Wednesday, December 21, 2016

To the Lighthouse: Keijo Style, Fusion of Scene and Emotion

                                                                                                  old man in the wind ...
                                                                                                  a clothesline blue shirt
                                                                                                  hugging itself

Poetry conveys emotion by presenting the thing; things prize precision, emotion prizes reticence.
-- Wei Tai, Remarks on Poetry from the Hermitage that Overlooks the Han

The dominant style of haikai in the Genroku period was the keiki (landscape) style, which "focused on the scenic presentation of the external world, especially nature and the countryside" (Haruo Shirane, Traces of Dreams:Landscape, Cultural Memory, and the Poetry of Basho, p. 76). This landscape style represented a return to a style of classical linked verse that focused on "things as they appear" (ibid.). One characteristic of the landscape style, particularly in Basho's haikai, was that "it often infused the external landscape (kei) with human emotion or sentiment (jo) -- a fusion influenced both by the medieval waka tradition and by the Chinese poetry that came into fashion in the 1680s" (ibid.).In Remarks on Poetry from the Hermitage that Overlooks the Han, the 11th century Chinese poet 魏泰 (Wei Tai) wrote, "詩者述事以寄情; 事貴詳, 情貴隱(Poetry conveys emotion by presenting the thing; things prize precision, emotion prizes reticence)". In Haikai Juron (Haikai Ten Discussions), Bsho's late disciple Shiko developed this notion of keijo, fusion of scene (kei) and emotion (jo), into one of the central tenets of the Basho style, using the famous frog haiku, written in 1686, as an example:

old pond ...
a frog jumps in
the sound of water

"Truly, when it comes to what is called contemporary haikai, one sees the image [sugata] of the frog in the old pond. Although it appears that the poem possesses absolutely no emotion[jo], but Basho has managed to suggest the emotion [fuzei] of quiet loneliness [sabishisa]. This is what is called the overtones [yosei] of poetry... Sugata is an image that suggests emotion without stating it...In the poetry of present, one sees sugata with one's eyes and leaves the emotions outside the words" (ibid., p. 77) (For further discussion of Basho's frog haiku, see Poetic Musings: Generic Analysis of Basho’s Frog Haiku)

Selected Haiku:

Empty baseball field --
A robin,
Hops along the bench

Jack Kerouac

cold floor ...
stepping barefoot
on broken moonlight

Judt Shrode

face to face
with the wailing wall ...
an empty bench

Rita Odeh

damp morning
a gray yard
before the robin

Marion Clarke

acres of darkness
outside, inside
then a firefly

Angelee Deodhar

reading obituaries
the here and there
of fireflies

Ben Moeller-Gaa

low winter moon
just beyond the reach
of my chopsticks

Fay Aoyagi

harvest moon
the horizon between here
and hereafter

Lorin Ford

scattering his ashes          
the moon            
in bits and pieces

Sylvia Forges-Ryan

winter twilight
crossing the border
a child's shadow

Chen-ou Liu

Note:  Genroku period, in Japanese history, era from 1688 to 1704, characterized by a rapidly expanding commercial economy and the development of a vibrant urban culture centred in the cities of Kyōto, Ōsaka, and Edo (Tokyo). The growth of the cities was a natural outcome of a century of peaceful Tokugawa rule and its policies designed to concentrate samurai in castle towns. Whereas Edo became the administrative capital of the Tokugawa shogunate, Ōsaka served as the country’s commercial hub, and rich Ōsaka merchants generally were the ones who defined Genroku culture. Free of the rigid codes that restricted samurai, townsmen could spend their leisure in the pursuit of pleasure, while their profits created a cultural explosion... haiku poetry was perfected by Matsuo Bashō...The Genroku period set the standards for an urban culture that continued to flourish throughout the Tokugawa period... excepted from "Genroku Period," Encyclopædia Britannica

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