Poetry Oasis – A dip into Wonder: a toe into Haiku
— Reflections from Moderator, Kitty Jospé
Poetry Oasis started its fifth year at Rundel this Fall! The weekly meeting is free and open to the public. Each Thursday, we explore poetry by reading aloud poems, and discussing the impact of sounds, arrangement and other craft elements. We examine how words create mood, spike our curiosity, wonder, confirm a certain serendipity — all qualities operative of fine haiku according to Scott Mason, editor of the haiku journal, The Heron’s Nest.
Sometimes we look at poems in translation, which reminds us that meaning is not guaranteed by
a dictionary. In the case of Haiku, it becomes even more complicated to understand the spirit
behind this Japanese form which aims to create an emotional experience through the senses,
in a condensed form which mixes soul and wit.
It isn’t solely a question of 17 syllables of English, arranged on five lines. Japanese has a different approach to syllable. It uses craft concepts such as “karumi” (lightness of spirit and touch) and reflects a way of living mindfully, aware of small details, connecting to each moment,
yet knowing it too will pass. Each haiku seems to delight in surprise and confirm, “It’s amazing
to be alive”.
Just as important as the requirements of concision is the use of a kigo (word which indicates a season) and a kireji (cutting word: what will separate two parts of the haiku: the “kindling” from the flame. The effect of reading them together, allows a feeling to burst into fire !
Here is an example:
I watch a spoon
gather the dawn
— Seán MacMathúna
You can read it with a pause after “table”. Who writes what at this table, is not the question…
a haiku is not going to develop a narrative like that. It suffices that the table is there like
a stage, and the next two lines provide the action where both the implied writer and a reflective
spoon, can gather the dawn. The mind is a spoon, the haiku is a spoon, transferring a new,
perhaps surprising sense of “spoon” as gatherer and implement that will transport nourishment
to feed us.
Cor van den Heuvel, haiku poet, writes:
What distinguishes a haiku is concision, perception and awareness – not a set number of syllables…The poem is refined into a touchstone of suggestiveness. In the mind of an aware reader it opens again into an image that is immediate and palpable, and pulsing with that delight of the senses that carries a conviction of one’s unity with all of existence.
For those interested, this article can be helpful:
Haiku allows a crossover of senses:
I can hear the moonlight
creaking in the garden
KEEP OFF GRASS
the tut tut tut
of a sprinkler head
In English, we can play on words that function both as noun and verb:
end of summer
the rust on my scissors
smells of marigolds
“Smells” as noun belongs to the flowers; as verb, it describes the scent of the rusty scissors after
cutting the flowers.
Although some Haiku could be a single line, by using three lines, multiple layers of meaning
are possible. For example:
One could understand : Undone by another sunset. (This could be a good thing, or not; sunset could mean end of the day and the feel of unfinished work; sunset as a pleasant reminder to
stop and admire the beauty.)
Undone. (however you understand that. Let whatever meaning that evokes then focus on
Undone by another (again, with multiple possibilities…)
the final word, sunset tells us when.
Haiku supplies a thread for the reader, which promotes a greater sense of engagement with life
and the world around us.
between roots and branches
and a child’s swing
I invite you to further explore the world of haiku in this book edited by Robert Hass. The Essential Haiku with versions of Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694), Yosa Buson (1716-1783); Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827). In Hass’ words: we will detect poignant calm and spiritual restlessness in Bashō; a painterly precision and strangeness in Buson; pathos and humor in Issa.
Poetry Oasis: Unwind at Noontime
Each Thursday at noon, local poet and teacher, Kitty Jospe, selects a variety of poems for the group to read and discuss. Come to the Central Library and experience the magic that happens when we slow down to read poetry out loud in a relaxing setting. All are invited to join this welcoming group. No poetry background is necessary – only an open mind!
Free and open to the public. Brownbag lunches are welcome. No registration is necessary.
Kitty Jospé, loves facilitating poetry appreciation and collaborations with word, art and music. After years of teaching French, she turned to English, and received her MFA in creative writing in 2009.