Saturday, August 23, 2014

To the Lighthouse: "Found Haiku" Walden by Haiku

                                                                   Walden published
                                                                    Waxwork yellowing

                                                                    Thoreau's journal entry for August 9, 1854

Found Poetry

The idea of “found” poetry is not new. This concept originated with the early 20th century  Dadaists, “who extended their art of collage, for example, to include items such as transportation tickets, maps, plastic wrappers, and so on” (Shirley McPhillips, Poem Central: Word Journeys with Readers and Writers, p. 131). Found poetry is the literary version of a collage in visual art, giving lines new meaning(s) in a new context. The poet selects words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages (such as Dog Talk, A "Found Tanka Prose" by Mary Oliver) from a source text or texts, and reframes them as poetry by making changes in spacing and lines (such as "Found Tanka" by Margaret Atwood), or by adding or removing text. The resulting poem can be defined as either "treated," which means a thematic/emotive/visual/tonal change in a profound manner, or "untreated" or virtually unchanged from the order, syntax and meaning of the original.

Found Poetry achieved prominence in the mid twentieth-century, sharing many aesthetic characteristics with Pop Art, an art movement that emerged in the mid-1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States. In her 1995 Mornings Like This: Found Poems, the award-winning author Annie Dillard states that:

Happy poets who write found poetry go pawing through popular culture like sculptors on trash heaps. They hold and wave aloft usable artifacts and fragments: jingles and ad copy, menus and broadcasts — all objet trouvés, the literary equivalents of Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans and Duchamp’s bicycle. By entering a found text as a poem, the poet doubles its context. The original meaning remains intact, but now it swings between two poles. The poet adds, or at any rate increases, the element of delight. This is an urban, youthful, ironic, cruising kind of poetry. It serves up whole texts, or interrupted fragments of texts.

Found Haiku: Walden by Haiku by Ian Marshall

Ian Marshall's Walden by Haiku (University of Washington Press, 2009) is the first collection of found haiku that won a award (2010 Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards for Best Criticism) for its opening up new insights into haiku and its source text, Walden. Ian Marshall distills Henry David Thoreau's musings on nature and the world around him, chapter by chapter, down to 293 "haiku moments." Each chapter ends with an explanation of the specific haiku aesthetics or principles that fit the theme, such as juxtaposition, wabi, sabi, yugen, resonance, and impermanence. In the introduction, Ian Marshall speaks of his threefold purpose in writing the book: "to offer a primer on haiku, to provide fresh insights into Walden, and to demonstrate the pertinence of haiku aesthetics as a theoretical basis for understanding the nature-writing tradition in English” (p. xvi),  and he also emphasizes that

Thoreau’s aesthetic principles and his relationship with the natural world do turn out to have a great deal in common with haiku. Let us count the ways: an emphasis on simplicity, a respect for worn and humble and familiar things (wabi), a sense of aloneness (sabi), a reliance on paradox, and the use of humor, especially in the form of puns …. in trying to see the world as it is, to come to know it through direct experience, to inquire into the meaning and value of a natural fact, to wonder what it means ‘to live deliberately,’ Thoreau indeed had to have in mind (some of) these intentions and to have pursued them deliberately, in a way that suggests some convergent evolution between Thoreau at Walden and the writer of haiku… Thoreau's senses and intuition become his primary means of engaging with the world around Walden Pond, much like renowned Japanese haiku poet Matsuo Basho's experience at "The Old Pond.” … I contend that the haiku moments are latent in the text [Walden], waiting to be "found" or unearthed or brought to our attention, and I contend that haiku aesthetics can help us better understand what is going on in Walden . . . I suggest that a whole vein of American-nature writing tradition may be similarly compatible with the aesthetics of haiku, and so literary ecocritics might find a long-standing body of aesthetic theory useful in reading and understanding their subject (pp. xv, xvi, xvii, xx, xxviii).

Selected “Found Haiku” by Henry David Thoreau

a borrowed axe

where a forest was cut down
last winter
another is springing up

much published, little printed
     the rays which stream
         through the shutters

the bloom rubbed off
in the market cart

Listen to the Public Radio International Interview with Ian Marshall (9:58)

Updated, August 24:

Source Text, Walden by Henry David Thoreau

So many autumn, ay, and winter days, spent outside the town, trying to hear what was in the wind, to hear and carry it express! I well-nigh sunk all my capital in it, and lost my own breath into the bargain, running in the face of it. If it had concerned either of the political parties, depend upon it, it would have appeared in the Gazette with the earliest intelligence... "Economy", p. 19.

Found Haiku by Ian Marshall

trying to hear
what is in the wind
I lose my own breath

Walden by Haiku, p. 4

Opening Statements from the Conclusion of "Economy," p.5

What better point to initiate a discussion of haiku aesthetics than "economy?" If haiku is the essence of poetry, economy is the essence of haiku. Make do with less, make less count for more, make every word count. In haiku the concept of hosomi, usually translated as "spareness" or "slenderness" or "underemphasis," is roughly eauivalent to Thoreau's economy.


The wind, then, is the gossip in the air around town.  Note the language of business and commerce ("capital," bargain") in some of the phrasing left out of the haiku.  Thoreau uses a lot of the language of business in "Economy," of course, but his use of that diction is so clearly metaphoric, I've not included much of that diction in any of the found haiku in this chapter... p. 104

1 comment:

  1. "Mornings Like This (1995) is a book dedicated to found poetry. Dillard took and arranged phrases from various old books, creating poems that are often ironic in tone. The poems are not related to the original books' themes. "A good trick should look hard and be easy," said Dillard. "These poems were a bad trick. They look easy and are really hard."

    And to the best of my knowledge, Anita Virgil’s Pilot (1996, Peaks Press) is the fist collection of found haiku and based on Stephen Coont’s Vietnam War novel, titled Flight of the Intruder; however, few people read her book and commented on it.