D. Wilson and Richard Gilbert
 
(Originally appeared in Simply Haiku 6:4, Winter 2008)
 
RW: You've written a book (Poems of Consciousness, Red Moon Press 2008) that will affect the way people in the English speaking world look at and understand haiku and related genres. It's a long overdue book, Dr. Gilbert. Most of what has been written in scholarly terms about haiku has been penned by elderly scholars years ago, the likes of Donald Keene, Makoto Ueda, R. H. Blyth, Henderson, et al. Haiku is not a stationary entity. It continually evolves. What was written in the past about the genre doesn't necessarily hold true for today any more than what was written about in the past about music theory holds true in regard to today's music and our understanding of it.
 
Tell us your motive behind the writing of your new book. How has our understanding of haiku evolved in the past two decades and what is lacking in the same arena? And why is it imperative that we look to Japanese scholar/poets for direction and insight?
 
RG: My main motive has been curiosity and wonder. A mythology: a child looks at a wall socket, imagines wires behind walls tracking them back to the regional electric grid, the nature of electrons flashing on time's origin, the big bang. Fleeting images build multiple templates which become interpenetrating worldviews. A dream or vision of the ability to ken, to evoke a panoply of realities, accept complexities of multiple divergent realities—to "enlarge" reality, as Wallace Stevens urged. Summer days spent staring into sky: the gossamer sensation of existence. It's hard to separate haiku and the world. Near a Connecticut beach wishing to live beneath the water. The way its surface touches the deep.
 
"Mythology is a song. It is the song of imagination, inspired by the energies of the body" (The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell & Bill Moyers, Anchor Books, 1991, p.27)."Mythology is the poetics of the body singing about our cellular truth. Myth is a poem of the experience of being embodied and our somatic journey" (Stanley Keleman, Myth and the Body: a colloquy with Joseph Campbell, Center Press, 1999, p. xiii).
 
 
We, bipedal creatures possessing forward-mounted stereoscopic eyes, a pair of five-fingered hands: articulations of "energies of the body" into myth and song represent the imprint of human being, a scryer's visionary response to questions of being and identity, the question of who and what we are. A trail winds back into the space of silence, the space of history, the space of mind. In the poetry of Snyder, in the attitude of Thoreau's long essay "Walking," in Bashō's pilgrimages to ancient locales—and then there's Nenten Tsubouchi, a gendai poet, who seeks out hippos in zoos. [http://gendaihaiku.com/tsubouchi/nenten-tsubouchi-haiku.htm]. What have we come to? I think our contemporary era is uniquely reflected in Tsubouchi's excursions. Ezra Pound declaimed, "Make it new" and Bashō said much the same thing, if from a different perspective—each succeeding era necessarily writes its own eternity. What gendai haiku offer is a taste of that eternity, via the sensate manner of the image. To riff on this analogy, in the West from Escoffier on, great chefs have known that the nuance of taste involves smell, the pleasure of the eye, and memory. That "moment" of taste is not an "a-ha," but rather an extraordinarily complex scenario, in which multiple perceptions and cognitive "templates" merge and conspire to move one on, "enlarging" the gestalt of being.
 
 
Having a sense of "era" seems fundamental to gendai haiku. Among the many surprises found from studying haiku in Japan, the notion that "era" is as important to the poet as "self" or "place" or "season" has occasioned a re-orientation of my own poetic intentions.
 
In the pre-industrial, pre-scientific world, the passions contained in myth offered psychic structure, landscapes and "story" (stories as bodies, embodiments). Yet the old stories no longer contain us. How might it be possible to inspire the energies of the bodies of the future, as song? In that poetry represents an artful integration of consciousness and body, what modes might inspire depth and a greater sensitivity of vision? What will nourish us, as we move past nine billion at the end of the fossil-fuel age? The old myths died long ago. Lions, trees and elephants enter dreams; underfoot the grass, leaves falling beneath olive trees seen through panes of glass. Living deep in the bowels of the city, that sun. The dividing line between dream, imagination, technology, and the environment seems to be blurring exponentially and it isn't clear if we will remain.
 
To the question of care, an increasingly central question, gendai haiku offer the reader the shape of who we are in the shape of things to come, in resonance with archaic myth, the formal insights of previous ages, in which occasionally it can be noted the small sounds of frogs jumping as a stroke of infinite being held in water contained between cupped hands [the following haiku are found at http://gendaihaiku.com],
 
 
eki mae de mabushii jidai to ippai yatta ga (Hoshinaga)
 
near the station
drinking with the dazzle
of the era
 
 
mugi yo shi wa ki isshoku to omoikomu (Uda)
 
wheat
realizing death as one color
gold
 
 
hibashira no naka ni watashi no eki ga aru (Onishi)
 
within a pillar of fire
my station
 
 
natsu no yami tsuru o kakaete yuku gotoku (Hasegawa)
 
summer dark
a red-crowned crane, cradled
as if on my way
 
 
sakura chiru anata mo kaba ni narinasai (Tsubouchi)
 
cherry blossoms fall —
you too must become
a hippo
 
 
mata no ma no ubugoe megi no yami e nobi (Mikajo)
 
between thighs
the birth cry stretches into
budding tree darkness
 
It's a bit like jazz, in that the poem resists you. Retreats from your humanity to its reality. Myths in previous eras relativized the human, placing human being within a psychic reality of powers, motions, motives, and beings far greater than us.
 
Have we lost our perspective? I believe we need an innovative means of mythologizing the body. Richer directions and dimensions for the psyche in approaching the world, metaphor and form. The moment of my existence in the space of this suburban room contains a desk which deepens into the scent of rained out crags woven through mist in a landscape emptied of voice. It's my hope that a newfound sense of wilderness will return to the city, so that beauty can again be found in nature via a re-founding of domestic environments.
 
To care for the infinities at the edges of the cornea. The universe as contained in a Japanese apartment or suburban garden: infinite views, winding paths. A certain necessary complexity, the complicity of multiple dimensions of poetic paradox seem necessary to reawakening ourselves to nature—through which we might at root find enough distance in beauty to do less harm, and more, to care. The deepest form of poetic insight may be that poetry is the world.
 
Gendai haiku partake of a tradition and culture in which, unlike that of the historical Judeo-Christian West, nature and culture were not extensively polarized. So gendai haiku exists as an invitation to the present and the future, in congruence with the past. This congruency is also an uprooting, accomplished via expansive and often experimental avant-garde language and techniques. Yet the old is likewise held in the new, in plying the form. The key to haiku, what makes it a brilliant literature, is that haiku cut through time and space as a primary means of birthing and articulating novel realities as environments.
 
 
In the 1950s the Beats asked the question, "How do we grow our own culture?" and recently the poet Hoshinaga Fumio commented, "Language is overworked, fatigued." The Beats knew where to start, Hoshinaga knows how. In a world without torture or needless suffering, there would still be, according to Jung, one imperative: to choose to individuate, to encounter the shadow, to grow. So I take your word "imperative" to heart. The great gendai poets know how to begin. At the moment, poets everywhere are searching for the taste of the new; do we hunger for revival even at the expense of survival? What can be learned from the Japanese poets is not the "how" but rather the actuality. How language is unequivocally refreshed. I intuit that we may one day live in a culture which embodies those "energies of the body" inspired by myth; essential poetic navigations which Campbell and others discuss as the roots of human soul. Until that time, gendai haiku is a great reminder, and more, that taste! The taste of an era. And it's brilliant.
 
RW: Your research crosses boundaries, less concerned with nationalities and language, and focused instead on a thorough analysis of modern haiku that transcends what was learned and promulgated via the early-modern haiku reformation spearheaded by Masaoka Shiki. As you aptly state in your book's preface, "Much of what has been communicated of the historical haiku oeuvre has been misunderstood in the West. Cross-cultural gendai haiku studies are thus in an embryonic state. Gendai haiku has been misunderstood in contemporary Japan as well, partly due to the promotion from the early 20th century up through the wartime period of Shiki's shasei (objective realist) sensibility." Please elucidate.
 
