Sunday, September 3, 2017
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
"A song ... with lyrics tells you what to think. ... with an instrumental composition You can think what-ever you want". (Miles Davis)
The technical, artistic, lyrical, & sometimes spiritual challenge (include haiga with its
visual component as well) effecting these ehi (english haiku idioms) are intersectional and multi
layered. Creating ehi, especially haiga is akin to creating polyrhythmic sound. All of ehi's
components must stand on their own merit, while simultaneously complimenting every other.
With ehi as with jazz as Miles suggested, we initially "tell the reader what to think".
We are creating a starting point for an artistic dialogue between the writer and the reader. After
doing so we must leave it open-ended; all of which may or may not be apparent to the reader
depending on their level of familiarity with the art form. As writers, we do so with our words,
space, pragmatic particles, ambiguity, and the cutting/kireji - or the level and style of the
contradictoriness we communicate to the reader.
Then by leaving the poem open ended, the reader can seamlessly pick up our literary
baton and take things a step further in their minds eye. This is where our poems acts as Miles
suggested as "instrumental (or literary) composition", which as he suggests allows the reader
to "think what-ever you want" with your mind’s eye.
Without imagery haiku poems that are more spiritual in nature tend to have fewer
subjects, while those (often senryu) more centered in non-spiritual or secular subjects tend to
have multiple subjects; this tends to be true whether those subjects reference nature or
Incorporating original poems and imagery, originally known as haiga:
When we incorporate visual imagery things become even more complex. This inclusion
of imagery in the form of haiga most closely resembles Miles's polyrhythmic sound. The
haiga image has to compliment the poem and vice versa, all without overwhelming one another.
How? By communicating specificity with its imagery, imagery that act as visual lyrics that
tell the reader what is being communicated, in both the image and the poem. This is akin to as
Miles put it "telling you what to think".
Or the image can complement the poem and vice versa with more abstract-ambiguity,
which also creates a wider spiritual opening, this abstractly ambiguous opening acts as a
visual catalyst with which as Miles put it, "you can think what-ever you want".
Incorporating established haiga or imagery.
For instance, writing poetry specifically to accompany the woodblock prints of say
Hokusai or Hiroshige is jikuzo-shi. Here the image is created first to "tell you what to think",
then the jikuzo-shi poem is created as an afterthought and reinforces the print. It does so by
speaking of what is transpiring within the image. This is rarely if ever spiritual in nature.
Honka-dori: Long story short, Honkadori are created from works that are derived from
haiku's literary cannon, essential poems. Honkadori is akin to the way Jazz Musicians derive
from their cannon of Jazz Standards, and create their own cover versions or reinterpretations. It
may or may not tell us what to think, and may or may not be spiritual in nature.
Sunday, July 23, 2017
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Friday, July 14, 2017
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Friday, July 7, 2017
For me this image, these words epitomize my experience, my life in the Pacific Northwest, and in particular in the Willamette National Forest. This particular night , almost the last day of august was to be what the meteorologists were calling a rare blue moon. So I went for a midnight walk and this is what I saw, what I experienced. The moonlight was projecting moonbeams of blown out light, through the trails thick forest canopy. The light blew out the leaves projecting from its dark mossy branches. It was a surreal ethereal experience, one that ended between the time it took me to create this image with my iPhone and attempting to capture it with my dslr camera. No matter, it was still a mesmerizing experience. It was an experience that symbolized for me the changing of seasons. I had started a fire in my wood stove and could feel the temperature drop that night, especially when there was no cloud cover as was the case on this night. It made me feel melancholy thinking about the summer I’d spent here in this forest, this summer, knowing it would soon be time to return to the city, and deal with the ways of life dominated by man once again
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Monday, July 3, 2017
I knew that after cutting/splitting firewood that if sap seemed to stick everywhere, to my gloves, my overalls, and my hands, that I would be rewarded that night with a crackling popping fire that so soothed me in the dark and moonlight. A crackling that seemed to match up with the sparkling of the stars or moonlight, that is if I didn’t get to much cloud cover that night.
