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.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

'It's simultaneously possessed of a hard rigidity and as free as the air.'
A bit like Japanese formal gardens.
I love Japanese formal gardens. Looking at some stills of the one at Darling Harbour the other day I did appreciate the Australianness of it.
This haiku looks as though it has nothing to do with 'poetry' which, if it did, would count me out so 'Yes, give it a go mate'.
As I've said before, music to my ears is a toenail being clipped.
Tony

nobody said...

Hey Tony,

Er... that would the Chinese Gardens, mate. I used to live 200m from there. If you're in Sydney do go. It's brilliant. On entering, turn left and follow the circular path. Don't step on any lizards. The place is crawling with them. Eventually you end at the teahouse which is really wonderful. Make sure you get a seat on the balcony. The bulbuls are tame and you can feed them crumbs of cake. They have their own traditional music there so you needn't bring any toenail clippers. Yoroshiku.

Tony said...

Thanks nobody, it was touted to me as a Japanese garden. That's why I'd never heard of it, having just spent 15 yrs in Syd. The thing being I loved the Australianness of it.
Tony

kikz05 said...

sounds like fun :)

the Silverfish said...

Sorry but I just don't get it. Never have gotten it and probably never will get it. "Haiku" that is as well as most things Japanese.

Mind you I haven't spent much time there either, unless I count three days of R&R in Tokyo back in 1970 when I was stationed in South East Asia. I suppose that three days would not be enough to get the full flavor of Nipponese Culture.

I did however love the Food the table manners and the Gardens, they are really neat and I have always wanted to construct a Japanese Garden up here at my place but alas time is my enemy it seems.

Back to Haiku like I said I just don't get it but as you mentioned perhaps it's lost in the translation. Or maybe it's just me as I don't get Asian theater or heaven forbid Asian music either, now thats something that just sends my nerves to the very edge, to my tin ears it just sounds like Three notes played Badly over and over and over again. No matter where one goes in the Orient it's always the same Three notes, but then again to me the Japanese always sound either constipated or angry, perhaps angry because they are constipated I'm not sure which.No matter.

My significant other loves Haiku but then again she also loves Sudoku, I think it's Japanese ,"sure sounds like it" and she plays it incessantly. Numbers in a square, same numbers same square, I don't get that either. Whoa is me.

My poetry is just that, it's My poetry and it probably won't end up on your front page either so have faith kind Sir your not alone, but you know where to find it should you so desire.

I shall now go quietly into that cold dark night and lick my wounds of all things Japan Cultural.

Like I said I just don't get it. Now wheres that Kimono and me sword?

nobody said...

Ha Silverfish!

Three days mate? You'd barely be past the 'wow!' patch. Then you'd have to get past the 'I love this and this' phase. Then there's the 'I hate them all' phase. Then you do both of those a couple of times. And then you calm down. I reckon it takes two years. That's how long it took me in Japan and China.

The problem is (and I clocked up years of it) hanging with ex-pats. You haven't much of a choice at first sure enough. But once you become freinds with locals, it all works so much better. Sure enough. Send you missus over to the haiku page.

To be honest, I have a sneaking feeling that this haiku thing will be as successful as my cryptic page. Which is to say, an abject failure. Never mind. One thinks of reasons to persist.

Anonymous said...

Dunt Dunt Dunt Dunt Dhaaaan!
Dunt Dunt Dunt Dunt Dunt!
Tink! from behind
Blackness envelopes
Tony
ps couldn't get into your hake

nobody said...

A Beethoven riff?
Our Tony, man of mystery.
No haiku for you!

Anonymous said...

what, no picture yet
seasonal feelings require
base sensory input

D.

nobody said...

Very nice D.

You're raring to go I see. 'Seasonal feelings/base sensory input', ha ha ha. I love it. And I do like to see someone who can count syllables.

Head sideways mate. The link is on the front page, towards the top, under 'nobodies'. It is the one called haiku of nobody.