RG: In the book, selected acclaimed authors are presented, along with their poems and commentaries, with the goal of offering readers an experience of the richness of the gendai-haiku stream of culture. In addition a series of explorative essays present new modes of definition and perspective, with an eye toward inspiring authors, that is, the interest and curiosity of poets. Poems of Consciousness is just a beginning. Recently, the Association of Modern Haiku (gendai haiku kyōkai) published a groundbreaking saijiki in five volumes, one volume incidentally muki kigo or "non-season season words." You have to love it. Within each of these volumes many thousands of haiku and hundreds of authors can be found. It's an awesome achievement; a project begun some 15 years ago. While the AMH is the largest gendai haiku organization, many hundreds of circles and societies exist in Japan—it's said there are over a million active in haiku circles here. A given poet is often a member of more than one circle, or organization, and approaches and activities also vary broadly, depending on the presiding mentor (typically, poets of some stature found local circles and found their own independent journals). Strong poets are as unique and individualistic in Japan as elsewhere. What may surprise is how deeply the cultural tradition of the poetic circle, including the core social experience of the "haiku gathering-party" (kukai) permeates artistic practice. The poetic circle seems the very lifeblood of the gendai haiku tradition, and may be likened to the Western idea of the salon, regarding openness of thought, congeniality and provocation.
 
The signature haiku of Bashō, the "old pond" haiku was in part a collaborative composition, as Hasegawa discusses below. While Bashō is undoubtedly the poem's author, the historical record describes a drinking-party atmosphere with a convivial near-Socratic question and answer, concerning what might make the best capping phrase for the poem (the first phrase: "old pond—" or furuike ya is the capping phrase). In his book, Did the Frog Jump Into the Old Pond? [furuike ni kawazu wa tobikondaka] Hasegawa sets this scene and its goings-on in some detail (the following quotations are unpublished draft-translation summary):
 
Needless to say, in renga, and from the Teimon school, and even the Danrin school, the frog had been depicted as singing. But Bashō treated the frog differently, giving only the sound of its jumping into water.
 
Kikaku's offering of yamabuki ya represents a direct challenge to the existing renga tradition, as this flower had been long associated with frogs. So plying it in a new form of haiku [hokku] equates to a radical act. But in the end Bashō rejects Kikaku's suggestion. Bashō said,
 
The idea of yamabuki is elegant and evocative; however, the 5-on furuike ya is spare and substantial. From ancient times to now substantiality has been the mainstream of poetry. Kikaku's proposition of yamabuki is based on the waka tradition. The frog had been paired with yamabuki [Kerria Japonica, or Japanese Globeflower] from the age of the Man'yōshū
. . . 
"Kikaku's idea of [the flower] yamabuki is a challenge to the conventions of waka, because it brings together the unconventional combination of yamabuki and the frog's 'jumping in' sound—typically 'yamabuki' would be associated to the frog's melodious call [a sound similar to that of the peeper frog, in North America]. 
. . . 
What Bashō wants to say is that a frog jumped—not sang. This was already phrased by the 7-5 section of the haiku. As a result this phrase could combine with either "furuike" or "yamabuki." That is, the sound of water exists in a different dimension than either "furuike" or "yamabuki". This explains why Bashō capped the existing phrase with "furuike ya," without minding the repetition [of the water imagery, e.g. "pond" and "frog" both connote water, and repetition in haiku has tragic consequences]. If you consider that, combined with yamabuki, neither Bashō, Kikaku, or Shiko ever thought that "a frog jumps into yamabuki," likewise the frog can't jump into "the old pond."
 
And, by joining the frog's jumping-in sound rather than its call, this creates a formula-breaking haikai. It is important to recall here that Bashō considered the act of formula-breaking to be itself a formula. With this philosophy in mind, "furuike ya" neither follows nor challenges convention: with this ku Bashō was liberated from the spell of any formula. He not only overcame the conventions of waka, which Kikaku was attempting to challenge; he also overcame Kikaku. (furuike, Chap. 1)
 
Here are Hasegawa's further comments on this topic, from our interview, found in Poems of Consciousness:
 
. . . "old pond" (furuike) exists in the world of mind. At the same time, "frogs jumping-in water-sound" (kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto)—real sounds existing in the real world—are a trigger (catalyst) for "old pond" (furuike). Summing up, a proper interpretation of this ku might be: on a late spring day (in the lunar calendar) Bashō was in his hermitage listening to the sounds of frogs jumping into water, and he envisioned an old pond, in mind.
 
In terms of interpretation, for example, interpreting the ku as: "there is an old pond and a frog jumped into it and then splashed the sound of water"—this interpretation would be of only actual things; but we can rather consider that … while "a frog jumped into the water" is a real fact, an "old pond" arises out of Bashō's world of mind—there is thus a juxtaposition of two alternate dimensions of being. Read this way, this haiku is not a scene composed of the viewing an object, but rather of listening to sounds, and furthermore, Bashō composed this ku via active imagination (the haiku is not shasei, an objective sketch).
 
The reality is that we have interpreted this haiku in a superficial way, without giving it deep reflection, perhaps thoughtlessly viewing the haiku image as, "a frog jumped into an old pond and then the sound of water"—this interpretation represents a misunderstanding. This haiku was written 300 years ago and it has been misunderstood for 300 years. (pp. 74-75)
 
I think if we can grasp the sense of kire (the disjunctive "cutting" of time and space) and the arising of the "world of mind" in haiku as a result of techniques of disjunction and paradox, and observe how eloquently and radically Bashō responded to a millennial poetic tradition, it's possible to appreciate the poetics and poetic spirit evidenced in gendai haiku. The spirit of Bashō and the poetic stream found in gendai haiku are one and the same. What Bashō calls "substantial" might equally be considered supremely fictional. Don't you think, reading the above, that the haiku tradition has been misinterpreted in the West, via all existing translations of "old pond" and any number of commentaries on Bashō and his poetics? Bashō's brilliant "eye opening" style represents the beginning of his later career, and he succeeded in developing further evolutions of this style and intention, these likewise discussed by Hasegawa and others.
 
The gendai haiku tradition partakes of Bashō's "world of mind," and like Bashō and other accomplished classical masters, extends a literary conversation. In a sense, haiku are never merely singular works of art, they swim in an ocean of poetry, in which any given term (e.g. kigo or kidai) and image has multiple reference to over 1000 years of literary history (poems, historical events, personages, authors, myths, etc.). In Buddhism, the "fourth moment" is described as a combination of past, present and future, which is yet none of these. Due to cultural context, haiku likewise have this taste. Though I value creative misinterpretation (first successfully plied in the haiku genre by Ezra Pound), translators and critics must give warp and weave to the deeper skeins of haiku, deepen what is already a multinational/regional poetics. I feel that we know quite little about haiku at this point.
 
RW: What is gendai haiku and how profoundly is the gendai haiku tradition intertwined with its classical ancestry?
 
RG: The classical and gendai streams are profoundly intertwined, as shown above, in Hasegawa's comments as an example—there are many other aspects of lineage connection that can be discussed, in terms of form, intention and style. "Gendai haiku" means literally "modern or contemporary haiku," and loosely refers to expansive ideas of the haiku form arising from the 1920s on, and more particularly to the direct progenitors of the gendai haiku movement, the figures of the New Rising Haiku movement, of the '30s-'40s. The New Rising Haiku movement is discussed in detail in a monograph and two published papers by Yūki Itō, now available online:
 
New Rising Haiku: The Evolution of Modern Japanese Haiku and the Haiku Persecution Incident
 
 
A follow-up interview with Udo Wenzel, Haiku Heute, is a de facto second essay:
Forgive, But Do Not Forget: Modern Haiku and Totalitarianism.
Itō Yūki talks with Udo Wenzel (Haiku Heute, Winter 2007/2008) http://bit.ly/1BtiRF4
 
A thorough history of gendai haiku remains to be penned in English, and as Kaneko Tohta, a celebrated founder of the postwar gendai movement, quoted in Itō's monograph, explains, "When discussing the history of postwar haiku, many scholars tend to begin their discussion from the end of World War II. However, this perspective represents a rather stereotypical viewpoint. It is preferable that a discussion of postwar haiku history start from the midst of the war, or from the beginning of the 'Fifteen Years War [1931-45].'" In the above articles, Itō has done a masterful job of elucidating the wartime period, and this represents a great beginning for grasping the essentials of gendai haiku, in English. These papers reveal how intimately the art and practice of gendai haiku is woven into freedom of expression and the fundamental right of persons to colloquy, sans censorship. I believe such ideas are in tune with Bashō's spirit and sensibility.
 
