General Common Room

WHR December 2019

GCR (General Common Room) 

Contributors:


Ζοe Savina
David McMurray 
Judit Vihar
Jane Beal
Michael Dudley, Tomislav Maretić and Dejan Pavlinović
Lori Hawks
M.R.Ivankovic
Aju Mukhopadhyay
Richard Stevenson

 


Ζοe Savina
Greece

1

          τρεις μέρες χιόνι…

          όλοι γλυστράνε μέχρι

          κι η γάτα μας

2

          -σαργοί στο πιάτο

          -χρυσόψαρα στη γυάλα

          -εγώ σε δίλημμα

3

          επιβήτορας

          διεκδικεί την άνοιξη

          … και τη φοράδα  

4

          κοσμική ύλη

          η γλώσσα σου στη νύχτα

          ~με κυκλώνει

5.

          στην παλιά στέρνα 

          τ’ άλογο πίνει νερό

          …θόλωσ’ ο καθρέφτης

 6.

          πάνω στη χλόη

          χοροπηδά κουνούπι

          ...το σημαδεύω

7.

          φόροι, εισπράξεις

          …κι οι φωνές των τζιτζικιών    

          μες στις ρυθμίσεις

8.

          μονολογούνε

          πέλεκης και ξυλοκόπος

          -δάσος καμμένο...

 9.

          στέκει το -κάτι -     

         απέναντι στο -τίποτα -

          και καμαρώνει !

 10 .

          θύελλα χτυπά

          την ουρά της θάλασσας

          …ψάρια στην ακτή

 

In English

1

                    snow for three days…
                    everyone slipping
                    even our cat

 2.           

                    sargoses on the plate
                    goldfish in the glass
                    I am in a dilemma

 3.          

                    a stallion
                    claims spring
                    …and a mare

 4.           

                    your tongue
                    encircles me at night
                    -like cosmic matter

 5.


                    at the old cistern
                    the horse drinks water
                    –the mirror got hazy

 6.          

                    on the lawn,
                    a mosquito leaps;
                    I aim at it

 7.          

                    taxes, collections;
                    …and cicadas' voices
                    in the settings

 8.            

                    burnt forest;
                    a woodcutter and an axe
                    in soliloquy

 9.          

                    the -something- stands
                    opposite the –nothing-
                    and is proud

 10.

                    the storm beats
                    the tail of the sea
                    ...fish on the shore

 

(Constantine Fourakis: English translation)

 

 

Journeys from my northern hemisphere location

between June and October 2019

 

David McMurray マクマレイ デビッド            


                    Unexpectedly
                    just enough rain to moisten
                    banana leaf plates

                    Sepia photos
                    soaked by floods, dry in the sun
                    faces we once knew

                    Autumn starlight
                    ripples across the ocean
                    unknown phone caller

                    po… po…potato
                    Indian motorcyle
                    moon shines down the street

                    woken by moonlight
                    can’t be sure which way is home
                    hotel room window

                    having just returned
                    there were cherry blossoms when
                    the journey began

                    redhead woodpecker
                    with a loud, far-away laugh
                    log cabin in the hills

                    Change of heart--
                    spoonful of maple syrup
                    glass of hot water

                    Red dragonfly
                    around the gazebo
                    around the lake



Judit Vihar,
Hungary

1.

                Rezgő víztükör
                zokogás rázza folyvást –
                könnyekkel teli


                Surface of water
                vibrate perpetually, burst into
                a flood of tears
 


             水の鏡

             いつも泣いてる

             涙でいっぱい

 2.

                Dobszó a hegyen
                fák lombja susog hozzá –
                szellemfesztivál

        

                Drum rolls on the mountain
                susurration of tree’s leaves
                ghost’s festival


             太鼓の音

             葉っぱの唸り

             幽霊祭り 

3.

               Távoli tájak
               madárcsicsergés hallik –
               Buddha magánya

     

                distant landscapes
                I hear bird's chirping –
                Buddha's loneliness

             遠い田舎

             鳥鳴き声に

             菩薩いる 

4.

                Hósipkás csúcsod
                hol látszik, hol elbújik
                bűvös Fudzsi-hegy!


