Online internet courses by Call of the Page

Are you interested in a Call of the Page course? We run courses on haiku (beginner and intermediate, and advanced). We also run workshops and courses on tanka; tanka stories/prose; haibun; shahai; and other genres.

Please email Karen or Alan at our joint email address: admin@callofthepage.org
We will let you know more about these courses.

Call of the Page (Alan & Karen)

Friday, December 08, 2017

Haiku and The Reader as Second Verse by Alan Summers (New Zealand Poetry Society September 2017 article)



Alan Summers
https://www.callofthepage.org/about-1/



The Reader as Second Verse


by Alan Summers
Haiku is perhaps more so a symbiotic type of poetry than most other genres, as its very origins – via hokku – relied on a second verse to complete an internal couplet in a much longer multi-poet multi-poem and linking form (renga, and later renku).1 We could say that haiku is a relationship of mutual benefit or dependence; that haiku is one organism and the reader at large (individuals and groups of individuals) is the second organism. There are the three kinds of relationships in symbiosis 2: Mutualism, commensalism, or parasitism, and it could be said that haiku are dominantly in the first category.  Is the reader so vital and able to influence the dynamics and innovation of haiku that it remains current to society and, if so, how?
My thoughts are that the writer (collective or singular) needs to be open to co-operation with the reader as co-poet, and allow them to fill the space, be the space, and proactively fill in the spaces: As haiku evolved from Japanese verses that started a longer poem – where each verse was written by a different person – each verse has its own information, and also withholding certain information such as an indirect link to the previous link, such as scent links.
So as haiku are standalone poems, that second (linking) verse is the reader themselves; they are the connecting actions. As haiku are open poems that allow the reader to compose their own insight that’s why haiku can often appear incomplete, or at least not replete with the full facts, or stuffed with description or opinion.
How to let the reader *be* in haiku
While suggestions lie in the text they are deliberately not spelt out because as readers we are surely proficient and able enough to work some things out for ourselves: We all have to be solvers from childhood onwards. Good haiku avoid authorial direction as a haiku is not the single voice of the writer, but of the reader-to-be also. There is usually enough to get our imagination and emotions activated as a reader to complete the story as a co-author, as a partner of equal standing to the writer. If the whole story is revealed, and dictated, to the reader, what is left for us but to be merely random bystanders, rather than participants? On one level there may be a beginning, middle and end to a haiku poem but that ending is hopefully open so we, “The Reader”, can make our own conclusions, and our own signature on it as a reader/co-author.
The trick with haiku is to turn the story into poem, and not just any poem, but one that avoids a definitive, one and only choice of interpretation narrative for the reader. Should haiku leave nothing to the reader, to refuse us the opportunity for our own interpretations, dreams, and imagination so that we are engineered into obsequiously taking a narrower route into and out of the poem? We are not reading/telling/writing a story or tale for a child who is in their early development, where they require a certain amount of logical narrative progression and conclusion. We want to trick the brain into learning and discovering new ways to grow and react, to innovate and evolve as human beings and as readers.
Haiku is currently more about the spirit and degree of resonance evoked in the mind of the reader rather than the accomplishment of having fitted it all into a precise form.
– Stephen Gill, from Conjuring Haiku from the Concrete Sea of Matsuyama by Shaun McKenna, Japan Times, May 2016
We tend to want to over-explain rather than create a simple attempt to tell: Instead we must edit ourselves so we hint, and to let the reader explain to us.
– Alan Summers, from historic Facebook conversations
Haiku is often the art of implication, tension, and resonance: We bring in something lateral, something “off screen” to let the reader join up at least some of the dots, complete the incomplete, and add their own take, interpretation, and breakdown of the poem, adding their own “ending”.
The reader is the ending.
– Alan Summers, from historic Facebook conversations
English-language haiku are not statements or mere descriptions and reports: We need to avoid directing or controlling the reader. It’s the reader who should be in command, and not the original author/poet as can be the case in other poetry where the poet may command the reader. A haiku poet can want the reverse, for the reader to be in control, taking their meanings and comprehension, and life experiences to the poem.  We, “The Reader”, are also units of intellect, and we will inform those haiku poems, directly, or in other ways.  If we use, as poets, the horizontal and vertical axis of haiku 3 we can assist and enable the reader to see through the poem to themselves: We surely want the reader to see back to themselves?
Here are two haiku, one that’s shut off (written especially for this feature), and then one that allows space for the reader to enter:

ghost sun
the blue lobster
turning red

This could be problematic for someone scratching their head wondering what the heck is a ‘ghost sun’ and/or about lobsters that are blue and then turn red.
It probably requires an extensive amount of footnotes and explanations thus making an immediate understanding impossible. See footnotes 4 & 5.

And one that successfully allows space:

house clearance
room by room by room
my mother disappears
– Alan Summers 6

Haiku can work best if we pick something universal that touches every single human yet remains or helps create a reader’s own personal and private experience. Whereas we don’t all eat lobster, we all deal with loss, from parents to other family members, to friends, and eventually ourselves. No one escapes the common experience be it death itself, or a debilitating illness such as dementia.
Even if the reader veers away from the intended point of the poem, and the original event witnessed and experienced by the poet, haiku are not poems for the reader to compulsorily be ordered to follow the one way or not at all. But of course the poet, the originator of the poem, can tease the reader along and so both writer and reader grow and evolve in symbiosis.
…lesser poets might end up writing epigrammatic, didactic, or moralist three-liners, lacking what has been termed as ‘haiku spirit’.
– Ram Krishna Singh, from Writing Haiku and Tanka: Its Impact, 2015
Haiku certainly have their own genre and are not quips, idioms, ditties, epithets, axioms, platitudes, directives, statements, proverbs, caveats, homilies or hypotheses, proselytism, or persuasive arguments. As Ram Krishna Singh says about didactic verse / poetry, such poems set out to teach something to someone else other than the poet/originator themselves. Haiku give readers choices of interpretation and of adding their own internal dialogue of poetry.
Perhaps we need to unlearn in order to progress – and this is where the reader is vital: Allow the reader to remove the author. If so, a haiku will begin to form, and as a mutual benefit, where the poet grows through the reader, and readership, in turn each reader becomes stronger.
Footnotes:
1:  Link and Shift A Practical Guide to Renku Composition by Tadashi Shôkan Kondô and William J. Higginson.
2: symbiosis (ˌsɪmbɪˈəʊsɪs; ˌsɪmbaɪˈəʊsɪs)
n
1. (Biology) a close and usually obligatory association of two organisms of different species that live together, often to their mutual benefit
2. (Sociology) a similar relationship between interdependent persons or groups
[C19: via New Latin from Greek: a living together; see symbiont]
“Symbiōsis,” in turn, traces to “symbios” (“living together”), a combination of syn-, meaning “with,” and bios, meaning “life.”
Two organisms that live together in symbiosis may have one of three kinds of relationships: mutualism, commensalism, or parasitism. The mutualism shown by the rhinoceros and the tickbird benefits both. Riding on the rhino’s back, the tickbird eats its fill of the ticks that bother the rhino while the rhino gets warning calls from the bird when it senses danger. In commensalism, one member benefits and the other is unaffected. Certain barnacles attach themselves to whales, gaining a safe home and transportation to food-rich waters. But the whales are generally unaffected by the barnacles’ presence.
3: As proposed by Haruo Shirane: The horizontal axis represents that aspect of the poet’s consciousness that addresses the present and speaks to his contemporaries; while the vertical axis is the poet’s link to a historical, cultural, and literary past. Read the full essay, Beyond the Haiku Moment: Basho, Buson & Modern Haiku Myths.
4: Ghost sun: The moon shining with reflected sunlight. “…some ‘ghost’ suns are indicated below the horizon, as much as 18° down. The Sun in this area causes twilight.”
