Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dark Wings of Night: Cid Corman's View of Haiku

Each word is a matter of life and death. -- Cid Corman

A Little Off the Track

As a fulltime poet -- which means writing every day for over sixty years now -- from the day I started (21 December, 1941)  -- I thinkfree in terms of every syllable and the spaces between words (I never exaggerate).

I often use the haiku syllabic structure but have never had any regard for haiku rules or any others. Every bit must work more than fully -- immediately and constantly. If not, I have failed. And, as I have often said, anyone who can improve any poem of mine, by even a common, is entitled to claim it as his or her own and with my blessing...

It's the poetry that matters, if it does, not my name.

And I have no idea when I find a poem in offering -- which could be at any moment -- what it is going to singsay, let alone how. Each 'form' is found, like each word, in the very making. Unstoppable. Immediate. Even in revisions over decades.

And the language for me must be simple (rare use of any adjectives) -- everyday language. Even though very re-readable. Always more than you get at once...

It isn't a matter of meaning, but of livingdying.

-- excerpted from The Unswept Path: Contemporary American Haiku edited by John Brandi and Dennis Maloney, pp. 61-2.

Below are selected haiku by Cid Corman:

The Dawning

Whatever I say
a dewdrop says much better
saying nothing now.

Right O

We are the ones who
are no more than the ones we --
If that's the word -- are.

We are going to --
there is no future in it --
is is the presence tense.

The stars are there not
to remind us but to let
us know what this is.

In the shadow of
the mountain the shadow of
any bird is lost.

In the river skeins
of sunlight and sky fastened
to a moment's dye.

On the brim of a
brimming stone bowl a

Your shadow
on the page
the poem.

Note: Cid Corman is known for his translations (versions) of  Japanese haiku by haiku masters. The most famous book is One Man’s Moon: Poems by Basho & Other Japanese Poets, from which the title of NeverEnding Story's tanka anthology is taken. On the title page of the book the author statement is: “Versions by Cid Corman,” and nothing is mentioned in his introduction to indicate why he uses “versions” rather than “translations.” Perhaps he intends to produce his own haiku in English that take their "inspiration" from the Japanese. It's probably because "for [him] words have color, form, character; they have faces, ports, manners, gesticulations; they are mood, humors, eccentricities; -- they have tints, tones, personalities …” (At Their Word, p. 156). A sense of this comes through in Corman’s translations in One Man’s Moon.
Below  is my haiku written for Cid Corman:

the passage between day and dream moon haiku

Frogpond, 36:3, Autumn 2013

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