As to the use of the term "gendai" in an English-language (international) context, I suppose it will be up to us, how to use it. I'm not even sure it should be used for any haiku natively-written in English. For instance, I would not say so-and-so a haiku is "gendai" as a matter of style, unless I meant it was similar in style to that of a known gendai poet of Japan (e.g. "this has a haiku style similar to the gendai approach of Tsubouchi"). In North America we already have the pre-existing term "modern haiku." Basically a literal translation of "gendai" it turns out. Literally, the word means "contemporary" but just as with "modern art," something more is implied, in terms of movements, categories, history and personages.
 
As of yet, we do not have a "gendai-like" movement in English-language haiku poetry, though there are some poets writing innovative works. I've searched for a term that might imply something beyond our so-to-say "modern" haiku (which presently equals shasei or realism haiku), and selected Marjorie Perloff's term, "21st century modern" haiku, which I introduced in the "Plausible Deniability" paper, included in Poems of Consciousness. But the term is awkward. However Perloff's discussion is intriguing:
 
The aesthetic of early modernism has provided the seeds of the materialist poetic which is increasingly our own. . . . what interests me is the unfulfilled promise of the modernist (as of the classical) poetic impulse in so much of what passes for poetry today—a poetry singularly unambitious in its attitude to the materiality of the text ...
 
I think "the materiality of the text" is provocative, and has much in common with poetic approaches that evoke an inherent awareness of language as language. (The techniques presented in "The Disjunctive Dragonfly" spring partly from this perspective).
 
To continue with Perloff's conclusion:
 
... to what Khlebnikov described as the recognition that "the roots of words are only phantoms behind which stand the strings of the alphabet." It is this particular legacy of early modernism that the new poetics has sought to recover. "To imagine a language," said Wittgenstein, "is to imagine a form of life."' (21st Century Modernism (2002), pp. 1-5)
 
Wittgenstein's haikuesque comment speaks volumes. So, I chose "21st century modern" haiku, as I basically sign on to what Perloff indicates as an "unfulfilled promise" regarding haiku, as of contemporary poetry—and appreciate Perloff's sense of scope, which extends at least from postwar poetry to the present (covering the entire North American haiku "tradition"). But I wonder if simply "new haiku" might be the better term.
 
I personally don't use "gendai" except to refer to poems originating in the Japanese, on the part of those poets associated to the progressive arts movements in Japan. There are postwar gendai tanka, as well as gendai senryu, as Onishi Yasuyo discusses. I suppose my main point is that we in the "Western" tradition of haiku, or tanka, or senryu, should probably refrain from using "gendai" as an appellation for our own innovative (especially non-shasei) poetics. As critics and leaders, if not innovators, can't we be creative enough to come up with our own terms for new varieties of haiku? I feel this will probably be crucial. For too long the critical tradition in haiku in English has been overly parochial and limited, if not exclusivist, in scope, and Japanese-imitational in nature. It's my thought that we can learn and appreciate, though innovate with autonomy.
 
RW: I read with great interest your comments regarding Blyth, who for many is a non-reproachable iconoclast revered for his insight into and translation of haiku. The American Beat poets of the late 1950s and '60s (Snyder, Kerouac, Corso, etc.) read his treatises on haiku and were greatly influenced by them; yet, you say he was biased towards classical haiku and held little value in modern haiku. "Blyth idealized the classical while devaluing the modern as at root selfish, small-minded, and confused." Your comments challenge popular thinking and will certainly shake heads. What are we to make of Blyth? Was he on or off the mark regarding haiku theory?
 
RG: Regarding haiku theory, he was on his own mark. Blyth sited or situated haiku in an idiosyncratic way, voluminously, and with great passion. As someone who was excited by haiku and Japanese culture via Blyth, I have great respect and admiration for his efforts. At the same time, it's worth asking why he isn't quoted and referenced by academicians these days. It's hard to know where to place Blyth. Certainly, if we consider him an authority on the meaning and cultural value of haiku, on its native soil, it seems valuable to re-work and enrich Blyth's interpretations. To do justice to this topic, a long paper needs to be written. In this short space, my colleague Itō and I would like to discuss Blyth's translation of an internationally influential haiku penned by Shiki.
 
First, here's a quote from a paper published in 2000 on haiku metrics written by myself and Professor Judy Yoneoka, illustrating a cross-cultural encounter with Blyth, as penned by Kerouac [http://research.gendaihaiku.com/metrics/haikumet.html]:
 
Even considering the increased interest in haiku form and its development, Japanese haiku and possibilities in English might have remained minor cultural footnotes if it hadn't been for the publication and popular success of Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, in 1958 (following the publication of On The Road, in 1957, and his resulting rise to fame). Kerouac did something for the haiku movement no amount of scholarship alone could, in creating the character Japhy Ryder, a scarcely-veiled portrait of the poet Gary Snyder. Japhy transplants something of the Japanese haiku ethos, or an imagination of it, into the heart of American vernacular. Japhy seems like a modern-day gloss on Bashō—a kind of Bashō cum Li Po cum Oregonian lumberjack: "From the beginning a woods boy, an axeman, a farmer . . . . his face was a mask of woeful bone, but his eyes twinkled like the eyes of old giggling sages of China, over that little goatee . . . . he'll make the top of your head fly off, boy, with a choice chance word." In his pilgrimages into natural settings and intuitive feeling for nature, acquaintance with Zen practice and philosophy, simple lifestyle and dwelling-place, Japhy tantalized and inspired readers with novel possibilities for perception, spirituality, lifestyle, and poetic process.
 
Early in the novel, Kerouac (as Ray Smith), living in Allen Ginsberg's (Alvah Goldbook's) "rose-covered cottage" in Berkeley, California, notes that, "On the walls are hundreds of books everything from Catullus to Pound to Blyth" (p. 17). These signal authors are the only ones mentioned. A few days later, Ray, hiking with Japhy, exults:
 
"Oh this is like an early morning in China and I'm five years old in beginningless time!" I sang out and felt like sitting by the trail and whipping out my little notebook and writing sketches about it. "Look over there," sang Japhy, "Yellow aspens. Just put me in the mind of a haiku. . . . A real haiku's gotta be simple as porridge and yet make you see the real thing, like the greatest haiku of them all probably is the one that goes 'The sparrow hops along the veranda, with wet feet.' by Shiki. You see the wet footprints like a vision in your mind and yet in those few words you also see all the rain that's been falling that day and almost smell the wet pine needles" (p. 59).
 
The Shiki haiku quoted and discussed by Snyder in The Dharma Bums is taken from Blyth's Haiku, Volume 2: Spring (1952, p. 517), who provides a commentary to the poem:
 
Nureashi de suzume no ariku rôka kana
 
The sparrow hops
Along the verandah,
With wet feet.
 
This might be taken as a model for all haiku. It is poetical and yet extremely matter-of-fact. It is like one of those perfect jokes, so simple, so inexplicable. The delicate three-pronged little marks on the floor of the verandah, so soon to dry up and vanish forever, as transitory as the pyramids or the solar system,—what an infinity of meaning in them!
 
