Friday, June 19, 2015

Poetic Musings: Spring Cold Haiku by Kawahigashi Hekigodo

(河東碧梧桐 1873-1937)

haru samushi / mizuta no ue no / ne nashi-gumo
(Kawahigashi Hekigoto, 1873-1937)

spring cold:
a cloud without roots
over the paddy field


I like the way Kawahigashi juxtapositions the cloud, ready to be blown in who knows what direction by the cold spring winds, with the fixed paddy field, going nowhere. The cloud is ready to move, and it will move, but this transient moment of it hovering over the field is captured in the haiku's word picture. So there's a tension (which I suppose is part of the haiku spirit) between the fixed words of the poem, and the impermanence of the moment. -- excerpted from Bernard Soames's "Haru samushi", Japanese Poetry: Filling in the Gaps, 23 April 2008

Technically speaking, the type of cutting  Kawahigashi employed in his haiku belongs to Type II Formulation (Mark Morris,"Buson and Shiki: Part One," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 44:2, pp. 410-11) (For more information about Kawahigashi's view of haiku, see "Dark Wings of Night: Kawahigashi Hekigodo and His New Trend Haiku")

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 about the types of cutting, see "To the Lighthouse: Three Formulations about the Use of Cutting" )

Eisenstein's concept of  a "haiku as montage phrases" in relation to the Japanese notion of arasoi, "confrontation," is further explored in my Haiku Reality essay, titled “Haiku as Ideogrammatic Montage: A Linguistic-Cinematic Perspective:”

In his one of most famous film essays, “The Cinematographic Principle and the Ideogram,” Eisenstein stresses that the Japanese written language is representational and made up of various hieroglyphs, and he states that the hieroglyph is “the naturalistic image of an object as portrayed by the skilful hand of Ts’ang Chieh 2650 years before our era.”16 More importantly, for him the “copulation (perhaps we had better say, the combination) of two hieroglyphs… is to be regarded not as their sum, but as their product, i.e., as a value of another dimension, another degree; each, separately, corresponds to an object, to a fact, but their combination corresponds to a concept. From separate hieroglyphs has been fused – the ideogram,”17 the picture of a concept. For example, the picture of a bird and a mouth signifies “to sing,” while the picture of a child and a mouth means “to scream.” A change in one object, from bird to child, creates not a slightly variant of the same concept, but a totally new one.18

Eisenstein’s understanding of the signifying function of ideogram is similar to that of Fenollosa and Pound, yet placing an emphasis on the consequence or product of the combination of two separate hieroglyphs. In this linguistic characteristic of the Japanese written language, he sees the basis for cinema dynamics: that is the principle behind the process of combining hieroglyphs into ideograms is applicable to the cinematographic method of montage he envisions -- “combining shots that are depictive, single in meaning, neural in content into intellectual contexts and series.”19 He regards film as “a kind of language and, in particular, as a kind of Imagistic picture writing composed of hieroglyphs,”20 and he goes further in claiming that “the film-frame can never be an inflexible letter of the alphabet, but must always remain a multiple-meaning ideogram. And it can be read only in juxtaposition, just as an ideogram acquires its specific significance, meaning, and even pronunciation only when combined with a separately indicated reading or tiny meaning – an indicator for the exact reading – placed alongside the basic hieroglyph.”21

Equipped with his inspired learning of the ideogrammatic nature of Chinese and Japanese written languages, Eisenstein adopts an organic view of the shot as a montage cell.22 “Just cells in their division form a phenomenon of another order, the organism or embryo, so, on the other side of the dialectical leap from the shot, there is montage.”23 For him, the individual ‘cells’ become a living cinematic whole through montage, the life principle giving meaning to raw shots.24 Confronting Pudovkin ’s view of montage as a linkage of shots, Eisenstein emphasizes that montage should be viewed as a collision of shots, a view “that from the collision of two given factors arises a concept,”25 and that among all of these collisions, the weakest one, in terms of impact, is “degraded to an even movement of both [shots] in the same direction… which would correspond with Pudovkin’s view.”26 According to Eisenstein, “linkage is merely a possible special case.”27

Utilizing the fact that the human mind is highly capable of associating ideas or images in a way that the “senses overlap, subconsciously associating one with another to produce a unified effect,”28 Eisenstein argues that film can communicate by a series of juxtaposed images that do not need a linear, narrative or consequential relationship between them.29 In the mind of the viewer, shot A followed by shot B will create a new meaning C, one that is greater than the sum of its component parts, A and B.30 For a cinema “seeking a maximum laconism for the visual representation of abstract concepts,”31 the employment of montage as a collision of shots is a “means and method inevitable in any cinematographic exposition…the starting point for ‘intellectual cinema.’”32.

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