Skip to main content

Posts

haiku commentary ~ Annette Makino

Sometimes life and poetry intersect naturally. I had a brutal wardrobe clear-out yesterday, as witnessed by the pile of clothes hangers in the centre of the bed and a bulging large carrier bag destined for the charity shop.  And then, through one of those random extended internet excavations, I came across this haiku by Annette Makino, published by tinywords a few years ago which I'd commented on briefly. 

hanging in my closet the person I used to be

Reading it again still elicited a similar variety of responses: laughter, recognition, resignation and sadness. And this time part of ‘the person I used to be’ was neatly folded at my feet! 
Most of us keep clothes that no longer fit us, or suit us. I still have an ostentatious, ostrich feather bolero that I bought in the early 1980s and will never wear again but hold onto from a sense of nostalgia. But the haiku also propels me towards imagining clothes that belonged to someone else, a husband, wife or partner who may have left, or died…
Recent posts

photo haiku

Haiku Rebellion Studio, The Poetry School, London, April 2018

haiku commentary ~ Jacob Salzer

haiku


how many
become one
sound of rain

          — Jacob Salzer, Frogpond 38.3

I have a particular fondness for line-break – perhaps because I came to haiku from writing free-verse where line-break is the principal structuring tool. But it’s still something that matters to me in constructing haiku, although I approach it with a lighter touch to avoid any overly dramatic effect that a longer poem might be able to carry and dilute.

And it was the idea of line-break that immediately hit me when I first read Salzer’s haiku, on the page and out loud… the idea that the haiku would work as well without any:

how many become one sound of rain
The haiku’s theme of oneness, alongside the option for the reader to pause in multiple places to play with the sense of what Salzer is saying, make it perfect for the monostich form. BUT… that’s not what Salzer chose to do so instead of simply imposing myself on the poem I want to look deeper and appreciate the author’s intention.

The line-breaks definitely …

haiku commentary ~ Peter Yovu

the sky's blue gong an orange in my hand

          — Peter Yovu


I don’t think Yovu could have packed any more into this haiku. Colour and sound.  The human experience and the natural world. Distance and proximity. And the beautiful simplicity of concrete language that injects it with vibrancy and authenticity and communicates an experience we can all recognise and share. 
Add to that the use of colour as adjective and noun, the onomatopoeia of ‘gong’ and the almost-eye rhyme with ‘orange’, as well as the monostich form that encourages us to experience this moment in one celebratory hurrah, and this is a haiku that makes me feel good to be alive on this day in the world. A day when that orange could almost be the sun sitting in my own small palm.

haiku commentary ~ ai li

in a room
with no windows
drawing stars

          — ai li, still two one (1998)

There are two things that immediately strike me about ai li’s haiku:
a strong sense of containment, perhaps even imprisonment, from the image of a room with no windows.the concrete images at the end of each line – room, windows, stars – which anchor me to the real world.
The idea of containment/imprisonment is a subjective response; the room could as easily be a cellar where the poet/narrator has chosen to be. But surely there’s a sense of longing, or aware*, in the third line, a longing for the exterior world, the night sky, for beauty and peace and freedom, that reinforces this idea for me. 
But if this is about imprisonment why don’t I feel any distress or sense of restriction? Perhaps because of those three concrete words at the end of each line. Poets place (or should place) words at the ends of lines for deliberate and conscious reasons. And these do feel consciously placed. Room. Window. Stars. 
I am i…

haiku commentary ~ Kobayashi Issa

All the time I pray to Buddha      I keep on      killing mosquitoes

          — Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson and Issa (ed. R Hass, The Ecco Press, 1994)

I’ve been told (but have never been able to accurately source it) that Arthur Koestler* said ‘true understanding involves transcending the barrier of paradox’. And that idea seems to be the backcloth to this haiku by Issa, how he subscribed to the non-violence at the heart of Buddhist thinking and behaviour yet could not live up to the first of the five precepts that all Buddhists should follow: ‘Avoid killing, or harming any living thing’. Because there’s no wriggle room to say that mosquitoes, annoying or not, aren’t living things. How could he call himself a Buddhist but also act in a way that betrayed his core beliefs? Does that make him a hypocrite?
On the logical surface of the argument, yes. But I imagine we are all culpable of what could be described as self-betrayals. Are we Chris…
sunset fishing the flood tide catching the light

tinywords 10 January 2018