                Snow-capped mountain
                where you can see, where you hide –
                magical Fuji!

 

             見える、見えない

            雪帽子をかぶって

             不思議な富士山 

5.

                Jamanaka ko
                Szent hegy csillogó taván
                tótágas-Fudzsi!

                Yamanaka ko
                in the glittering lake of the holy mountain
                Fuji turned upside down

 

             山中湖

             みずうみの上

             逆の富士 

6.

                Fenn a Hold-hegyen
                holt lelkek járnak táncot,
                szürke szél süvít.

            
                Above Moon mountain
                dead spirits's dance –
                grey wind whistling

 

             月山に

             死人の踊り

             鼠風

7. 

                Fa alatt vándor
                egy rendőr elkergeti
                fűzfa felzokog

           
                A wanderer beneath a tree
                a policeman drives him away
                a willow weeps


             木の下に浮浪者

             謦官追い払い

             柳泣く 

8.

                Hulló levelek -
                emlékek szállnak felém
                s porba hullanak

             
                Falling leaves
                flying memories from the past
                dropping into dust now

        

             落葉

            過法からの飛び来る記憶

             いま泥濫に落ち 

9.           

                Rohan az idő,
                mindennel sietnünk kell!
                Mert a vég – titok

             
                Time is running,
                Hurry up with everything!
                The end is secret
 


             時は走る

             万物と急げ!

             最期は神密 

10.

                Forog a kerék
                pörgünk rendületlenül -
                temető a cél

             
                the wheel turns
                we are perpetually turning round
                the aim is the cemetery

 

             車輪回り

             私たちは永遠にぐるぐる巡っている

             目的地は墓地

 

 

Highway 37

(San Rafael to Vallejo)

Jane Beal

 

             yellow moon
             rising in the sky
             at sunset

            her round face
            shines in the water
            by the road

            the moon leaps
            from pond to pond in
            the blue dark

 

Point Bonita Lighthouse,

Marin Headlands 

            
            hidden birds singing
            we walk a narrow path down
            to the wind-tunnel

            the slender bridge sways
            between one cliff and the next
            my mother grips me

            lighthouse on the edge!
            guardian of the seashore
            above the gray waves

            my lover hold on
            to his mother’s wrinkled hand
            which one is afraid?

            we look out to sea
            cormorants on Bird Island
            seem small from far off 


Nexus Haiku

Michael Dudley, Tomislav Maretić and Dejan Pavlinović

On October 6th, 2019, at the 6th Annual Bučijada Haiku Meeting in Ivanić-Grad, Croatia, it was our pleasure to present six haiku and one senryu, each of which was composed co operatively and equally by all three of us.

During a one year span we composed a total of 85 haiku and senryu that in each instance was written collaboratively either in pairs or as a group of three. We discovered that working together on each poem created an ebb-and-flow, push-and-pull process. Composing stand-alone collaborative haiku provided continual opportunities for the organic expressions of complementary energies;  complexities of ideas;  shifts of perspectives;  and juxtapositions of personal and cultural experiences, perceptions, and memories. Since this process represents intersection and unity, each poem is an example of nexus:  a central focal point of connection.  Consequently, we call our collaborative autonomous poems Nexus Haiku. 

Following, are the poems we read at the 6th Annual Bučijada Haiku Meeting: 

           
            cafe door hinges
            singing all morning
            off-beat in rain

            kišno jutro -
            vratne šarke kafića
            pjevaju u off-beatu 



            bora wind begins
            the fragrance of prosciutto
            in waves

            okrenulo na buru
            zamirisao pršut
            u refulima 



            approaching
            her scent before her kiss
            flower moon

            njen miris
            prije njenog poljupca
            cvjetni mjesec 



            hibiscus tea
            sip by sip among roses
            and crickets

            čaj od hibiskusa
            guc po guc među ružama
            i cvrčcima 



            angler
            the new moon
            casting a long light

            ribič
            mladi mjesec
            baci dugo svjetlo 



            cigarette ash
            still keeping its shape∼
            shed skin of a snake

            još drži oblik
            pepeo cigarete∼
            odbačena zmijska koža 


        
            Sunday brunch . . .
            today's main course
            of yesterday's discussion

            nedjeljni ručak …
            od jučerašnje rasprave
            današnje glavno jelo

