January 24, 2018

Jump in, Dry off and Walk on

Eileen Myles in an interview says:

The little living human is framed, continually, by opposites. One of the ways we experience this is in the living realm is in the limitations of things.  Can we accept this longing, feel it, even maybe occasionally go down to the beach. Jump in, dry off and walk on. Do we accept our fate?

Yes... to walk on! 
"The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can't leave behind
And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it's a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong
Walk on, walk on" 



Reify your life

An excerpt from an interview with Eileen Myles:

Rumpus: Right. That also ties into an anxiety people have about being a “poet.” It can be an identity or profession or it can just be another state.
Myles: If you throw out the vocation word, or the occupation word, it’s like, how are you occupying your time? I mean in your existence, because that’s the place where you write the poems. You don’t write them outside of your existence, you write them inside. So everything that’s there is available. It’s like, I don’t know why I always think of the word guy—in German, there’s a word der bub, and it just means the guy. When I think about epics like Beowulf and The Odyssey, all those long-form poems, they’re basically just the adventures of this guy. If we enter that with gender in mind, which as women we must, and empty it and claim it and occupy it however we choose, you’re just this person. The whole history of poetry and sagas and narration are just the tales of people. Recently I was talking to Fanny Howe about War and Peace, and she was talking about how great it is, but she was like ugh but I hate the war parts. What I find very interesting about the war parts is they’re just about people messing up. It’s about how empty the occupation of war is. It’s not these great noble thoughts and deeds and acts of bravery, though those things do happen as well as when they occur domestically. But war is mostly just these spaced out dudes prancing around on their horses without a clue as to what they’re doing, while other people go look how noble he is. But nobody really knows what war is. Because in a way there is no such thing, and there’s no such thing as history, or any of it, except for how we’re spending our moments in this sort of infinitude we call living. To capture that as poetry, and to call that your occupation, is to sort of reify your life.
I've been reading Eileen Myles poetry and about her only in the last couple years. If you don't know much about her, New York Times magazine had a good profile about her in 2016, when she seemed to be everywhere. Also, if interested, you can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.

Blazing forth and muddling through

Philip Roth may have stopped writing but he sure can write well still. Read the interview in the New York Times (January 16, 2018) in its entirety but for here, this excerpt:

Looking back, how do you recall your 50-plus years as a writer?
Philip Roth: Exhilaration and groaning. Frustration and freedom. Inspiration and uncertainty. Abundance and emptiness. Blazing forth and muddling through. The day-by-day repertoire of oscillating dualities that any talent withstands — and tremendous solitude, too. And the silence: 50 years in a room silent as the bottom of a pool, eking out, when all went well, my minimum daily allowance of usable prose.

January 8, 2018

Haiku, Make it New!

Many moons ago, I wrote a blog post about haiku, which I am quite proud about - if only because there is no other post at this blog which I took so much effort to write.

Today, I thought I'll add a short addendum to the same since I started reading last week about Kyoshi Takahama (1874-1959) and Sanki Saito (1900 ~ 1962) and came across the term Gendai Haiku, which is used essentially for Modern Haiku in Japanese: (Gendai: : the present day, modern times, today). Kiyoko Uda, a president of the Modern Haiku Association, the most avant-garde of Japan's major haiku organizations, put it this way
“It should be our method that we create haiku which match the times. This is not a new idea and was prevalent in the old days; even Sanki Saito wrote about it before the association existed.  Sanki believed: ‘To the difficult question 'what is new?’ I will answer: the new means how the emotions of today's society and people are expressed to fit the times. The haiku must be innovative in any time. So we should begin and continue to express the emotions of the people of this time and generation." -  Kiyoko Uda, President, Modern Haiku Association, Tokyo, JAPAN (Gendai Haiku, S.21.10) English Translation: Akiko Takazawa

However, it isn't a new 21st century movement - actually it can be said to start even with Shiki in the 19th century but surprisingly I never heard of the term 'gendai haiku' before even though I might have been writing some and calling them, hesitating to call them haikus, poem-kus! [1]

In an essay in Frogpond (2012), Paul Miller writes

The first hint of gendai haiku to reach American shores occurred with Makoto Ueda’s underrated anthology Modern Japanese Haiku published in 1976 in which he translated twenty Japanese poets beginning with and after Masaoka Shiki. However, the volume wasn’t strictly a gendai anthology, and in fact included some poets who were opposed to what would later become known as gendai—such as Shiki’s successor Kyoshi Takahama. The anthology instead was an attempt to give voice to modern poets perhaps unknown of in English. Of the twenty included poets only a handful were born after nineteen hundred. Inspired perhaps by the few poets whose work could be called gendai, several American and Canadian poets tried their hand at gendai haiku; however, these efforts were short lived. 