5:  I’ve learnt slowly that our various fellow fauna (and even flora) species can perhaps feel pain on some level. Many of us have seen lobsters whether on television or movies, or in a restaurant, where someone picks one of them from a fish tank to be boiled alive. “Although it can sound like lobsters are screaming in agony when they are boiled alive the sound is actually air trapped in the stomach being released and forced through the mouth. Lobsters do not have vocal chords.”  Scientists discover why lobsters turn red when boiled by Sarah Knapton, Science Editor, The Telegraph April 2015.
This is a made-up haiku for this piece, but nonetheless it’s something that tugs at my conscience. But I worry when I feel I need to ‘over-explain’ that it’s not working, at least as a stand-alone haiku. Perhaps involving a prose account around the subject/topic/issue of lobsters turning a different colour when boiled might work better – it might work better in a haibun (prose + haiku).
You can test how many layers of meaning you can get, or can’t. But there is a loose seasonal aspect, perhaps not strong enough to be close to a Japanese kigo season reference, but in fact, checking, it’s definitely not a Japanese kigo appearing in a Japanese almanac, but it is a topic as lobsters are eaten in autumn, in Japan, and in earlier times the lobster taurine was “helpful in battling the summer fatigue at the beginning of autumn.”
Although not exclusively a summer topic elsewhere, that season does play a prominent part in hunting down lobsters in parts of the US for instance. Regarding boiling lobsters alive: “Boiling lobsters is banned in some parts of the world such as the Italian town of Reggio Emilia Italy where anyone caught can be fined £325. The council adopted an animal rights bylaw which said that boiling the crustaceans was “useless torture”. It has also been illegal in New Zealand since 1999.”
6:  house clearance haiku by Alan Summers. First published Blithe Spirit 26.1 (March 2016), winner of a Touchstone Award 2016, The Haiku Foundation.
Extract from Touchstone Judges’ comments: 
“When I read haiku, I’m looking for an unexpected view on the well-known. I’m curious to learn about an open secret (after Robert Spiess). I’m looking for a simple (but not banal) and lucid language that expresses something extraordinary within the ordinary, something which I never read before in that way as well as something that is of beauty beyond time. ‘house clearance’ represents the pure power of haiku. Layers of meaning ascending from deeper layers of the mind (‘room by room by room’) in relation to existential truth (‘my mother disappears’). Perhaps one finds a human contradiction: memories can only get preserved vividly after “clearance.”
Editor’s note (Sandra Simpson, New Zealand):
This article appears here with the author’s permission. It has been slightly amended from its original publication at the British Haiku Society website: http://britishhaikusociety.org.uk/2016/10/reader-second-verse/
Alan Summers, president of the United Haiku and Tanka Society, is a Japan Times award-winning writer; author of forthcoming Writing Poetry: the haiku way, and was featured by NHK World of Japanhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VS36AGVI6s
Alan has previously been a founding co-editor at Haijinx (haiku with humor) and Bones journal for contemporary haiku. His book of modern haiku, Does Fish-God Know, was published in 2012: http://area17.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/does-fish-god-know-haiku-collection-by.html
He now lives in the commuter town of Chippenham so he can be closer to London and certain other spots in southern England where he will start popping up as Call of the Page goes on the road, as well as by sea, air, and rail. Read more on his blogs: Area 17 and Call of the Page: www.callofthepage.org




Commentary for house clearance when shortlisted for the Museum of Haiku Literature Award, Japan:


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Second Prize for Alan Summers - The Australian Haiku Society Spring Haiga Kukai: Non Seasonal Results with comments by judge Ron Moss


photo©Ron Moss, Tasmania, Australia 2007

The Australian Haiku Society announced that it will hold a Haiga Kukai on the spring equinox 2017. Images by Ron Moss will be displayed on the AHS website and Ron will then select the winning haiku.