Sunday, July 2, 2017
The term this other world is a reference to the civil rights essayist and haiku poet Richard Wright. In the last year of his life Wright was living as an American expat in Paris. Wright was dying and wrote over I believe it was 4,000 haiku in the last year of his life. Although I personally perceive many of these 4,000 haiku as senryu. So this was my way of paying homage to him, and performing a rudimentary form of honkadori. For me “Up the Mtn” - “in my hovel” was and still is another world to me, both literally and figuratively. While Wright found it outside of America, in Europe and Africa, an the world he created on the page with his words.The image that is part of this haiga is also somewhat dreamy or other worldly.
Discovering Dharmic & Abrahamic Divinity coetaneously in Nature
Many in the A-W academic and literary world and in society at large are subtly influenced by conservative Abrahamic views. This influence suppresses and subverts whatever is deemed divergent, in regards to philosophical, literary, and poetic ways of thinking and writing. Rajiv Malhotra speaks to these conflicted and subversive influences in many theological and even some academic circles in the A-W world. “Whoever is not for Jesus will be assumed to be against him and on the side of the Devil. For such believers, a mutually respectful engagement with dharma is tantamount to dealing with the Devil. It would be sinful to engage on any terms other than the clear intent to convert.” (Excerpt From: Malhotra, Rajiv. “Being Different.” iBooks.).
All of this is in opposition to most Hindus, Buddhists, and many First Nations and Native American Peoples who tend to more pluralistically accept Jesus as one of a plethora of divine incarnations, but not as God's exclusive divine incarnation. So I wonder, do christian or abrahamic haiku poets likewise feel conflicted in regards to accepting the possibility that nature might be a place where they can discern divinity that might exist independent of or contemporaneously with their Abrahamic God? Do we need to do so in order to write haiku on a higher level, one that transcends our religious and spiritual beliefs, if only momentarily? Does doing so or even discussing the possibility threaten our/their religious beliefs? Can the christian god coexist as an equal with the plethora of deities that may also exist in nature? These are complex, controversial, and nuanced issues. They're also issues that each of us has to come to terms with individually. Sadly, many of us deal with these issues by dismissing their relevance, much like we do with other intersectionally complex issues of oppression (like sexism, racism, and gender identity issues). Do we have to perceive spiritual or religious divinity in nature at all, to write haiku on a higher level?
I don't have definitive answers to all these questions, although I'm aware of and open to ideas that may seem divergent from my own.
Still I'm attempting to brooch these issues in broader and more generalized terms by initiating a dialogue. Since it is the A-W's continued reappropriation of kigo for mukigo that is watering down the depth and aesthetic integrity of Saigyo’s Wakka, Basho's Hokku and Sokan & Shiki's Haiku, as they continue to be re-translated and thus gentrified into English. This loss of natural aesthetic integrity was accelerated by a catalyst. This catalyst was-is the Anglo-West's egocentric segregation of man apart from nature. This is exacerbated by the west’s own Abrahamic-Greek division, one that continues its internal struggle to synthesize a uniform Abrahamic -Greek conceptualization and interaction with nature; as opposed to coexisting with, or even embracing another more Dharmic perspective that views nature as divine in and of itself, irrespective of the presence of any deity. The west's discord is aggravated by the many A-W poets who are unaware of their detachment or resistance to concepts they may repressively perceive as divergent, because they independently (of god) personify nature as divine. This concept of nature’s divinity speaks to the essence of haiku. This essence is personified in the poetry of poets like Saigyo, Basho, Issa, Sokan, Shiki, Buson, Jun Fujita, etc. Even A-W and Persian poets like Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, Rumi, and later Wright all acknowledged nature’s divinity in their own way. To write T-C Haiku, or of it we too must come to some spiritual complacency in regards to natures divine essence or at least its secular wonderment, otherwise haiku's essence will continue to be distorted and corrupted.
Often without realizing it A-Westerners and Westernized-Easterners are frequently shackled with this contradiction between Abrahamic and Dharmic spiritual and religious perceptions of divinity in regards to its application and meaning in ehi. This intellectual and spiritual contradiction, this discord spills over into how all of us conceptualize and apply Dharmic based terms like shizen, koto, zoka, and even kigo, in relation to our perceptions of the role nature plays in our lives and in haiku.