 

MICHAEL DUDLEY was born in Toronto, Canada, and has been a haiku poet for over 40 years. His writing has been internationally published in newspapers, magazines, journals, and anthologies.  He is a member of Haiku Canada and the Haiku Society of America.  More about Michael at  http://michaeljdudley.com

TOMISLAV MARETIĆ is from Zagreb, Croatia. He has been writing haiku for more than 40 years and his haiku have been published in many national and international magazines, anthologies, journals and on-line haiku magazines. He is a member of the Croatian Writers' Association. More about Tomislav at Tomislav Maretic - Living Haiku Anthology

DEJAN PAVLINOVIĆ is from Pula, Croatia, and has been writing haiku since 2007. His haiku poems have been published in various national and international haiku magazines, journals, newspapers, websites and anthologies. More about Dejan at https://smilingcricket.blogspot.com

  

The Dance

 Lori Hawks          

                    November grayness,
                    Accumulation of clouds
                    Ready to burst white.

                    Air tastes bitter sweet
                    Hesitant, yet knowing true
                    Beauty of fresh flakes.

                    Hopes left are softened
                    By the coming of winter
                    Preserved, frozen, still.

                    Soft swirls arrive now,
                    Melting, but clinging tightly
                    Their chance is taken.

                    Surviving the fall,
                    Beautiful plummeting ends
                    Together at peace.

                    Ant hills are formed first,
                    Mountains are built slowly, time
                    Reminds the world — wait.

                    Languid is nature,
                    Intricate flakes of crystal,
                    Careful perfection.

                    Boots carry caked snow
                    Across yards of covered grass,
                    Spring green forgotten.

                    Weight of sled on snow
                    Crunches down heavily though
                    Surprisingly light.

                    Distribute the ache
                    Of cold arriving too soon,
                    Embrace swift gliding.

 

 

Haiku as Global World Phenomenon

Milorad Ivankovic 

Haiku indeed has become a global world phenomenon. It is indisputably the most democratic means of artistic expression attainable by every person in the world who strives to take part into it. However, there are so many misunderstandings about to what truly is or what should it to be a real haiku.

There is a prevailing pattern in composing haiku termed by Martin Lucas “international formula” and defined by him in following way:

    seasonal reference—

    then two lines of contrasting

    foreground imagery

This internationally accepted formula for composing haiku, however, differs markedly from the classical zen-haiku of Basho. In order to clarify the differences between the two let us analyze the most famous haiku ever composed on this planet, viz. Basho’s frog haiku known world-wide under the title “Old Pond”.

In this regard there is an invaluable, brave and uncompromising article on the subject titled “A Contrarian View on Basho’s Frog Haiku” by Susumu Takiguchi who keenly observes:

“It is the starting point for haiku beginners. It also seems to be the finishing point for the most experienced and established haiku poets, as no one appears to be able to write any haiku which would surpass it. So, the most famous it is; and yet, I happen to believe that it is one of the most misunderstood haiku poems as well… Some brave commentators in Japan have even gone so far as to say that this world-famous haiku is not that brilliant, and that, in fact, it is rather mediocre (e.g. Hotta Bakusui, Naito Meisetsu). I personally do not subscribe to that perspective, but the haiku may be slightly over-rated. If the comments I have made here were to be established, even so much as to present reasonable assumptions, if not proven truths, the whole understanding of haiku in the West might well go through a serious rethinking, or worse still, a fundamental correction. Surprisingly, the same can also be said with the fundamental understanding of Basho’s haiku in Japan.”

The importance of Mr. Takiguchi’s article lies in its breaking with all the prejudices about haiku art promoted particularly by D.T.Suzuki in his books on Zen-Buddhism, whereby he insista on intuitive knowledge, spontaneity of artistic expression, with no thinking mind intervening in the process.

Quite on the contrary, Mr. Takiguchi relating to the composition of Basho’s Frog Haiku has demonstrated very clearly (in his words “it is wrong to assume, let alone conclude, that Basho wrote the frog haiku in situ or even from direct experience”, that the author of the most famous haiku during the process of perfecting it actually utilized various different stages of development:

1) premeditation with intentionally selected introductory 5-syllable phrase

2) conformation to the well-known Daoist pattern of yin and yang

3) awakening Zen-moment

As Takiguchi underlines “the frog haiku has three versions…the haiku was not composed in a single session in a complete form…and had a number of issues for Basho”.

The first or traditional version beginning with yamabuki  ya viz. “mountain rose” as seasonal reference, do not conform to yin-yang pattern, and is really unnecessary since the frog itself represents “spring season”.

The second version instead of tobikomu  featuring the verb tondaru which “also has a lot of sense of humour and gaiety, exaggerating the motion of a frog or frogs jumping in a humorous manner into the water” (Takiguchi), hence it was naturally considered by Basho as not-serious enough to fit into the Daoist scheme of Reality.

Thus, the Frog Haiku is conformed not to the “international formula” most widely used in the West but to the Daoist ideal which view Reality as the unity of opposite but complementary principles which is presented in the 5-7-5 scheme below:

1.(yin)    passive scenery (=old pond, symbolic of eternity, motionlessness, stillness, passivity)

2.(yang) active seasonal agent (=jumping frog, activity)

3.(zen)   awaking startle (a split-second transient sound of water, symbolic of presentness, which startled Basho awake from being deeply absorbed into his own mind, thus revealing to him the Buddhist concept of a-nitya viz. “transient or non-lasting nature of all things”)

Taking all this into consideration, one must admit that Basho’s Frog Haiku is indeed a Classic of all Classic Haiku. But the readers should be warned that all existing translation of the Frog Haiku to this day have been fairly inadequate. Significantly, there’s no onomatopoeic words like “splash” or “plop” in the text. The only onomatopoeic word seems to be  kawazu (see below).

In view of the above, the literal translation of the verse is as follows:          

                    Old pond, Oh!
                    A frog jumping into
                    the watery sound.

Just as in the classical Sanskrit poetical compounds (usually very long ones), here the final word of the verse actually bears the highest informational value, while the preceding components have only adjectival function, but such word order is not natural for English usage.

Thus, in plain English it would sound more natural in this way:             

                    Old pond –
                    the sound of a frog jumping
                    into the water.

Even Basho himself, however, was not aware of (and not been able to comprehend) the deeper level of  significance residing in  this haiku, concerning Buddhism and much older Vedism from which sprung the Chinese version known as Daoism (see the papers of mine on the subject at academia.edu).

This statement requires more elaborated explications, especially regarding the last phrase which reads mizu no oto. 

In recent years there have been many attempts to detect a possible relationship of Indo-European and Asian languages. Although the Japanese is considered a language isolate, genetically unrelated to any other known tongue, there exist some phonetical, morphological and lexical congruence between Japanese and Indo-European (South Slavic and Greek). The distance between Japan and Greece and South Slavic countries precludes any possibility of mutual borrowing, but is more likely indicative of an ancient form of symbiosis and genetic  relationship between theirs people in the vast territory of central Asia. There is the very common Slavic adjectival suffix –no (neuter, -na  feminine, -ni masculine) analogous in meaning and form to Japanese no particle, e.g mizu no = Slavic vode-ni, vode-na, vode-no, viz. “watery, of the water, water’s”. Besides, Slavic unlike English and Chinese (both having monosyllabic structure) has characteristically polysyllabic structure just like Japanese. And the word kawazu “frog” of which the first two syllables kawa (with accent on –wa) just like the Slavic onomatopoeic syllable “kva” apparently resemble  frog’s “croaking”.

As for the Japanese term oto “sound”, it is not just another of many insignificant lexeme but the word of paramount importance to the “faculty of hearing”, hence fundamental for the evolution of human speech. It is undoubtedly related to the Greek word of the same origin, for it phonetically matches exactly the ancient Greek  οὖς  “ear”, the form ὠτό-  in compounds (cf. oto-logy, oto-genic, oto-dynia, oto-pathy, oto-lith, oto-laryngology, etc.) and in the oblique cases (e.g. gen. ὠτός, dat. ὠτί: pl. nom. ὦτα, gen. ὤτων).  Viewed semantically, there’s a slight shift in meaning of the term from initially signifying “the organ of hearing”, viz. “ear” in Greek, while in Japanese it denotes the “result of hearing”, viz. “sound”. Originally, the Japanese term must have meant “ear-perceived, that which is perceived by the ear”, hence “sound”.

In this connection it should be borne in mind that the historical Gautama Buddha like a modern disobedient punk, sought for a short-cut way to enlightenment, while evading the hard and highly demanding Vedic studies. In point of fact, all the philosophical concepts of Buddhism were delineated in the Vedic philosophical texts called the Upanishads, the Buddha’s only novelty being Verbal Numeral Formalism, reflected in such definitions as 4 Noble Truths and 8-fold Noble Path. Not being instructed in the Veda, Buddha erroneously concluded that all things are non-lasting, for there actually exist something what is immortal, ever-lasting and eternal. And it is taught by the Veda to be the brahman (or logos in Greek), viz. the “word itself”.

With regard to the word, it is most instructive in this case to quote an ancient Egyptian text written by an anonymous scribe which says: “No one has ever returned from the world of the dead. Immortality is on a written page. Therefore, be a scribe, my son!” Analogously, the people of the Ivankovic Village (where the forefathers and ancestors of mine lived for centuries) use to prophesize when a male child is being born in this way: “May not be a digger nor a plougher, but be a scribe”.

Undoubtedly, Indo-Europeans have much more in common with the Japanese people than is ever thought.

  

Basho’s Creative Efflorescence: Haiku and Haibun 

Aju Mukhopadhyay

Though short verses were available aplenty in many literary societies, the creative genre called haibun was perhaps rare; it was a Japanese speciality, a gift from Matsuo Basho (1644-94). Haiku is known world over as a Japanese genre of short verse. Poets writing haiku and related poems usually relate to the original creations adapted to their respective tongues adhering to the Japanese style and content, to the extent possible. It may not be based on one’s own literary tradition. Regarding the use of past in poems Haruo Shirane wrote, "Basho believed that the poet had to work along both axes. To work only in the present would result in poetry that was fleeting. To work just in the past, on the other hand, would be to fall out of touch with the fundamental nature of haikai, which was rooted in the everyday world. Haikai was, by definition, anti- traditional, anti-classical, anti-establishment, but that did not mean that it rejected the past. Rather, it depended upon the past and on earlier texts and associations for its richness.” 1 So it may be conceived that past and present both are to be utilized which includes culture and traditions of countries but in such a way that the Japanese creative force is utilized, even in the modern context.

In an article titled, “Make Haibun New through the Chinese Poetic Past: Basho’s Transformation of Haikai Prose”, Chen ou Liu suggested, “In my view, maybe it is time for anyone who is interested in writing haibun to re-think Basho's poetic ideal of ‘the unchanging and the ever-changing’ situated in one's own socio-historic-cultural contexts, and to make haibun anew through the poetic past of one's own literary legacy and shared ones from the rest of the world.” 2 

Basho was the key figure who elevated haikai from an entertaining pastime to a respected poetic form. He developed a set of related poetic ideals which were widely utilized by his disciples, fellow poets and successive followers since the middle of 1680s.   It looked to the past for inspiration and authority and yet rejected it. It parodied the classical (and Chinese) tradition even as they sought to become part of it. It paid homage to the 'ancients' and yet stressed newness. The haikai Basho created was marked by its freshness though it was not delinked from the Japanese and Chinese past.

It was after his return from a journey to Oku that Basho became more focused on developing a different style of prose which was infused with a haikai spirit. Around 1690, in a letter to Kyorai, he named this new haikai prose, haibun which was characterized by the "prominent inclusion of haikai words (haigon), particularly a combination of vernacular Japanese (zokugo) and Chinese words (kango)." 3  

Though Basho re-established and refined a mixed genre of verse and prose called haibun (haikai prose) leaning on the Chinese past, as exemplified in The Narrow Road to the Interior, it has been opined that haibun had been developed before Basho and written in the form of short essays, such as Kigin's Mountain Well (1648). But its prose style resembled that of classical prose. Though akin to it, it was not considered as haibun proper. After the publication of the first anthology of the new haibun, entitled Prose Collection of Japan, Basho was recognized as the first creator of such model. 

Basho's haibun are allusive, figurative, infused with parallel phrases and contrastive words; all of them are used to enhance literary effects and add aesthetic-historical depth to the poems. To have direct experience of his haibun and haiku two quotes are given below from Matsuo Basho’s Oku no Hosomichi in English translation: 4

“Days and months are travellers of eternity. So are the years that pass by. Those who steer a boat across the sea or drive a horse over the earth till they succumb to the weight of years, spend every minute of their lives travelling. There are a great number of ancients, too, who died on the road. I myself have been tempted for a long time by the cloud-moving wind — filled with a strong desire to wander.

It was only towards the end of last autumn that I returned from rambling along the coast. I barely had time to sweep the cobwebs from my broken house on the River Sumida before the New Year, but no sooner had the spring mist begun to rise over the field than I wanted to be on the road again to cross the barrier-gate of Shirakawa in due time. The gods seem to have possessed my soul and turned it inside out, and roadside images seemed to invite me from every corner, so that it was impossible for me to stay idle at home. Even while I was getting ready, mending my torn trousers, tying a new strap to my hat, and applying moxa to my legs to strengthen them, I was already dreaming of the full moon rising over the islands of Matsushima. Finally, I sold my house, moving to the cottage of Sampû for a temporary stay. Upon the threshold of my old home, however, I wrote a linked verse of eight pieces and hung it on a wooden pillar. The starting piece was:

                    Behind this door
                    Now buried in deep grass,
                    A different generation will celebrate
                    The Festival of Dolls.”

 (Translated by Earl Miner from “The Narrow Road Through the Provinces”, in Japanese Poetic Diaries, 1969)

 And,

“Moon and sun are passing figures of countless generations, and years coming or going wanderers too. Drifting life away on a boat or meeting age leading a horse by the mouth, each day is a journey and the journey itself home. Amongst those of old were many that perished upon the journey. So. . . when was it. . . I, drawn like blown cloud, couldn’t stop dreaming of roaming, roving the coast up and down, back at the hut last fall by the river side, sweeping cobwebs off, a year gone and misty skies of spring returning, yearning to go over the Shirakawa Barrier, possessed by the wanderlust, at wits’ end, beckoned by Dôsojin, hardly able to keep my hand to any thing, mending a rip in my momohiki, replacing the cords in my kasa, shins no sooner burnt with moxa than the moon at Matsushima rose to mind and how, my former dwelling passed on to someone else on moving to Sampû’s summer house,           

                    The grass door too
                    Turning into
                    A doll’s house

Set on a post of the hut (from the eight omote). Translated by Cid Corman and Kamaike Susumu (Back Roads to Far Towns, 1968)     

An example from another travel book by Basho is here:

In his introduction to Narrow Road (18),  Hiroaki Sato translates a passage from  Basho’s Knapsack Notebook, the Oi no Kobumi:

“Heels torn, I am the same as Saigyo, and I think of him at the Tenryu ferry. Renting a horse, I conjure up in my mind the sage who became furious. In the beautiful spectacles of the mountains, field, ocean and coast, I see the achievement of the creation. Or I follow the trails left by those who, completely unattached, pursued the Way, or I try to fathom the truth expressed by those with poetic sensibility.” 5

Basho understood his journeys through a genre he developed from old travel genres. He refurbished it through his understanding of haiku. In his study of Basho, Makoto Ueda noted the artistic quality of Basho’s prose and opined that Basho’s haibun could be called haiku prose, written in the spirit of haiku. David L Barnhill called them prose poems. But Jamie Edgecombe aptly thought that the complex structure of haiku should keep the poem from being dissolved in the haiku prose. 6

So, it may be said that the haikuesque prose remains with the haiku making the whole a comprehensive poetry. Yes, what Basho created was travelogue written in poetic fashion in sweet language, matching with the haiku. Whatever way his creations may be described, they remain unique. Basho was an artiste.

Basho says, “Learn about pines from the pine, and about bamboo from the bamboo.” 7

“The is-ness of a thing is not to be gained through attention to the thing alone. Indeed, is-ness is not the same as the ‘thingness’ of a ‘thing’”, opined Jamie Edgecombe in his “Basho’s Journey: A Rumination.” 8 

In his essay, “Basho’s Poetic Spaces”, Barnhill quotes from the poet’s Knapsack Notebook:

 “Saigyo’s waka, Sogi’s renga, Sesshu’s painting, Rikyu’s tea ceremony – one thread runs through the artistic Ways. And this artistic spirit is to follow zoka, to be a companion to the turning of the four seasons. Nothing one sees is not a flower, nothing one imagines is not the moon. If what is seen is not a flower, one is like a barbarian; if what is imagined is not a flower, one is like a beast. Depart from the barbarian, break away from the beast, follow zoka, return to zoka.” 9 

Basho journeys or voyages run into the multiple fields; of past and present, of persons bygone and existing. He follows their becoming as he exists; he physically journeys across time-space while simultaneously journeying into his existence and the nature of these journey-voyages become a creative process. He follows and returns to zoka, the creative heart of the real. He inhabits travel. Travel becomes a symbol of time and space. In the two haibun referred from Oku no Hosomichi we find that the selling of his hut and its impact is present in both the haiku referred. The works are repetitive and imaginative to some extent. He is concerned about the poetic sensibility and artistic quality, travel being at the height of things in his life. Basho pays little attention to the present, past occupying a greater portion but the past is not mere memory. It is nostalgic, it is mystic. Past contains the future in it as in “Doll’s Festival” or in the mere mention of the dolls. Learning about the pine and bamboo from pine and bamboo refers to the idea of becoming one with them by concentration. The idea of catching the is-ness, thing-ness and I-ness lie in the spiritual sphere to be found in ancient Chinese and Indian sources, specially in Taoism, Buddhism and Vedic ideas. Here I refer to one of The Mother’s (A spiritual personality; co-founder of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Pondicherry, India) diary notes to know the process of her identification with the plants and flowers. It was a spiritual journey into the thing-ness of the flowers. Let’s look at her diary entry of 7 April 1917: “A deep concentration seized on me, and I perceived that I was identifying myself with a single cherry-blossom, then through it with all cherry-blossoms, and as I descended deeper in the consciousness, following a stream of bluish force, I became suddenly the cherry tree itself, stretching towards the sky like so many arms its innumerable branches laden with their sacrifice of flowers.” 10

Basho the main architect of haiku expanded his poetic self into haibun as he was a real poet-philosopher, an explorer of consciousness; far above writing few lines of light haiku poems with technical fitness. 

In contrast to the above, if we refer to the submission guidelines of modern haiku and haibun magazines or e-zines, we shall have different notions about the poetic genres depending on the ideas of their editors and others governing them. As large numbers of haiku and even haibun have been written, they seem to search for the new and exotic varieties of poems to avoid boredom. Tuned according to their choice they are often idiosyncratic. Asking for changes in others’ poems is never a norm usual with the mainstream poetry magazines. One may reject poems or take them but demanding changes regularly in poetic creations are beyond expectations, beyond the usual. In spite of all fastidiousness when the issue is published one may easily find similar kinds of works strewn throughout the pages of the magazines which often ends with a touch of personal memory or a piece of story at the end of the haibun. A tiny story linked with memory is the most popular example of such works. Short Stories have their own science. Mini story following the Short Story pattern could be created as a genre but they already exist. Haiku, dangling at the end of the prose in a haibun as the end-product, not related to the prose many times, are often noticed. Here I refer to some comments by critics, which are very relevant. 