Second Place

rush hour the train station cornea by cornea

-Alan Summers

Judge's commentary:
Another fine one-line haiku and the wonderful use of "cornea by cornea" to focus on the mirroring qualities of all the elements at play. We can read many different links and connections into the glass lenses in the image and the humans on board the train. With the movement in the haiku we are taken along by the swirling effect of the train as it rushes past.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Moon is Broken: Juxtaposition in haiku - Alan Summers



The Moon is Broken: Juxtaposition in haiku

Guest poets appear in the version for Writing Poetry: the haiku way by Alan Summers.

Haiku (plural and singular spelling) are the shortest of self-contained poetic verses, and yet can often pull from us an emotional reaction greater than the sum of the physical count of words.  This is often obtained by breaking the haiku verse down into two parts concerning the text you can see. It’s where the break is created inside this tiny shell of a poem, which causes a breach or fissure, that is part of the poem, and creates a non-verbal or “something unsaid” that’s a bridge, and thus giving us aspects of white space/negative space.  

Also see:
Negative space in haiku: Writing Poetry: the haiku way

Marco Fraticelli (musician/poet and haiku writer) gives a wonderful account about negative space where he tells the story of a painter, in ancient China or Japan, commissioned to paint four panels representing a flock of crows. Instead of painting numerous crows, he left three panels blank, and on the fourth one, he painted half a crow in flight, as if a flock of crow was just there and had just flown away.  Fraticelli makes this analogy with haiku: 
it’s often what’s not there that counts, what people imagine. Readers fill the gap in their imagination and complete the image: 

A haiku poem has to carry weight beyond a list of keywords and key phrases that are known to have potential to instigate or evoke an emotion. One of the key aspects of haiku is a combination of tension and resonance, between the words, and its fragments and phrasal sections. One issue if not thought out is where the phrase doesn't take us as far as we might wish beyond the fragment.

Essential components of haiku are literally what is not said in text, using a judicial amount of negative space, also known as whitespace, and MA (): a void in the poem that produces something in-between the two parts of a haiku; This is where, despite a lack of black (visible) text, this invisible section can add contexuality, sharpness, and tension to the poem as a whole. The core of many haiku is the dance with white space/whitespace, where it’s used parallel to the seen/visible text on the page. Utilising a number of techniques is no easy matter, and taking the eye off the ball has resulted in numerous message or statement epigrams, or flat missives:  Tonality is essential.

Also see:

Juxtaposition is one from many techniques that can be used highly effectively in the extreme brevity of haiku poetry that enables it to be a fully functioning poem.

Summing up and examples:
Juxtaposition  in haiku

Juxtaposition: placing two things that can be physical objects i.e. concrete images.  

Random juxtaposition: two random objects (moving) in parallel, a technique intended to stimulate creativity.

Haruo Shirane:  
'art of juxtaposition relies on a... process of defamiliarization and recontextualization'
Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory and the Poetry of Basho
Haruo Shirane
Stanford University Press (30 Jun 1998)  ISBN-10: 0804730997 ISBN-13: 978-0804730990

Further down I’ll say more about juxtaposition again, but for now just see and recognise juxtaposition in these following examples:


strong wind
the juggler's elbow catches
a pocket hanky

Alan Summers 
BBC - Cumbrian haiku (2004); British Haiku Society members’ anthology: Other (2004)

The golden ratio, a rule of thirds, starts here with strong wind, which on its own doesn’t state enough beyond its words at present; Yet when paired with the 2-line phrase part of the haiku, both work together to expand each other.

