Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Poetic Musings: Autumn Light Haiku by Ramesh Anand

in and out of a seashell autumn light

First Prize, 2015 Iris Haiku Contest

Ramesh Anand

Commentary by  Jim Kacia

The true subject of this poem, the sea, is never mentioned, and that is the beauty of this compact monoku. The single-line form is especially effective here, using the technique I call “image rush” to convey all its content before the mind’s editor can sort it. Only when we read it a second time do we see the whole of the picture, but the way the poem is constructed makes us want — indeed, need — to read it again. The special quality of autumn light, evanescent in its own right, is heightened by its transient availability. The rhythm of the words also evokes this content, with the incoming rush of the first seven syllables, finished with the soft “sh” at the break of the wave, followed by the ebb of the last three, culminating in the finality of the last stressed but descending syllable. A skillfully crafted and memorable poem in every regard.

Note: For more information about the structural aspect of one-line haiku and fine examples, see my "To the Lighthouse" posts, titled To Be or Not to Be a One-line Haiku? and Reexamining One-Line Haiku respectively. Below are two relevant excerpts:

... Sadly, today there are only a handful of articles about one-haiku; among them, Marlene Mountain’s  "One-Line Haiku," William J. Higginson’s  "From One-line Poems to One-line Haiku," and Jim Kacian’s "The Way of One" are, relatively speaking, widely read. However, none of them deals with this issue from the perspective of the employment of cutting, except for a brief mention in Kacian’s article (“A third way Western languages can exploit the one-line haiku to novel effect is through the use of multiple kire, or cutting words. Certain critics, such as Hasugawa Kai, feel that kire is the most critical poetic technique exploited by haiku”)2. ...Most importantly, there is a big gap/structural issue completely neglected in all these articles: for the same poem text, why does a one-line haiku work better than its three-line twin?  

Below is an in-depth review of a one-line haiku, which demonstrates how to make this aesthetic and structural decision (Peter Harris, ""In a Sea of Indeterminacy: Fourteen Ways of Looking at Haiku," A Companion to Poetic Genre, pp. 285-6):

More rain the sisters slip into their mother tongue

Modern Haiku, 37:3, Autumn 2006

Scott Metz

Metz employs an unbroken line here in a way that generates velocity and a sense of simultaneity that is in tension with its subtlety. But if it were broken into three lines --

More rain
the sisters slip
into thier mother tongue

-- the pun on slip would have dominated and diminished the poem. As it stands, the single line puts the focus the elusive implications raised by the poem as a whole. What has the rain to do with the sisters returning to their mother tongue? Does it liquidity induce a fresh access of native fluency? Is the rain metaphorical, some fluid quality of language that increasingly permeates their intimate conversation? Is the "mother tongue" metaphorical, implying the sisters are like the drops of water dissolving in their origins? Are the sisters slipping rain into the mother tongue as one "slips" a drug into a cocktail? Though there is no way of proving it, one is tempted to say that this degree of semantic openness becomes more likely if, as Metz does, one focuses exclusively on the haiku form.

“It is absolutely vital that the author understands, and uses, the concept that a haiku is composed of two parts – the fragment and the phrase, ...”

I concur !!

This structural characteristic, one of the defining cutting effects, helps to differentiate haiku from the rest of three-lined poetry.

“Experienced haiku writers can create the cut with grammar; persons less adept need punctuation. When they leave out the break the one-line haiku becomes simply a sentence without punctuation. It is then possible for one to pick out any sentence of vision or genius in a work and declare it to be a one-line haiku as I suspect in the case of Ashberry’s poems.“

I respectfully disagree with Jane Reichhold. The key issue regarding cutting (kire) is about the cutting effects, not about the use of punctuation or creating a syntactic break.

Take my one-line sentence haiku for example,

I think therefore I am entering a butterfly's dream

3rd Prize, 18th Kusamakura International Haiku Competition (2013)

In terms of reality-sense, the closing phrase, “entering a butterfly's dream,” which alludes to the story about Zhuangzi's butterfly dream, the foundational text of the Japanese butterfly haiku, lets readers experience an instantaneous cutting away of linear time and space.  At the completion of the haiku there is an abrupt return, which is based on the thematic motif of Zhuangzi's butterfly dream, to the Cartesian subject described in the opening phrase.

--  excerpted from Reexamining One-Line Haiku

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