It is an interesting contrast, the almost domestic, earthy vision of Japhy and the sense of Buddhistic universals in Blyth's speculations on impermanence. These two contemplative polarities, the sensual and the philosophic (especially Buddhist), emanated as prime Western responses to the presentational immediacy of haiku, and continue to inform North American haiku culture. (Haiku Metrics and Issues of Emulation: New Paradigms for Japanese and English Haiku Form [March 2000], available at http://research.gendaihaiku.com )
 
That was written in 2000. My appreciation of Blyth hasn't changed, though my understanding of Japanese haiku has. Let's take a fresh look at the "sparrow" haiku:
 
Our notes to the poem:
 
1) In the haiku pantheon, suzume (sparrow) is not a noble, aristocratic bird, such as a crane or hawk, but on the contrary a humble, domestic bird associated with routine village life and farming. Sparrows gather around ripening rice fields, particularly around harvest time. Images of local, rural farm life and a sense of ordinariness or plainness seem implicit.
 
2) The word suzume is not kigo (it's listed as muki kigo i.e. a non-kigo season word, in the gendai haiku kyōkai muki saijiki), as sparrows are seen year-round. Blyth placed this haiku in his "Spring" volume… At this time in his career however Shiki did not seem to have had a strong awareness or place an emphasis on kigo use in his haiku, and we find no kigo evident in this haiku: it is muki. Generally, suzume tend to occur in compound kigo of spring or autumn: suzume no ko (a baby sparrow) is a spring kigo; ina suzume (sparrows gathering in a rice field), is an autumn kigo—sparrows will nest under kawara, the ceramic roof tiles commonly used on homes, so are intimately wed to daily human activities and consciousness. We can say that the sparrow is familiar and "nearby"; in a sense, a domestic bird—from the human perspective. As a result, there are a number of truisms concerning suzume, such as suzume no odoriashi (a sparrow's dancing feet) which means, "Your calligraphy is bad!" Another, suzume no senkoe tsuru no hito-koe (the thousand sounds of sparrows, single sound of a crane), can be interpreted as "one crane's voice is stronger than a thousand sparrows"; a single opinion emanating from a powerful individual overwhelms a multitude of lesser voices. There are many suzume anecdotes, truisms and literary references.
 
3) In the haiku, the translation of "veranda" for rōka is incorrect (verandas are a common feature of Japanese homes, a small attached outdoor balcony used for drying futon, hanging clothes, etc., an absolute necessity in the rainy season, prior to air conditioning and the clothes dryer). The term rōka refers to a corridor or hallway within the home. The massive online Eijiro translation dictionary ( http://www.alc.co.jp/ ) offers these translations: corridor, gallery, hallway, hall, passage, passageway. The most common collocation is "down the hall," used to indicate a hallway in a home. Here it seems that Blyth has mis-set the site of the haiku, which has a number of consequences.
In Meiji-era speech, the no in Japanese implies ga rather than today's grammatically possessive meaning typically ascribed to this particle.
 
4) Literal translation:
  nureashi          de            suzume     no     ariku         rōka                   kana
  wet feet | place of action | sparrow | action | walk | corridor/hallway | emphasis adverb
 
5) Close translation: Following the same image-story as presented in Japanese, we translate the haiku:
 
with wet feet
a sparrow hops
down the hall . . .
 
a more interpretive translation:
 
with wet feet—
down the hall hops
a sparrow
 
6) Our discussion:
Is the sparrow a real bird or not? The phrase nureashi, Itō feels, is too anthropomorphic to be accepted as a purely literal image possessing a simple, objective meaning. The noun-phrase (nure+ashi) is commonly used to describe wet feet after one takes a daily bath. Also, rōka is a hallway not a veranda; it's difficult to believe Blyth didn't know "hall," or "hallway" was correct, so we assume here a bit of translator's poetic-license. "Sparrow" (suzume) seems then to indicate or imply a person within a (their own) home. There is likewise implied an aspect of Shiki's artful self-reflection in this haiku. For us, the image has a sense of vulnerability, wry humor, and the poet's suffering, enfolded in the fragile, misplaced, rain-soaked sparrow.
 
Or, frail roommate, just after his bath? This haiku was penned within the first year following the death of Shiki's very close younger friend, Shimizu Noritō, who was likewise born in Matsuyama. They had been living together in Tokyo, and were in the same grade at school. Shimizu died suddenly of beri-beri (as the record indicates) resulting in a heart attack. As Shimizu's parents did not send money for medicine (cruelty? accident? poverty?), Shimizu's death at 18 was tragic and probably avoidable. As a result of these events, Shiki suffered severe depression, and rage. He wrote a letter to Shimizu's parents seven meters (23 feet) in length! Two of its sentences read:
 
I will hence aim to make your son's name celebrated, throughout my life. In order to accomplish this, I will first make efforts to improve my own name. I will risk my life for this.
 
Shimizu died on April 14, 1886. Shiki and Shimizu were intense and passionate young men, and were also roommates in the months prior to Shimizu's death; they were living in fairly impoverished conditions at the time.
 
We can say more about this haiku, in its wedding of domesticity with the natural world, the sweet, sad, slightly disturbing yet wry image of a rained-on sparrow hopping down the hallway. At the time this haiku was composed, in 1887, Shiki was in college, age 20. The following year he first coughed up blood. We sense the brave, brief life of Shiki's friend, and Shiki's own encroaching illness. The sparrow is revealed, or half-veiled…
 
In the comprehensive chronological collection of Shiki's poetic works in which this haiku appears (Kanzan rakuboku), immediately preceding the sparrow haiku is this haiku, which has a preface:
 
On the first anniversary of the death of Shimizu
 
rakka e ni kaeredo hito no yukue kana
 
a fallen flower returns - yet a man's destination …
 
This haiku is a play on the celebrated Arakida Moritake haiku (an important influence for Ezra Pound), which itself refers to a scene in a Zeami Noh drama (a significant fact missed by Pound and Blyth, discussed by Hasegawa in his book, haiku no uchū, and others). The Moritake haiku is:
 
rakka eda ni kaeru to mireba chōcho kana
 
A fallen leaf
Flew back to its branch!
No, it was a butterfly.
(Blyth translation)
 
Shiki, in his play on Moritake viz Zeami asks, whither the soul of his dearly loved friend? Having exited this world, is a human death but a single "fallen leaf," and, unlike the butterfly, without return? Shiki desperately grieves for his friend and has sworn to devote his life to Shimizu's remembrance. This prior haiku frames and adds dimension to the 'sparrow' haiku which immediately follows it.
 
(As an aside, Blyth quotes the Moritake haiku as an illustrative example of poor poetry, criticizing an "over-reaching" of intellect at the expense of "imagination." He writes (to paraphrase) that haiku should deal with facts, not fantasy or illusion.)
 
Having a sense of era, of linguistic, historic, and literary verity concerning this haiku, we arrive at an alternate set of impressions and interpretations than Blyth. Is it excessively interpretive, to read into this haiku certain facts concerning Shiki's biography? In the West, artworks tend to be examined separately from their biographical context; the critical situation is quite different for the haiku genre in Japan, as readers are generally expected if not required to learn details of a poet's life and era in order to properly engage with and grasp their oeuvre.
 
We can add a few more facts in relation to the 'sparrow' haiku. Shiki's advocacy of the shasei (i.e. 'objective description') approach began in the late 1890s. So the 'sparrow' haiku cannot be shasei, as it wasn't until 1894 that Shiki met the painter Nakama Fusetsu and investigated realism in Western painting—from which he later developed his shasei sensibility. Shiki's formal advocacy of shasei in prose did not occur until 1900. It seems odd that Blyth would select as "a model for all haiku" this particular haiku from the youthful Shiki, prior to the application of his innovatory shasei approach which revolutionized the stultified 19th century haiku style, revivifying the art, and marking the beginning of the pre-modern era, for which Shiki is justly celebrated as progenitor. Possibly, Blyth's statement, "this [haiku] can be taken as a model for all haiku" must itself be taken with a grain of salt; perhaps less as a universal statement than a reflection of Blyth's own delight, accompanied by gaps in his contextual understanding, with his admitted predilection for "fact"-based haiku.
 
We return to Blyth's comment on the 'sparrow' haiku, with some responses:
 
"This might be taken as a model for all haiku. It is poetical and yet extremely matter-of-fact." We agree the haiku is poetical, yet due to the complex layering of image, reference and symbol, the haiku is anything but "matter-of-fact." It only appears so, via English translation and when stripped of significant cultural and biographical context.
 
"It is like one of those perfect jokes, so simple, so inexplicable." It is easy to agree with Blyth here, though one feels that his perspective on inexplicability resides primarily in a sense of the moment pertaining to the literal scene as conjured by the images, as he takes the haiku as shasei, an objective sketch. However, this haiku is more complex than the shasei concept posits, and different from it. There may be a perfect joke, but if so with an admixture of the human, that is the poet's frailty, intimacy, and grief. The self of the poet is really at the heart of this haiku. We cannot deny its "infinity" but it's equally about Shiki.
 
 
"The delicate three-pronged little marks on the floor of the verandah, so soon to dry up and vanish for ever, as transitory as the pyramids or the solar system,—what an infinity of meaning in them!" This is where Blyth ever again leads us, into gorgeously crafted Buddhistic universals. The vanishing, emptiness, and transitory nature of impermanence. I think this interpretative sensibility is part of Blyth's magic, his wedding of microcosm with macrocosm. Yet in conclusion, it seems doubtful that this was Shiki's main intention or motivation in penning the haiku; that is, the intention to move the reader into an awareness of "an infinity of meaning" arising mainly from the physicality of the presented images, the simple story of a sole, wet-footed sparrow on a veranda (sic). That the sparrow is inside the house seems to us a crucial point of departure—as if—has Shimizu returned, via poesis? We sense this reality as one of the intrinsic dimensions, kokoro (heart-intentions) of this haiku.
 
Blyth's use of "veranda" from an artistic point of view seems inspired. The word possesses great sound and rhythm, and enriches the poem in English. In fact, Blyth's translation proves to be a more powerful poem in English than our own—yet the misreading of the original image cannot be ignored.
 
Taking at random almost any Blyth translation, upon careful investigation we find the perspective, and at times the images themselves, to be at variance with original authorial intentions. They are deformed by the Blyth gravitas, which even as it expands our sense of philosophy and depth when reading the poems outside their native context, reduces the nuanced and multivariate sensibility found in many of the haiku he translated. At the same time, Blyth isn't completely wrong. There can be sensed a profound "suchness" in Blyth's translations, and certainly good haiku in Japanese possess this quality, often abundantly. As Hasegawa insists, in plying kire ('cutting') properly, a "world of mind" arises in haiku phenomenology. Yet this phenomenology seems to be both 'other-to' and more multidimensional than the universalized, objectified, 'fact-based' reality Blyth often paints as summation and primary sensibility, primary truth, in his writings on the subject.
 
The 'sparrow' haiku is made more powerful, we feel, by an informed understanding of the place, era, and significant relationships in Shiki's life around the time of composition, particularly in this case. This haiku was written if not for Shimizu with him in mind, subtly recalling him as remembrance. And now, in this very moment, we recall Shimizu a century later. This seems to be what Shiki wanted to accomplish, as he declaimed in his letter to Shimizu's parents. It isn't the universals but the particulars which seem most cogent here. Yet the universals aren't lost, just reified.
 
Now imagine, having read the 'sparrow' haiku above, and never having encountered any commentary on the poem, whatsoever:
 
The sparrow hops
Along the verandah,
With wet feet.
 
Would you honestly have found these three lines poetic, let alone haiku, let alone "a model for all haiku"? Without Blyth's commentaries, introductions, and thoughtful threading of Japanese history with Buddhist insight and Western-oriented literary acumen it seems doubtful that haiku as an exotic art-form appearing in the English language would have caught on, or would have turned on the Beats.
 
Blyth, on several counts misreads certain central intentions of the haiku tradition. Moreover it must be said he eviscerated the power and relevance of modern haiku (which he admits to disliking globally on principle: "Having thus indirectly blasted all modern haiku…" Cf. History of Haiku, Volume 2, pp. 333-34). When it comes to modern haiku, Blyth just didn't get it; how the poems worked, why they worked, and why such haiku provided the groundbreaking inspiration and the lifeblood of artistic movements throughout Japan's 20th century. Blyth has great strengths, and likewise limitations. A cautious approach to his commentaries seems sensible when looking for authorial intention in relation to the depth inherent in the Japanese haiku tradition.
 
As a translator, Blyth presented thousands of haiku via the creation of a powerful, relevant and modern poetics in English, with commentaries that spoke to real needs, even a hunger for truth, spirituality, and depth. For an artist, cross-cultural creative misinterpretation is a creative offering to anyone encountering such works. Yet reading Blyth as a primary source for comprehension of an ethos the outcome is too often a reflection of Blyth's own passionate preoccupations, rather than verity. As a result, haiku in North America has until quite recently been fixated on emulating an assumed "traditional" necessity for haiku literalism and shasei stylism. This is ironic, as throughout the 400-year history of haiku, the sensibility of realism represents but a very brief movement, in Japan. And Shiki himself frequently contradicted his own dicta—which in any case were not fully elucidated before his death. Enough is known though to say that pure objective description in haiku was for Shiki but a training-phase for beginner poets. His 'advanced' shasei concept was psychologically, imagistically, and conceptually complex—ideas which he only briefly outlined before his untimely death.
 
It seems reasonable as well to consider anew Blyth's translations in light of his penchant for Zen-Buddhist interpretation. In the critical tradition in Japan, Buddhistic haiku interpretations have been a tertiary issue. Concepts such as "a moment of enlightenment" are not a central concern of the genre. Here Blyth misleads, in that readers generally accept his interpretive view as prevalent and central to the tradition (I know I did). As well, Blyth advocates "fact" and the "objective," and we are his inheritors. Blyth's interpretive comments are quite often a creative product of his brilliant and fantastic perspective.
 
References
Hasegawa Kai, Furuike ni kaeru wa tobikondaka (Did the Frog Jump in the Old Pond?), Tokyo: Kashinsha, 2005.
____________, Haiku no uchū (Haiku Universe), Tokyo: Kashinsha, 1989.
Gendai Haiku Kyōkai, ed. [Modern Haiku Association], Gendai Haiku Saijiki (5 vols.), Tokyo: Gakushu Kenkyusha, 2004.
Shiki Masaoka, Kanzan rakuboku, 1 (Cold Mountain, Withering Trees, Volume 1) (collected works in chronological order; posthumous publication). Available:
 

A Brilliant Literature: Robert Wilson Interviews Professor Richard Gilbert, Part II (2009)
Robert D. Wilson and Richard Gilbert
 
(Originally appeared in Simply Haiku 7:1, Spring 2009)
 
RW: As a follow-up question, you mention that the "post-war Beats (beatnik writers) saw a need to 'grow their own souls,' to break with traditional expectations, preconceptions and cultural morals." One means of accomplishing this was the voice they discovered in haiku, a voice that should have embodied Octavio Paz's statement:
 
Modernity is not outside but within us. It is today and the most ancient antiquity, it is tomorrow and the beginning of the world; it is a thousand years old and yet newborn . . . (modernity) We want to trap it alive but it flaps its wings and vanishes in the form of a handful of syllables. We are left empty-handed. The doors of perception open slightly and the other time appears, the real one we were searching for without knowing it: the present, the presence. (qtd. from R. Gilbert, Poems of Consciousness, "Author's Preface", 2008)
 
Beautiful words that capture the essence of gendai haiku. And what is gendai haiku but the haiku of today . . . now far removed from the misconceptions the Beats innocently adhered to in their quest to "grow their own souls." Or is it far-removed? The Beats forged the past into an expression of the now, regardless of those positive and negative factors that gave birth to their expression. To say as Blyth did that the following haiku is the essence of haiku is naive, the product of defective research (based on the resources available to him at the time), influenced by his belief that Zen Buddhism was a dominant influence on Japanese short form poetry and Shiki's conceptualization of shasei and gendai poetic expression.
 
(The following haiku by Blyth is discussed at length in "A Brilliant Literature, Part I." 
 
nureashi de suzume no ariku roka kana
 
The sparrow hops
Along the verandah,
With wet feet.
 
Comments please.
 
RG: We've covered the above haiku in relation to Blyth's translation, in the last question last time (in the previous issue). To review, in analyzing Blyth's perspective, it's clear that his approach to "the essence of haiku" was idiosyncratic. Blyth, a strong reader, sensed an essence within haiku which he based upon intimations of Zen Buddhism. As a result of such convictions, there exists an interpretive power in his commentaries. Yet to be fair, his connotations often lack aspects of evident poetic dimension, registers of meaning, authorial intention, literary reference, etc., and as a result his commentaries may be reductive or misleading. 
 
And yet, just as Kerouac turns us on to the soul, the sense of spiritual and philosophic dimension and presence in being, Blyth does much the same via his idiosyncratic approach to haiku and haiku-culture translation, in English. 
 
Sure, it's about America, and Buddhism, but it's all about Kerouac too, in his celebrated novels. We don't expect Kerouac to be an expert scholar of Buddhism, though he might "write" Buddhism in a way that leans readers toward a deeper sense of amazement. 
 
Similarly, Blyth is not an expert scholar of haiku, if we are to compare him to a Japanese scholar of repute—and not by a long shot. Also, Blyth was more a reader of Buddhism than practitioner. He was not directly engaged in the forms, rituals, and especially meditation practices of Zen Buddhism (a critique leveled as well against his teacher, D. T. Suzuki). 
 
An unaddressed issue for the haiku world in America (in the major journals, in essays by pundits) is that for decades the Beats were spurned, while Blyth's work was put on a high-culture pedestal; perceived as an exacting source-point of haiku knowledge and wisdom. Ironically, the attempts by the Beats to formulate an American conception of haiku were inspired by their readings of Blyth and Buddhism. Such formulations as Ginsberg's "American sentences" and Kerouac's "haikus," whatever the "official" haiku world made of them, drew largely from the same well. We could reverse their positions somewhat—Kerouac, biographers tell us, was a profoundly committed novelist; Blyth, a radical, expatriate outsider. While their lifestyles and approaches to their prevailing cultures differed, perhaps it's unsurprising to find Blyth associated more as a naïve-romantic outsider-figure related to '50s-'60s cultural movements than a respected translator-scholar, by contemporary Japanologists and other literary scholars.
 
The image of the Beats has shifted somewhat over the last 20 years. Yet it seems a recent phenomenon that an eminent book editor (such as Dwight Garner, below) can proclaim that On the Road is his "personal best" novel pick:
 
Kerouac's On the Road retains for me its galloping, yea-saying potency. It certainly is the book that Changed My Life (groan), even if I feel a little hesitant about admitting it. (It'd be far more glamorous to single out something by Genet or Conrad.) But then I was probably right smack in the middle of Kerouac's core constituency—a fat pimply kid in suburbia who simply had no idea, until this book fell into his hands, that literature could promise quite this much. As a hapless young writer, too, I can testify to his emancipating example. As Thomas Pynchon said about On the Road in his introduction to his collection of short fiction, Slow Learner: "It was actually OK to write like this! Who knew?" ("Personal Best: On the Road by Jack Kerouac" in ground. [Garner is an editor with Harper's Bazaar and Vermont Times, has reviewed books and profiled authors for the Village Voice, The Nation, the New York Times, Vanity Fair and other journals].)
 
 
Kerouac's novels, and the poetry and performances of Ginsberg, Snyder and Burroughs, and others (McClure, Corso, etc.) continue to exert a powerful cultural influence: a "galloping, yea-saying potency," an "emancipating example." Yet Garner ameliorates his verve: "Was Jack Kerouac a great writer? Probably not. Will I reread him more gratefully than most Great Writers I can think of? Absolutely" (ibid).
 
It may be hard for those under 50 to believe that Kerouac and Ginsberg were authors whose very names were verboten in the halls of academe. Garner's apologetic praise bears witness to this historical context. The achievements of the Beats remain academically questionable. Kerouac may have been a "Fabulous Yellow Roman Candle"—but was it good writing? What do we mean, in even proposing such a logical conundrum? Novels and poems, and haiku in English: bones of contention. And here we are. Needed: New voices to find haiku literature anew, express it, comment upon it, for the contemporary era. While there has been some groundwork done in the '70s-'90s, lacking serious academic study, haiku scholarship languishes. 
 
What the Beats have to do with haiku in America is partly what they have to do with Zen Buddhism, with street poetry, with getting back to the Bard, to relevance, and spontaneity as a primary act of literature, literary style, and lifestyle. It's what they have in connection with Alan Watts, with LSD and hallucinogens and jazz, the beat of the spoken voice and soul power, of the voices and visibility of the down and out, a search for the sacred, anti-establishment stances, consciousness awareness, politically, socially, and at least in mind, sexually. The Beat movement was a new attempt at citizenship in modernity, and in presence. 
 
Ginsberg lived by Blake, chanted peace mantras at Vietnam moratoriums protesting the war in Washington, D.C. He was openly, flagrantly gay. He exalted drugs, not for recreation, but to know, to deepen, to stay up, to talk real, not ideal; instead, angry, confused, urban, searching:
 
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by 
              madness, starving hysterical naked, 
       dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn 
              looking for an angry fix, 
       angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly 
              connection to the starry dynamo in the machin- 
              ery of night, 
 
(excerpted from the first stanza of HOWL, arguably the most important American poem since Whitman: http://members.tripod.com/~Sprayberry/poems/howl.txt)
 
You know—read it and know, read it and remember. Read it and wake up! Is it any wonder the Beats were (and largely continue to be) shunned in college classes? How might even moderate, accommodating parents respond to those teachers who distribute such poems and novels to their children, celebrating a romantically desirable lifestyle which taunts the establishment, is in the swim with illegal doings, at odds with material success, money, and fraught with emotional and physical risk? And if you're living in Ohio, Creationism is in. No it's not easy teaching the Beats, or even acknowledging them, in the halls of academe. Yet their works continue to inspire new generations—the book sales remain remarkably high.
 
Oddly, Blyth is associated with this camp, due to his idiosyncratic Zen Buddhist bent, and cultural associations, in that the timing of his translations bursting on the Beats, the Beat renaissance, and early hippie eras, in the '50s into the '60s, provided a kind of literary celebrity to those in the know. Haiku in English, on the whole, despite the rules and definitions of the Haiku Society of America, or whoever sought to elevate the new genre, has likewise been rejected in academe, along with the Beats and Blyth (who was in a sense guilty of being off-Beat, by association).
 
At the dawn of our new century, an informal online discussion about Blyth by a group of eminent scholars on the PMJS (Premodern Japanese Studies) listserv occurred in 2000 . The conversation is excerpted below, due to space considerations, with apologies to all participants, in the hope of presenting a fair snapshot of how the figure and work of Blyth is viewed by knowledgeable scholars working in allied fields:
 
MM: For me, and I suspect for many others, [Blyth] was a hugely important early introduction and a key to my decision to study Japanese literature. But I realize I know next to nothing about him. (Dr. Meredith McKinney, Faculty of Asian Studies, The Australian National University)
 
MW: . . . it would probably be true to say that Blyth's position in "the history of the study" of "the Japanese classics" is disputed. If my memory serves me right, a distinguished member of this list once said in a book review that he sometimes wished Blyth's books could be hidden away in the closed stacks of libraries, out of reach of impressionable undergraduates! (Michael Watson, Professor of Japanese studies and comparative literature, Meiji Gakuin University, Yokohama. Resident in Japan from 1980.)
 
RB: I don't know about being distinguished but it was I who commented somewhere, I don't remember where, about hiding Blyth's books. Although it is undoubtedly true that his books have had extraordinary influence, and I too was undoubtedly drawn to study Japanese in the first place by the likes of D. T. Suzuki and Alan Watts, I now find Blyth's books quite appalling. The book quoted by Michael [The Genius of Haiku: Readings from R.H. Blyth], which I actually discovered in Japan a few years ago, only served to strengthen this belief. He led the charmed life of an English eccentric in Japan and was obviously indulged by his printer Hokuseido. I remember hearing once that his manuscripts were simply printed as is with no change whatsoever. It shows, I'm afraid. Is there anyone out there who wished to stand up for him? (Richard Bowring, Professor of Japanese Studies, University of Cambridge, UK)
 
DG: I also find him infuriating at times—why, for example, does he never give references for the poems he chooses?—but I do admire his range of haiku and his translations of them. (Daniel Gallimore, Associate Professor, Japan Women's University, Tokyo.)
 
RM: A few words in defense of Blyth . . . Whatever their imperfections—and I admit that Blyth can be a bit too exuberant at times (like Walt Whitman)—these earlier pioneers must have had some merit if they drew you "to study Japanese in the first place." While personal preferences are sure to change over time, we need not discard the sources of our early enthusiasms and hide them away from "impressionable undergraduates." Let them make their own judgments. (Robert E Morrell, Professor Emeritus of Japanese Literature & Buddhism, Dept. of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, Washington University in St. Louis)
 
RB: The point about Blyth is that last season's fruit is still being eaten and last year's words are still this year's language. I find that a problem. (Richard Bowring)
 
RM: I am always more than somewhat surprised at the hostility which Blyth, Watts, D.T. Suzuki, et al., still provokes. Back in the early '60s, my mentor, Bob Brower, would almost have had a seizure if anyone so much as mentioned R.H. Blyth or Alan Watts. . . . But almost a half-century later, I am baffled by the antagonism toward Blyth and Watts. . . Note also how the "Beat Generation," is probably more about adolescent rebellion than about "Zen". I wonder why? (Robert E. Morrell)
 
MM: It crossed my mind that the study of "haiku" in general may be felt by scholarly circles in the west as just a little disreputable. We're all perfectly comfortable with tanka, and yes sure renga is fascinating stuff too, but when it comes to "haiku" . . . somehow more the province of the flaky and the merely popular conception of J[apanese] poetry. Of course this is putting it a lot more bluntly than most would be prepared to acknowledge, but might it nevertheless have a grain of truth, or is it just my impression? And if it's so, how much can this be laid to the door of Blyth, and to scholarly fastidious reaction to him? (Meredith McKinney)
 
JB: i think some people who are into haiku without having japanese like it because it is philosophical rather than because it is literary. philosophical in a rather sentimental sense, i mean—all about oneness of existence, etc. one can't do that so easily with tanka or renga. . . . i remember reading blyth on zen in english literature when i was fourteen, beside lake okanagan in british Columbia . . . and i imagine blyth did something to turn me towards japanese literature, along with d.t. suzuki, who i read during the beat age. ditto alan watts. but i don't recall ever thinking of any of them as a tower of wisdom or learning. i guess all they did was let me know that there was an interesting civilization out there on the other side of the world. a good corrective to what i was getting in school . . . now that i think of it i remember getting quite excited about the title 'zen in english literature'—the idea that the former could be found in the latter seemed positively brilliant. it still does. who would have the nerve to title a book like that today? these people who stand there at the beginning of the world, the opening of a new horizon—i say let them make their mistakes and be appalling—. . . one way to teach japanese literature is through the images that we in countries other than japan have had of it ... (Janine Beichman, Professor, Daito Bunka University and Visiting Scholar 2008-2009, Columbia University.)
 
RB: I don't want to be misunderstood here. The study of haikai literature is extremely interesting and important and Shirane's recent work on Basho shows one way how to do it properly. What I find difficult to accept about Blyth is not the translations as such but his gushing, undisciplined prose, which I find difficult to read and impossible to take seriously. The Zen business is also a major stumbling block and has to do with his uncritical acceptance of the writings of Suzuki. No one has ever persuaded me that haikai or later haiku have ever had anything to do with Zen. See the truly excellent article by Robert Sharf, "The Zen of Japanese Nationalism" in History of Religions 33.1 (1993). (Richard Bowring)
 
(Please see http://goo.gl/tH3vQ3 for the full discussion. PMJS continues as a "google list" group: http://groups.google.com/group/pmjs)
 
 
 
To recap, as imagined soundbites in an NPR news overview:
 
"The study of 'haiku' in general may be felt by scholarly circles in the west as just a little disreputable. . . . [Haiku studies being] more the province of the flaky and the merely popular conception of J[apanese] poetry."
 
". . . A distinguished member of this list once said in a book review he sometimes wished Blyth's books could be hidden away in the closed stacks of libraries, out of reach of impressionable undergraduates!"
 
"I now find Blyth's books quite appalling."
 
"He led the charmed life of an English eccentric in Japan and was obviously indulged by his printer Hokuseido. I remember hearing once that his manuscripts were simply printed as is with no change whatsoever. It shows, I'm afraid."
 
"I also find him infuriating at times"
 
"The point about Blyth is that last season's fruit is still being eaten and last year's words are still this year's language."
 
"Back in the early '60s, my mentor, Bob Brower, would almost have had a seizure if anyone so much as mentioned R.H. Blyth or Alan Watts. . . . Note also how the 'Beat Generation' is probably more about adolescent rebellion than about 'Zen.'"
 
"Impressionable undergraduates."
 
"People who are into haiku without having Japanese like it because it is philosophical rather than because it is literary. philosophical in a rather sentimental sense . . ."
 
"What I find difficult to accept about Blyth is not the translations as such but his gushing, undisciplined prose, which I find difficult to read and impossible to take seriously."
 
"The Zen business is also a major stumbling block and has to do with his uncritical acceptance of the writings of Suzuki. No one has ever persuaded me that haikai or later haiku have ever had anything to do with Zen."
 
Blyth and the Beats are to an extent twin constellations. It's essentially a twinned critique: "philosophical in a rather sentimental sense . . ." This is a problem for the Beats, a problem for Blyth, a problem for naïve-romantic composition and interpretations of haiku in English, and a problem for the future of the genre. 
 
Yet in contrast to the various degrees of disparagement in the discussion above, it seems to a person, everyone who had anything to say was inspired by Blyth, Watts, Suzuki, Zen Buddhism, the Beats, in some admixture:
 
"For me, and I suspect for many others, [Blyth] was a hugely important early introduction and a key to my decision to study Japanese literature."
 
". . . it is undoubtedly true that his books have had extraordinary influence…"
 
". . . I do admire his range of haiku and his translations of them."
 
". . . these earlier pioneers must have had some merit if they drew you 'to study Japanese in the first place.' While personal preferences are sure to change over time, we need not discard the sources of our early enthusiasms and hide them away…"
 
". . . I am baffled by the [contemporary] antagonism toward Blyth and Watts."
 
"i remember reading blyth on zen in english literature when i was fourteen, beside lake okanagan in british Columbia . . . and i imagine blyth did something to turn me towards japanese literature, along with d.t. suzuki, who i read during the beat age. ditto alan watts."
 