Golden ratio of haiku:
Haiku itself works as a frame containing a picture made up of thirds: one single line image and another image across two lines. 


the moon is broken
Battersea Power Station 
from a train window

Alan Summers
Award credit: 1st Prize, World Monuments Fund (New York USA) 2012 Haiku Contest

Juxtaposition results in an image and counter-image that hopefully resonates with the reader beyond the duration of just a single reading.  If we travel by train we often have something framed in the window.  For me, travelling to London (U.K.) on the Waterloo Line, it’s the iconic landmark that Pink Floyd used for an album cover: www.batterseapowerstation.org.uk/floyd/floyd.html 


Another example of zeroing into an aspect of the picture we see when we look at life, be it in a car, a bus or train, cycling, or even walking:

wild peppermint
a dock leaf shadow
clings to the bee

Alan Summers
Award credit:  Commended, The Basho Museum Memorial Anthology,  Ueno, Japan 2001


dark news
the comfort
of crows

Alan Summers
Publication Credit: tinywords 15.1 (March 31st 2015)

Billie Wilson says:
I read this first thing this morning and it has been with me all day. An excellent example of the sheer power that can be captured in the tiniest of poems. It is haiku like this one that drew me into the haiku world, and it is haiku like this one that keeps me here, yearning to write . . . haiku like this one.
  





dead sparrow
how light the evening
comes to a close

Alan Summers
Publication credit: 
Haiku Canada Review vol. 11 no. 2 (October 2017) ed. LeRoy Gorman 

“The first line shocks us into the present moment. Sparrows are beloved birds, not only because of their miniature size, but also because of their sweet songs and ubiquitousness. The last two lines depend much on how one reads “light.” Is it light in color, light in weight, or physical light?”
  
Haiku Commentary by Nicholas Klacsanzky


Recently anthologised again, this time by The Wonder Code, is this sound, taste, and smell poem which relies mostly on non-visual imagery, using the golden ratio of rain sound against the calm of an autumn recipe:



lullaby of rain
another pinch of saffron
in the pumpkin soup

Alan Summers
The Wonder Code (2017) ed. Scott Mason : http://thewondercode.com


Sometimes two very different things show how alike they are in unexpected ways, or somehow connected despite subject matter, and if we do it subtly then readers can discover the similarities or connection for themselves too.

Sometimes the reader’s discovery is immediate and profound, occurring the instant the poem is read. Sometimes the discovery takes longer; an unwritten question lies in the space between the two dissimilar parts of a haiku. The reader reads between the lines.  

Resonance is created when the reader’s imagination lets him or her discover the connection between the parts.


Traps to sidestep:

Don’t explain, don’t provide a 2-line phrase that explains itself or even the 1-line part.

Cause and effect: Where one part, either the 1-line or 2-line section of the haiku explains the other, or too obviously spells it out to the reader.  We mustn’t patronise the reader, as we should remember that we don’t like to be patronised, whether as a customer in a shop, or in any type of place.  Not everyone is an expert but we have a little common sense and general knowledge, so we must respect the reader, and not spell out things as if they are still in kindergarten.

Avoid prepositional phrases at the beginning of a haiku

e.g.


on a warm day 
the workman lunches
in his wheelbarrow


Published version:
   
warm day ...
the workman lunches
in his wheelbarrow

Alan Summers
Publications credits: Hermitage (2004); Snapshot Haiku Calendar (2005)
Award credit: Runner-up, The Haiku Calendar Competition (Snapshot Press 2004)


in a strong wind
the juggler's elbow catches
a pocket hanky

or

on a strong wind
the juggler's elbow catches
a pocket hanky


Published version:
  
strong wind
the juggler's elbow catches
a pocket hanky

Alan Summers
Publications credits: BBC - Cumbrian haiku (2004); BHS members anthology: Other (2004)


Play around with seemingly opposite images and subjects, either with new material, new observations, or from any of your one line or two line pieces of writing just waiting to find an interesting partner; or by expanding any lists of one or two words into fully fledged 1-line or 2-line sections of a haiku. 

Just enjoy playing around with them to see if you find any startling, even illogical pairings. Have fun experimenting!

Alan Summers©2012-2017
Alan & Karen regularly run online courses in haiku and related genres. Please do keep checking when our next course you might be interested in comes up: