Friday, May 16, 2008

Want to learn more about haiku?....haiga, tanka...

Robert Wilson interviews Jane Reichhold about haiku in Simply Haiku, just out.

Follows is an excerpt from that interview, found here. The entire issue is excellent!

RW: Some people in the English language haiku community espouse the belief that metaphors are an anathema to be avoided at all costs when writing haiku. Do you agree?

JR: Haiku is poetry and as poetry it uses poetical devices. Metaphor is one of the oldest techniques and the Japanese use, and used, it in their poetry in haiku form also. The huge and vital difference is the way the Japanese express their metaphors. It sometimes takes a while to understand how when two images are set side by side they are forming a metaphor or simile. Quoting from the Introduction:

Instead of saying "autumn dusk settles around us like a crow landing on a bare branch" Bashô would write:
a crow lands
on a bare branch
autumn dusk

The simplicity and economy of those words demand that the reader goes into his or her mind and experiences to explore the darkness of bird and night, autumn and bareness, and even how a branch could move as the dark weight of a crow presses it down. With a map of the reader's past he or she is writing the rest of the verse and making it poetry.
By following this example of simply juxtaposing the parts of the metaphor, English poetry has made great advances for which the Japanese never get the credit they deserve.


Monique said...

I know so little about varies of poetry but somehow, when I read this, I kept hearing David's voice saying "Show, do not tell".

Pris said...

My primary love is free verse but I've been a student of haiku and haiga for several years now. I love it for itself, but also haiku is good grounding for remember the 'show don't tell' in my free verse.

Annie Wicking and Loman Austen said...

Thank you for sharing this one with us, Pris.

Hope all is well with you and your family.

best wishes

Anonymous said...

Never have quite ''got to grips'' with haiku, but I love reading it and love ''haiga'' as you know.
Thanks for sharing...

Scot said...

good helpful post pris

Pris said...

Annie, Ellen, Scot, thanks for stopping by. Yes, a very good article and journal this issue.

steve said...

Hi Pris, it's good to have this reference. Especially as I am taking a break from digging dandelions (they still dance in front of my eyes). Hope you're feeling well today.

Lyle Daggett said...

Interesting, when you asked the question about haiku and metaphor, the first thing that came to mind was the very Basho poem you quoted here. I first read it in Rexroth's translation:

Autumn evening--
A crow on a bare branch

I've loved the poem since the first time I read it. The original, if I recall correctly, is unusual in that it has 18 syllables rather than the standard 17. Rexroth reverses the order of the lines from the original, but I still like his version.

It seems to me that while the poem, in the above translation or the one you've quoted here (and I've seen three or four other translations of it over the years), maybe doesn't make use of metaphor in the strictest sense, the juxtaposition of images that you speak about here is in fact a kind of metaphor, or the essence of metaphor. Writing the crow, the bare branch, the autumn evening, moves them toward each other, they become (partly) each other. "Don't paint the branch," a Zen text I read somewhere years ago said, "until you have become that branch."

Pris said...

Hi Scott..dandelions, no fun!

Lyle, as you already know, the translations are as varied as the meaning of the haiku, itself. There's no way we'll ever know which interpretation is most faithful to the original. It was interesting in the article that Jane wrote of the 'authoritative' book of Basho that translated everything into the 5-7-5 format and was really awful.

And yes, metaphor is much discussed among writers of haiku and not encourage in the traditional sense. I thought her way of illustrating its presence and how it was used earlier was espeially meaningful.

I can't tell you how many times , esp on MySpace, I've seen 'haiku' in the title of a post, only to see a 5-7-5 set of unrelated words filled with prose and not observation....then 40 responses saying 'this is great'. If I like the poet otherwise I message him/her with a few commments and links but only one has ever responded:-)