What's not being overtly stated, beyond such declarations that "these early pioneers" were "a key to my decision to study Japanese literature," is that a whole generation of Japanologists, and other academics in the humanities were likely inspired by the radicalism of the era in which these contemporary scholars were themselves youthful students and researchers. What of the life-changing, life-enhancing, life-inspiring realities mentioned, brought about by the writers in question? Why the protracted silence? The texts are, simply, academically unsuitable. In the haiku world, the depth of irony is Shakespearean. Has the life of inspiration through the vehicle of art ever been further distant from the garnering and teaching of contemporary democratic knowledge? Yet this situation presents an opportunity, an open field, resulting from silences decades long.
 
I would wish for a svelte and savvy Kerouac, but even if she existed, there are no North Shore houses for rent at $50/month facing the sea, no safe hitchhiking. If bohemians abound, cynicism attends smarts, and who can blame them? The radical alternatives of earlier postwar eras have failed. This is what both the Beats and Blyth offered: alternative cultures, deepened philosophies and a new poetics. 
 
Paz writes:
 
Modernity is not outside but within us. It is today and the most ancient antiquity; it is tomorrow and the beginning of the world; it is a thousand years old and yet newborn... [Modernity] We want to trap it alive but it flaps its wings and vanishes in the form of a handful of syllables. We are left empty-handed.
 
Modernity, our moment, our "era"—a concept crucial to gendai haiku, is the only gift we are given and can give: this empty-handed presence. Did the Beats fail, and did Blyth? Not if we are inspired. It's worth reading Kerouac again, and Ginsberg. Yet they also recede, as Blyth recedes, as the past recedes. What remains is passion as expressed in the ideas and stories. And good storytellers are rare enough. The inspirations of the era of Blyth and the Beats can be examined in the light of contemporary scholarship, in an integrated fashion, as part of a search for a new and deepened understanding of haiku poetics:
 
The doors of perception open slightly and the other time appears, the real one we were searching for without knowing it: the present, the presence.
 
under barns and naked —
the motionless world of time 
between
 
Richard Gilbert
February 12, 2009
 
 
 

Go Tell It on the Mountain - The Personal in Haiku by Roberta Beary


In September 1990 I became a 'trailing spouse' and followed my then-husband to his new job in Tokyo. Living and working in Japan in the 1990s, I experienced, for the first time, life as an outsider, an outsider who was ‘invited' to learn about Japanese culture.

One invitation included joining a haiku group that accepted 'gaigin'. The group met in a drab government building in Tokyo's Minato-ku ward. In my weekly sessions, I learned that haiku must be impersonal and must include a season element. I was also strongly advised to write in the 5-7-5 three-line haiku form. For a long time I tried to write haiku that followed those three requirements and I was not successful. I remember one of the first haiku I wrote in Japan used an image of a cement truck.

Past the cement trucks
row upon row of roses
quietly dancing.1

In my Japanese haiku group, I gradually learned not to use 'initial caps' or punctuation. The 5-7-5 form continued to be encouraged.

on a bed of leaves
cicada with broken wing -
children running by2

After a few years of living in Japan I decided to go out on a limb and write something personal, while still adhering to the traditional form:

picking strawberries
grandma's rolled up sleeves reveal
pale tattooed numbers3

This image is based on my friend M's mother, a Holocaust survivor. After school at the playground, I would often see M's mother with her sleeves rolled up, welcoming her son with a hug. I noticed pale numbers with a faint blue tinge on her inner forearm. Just before leaving Japan I entered 'picking strawberries' in a haiku contest. When I returned to the States, I was stunned to learn that my haiku had received a Commended award.

Back in the US in 1996, I was anxious to meet other haiku poets. I joined a local haiku group, towpath poets, which had got together for the first time just a year earlier. There I learned that not everyone writes in a 5-7-5 three-line form of haiku and that season elements are not an absolute.

In December 1997 towpath poets hosted the annual Haiku Society of America (HSA) meeting in Washington DC. At one of the sessions, led by Ken Leibman, then the HSA journal's Frogpond editor, members of the audience were asked to submit an anonymous haiku for discussion. I gamely put my haiku hat in the ring with this entry which I wrote on the spot:

piano practice
in the room above me
my father shouting4

I had no idea Ken Leibman would chose my haiku to illustrate the question, ‘Is this haiku?' Some members of the audience voiced their opinion that this was not haiku as the author was 'too present' in the poem. Others said it was a perfectly good haiku and proceeded to explain it in such a way that I wondered if they were talking about my haiku or someone else's work. I don't recall much else of the discussion except that Ken Leibman asked the poet to identify him/herself. No one had told me that the anonymous haiku session would not remain anonymous.

Ken asked me if this haiku had its roots in a memory from my childhood. As with most of my haiku, there is an element of the present tense which denotes a childhood memory. In my 'piano practice' haiku, the image of my father shouting in the upstairs bedroom as I practiced piano in the downstairs living room is obvious. Less obvious is the resonance of the present tense. Even today, when I play the piano in my own living room, I sometimes lift my head to listen for the sound of my father shouting. Perhaps this is one reason William Faulkner's quip ‘The past isn't dead. It isn't even past'5 remains a favourite of mine.

After the meeting, Ken and I and some other poets found a local watering hole and continued our discussion of the personal in haiku. Ken told me he liked my haiku because it was different and said something new. He suggested that I submit it for publication and encouraged me to write haiku that 'speaks to me' and not worry about the opinions of others. Since then, I've tried to follow his advice.

At the time, my life was in a period of transition. The husband I had followed to Japan had left me and my two young children almost as soon as we all returned to the States. I was picking up the pieces of my life and writing the process.

another snowstorm
a child braids her doll's hair
over and over6

No subject was taboo. While there was no actual custody battle in a courtroom, there were endless meetings with child psychologists chosen by my then-husband.

custody hearing
seeing his arms cross
i uncross mine7

Was I writing haiku? Plenty of people thought I wasn't. And they wrote to tell me about it. Sometimes I would try my hand at something different and use a kigo, a season word. But even then something personal would find its way into my haiku.

my son and i
counting fireflies
counting stars8

When I won the 1999 Penumbra Haiku Contest with this haiku, I was happy to read judge Elizabeth St Jacques' comment that my haiku 'expresses a strong sense of love and sharing between son and parent with a touch of humour'. From that point on there was no stopping me. I had been given the go-ahead and that was enough.

I wrote about my childhood longing for my mother's red hat juxtaposed to my adult inheritance of that same hat.

mother's red hat
short years of wanting it
long years of having it9

I continued to enter contests because I wanted to spread the word that it was okay to write haiku about one's own life. Each contest win brought wider acceptance.

halloween twilight
again this year my son waits
alone by the door10

The period of transition in my personal life was ending, I was getting remarried, my children were growing up, my parents needed my help more, and it was all grist for the mill. I kept writing. Eventually I had enough poems for a collection, The Unworn Necklace, which I entered in the Snapshot Press Haiku Contest. The Unworn Necklace won first place and was published in paperback in 2007 by Snapshot Press. Later the book went on to win a Kanterman Award from the Haiku Society of America and was a finalist for an award from the Poetry Society of America, a first for a haiku collection.

all day long
i feel its weight
the unworn necklace11

Footnotes:
1 Mainichi Daily News, June 22, 1991.
2 Mainichi Daily News, Haiku in English, No. 517.
3 picking strawberries: Commended, International Haiku Contest (1994) in Commemoration of the 300th Anniversary of Matsuo Basho Contest, Haiku International Special Issue, Haiku International Association (1996).
4 Woodnotes 31.
5 Requiem for a Nun by William Faulkner.
6 Woodnotes 29.
7 Pocket Change (towpath poets anthology, Red Moon Press 2000).
8 First Prize, Penumbra Haiku Contest, 1999.
9 The Unworn Necklace (Snapshot Press, 1st hardcover ed. 2011).
10 First Prize, Tokutomi Memorial Haiku Contest.
11 The Unworn Necklace.

Editor's note: Roberta Beary is an award-winning American poet who lives near Washington DC. She has written this article especially for Haiku NewZ and is reprinted in the Living Haiku Anthology with the author's express permission. To read more of Roberta's haiku please visit her website.