Saturday, June 22, 2019

Poetic Musings: Telephone Pole Tanka by Tawara Machi

Japanese Original by Tawara Machi

Saku koto mo chiru koto mo naku ten ni muku denshinbashira ni fuku haru no kaze

English Translation by Eiji Sekine

The telephone pole
stands straight towards the sky,
with no buds to bloom
or flowers to scatter.
Spring wind breathes around.

Commentary: ...The telephone pole is defamiliarized here and viewed as a barren plant, which does not bloom nor play with the wind. It stands still, stiff, and indifferent to the arrival of the spring. The narrator's emptiness is thus expressed by identifying with this lifeless flower

-- Eiji Sekine, "Notes on the Tanka and Tawara Machi," Simply Haiku, 4:3, Autumn 2006

The term “defamiliarization” was first coined by Viktor Shklovsky in his 1917 seminal essay, “Art as Technique” (Crawford, p. 209), and essentially, he emphasizes that  “Poetic speech is framed speech ... Prose is ordinary speech" (Shklovsky, p. 20). For him, this fundamental distinction between artistic language and everyday language applies to all artistic forms:

The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. (Ibid., p. 16)...

-- excerpted from To the Lighthouse: A Rhetorical Device, Defamiliarization

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