Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Butterfly Dream: Snowflakes and Bricks Haiku by George Swede

English Original

snowflakes      bricks

micro haiku: three to nine syllables, 2014

George Swede

Chinese Translation (Traditional)

雪花      磚頭

Chinese Translation (Simplified)

雪花      砖头

Bio Sketch

George Swede's most recent collections of haiku are Almost Unseen (Decatur, IL: Brooks Books, 2000), Joy In Me Still (Edmonton: Inkling Press, 2010) and micro haiku: three to nine syllables (Inspress, 2014). He is a former editor of Frogpond: Journal of the Haiku Society of America (2008-2012) and a former Honorary Curator of the American Haiku Archives (2008-2009).


  1. Below is excerpted from Aubrie Cox's book review, which was first published in A Hundred Gourds, 3:4, 2014:

    snowflakes bricks

    Admittedly, the haiku above makes me pause, but I want to explore it. It has a season (snowflakes = winter), it juxtaposes two images and it has a kire/cut between the two words. Are these not all facets that most poets would consider essential to haiku, happening between these two words? I can certainly envision the snow coming down and landing on a walkway, or maybe against one of the many brick buildings on the campus where I work. The snowflakes settle onto the rough surface before fading into the crevices, leaving behind a small wet mark. The space between “snowflakes” and “bricks” feels like the moment before the two make contact. It’s so brief, just like my experience would be in noticing the moment. The before and after are almost simultaneous. Any more words would disrupt and only distract the reader from the moment. They’d tell too much....
    ... although these poems are micro on the page, off it they are just as, if not more, full as any haiku.

  2. "it juxtaposes two images and it has a kire/cut between the two words."

    -- Aubrie Cox

    The type of cutting employed in George's haiku above belongs to Type II Formulation: "Buson and Shiki," pp. 410-11

    …The more complex uses of kireji that come into prominence later on break down this linguistically confined structure of the sentence unit in favor of freer poetic play across the gap made by ya, other cutting-words, or syntactic breaks which cleave the poem in two …

    Later in the seventeenth century when Danrin poets formulated their ideas about kireji, the discussion might be presented in terms of Yin-Yang metaphysics or simply in terms of a discrimination set up within a hokku between a "this" opposed to a "that." A work from 1680 put it in a refreshingly slangy way:

    The kireji is that which clearly expresses a division of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang mean the existence of an interesting confrontation within a poem (okashiku ikku no uchi ni arasoi aru o iu nari). For instance, something or other presented in a hokku is that?-no, it's not that but this, etc. 46

    Eisenstein, circa 1929, would have replaced Yin with thesis and Yang with antithesis and cast the whole matter in the mold of his peculiar dialectic, but he would certainly have gone along with this Japanese poet's notion of arasoi, "confrontation." "By what, then, is montage characterized and, consequently, its cell -- the shot?" he asked himself in "The Cinematographic Principle and the Ideogram." "By collision. By the conflict of two pieces in opposition to each other. By conflict. By collision." And the phrases of hokku were, he insisted, "montage phrases," and hence they generated their meaning by a like dynamic process. 47

    For more information, see "To the Lighthouse: Three Formulations about the Use of Cutting," which can be accessed at

    And using George's micro haiku as examples, I'll further discuss the "less is more" aesthetic of hosomi (sparseness, slenderness, or understatement) in my forthcoming "To the Lighthouse" post.