“We note that the vast majority of Western haibun end with the haiku – the contemporary desire for selflessness, for abandonment of the ego, has been structurally arrived at within a given context. The textual journey is over. But such an act of closure may deny haibun a sense of resonance and layers of depth. The “haiku prose” demanded by haibun is deeply metaxic and the only difference between it and the haiku itself is the architecture of the haiku, which formalizes the tension between the particular and the universal.” 11

Though change in time is always the norm for any type of literary work, such a thing haa to be in tune with the basic ideas behind the creation of a genre. Here Basho and some of his distinguished contemporary poets remain the ideals, still now. High poetic and creative zeal is the requirement for creation of haibun. For both haibun and haiku the ideal background should be pastoral. Beauty of Nature is an additional qualification in them. No quizzical trick or idiosyncratic insistence is the ideal to be imitated. The poetry should be natural expression coming out of the being of the poet; original and evocative, following the traits of the genre.

A comparative study of the latest volumes of such journals show that through the changes incorporated into such poetic works the poets have shifted from the original base of such poems as Basho had initiated, followed by the poets close to his time and after. Mode of travel has changed but the spirit of travel has remained. Dolls’ houses are still there even in modern time. Those who love the genre created by Basho may continue with changed symbolism, changed images but they should follow the basic ideals and patterns created by Matsuo Basho, the original creator.

 

Notes and References

1 Haruo Shirane. "Beyond the Haiku Moment: Basho, Buson and Modern Haiku Myths", Modern Haiku, XXXI:1 (winter-spring 2000). (http://bit.ly/CckuN)

2 Haibun Today; Volume 6, Number 1, March 2012

3 Shirane as above 

4 Oku no Hosomichi (http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.bopsecrets.org/gateway/passages/basho-oku.htm&gws_rd=cr&ei=nEVBV6qkI4Kj0gSzvLHQAQ)

5 Quoted in “Basho’s Journey: A Rumination” by Jamie Edgecombe (Part One) in the World Haiku Review; August 2011

6 Jamie Edgecombe as above.

7 Hass, Robert (ed) (1994): The Essential Haiku, The Ecco press, New Jersey. p.233

8 Jamie Edgecombe, as above

9 Quoted in Jamie Edgecombe (quotes the Knapsack Notebook) from: A C Barnhill, David L (2005): Basho's Journey: The Literary Prose Of Matsuo Basho, State University of New York Press, NYC. Basho’s Poetic Spaces (33)

10 Prayers and Meditations. The Mother. Collected Works. Centenary Edition. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram. V-1. p.359

11 Jamie Edgecombe, as above

 

 

Richard Stevenson

Can I interest you in a few haikai poems from a utaniki  I’m working on about my two-year residence in Maiduguri, Nigeria, and travels around Nigeria, Benin, and Togo? 

My wife and I worked as teachers in Nigeria in the early eighties.  The experience was life-changing and led me to an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, a first lyric/narrative collection of poems, Driving Offensively (1985), a thirty-year teaching gig at Lethbridge College, two other lyric/narrative and one haikai collection set in Africa: Horizontal Hotel (1989), Flying Coffins (1994) and Hot Flashes (2001).

Thirty-two books later, I’m retired, getting my house in order for a big move back to Nanaimo, an hour and a half from birthplace in Victoria, BC.  Just finishing a trilogy of spec lit poems for kids one day, when I discover an African haiku magazine on the web and I’m visited by another flood of memories.  These poems are from Bature! A West African Utaniki, a working ms based on a trip my parents, four-year old son, and wife took south and along the west coast of Africa during the heady days of the Shehu Shagari era of the early eighties:          


                    he thinks he’s a cat
                    mewls for scraps
                    dodges real stones

                    Ramadan –
                    students get up to spit
                    from the windows

                    flamingo golf clubs?!
                    vulture necks and heads
                    beaked to a bowl

                    shit flies
                    during Harmattan
                    don’t be downwind.

                    bits of Leonardo
                    we used to say when saying
                    atomic grace

                    distributor cap
                    hairdo of plaited leads –
                    spark in her eyes

                    mud hut with air con?!
                    Mercedes parked outside

                    twilight –
                    a weaver bird drops
                    the sun in her purse

                    New York models
                    balance magazines on their heads –
                    try sewing machines


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