So, how can A-W poets indoctrinated into this self conflicted culture of secularism (Greek based academic evolutionism), synthesized with non-secular (abrahamic based creationism) thought become open to writing in a more passive voice, a less peremptory manner? How can A-W poets write in a manner that they can be receptive participants in collaboratively creating haiku with nature, as opposed to writing apart from nature? I choose to believe you can continue to honor and not betray your Abrahamic spiritual ideals while simultaneously embracing others as equals, that have different ways of being. This is after all what those “Manifested” by the 'Destiny" of the A-W empire have done while being colonized and gentrified by us. Still many of us that were raised to believe it's our way (senryu) or the highway, or perceive their way of being, thinking, or believing, as being superior to all others will have great difficulty, poetically speaking to nature as if it were independent of God, yet still divine.
To paraphrase Rajiv Malhotra "No amount of human commonality can resolve the conflicts caused by the non-negotiable and proprietary grand narratives of Abrahamic historicism". I hope Malhotra is wrong. If he is not, then how can we expect Abrahamic writers, scholars, readers, etc to find commonality amongst themselves, never mind with a Dharmic art form like haiku?
This issue of haiku/senryu is an intersectionally conflicted one. It is a literary issue intersected by class, cultural, race, ethnicity, linguistics, religion, spirituality, and conceptions of nature/naturalism that are unique to haiku.
"...The epistemology of modern science is not the intuitive perception of ... essence or form of things ... it is a technical, formative epistemology ... that tortures so-called nature to force nature itself to answer". (Ban'ya Natsuichi in his online essay, "Technique Used in Modern Japanese Haiku: Vocabulary and Structure".)
Still I would suggest that one of Japan's Cultural contributions to the literary world is haiku's methodology, it's unique hermeneutic poetic aesthetic, Haiku's teleological perspective unifies natural threads that in turn transcend the Judeo-Christian God or humanities self absorbed mukigo like ways, while speaking to our innate embodied (shizen) connection to unifying our integral (zoka) relationship with nature.
Why is kigo essential to traditional haiku, structurally and thematically? Because! "By including Kigo in haiku, the rhythm of the earth's revolution is incorporated within haiku". (Robert D. Wilson's excerpt from his interview with Kai Hasegawa from his online essay "The Colonization of Japanese Haiku"). So this is why kigo and to a lesser extent kireji are the definitive characteristics of traditional haiku. "Kigo usage in Japan was a given before ... the Gregorian calendar". (Robert D. Wilson from his online essay "The Colonization of Japanese Haiku"). Kigo is an issue I've also addressed in my book, JIKU. I also agree with Wilson when he states "Again a restructuring of the Japanese vocabulary and its poetic perception/interpretation of nature; a side effect of the self-imposed colonization of cultural memory". (Robert D. Wilson from his online essay "The Colonization of Japanese Haiku").
Again this is what Gandhi referred to as “stripping people of their collective notion of self … (via
the) “systematic destruction of their relationship with nature” This “self-imposed” colonization of cultural memory continues today. Haiku's colonization takes the form of a 5-7-5 shelled format. This colonized shell is then filled with muki as its primary ingredient. This is how colonization systematically re- appropriates how the world perceives the essence of hokku/haiku. This redefining of kigo as an optional accessory rather than essential ingredient in haiku, is the result of A-W perspectives. A-W perspectives usually feel comfortable linguistically rather than spiritually assimilating haiku. They linguistically do so by counting syllables and employing short-long-short lines, akin to counting rhyme schemes, lines, meter, and syllable stressing in a sonnet. Yet many A-Westerner's feel religious or spiritual discomfort accepting nature as the essentially divine subject of their poetry, equal to, or god forbid more divine then their Christian God. After all nature is the "other" subject, one in which they/we have a maladaptive relationship, distorted by our historicists linear way of seeing the world.
Saturday, July 1, 2017
Speaking of nature, and our interactive sources of discord
"The future direction of haiga is uncertain ... since it depends on the future of
haiku itself. ... powerful influences ... lead potential poets away from nature ...
away from extraordinary awareness of the seasons ... away from the
observation of minute but flavorful moments of daily life. Instead of the
traditional cycles of rural life ... there is now a pervading focus on urban
existence with its stress on products and possessions. Japanese like
Americans are ... deluged with mass entertainment ... we can only hope that
both haiku poetry and haiga will continue to serve as a counterweight to the
pressures of the modern world."
