A Little Something More to Blow Your Mind or to Rephrase, How New is Modern - Charles Henderson's Blog

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Never would I have thought I would start writing at 73 years of age. I have thoroughly enjoyed my voyage into the written spirituality of poetry and am thankful for the opportunity.  In my seven years here I have met many new and wonderful persons. Having them accept me as a friend has been a moving experience.


A Little Something More to Blow Your Mind or to Rephrase, How New is Modern

Blog Posted:11/8/2012 3:45:00 PM
Modern Haiku. The following information came unverified from the internet.
I have no reason to believe or disbelieve any of it other than it came from seemingly factual basis.

The poems came from a compilation by Faubion Bowers, a small book given to me, of which I can not vouch for the vality of it's statement. The compilation is the culmination of 30 translators with a single translator signing a single poem, with the exception of very few who had co-translators. I saw recently a book of translations of Basho's poem about the frog, the pond, and the splash. I did not count the pages but there were several (maybe as many as 10 which had three to four translations on a page. All the translations were different somewhat. So, just a little background to not get too uptight about the actual meaning of some of these poems, because you are only looking at one person's translation of a single poem.

The history of the modern haiku dates from Masaoka Shiki's reform, begun in 1892, which established haiku as a new independent poetic form. Shiki's reform did not change two traditional elements of haiku: the division of 17 syllables into three groups of 5, 7, and 5 syllables and the inclusion of a seasonal theme. I welcome any question or conversation relevant to these selections. I probably can't answer but maybe someone will step up and we can all learn something.

To me these examples are as modern or more so than many modern haiku today. Please note the one with two lines, and two parts. View these as if they are correct translations, so all participants in the blog will be on the same playing field. Tell what you think, how you feel-- content, confused, whatever. Ask questions, anyone is invited to answer questions. I certainly wont be able to answer many of them. If one looks like a poor haiku, do not be afraid to voice that. We can only comment to the extent of our knowledge but collectivly we can stretch the parameters. Just remember that some of us will not know what you are talking about so go to lengths to be clear. If you do not understand what someone is saying. Be cool and just say so. Hopefully all will be upbeat, polite and in the vogue of learning, that this blog hopes to produce. If it turns out to be a bust, well we tried and that is important.

trying to sleep
go easy
when you swat flies

the tree cut
dawn breaks early
at my little window

I've turned my back
on Buddha
how cool the moon

men are disgusting
they argue over
the price of orchids

coming out to close the gate
I end up listening to frogs

a moonflower fell
midnight sound

unable to devour
those persimmons I adore
oh this illness of mine

all I can think of
is being sick in bed
and snowbound

again and again
I ask how high
the snow is

Please note the seemingly single perception in this one. My only explantion is the "again and again" completes it. The mind thinks:
I ask how high the snow is
I ask how high the snow is
I ask how high the snow is

no matter how hard I look I only see one part. Unless we are Juxtaposing from a staement modifier to the statement. But I do not see it.

