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

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[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! ;-)



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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 don't think I had noted it then but may have noticed it in some news article about the short-list in April because it has made it to the short list too!)
 

Anyways, I ran across an interview with her 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.  

The persistence of being

In a lovely essay titled 'The Persistence of Books' in the lovely literary zine,World Literature TodayRebecca Walkowitz writes about Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes Junot Diaz's use of Spanish and English in his fiction, Paul Kingsnorth’s breakout novel, The Wake, and Ali Smith's book  How to Be Both (2014).
In Tree of Codes, Foer has cut out words from the pages of the book, so that we see both gaps (literal cutout spaces in the paper) and words from other pages, which lie beneath those gaps. Tree of Codes (the title itself involves paring away letters from The Street of Crocodiles) uses the codex—the structure of paper sheets lying one on top of the other—to engage readers in the turning of pages, encountering holes, and registering loss or absence. Moreover, as Hayles points out, the reader’s intensive experience of her own body is meant to evoke by contrast the unfelt loss of other bodies, especially the loss of the novel’s author, who was murdered by a Gestapo officer in 1942. Loss, gaps, and absence are a condition of the novel’s history, which Foer seeks to make palpable through his adaptation. 
Foer’s work registers the absence of English words but generally forgets—and allows readers to forget—the absence of Polish words. There is no direct reference in the text or in the afterword to the original language of the work. In this sense,
 Tree of Codes is interested in the history of the book but not especially interested in the history ofbooks: their movement through the world in multiple editions and languages, their debt to translators, and their reliance on English as a medium of translation. Like many other recent works of world literature, Tree of Codes animates the medium specificity and sensuous effects of the printed page
....Books are not simply containers for language. They also establish the location of language. They do this, for example, by reproducing the national lexicon (the words that count as US English) while marking out and distinguishing, through italics, words that are foreign or outside that lexicon. Typographically, literary fiction since the nineteenth century has served to affirm the borders between local and global diction. Junot Díaz makes this point—and upends it—in his 2012 collection of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her. Díaz’s fiction is concerned with the relationship between English and Spanish. When his works move into other languages, translators have had to figure out how to communicate the formal dimensions of that theme. In particular, they’ve had to grapple with his selective use of italics, in which many but not all Spanish words are presented, alongside English words, in roman font. How do you translate a work of US fiction in which some words are local and foreign at the same time?

.....
Incorporating medieval and modern, Kingsnorth shows that the normative technologies of the novel—the standardization of typeface and format, orthography and font—are complicit in the invisibility of English. We have forgotten the history of English. We have forgotten that English has a history. The Wake hopes to awaken our memory. 
Kingsnorth suggests that the flourishing of the English-language novel, represented by the triumph of contemporary anglophone fiction, is rooted in the physical brutality of the conquest. The novel presents that history while also seeking to inaugurate an alternative, localist future.

Incorporating medieval and modern, Kingsnorth shows that the normative technologies of the novel—the standardization of typeface and format, orthography and font—are complicit in the invisibility of English. We have forgotten the history of English. We have forgotten that English has a history. 
The Wake hopes to awaken our memory.
Kingsnorth suggests that the flourishing of the English-language novel, represented by the triumph of contemporary anglophone fiction, is rooted in the physical brutality of the conquest. The novel presents that history while also seeking to inaugurate an alternative, localist future.

....
Like Kingsnorth, Ali Smith asks us to consider the words, voices, and agents that precede or lie beneath the book we hold in our hands. Smith’s How to Be Both (2014) evokes multiple languages by generating the impression of multiple narratives, books, historical periods, and media. The novel emphasizes not only the history of writing but also, like our other examples, the typographic representation of that writing. The characters make free use of smartphones and iPads and other digital technologies, but the work relies on the codex and on the reader’s visual experience of letters and shapes on the page. The work is thus “post-digital” or “bookish” in the sense used by Jessica Pressman. It reaffirms the technologies of the book while benefitting—through composition, format, design, and circulation—from the technologies of the computer. Insisting on the book becomes a way to make the reader’s body participate in the text, to be sure. But it is also a way to make the reader a kind of instigator or operator of the text. The narrative provides an apt image for this process when it tells us that one of main characters, George, re-watches the same iPad video over and over again. She does this, she says, because she wants to witness the “happening,” by which she means the fact of circulation rather than the represented acts. We too are asked to witness the happening: the way the book presents itself to us, the way its words and ideas visually and figuratively twist into other words, and our experience as readers and handlers of the object. The reader’s experience is inseparable from the novel’s plot.
 Read the full article at the link.