(Published by Marsh Art Gallery and the University of Richmond, in association with the University of
Hawaii Press. From the book entitled Haiga: Takebe Socho and The Haiku-Painting Tradition: Haiga and
In regards to humanities discord, our dysfunction and/or maladaptive behavior in regards to the
way we interact with and perceive nature, I'll address two sources. Though before I address these sources,
I'll speak to what I mean when I refer to “our natural interactions with nature” (Bukusai Ashagawa JIKU
5th edition). when I speak of our interactions with nature I’m speaking of our comfort level, in regards to
the when, where, how, and if we live or spend time in a forest or anywhere in nature for extended periods.
I speak of existing and then thriving in a setting where nature, her elements and the other living beings
that coexist within it dictate to you, rather than you imposing upon them. I speak of putting on a pack and
living in a tent/shelter where there is no bathroom, running water or electricity. Or living in a small cabin
where protecting your food source from ants, mice, and bears is as much a concern as stocking your wood
stove or fireplace; where stoking that wood stove or fireplace is not just for heat, but as a cooking and self
defense source. To live in nature where dusk, dawn, and the whims of the weather dictates what you do,
rather then a job. This is what I mean when I refer to "our natural interactions with nature” (Bukusai
Ashagawa JIKU 5th edition), especially in regards to our dysfunctional and/or maladaptive interactions
being the sources of our natural discord.
These sources of discord with nature have brought to the forefront a "distinctly" A-W form of
pastiche haiku. This form of poetry uses haiku's "cicada shell" if you will, its 5-7-5 or short-long-short
format. This form of poetry is then used to fill the inside of the cicada with mukigo instead of kigo
to create haiku's fraternal twin, senryu.
At least two of the sources of our discord are Abrahamic (Anglo-Western) maladaption and
Dharmic (Eastern) dysfunctionality, in regards to how most of us associate and interact with nature today.
Generally speaking, Dharmic origins have a preponderance of views, views that speak to nature as being
seen as divine in and of itself. While Abrahamic or A-W views maladaptively characterize humanity as
patriarchal, as imposing our interests upon nature, it treats nature as a resource for man, to tame or impose
Abrahamic order upon.
Think for a moment of the American painter John Gast, and his symbolic painting “American
Progress”, it acts as a sort of crude haiga. Gast's work acts as a piece of iconic symbology for the A-W
world accompanied by text that epitomized western domination.
Here is an excerpt from the text of the "Manifest Destiny" which often accompanied Gast's
painting."To control North America ... as god's chosen people ... to spread civilization, free market
capitalism, and Christianity ... to enlighten the world ... bringing light into the darkness".
These words and Gast's painting would come to personify the symbology of America’s westward
expansion or its “Manifest Destiny” worldwide. This manifest destiny was rooted in the belief that
America was there for the Christian man to tame, and take ownership of. North America was there for
man to mold into what he (not she) believed would best reflect Christian values. Never mind that this
westward expansion or manifest destiny required the annihilation of most, and the colonization of the
remaining non Christian Native Communities that were already thriving where they wanted to expand.
This colonization required once again in Gandhi’s words, “the systematic destruction of their ...
relationship with nature. Stripping people of their collective notion of self … a prelude to ... the process
of colonization ... (which) goes on today under the name of 'development' wherein success is measured by
the criteria of Westernization."
The Black Ships that would posture within range of Japan’s coastline were merely another
example of this expansion of America’s A-W Manifest Destiny, only played out in Asia. Again my point
is not to vilify our A-W society, but to make my literary point by critiquing it. Japan and China too
were-are empires, which did-do much the same throughout much of Asia. This has been the legacy of
many of humanities more aggressive and intersecting imperial societies. I’m just addressing how the
world’s present dominant Abrahamic A-W society is influencing my literary art form, ehi/haiku today.