It wasn’t until the 2001 and 2008 anthologies of the Modern Haiku Association (Gendai Haiku Kyokai), which contain hundreds of modern Japanese haiku—translated into English!— that Americans finally took serious notice. It is important to keep in mind that gendai haiku is not wholly representative of all contemporary haiku in Japan, yet the scope of the poems and poets in these anthologies speak to a significant movement. Perhaps equally important for discussion purposes is that the movement speaks to a level of diversity concerning what a haiku can be that is arguably lacking in our country.

In an essay about Gendai Haiku, Peter Yovuwrites:
In his review of The Haiku Universe for the 21st Century, Scott Metz quotes Masaoka Shiki: “Haiku advances . . . only when it departs from the traditional style.” I am not scholar enough to surmise how far Shiki would have been willing to take this departure, but I will guess that he would have been surprised, at the least, to discover the directions that his disciples and those who followed would take. Certainly a departure from realism, as various movements embraced subjectivity, politics, surrealism, feminism, disjunction and other literary techniques rarely encountered before. Some schools promoted the writing of haiku without kigo, a movement many writers in the West have also explored. 

So, the term 'Gendai' means more than just Modern or Avant-Garde. 

In a post at the Haiku project, this excerpt by Scott Metz elucidates: 
“… influenced by changes in culture, society, economics, art, and literature—globalization—many different schools and strands of haiku developed during the 20th century. … Starting with a foundation centered more on realism and experience, 20th century haiku immediately expanded into areas such as politics, subjectivity, the avant-garde, feminism, urbanism, surrealism, the imaginary, symbolism, individuality, and science fiction: in general, free-form and experimental aesthetics. … The rigid limitations and conservatism of traditional techniques (namely 5-7-5 on/syllabets and the necessity of a kigo) were no longer absolutes for Japanese poets.”

I could go on with excerpts from many other online articles but will leave you with this lovely interview with Richard Gilbert. Read the article in its entirety as he is quite the expert on modern haiku, both in Japanese and English.

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.… Literally, the word [gendai] means “contemporary” but just as with “modern art,” something more is implied, in terms of movements, categories, history and personages.… Gendai haiku offer the reader the shape of who we are in the shape of things to come, in resonance with archaic myth, (and) the formal insights of previous ages.… 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 in gendai haiku exists an invitation to the present and a 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.

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 in gendai haiku exists an invitation to the present and a 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.

Will leave you with a link (no excerpts!) to three more articles:

  • longish essay about how haiku writers in Japan post World War II started The New Rising Haiku movement, a movement to recover the adolescence of haiku. . . . In order to break the old and feudal tradition of haiku taste and thought, we hoisted the flag of liberalism and democracy against the exclusionism of the haiku world and the feudalistic master‑disciple system. That is, to create gendai haiku as poetry, we advocated the pure poesy of haiku, not the old hobby taste haiku.
  • An essay by Richard Gilbert and other modern haiku masters from Japan:  A New Haiku Era: Non-season kigo in the Gendai Haiku saijiki
  • An interview with Richard Gilbert.

Now… even if in English, to quote Scott Metz again, go… make it new!

What also strikes me … is how strangely satisfied those writing [English language haiku] are with their nature imagery. Considering how radical Basho and his followers were about always trying to do something new and fresh with kigo, it seems a shame, and kind of mortifying, that so many writing [English language haiku] don’t try to experiment more with nature/environmental imagery. To try to turn them on their heads. To twist them. Play with them. …

I think folks writing [English language haiku] need to play more: with images, words and techniques. and that not just western poetry/poetics should be considered and sampled, but anything and everything we can get our hands on. which is why it’s exciting to see things like ‘kire’ and ‘ma’ and vampires and sufism and gendai popping up. what can we do with these things?”

— Scott Metz, comments on troutswirl


[1] I've written them off and on since 2005 ...often in spring (March-April) or fall (Sep-Oct), coincidentally when something about the weather change spurred me to write them. Here's a few from 2013.

March 21, 2017

The sky remains forever dark

Stasis! We know - well, most scientists but not all believe - that the universe is not static and is continually expanding but yes, energy is conserved, there may be something called dark matter and evenmoreso dark energy that comprises much of the universe and holds it together, but yes... the sky does remain forever dark.

#Nihilism? No. Just some bunny-hole I went into after  I ran into this excerpt while reading about entropy and the end of the universe, something that came up while discussing a Wallace Stevens poem, of all things! ;-)

P.S. I didn't know they had released a stamp in honor of Gibbs. I need to get myself this stamp somehow!