April 10, 2016

NPM 2016 - FPR Prompts - April 6th

A response to Noah Eli Gordon's Prompt #5 at Found Poetry Review:
Write a sonnet in the modern key: 
Line 1: narrate action, include at least two nouns
Line 2: ask a question without using “I”
Line 3: make a statement without saying “I”
Line 4: now say “I” in another statement
Line 5: use a fragment
Line 6: narrate another action, include one of the nouns from line 1
Line 7: ask a question using “I”
Line 8: use a fragment that
Line 9: spills into the next line
Line 10: now say “I” and include the other noun from line 1
Line 11: answer your first question
Line 12: make a statement that is in total opposition to line 3
Line 13: combine phrases from lines 5 and 8 here
Line 14: answer your second question
This poem could be improved upon but as a first quick attempt, possibly to be reworked on later, here's a start.


--
"His flirtation with disgrace was only that, not a ruinous infacuation." - Licks of Love: Short Stories and a Sequel, by John Updike
Licks of Love
by Sanjeev Naik
I wake up from dreams, the taste of memories on my tongue
Have you been remembering me?
I left before you woke up
but I never really left.
For now,
I slip into our memories, languidly amorous.
Will I always forget love this way?
Fragments of
our dreams recur each night
I grasp for words, which slip from my tongue
- you must remember me at least once a year.
You left before I woke from my dreams
For now, fragments of
my loves linger, all the ones I never forget.

Reworking it little bit - i.e. treating the instructions in the prompt as a starting point but then reworking it to free it off the line constraints that a strict following of the rules traps the poem into.

Licks of Love
by Sanjeev Naik
I wake up from dreams, the taste of memories
on my tongue; have you been remembering me?
I left before you woke up
but I never really left.
For now, I slip in and out of
our memories, languidly amorous.
Will I always forget love this way?

Fragments of our dreams recur
each night I grasp for words, each night
they slip from my tongue - you must
remember me at least once each night.
You left before I woke from my dreams
For now, fragments of my loves linger,
All the ones I never forget.


April 9, 2016

NPM 2016 - FPR Prompts - April 7th

I haven't been able to keep up with the Found Review page's prompts to write a poem every day but here is my attempt at writing something based on Simone Muench's prompt on April 7th to write a cento.
The prompt: Write a cento that is a self-portrait, or anthology of your life, utilizing lines and fragments from your own work.
I had never heard of a cento before but seems like a simple idea and Muench provides "basic stipulations" for writing a traditional cento.
A cento is a poem made entirely of lines from other poems. The name comes from the Latin word meaning a cloak made out of patches. The cento differs from found poetry in that every line is taken from another poem, instead of just any borrowed material.

I dont write too often but took 10 lines from 10 (half-baked) poems written in the 2010-2016 period and randomly chose a line I liked while reading the poem -- with no thought or relation or theme in mind i.e. no influence of history or memory in picking the lines) -- and once I had the ten lines in 1 place, I've paired them together as I see fit.

I only  changed a few minor things (guiding to guided, advising to advise , *him to a me, changed one line break,)... that's all
__
Lucian Freud - Reflection (Self-Portrait)
Source
Self-portrait
by Sanjeev Naik


I took a wrong turn and came here
our failures guided me further

The weight of words
advise me to go seek my calm in Brazil

Colors blend into white
a continuum of listless reassurances.

No ink stains my fingers, I now only know
an unknown darkness

If it is the trees that have gone languid
a darkness envelopes me. I wake up...


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...