a paper kimono
shows the guts of

how much longer
is my life
a brief night

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Date: 11/9/2012 1:24:00 PM
I enjoyed reading your blog and all of the comments.A wise person once told me if you have to ask someone else if it is a haiku, it is not a haiku, because they are felt, not written.
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Date: 11/9/2012 6:23:00 AM
My third place would be ..trying to sleep/go easy/when you swat flies. Again with the ceasura at the end of line one,it reminds me of many translated 'older' Japanese haiku I have read over the years in my studies of this particular form.It still works well as a modern ELH, and could have been written yesterday ,so eternal is its subject matter
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Date: 11/9/2012 6:17:00 AM
This two liner..coming out to close the gate....... I end up listening to frogs ....reminds me of the 'spaces' image form I introduced here a while back.Between line one and two there is an unwritten line which the reader fills in .This I would place second in my 'imaginary contest'
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Date: 11/9/2012 4:18:00 AM
If these were in a contest I judged- men are disgusting/they argue over/the price of orchids ..would the winner even though without an 'as is moment' ,it is very poetic with the delightful caesura at the end of line one.Asto content . it sums up for me the importance of 'art' ie beauty over form , never sullying it with 'money or price' and lastly works well in English therefore a good example of a ELH( as Su labels them)
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Debbie Guzzi
Date: 11/9/2012 11:29:00 AM
I think it could be seen very well as the discription of an AH HA! moment in time, one teacher Chas and I listened to a bit said IF working from memory [memory is passed/past BUT the moment of that memory is frozen in your mind]
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Charles Henderson
Date: 11/9/2012 11:16:00 AM
Brian, thank you for you comments, I am amazed at how timeless some of these selections of Shiki seem to be.
Date: 11/9/2012 2:10:00 AM
BTW If I had to use local seasonal references, my "haiku" would become totally unglued. We don't have seasons (as it is generally understood) - we only have weather here in CT! Snow in November (summer), 30 C in June (winter) and gale force winds whenever the natural forces see fit to blow us back into the sea.... :-) Love this blog... it gave me something to think about. In short: we need to understand the references against which a poem is written. So, if I like to write Zen, then it is true to me - but it may not please others. I have peace with that. Enlightenment refers also to philosophy and the dark clouds to Albert Camus' particular philosophy and the essay: "Yes and No" (per my blog).Love, Su
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Charles Henderson
Date: 11/9/2012 11:29:00 AM
As to season words, I probably am more guilty of not considering them than most people. I usually think of it just after I finish a poem, and say oh well, maybe next time. That is terrible considering the heritage of them imbedded in the core of true haiku. I want to do better but just seems I can't.
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Charles Henderson
Date: 11/9/2012 11:26:00 AM
I totally agree about a poem resonating only with certain persons. We would love to think otherwise but must be satisfied with that in order to be inspired. How many poets write strickly for their own pleasure?
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Debbie Guzzi
Date: 11/9/2012 11:26:00 AM
The kigo 'dictionarys'..at least the ones I looked at did have referrance to seasonal events in latitudes. I'm lucky because New England is in the same latitude for flowers, trees etc as parts of Japan & China ;)
Date: 11/9/2012 1:55:00 AM
In Japan the honorable winner always sends orchids to the looser of a game as a sign of respect. Therefore, "men are disgusting" means to me, that it is not in good grace that the winner is haggling over the price of the orchids....
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Date: 11/8/2012 6:50:00 PM
[Surprise!/a moonflower fell midnight sound] I find this one particulary annoying LOL a moonflower is like the shape and weight of a morning glory [wee bit bigger] but no way it would make a sound falling..and what the heck is [surprise?} or surprising about a flower falling?
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Suzette Richards
Date: 11/9/2012 1:28:00 AM
The plant we know here as Moonflower, is as big as a child's hand and only opens after sunset. The seeds have narcotic/illusionary powers. Maybe that is what the writer is referring to.... the illusion of the sound... :-)
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Charles Henderson
Date: 11/8/2012 9:45:00 PM
the surprise was the next morning it was found on the ground (my opinion)
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Charles Henderson
Date: 11/8/2012 9:08:00 PM
I'm with you on this one Ruben. I think he is indicating all were asleep, hence no one to hear anything. Like the tree falling in the empty forest makes no sound.
Date: 11/8/2012 4:39:00 PM
This is a topic I have been interested in for a while now. When I read traditional Japanese haiku, so much of it 'seems' more modern than modern haiku -- a lot of it reads like little diary snippets, little existentialist windows into the poet's soul. I find a lot of supposedly 'traditional' American/English/Western/etc haiku to be so boring and empty, it doesn't read like poetry; isn't art. Here is an example: snowflakes fall/ upon a frozen pond--/ a dog barks -- to me this simply reads like a mental exercise, a crossword puzzle of sorts. Yes, the moment was captured with more than one of five senses, there is seasonal implication, and there is juxtaposition. But is it really poetry? Is it art?
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Chris D. Aechtner
Date: 11/8/2012 11:52:00 PM
Wrong comment :D See, reinforces my last reply haha!
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Chris D. Aechtner
Date: 11/8/2012 11:50:00 PM
I can be so slow sometimes! Duh....hey, that haiku is even better than I first thought -- very crafty!
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Charles Henderson
Date: 11/8/2012 9:31:00 PM
Go down to Deb's and read back up to get the replies in order.
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Charles Henderson
Date: 11/8/2012 9:28:00 PM
snowflakes fall/upon a frozen pond/a quivering bark. This resonates slightly but is still not what I would call a "bitching haiku" Sometime we just have to kick back and say hey we need to go to a different place. How about a line 3 "the flame does not care" I hate the way the replys line up to be read.
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Charles Henderson
Date: 11/8/2012 9:20:00 PM
i agree also Chris. Early on I read someone who said that when you make your juxt too wide the poem loses resonance. To me this is too wide. I don't know the source of your example, but to resonate the juxt. has to be related to the first sensory peception. You ex. does not do that. Try line 3 " a quivering bark"
Guzzi Avatar
Debbie Guzzi
Date: 11/8/2012 6:27:00 PM
yes I do see what you mean, it is getting past this point which is even harder than getting to this point..it is because in my mind we didn't [meaning the poet] really DIDN'T have a spiritual experience of nature, there was no moment of enlightenment.
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Debbie Guzzi
Date: 11/8/2012 6:27:00 PM
But, really who goes around constantly xperiencing 'moments of enlightenment'? Yet I think TRYING to look for the 'magic' in nature is a very positive habit to get in which can be done by TRYING to write haiku.
Date: 11/8/2012 4:12:00 PM
"the tree cut"-- begins with an objective statement, then lines 2 and 3 are a mental observation that now the sunshine wakes him up earlier. To me this seems subjective, or can someone fit it into the 5 senses or a feeling?
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Charles Henderson
Date: 11/8/2012 9:01:00 PM
Deb, I was viewing "dawn breaking" as a metaphore, but you are right the tree being gone simply let the light in earlier, and the light woke him ealier. However, the "my" is why I said "subjective". to say my enters him into the poem. He is "at the window" in the poem.
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Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 11/8/2012 6:46:00 PM
IT'S IRONY! It is complete irony. The wording is perfect! The tree "CUT" (somebody is cutting a tree down) dawn BREAKS---- the tree being CUT BREAKS the morning. It is an observation that what was once whole has been severed. I LOVE IT.
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Debbie Guzzi
Date: 11/8/2012 6:33:00 PM
I do not see the [dawn breaks early at my little window] as subjective at all, the tree is gone so now full dawn without the shadow caused by the tree comes through the window earlier and wakes him sooner. I do not see it as a mental observation, I see it hitting his lids, warming his skin
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Chris D. Aechtner
Date: 11/8/2012 4:40:00 PM
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Chris D. Aechtner
Date: 11/8/2012 4:28:00 PM
For me, it is a reinforcement of being a classic example of how a lot of traditional Japanese haiku wove together objectivity and subjectivity in a single haiku. I guess somewhere along the line, people decided that haiku should be only objective. I am still not quite clear concerning the why, who and when of this transition.
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Chris D. Aechtner
Date: 11/8/2012 4:25:00 PM
I would agree how lines 2 and 3 are a subjective mental observation, especially because of the personal noun "my" -- I suppose that technically, if the lines were re-written a bit differently, one could have the visual scene of watching someone walk up early due to the sunlight....but even then, this could be subjective, because how does one actually know that they are in fact waking up early, as opposed to waking up late, or at a normal time.

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