October 6, 2016

Of the cradled mind, the restless nights, and petty imageries

Three poems today by William Carlos Williams, from Collected Poems, 1939-1962....

... of the cradled mind, the restless nights, and petty imageries. Oh - all a momentary clatter and a world that is not enough!

Design for Novemberby William Carlos Williams 
Let confusion be the design
and all my thoughts go,
swallowed by desire: recess
from promises in
the November of your arms.
Release from the rose: broken
reeds, strawpale,
through which, from easy
branches that mock the blood
a few leaves fall. There
the mind is cradled,
stripped also and returned
to the ground, a trivial
and momentary clatter. Sleep
and be brought down, and so
condone the world, eased of
the jagged sky and all
its petty imageries, flying
birds, its fogs and windy
phalanxes . . .

The Words Lying Idleby William Carlos Williams 
The fields parched, the leaves
drying on the maples, the birds' beaks
gaping! If it would rain,
if it would only rain! Clouds come up
move from the west and from the south
but they bring no rain. Heat and dry winds
- the grass is curled and brittle underfoot,
and foot leaves it broken. The roads are dust.
But the mind is dust also
and the eyes burn from it. They burn more
from restless nights, from the full moon shining
on a dry earth than from lack of rain.
The rain, if it fell, would ease the mind
more than the grass, the mind would
be somewhat, at least, appeased against
this dryness and the death implied.

The Mind's Gamesby William Carlos Williams  
If a man can say of his life or
any moment of his life, There is
nothing more to be desired! his state
becomes like that told in the famous
double sonnet--but without the
sonnet’s restrictions. Let him go look
at the river flowing or the bank
of late flowers, there will be one
small fly still among the petals
in whose gauzy wings raised above
its back a rainbow shines. The world
to him is radiant and even the fact
of poverty is wholly without despair.
So it seems until these rouse
to him pictures of the systematically
starved--for a purpose, at the mind’s
proposal. What good then the
light winged fly, the flower or
the river--too foul to drink of or
even to bathe in? The 90 story building
beyond the ocean that a rocket
will span for destruction in a matter
of minutes but will not
bring him, in a century, food or
relief of any sort from his suffering.
The world too much with us? Rot!
the world is not half enough with us--
the rot of a potato with
a healthy skin, a rot that is
never revealed till we are about to
eat--and it revolts us. Beauty?
Beauty should make us paupers,
should blind us, rob us--for it
does not feed the sufferer but makes
his suffering a fly-blown putrescence
and ourselves decay--unless
the ecstasy be general.  
I will leave you with this interview with William Carlos Williams from 1950; have not heard it yet but will do so soon.

May 14, 2016

The weight of words

I don't think I've ever read a novel by a Korean writer - but may have to fix that since this is the second time I am reading about The Vegetarian by Han Kang in the last month or two. (It was on the long-list for the Man Booker International Prize earlier this year but I think I only noticed it when it made the short-list in April.)

Anyways, I ran across an interview with the author Han Kang just now in World Literature Today (read the full interview here) and here's an interesting excerpt.

KL: A well-known critic, and your fan, once said that one has to prepare oneself and be in a different mind-set before reading your work. How do you interpret this?   
HK: I believe it’s because my novels directly explore human suffering. Instead of shying away, I try to delve deeper. That’s my tendency, as I’m always trying to discover the truth behind a person. So when I wrote about the Gwangju massacre, a tragedy with so much suffering, I think he meant that such material in my hands meant that the readers would have to prepare themselves to experience—feel—this suffering.   
KL: I sense in your work a way of looking at words—regarding them as if they were visual images. In your book Huirapeo Shigan (Greek lessons, 2011) it is evident that there is a meticulous sensitivity to word choice throughout your novel. I’m curious about your precise relationship to language, in terms of your work.  
HK: I’ve written a book of poems that I wrote over a period of twenty years that scrutinize words—images—in this manner. Personally, I think of language as an extremely difficult tool to handle. Sometimes it seems impossible. Other times it succeeds in conveying what I’m trying to say, but to call it successful isn’t accurate; moreover, it’s as if I keep writing even though I know it’s going to fail, but it’s the only tool I have. It’s a relentless dilemma, and I think it’s something that a lot of poets experience. Especially in Greek Lessons, the protagonist cannot speak and writes poems instead. Each sentence in a language has beauty and baseness, purity and filth, truth and lies, and my novel explores that even more directly. When the weight of words takes over, it is challenging to even speak sometimes. Despite this, we have to continue to speak and write and read.  

Jump in, Dry off and Walk on

Eileen Myles in an interview says : The little living human is framed, continually, by opposites. One of the ways we experience this is ...