Saturday, July 11, 2015

Dark Wings of Night: Yatsuka Ishihara and His Theory of Introspective Shaping

A haiku should present the truth as if it were fiction
-- Yatsuka Ishihara, HSA-HI Chicago Conference, 1995

Everything exists within the mind to begin with. In haiku the subject is always "I," but the "I" is implied, not directly expressed. Whatever the subject, whether you, he, she, or it, it is always I.
-- Yatsuka Ishihara, Red Fuji, pp. 21-22

What I believe Ishihara means is that haiku should be more than inscriptions of natural scenes, that the best haiku will go beyond and in a humorous way exaggerate the literal truth.
-- Patrick Gallagher, “Tell About the Truth As If It Were False,” Haijinx, 2:1, Spring 2002


Yatsuka Ishihara (1919-1998) was a revered Japanese haiku master whose group's name is Aki (Autumn),  and he published over forty books of haiku, literary criticism, and essays. Highly regarded as a haiku lecture and contest judge, Yatsuka Ishihara was known for his haiku theory, "introspective shaping," which means "shaping the scenery of the human mind." At the HSA-HI Chicago Conference in 1995, he told aspiring poets that "a haiku should present the truth as if it were fiction." He then compared his "introspective shaping" theory with Shiki’s “shasei” (sketching from life) theory. In the theory of sketching from life, a haiku is intended to copy what is in the world/in front of the “egoless” observer/poet; in the theory of introspective shaping, the poet wears a pair of haiku glasses to look into his/her heart, where “the landscape of truth exists," and to bring human feeling and thought into his/her haiku. Yatsuka Ishihara’s most famous haiku below was carved into a kuhi (poem stone) in the same year.


pulling light
from the other world ...
the Milky Way


Selected Haiku:

from needles of frost
issue glittering voices
of a steely blue

burning leaves
the pulsing waves
felt this moment

burning withered chrysanthemums
I stirred up
the fires of Hades

Tatsuji dies
and afterwards the swing
somersaults

on the sailing ship
there is a face by Munch
the white night

faintly white
it sticks to my face
the autumn wind

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