Wednesday, June 18, 2008
haiku of nobody
For those not familiar, haiku is a form of Japanese verse. It's simultaneously possessed of a hard rigidity and is as free as the air. The rigidity comes in the form of its structure which is that of three lines counted off in syllables of five, seven and five. Rhyme is irrelevant. Classically it will evoke images or feelings of the natural world or the seasons. Here are two by Bashō, Japan's 17th century master -
On a withered branch
A crow has alighted:
Nightfall in autumn.
Scent of chrysanthemums . . .
And in Nara
All the ancient Buddhas.
And yes, the syllable count is out. But that's a problem of translation. In the original Japanese, rest assured Bashō got it right. I printed them here merely to demonstrate what we might aspire too.
Perhaps it's just me but I've always enjoyed haiku as an exchange, a conversation. And since I started fiddling around with blogs I've wondered if I might not be able arrange things so that we could all share some haiku. But how to do it precisely?
In rolling this question around in my head a thought occurred to me. And it was on the subject of cryptic crosswords. Believe it or not haiku and cryptic clues are spookily similar. And at the same time are polar opposites. They're both disciplined, word perfect compositions possessed of a minimalist beauty. But a cryptic clue has an agenda. It is a question looking for an answer which will ideally be a punch line. Haiku has no such agenda. It is free of such clever pretensions. It is merely a means of marvelling at the world. How tiresome I am with that phrase, ha ha.
Anyway, my dilemma was how to use a blog, with it's front page and comments section, as a way of having a haiku conversation. Finally it was the comparison with cryptics that decided me. The Times crossword club has a simple template that should work. The editor writes an answer and everyone piles in with their clues and then a winner is announced. So what I shall do is post a picture on the front page. This is the prompt for the haiku. Those feeling inspired can then post their haiku in the comments section, as shall I. And then I, as self-appointed judge (well somebody has to do it) will pick the best one, or two, or three, and put them on the front page. I have no idea if this will work or if anyone will like it. It's merely the best I can come up with. Also I've decided that my own efforts will never grace the front page. And you can't say fairer than that.
Care to join me? The link is just to the right here.