So as I’ve illustrated, this Abrahamic viewpoint sees nature as a place apart from God, as an
untamed godless place where man was banished to, from the garden of eden. This historicist perspective
immediately imposes a maladaptive Abrahamic view of nature upon those of us indoctrinated into this A-W way of faith, thinking, believing, and creating. No matter whether we identify as A-W or not, if we're born and raised in the western world, or are in the eastern world and are heavily influenced by the west (few aren't), we must then contemplate simultaneously being open to a multiplicity of religious or spiritual ways or possibilities. Ways of thinking, being, or even believing, and creating, to write aligned with haiku's Dharmic artistic aesthetic. For those of us born and raised in a Dharmic based eastern world we have to continually work at not manifesting the naturally maladaptive world’s dominant A-W concepts of nature that can create dysfunctional tendencies in the ways we interact, with nature. Being able to not just coexist but thrive within the intersectionality of divergent ways of being, with and in nature is something Basho, Saigyo, Issa, Buson, and Taneda did not face on the level we do today.( More recently poets like Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, and Wright poignantly addressed these issues of nature, via transcendentalism and ethnic nationalism. Still though, these more modern A-W poets (especially Richard Wright) wrote more senryu rather then haiku poems. In comparison to haiku, the others wrote more so in a verse, prose, or haibun style in regards to transcendentalism. They also wrote more so of imposing upon nature, rather than of equally being of or a part of nature.
Still regardless of the reason, on some level most all humans on the planet suffer from some level of discord in regards to their interactions with nature. In the end much like social justice issues, the symptoms, causes, antecedents, and solutions, treatments for the continued decline of haiku are intersectional. Again these intersectional causes and symptoms result in large part from A-W and self colonization, as well as Abrahamic-maladaptiveness and Dharmic-dysfunctionality, in regards to our intersectional interactions with nature. As a result of our natural western tendencies to impose upon haiku, mukigo is being manifested as the gentrified tool used to subtly supplant haiku. So once mukigo is substituted for kigo a poem ceases to be a haiku, and is assimilated as senryu. This assimilation occurs regardless of whether kigo or nature is referenced in conjunction with non saijiki manmade subjects in a senryu. Again I'm not making an argument for or against senryu or haiku. I am instead speaking to what I perceive as the how and why of haiku's proxy gentrification by today's A-W interpretation of titular haiku, which in reality is actually senryu. To what degree mukigo or kigo is present in a poem as the underlying theme is truly a subjective judgement; it is a judgement that is relative to each readers and writers life experience, our way of conceptualizing and contextualizing external stimuli internally.
Friday, June 30, 2017
In this poem I contrast the natural Ukiyo I perceived while observing the ash flakes descending during a forest fire, with the more traditional Ukiyo/floating world of Japan’s Edo Period. Also, coincidentally Ukiyo or "floating world" in Japanese acts as a homophone to sorrowful world, which is what it simultaneously felt like when I was beset by ash flakes. Those ash flakes at first disoriented me, because for a split second I thought I was seeing and experiencing snow, in the middle of a forest fire.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Distinguishing Haiku from Senryu
I would suggest there is an insidious and subtle reason for the distortion in the artistic authenticity
and natural aesthetic quality of haiku. This distortion is being intensified today, and is the result of
humanities modern and technological progression apart from nature.
Traditional or classical Haiku is distorted when it’s confused with senryu. Often even well
intentioned poets, critics, publishers, and the media erroneously identify senryu as haiku. This is how
haiku's unique natural aesthetic is re-appropriated, and in a sense is gentrified by the A-W World.
Senryu that reference nature with human or manmade themes at the forefront, themes
which are not created or included as saijiki simply do not qualify as traditional/classical haiku. What is
saijiki? Saijiki is a list of kidai/seasonal topics, and kigo/seasonal words. Several regions, countries, and
organizations around the world have even created their own culturally and geographically specific saijiki.
These saijiki are usually derived from or are seasonally aligned with T-C (traditional-classical) Japanese
Saijiki. On the other hand there is nothing wrong with non-traditional haiku that does not derive its kigo
from saijiki. Still there is a distinct difference between traditional/classical haiku, non-traditional haiku,
Again when writing traditional/classical haiku kidai/kigo are applied to the appropriate season or
seasons one is writing of. Japan's traditional/classical perception and categorization of seasons into a book
of saijiki differs from our A-W concept of seasons. This difference is where cultural, ethnic, and racial
misconceptions of how we perceive nature begins. It is our failure as haijin, to clearly define what is and
isn't haiku, that contributes to the public’s misconception, and ennui in regards to how haiku is defined.
This has created a haiku identity crisis in the A-W world, since it isn’t being definitively self defined in
A-W terms. So the A-W world treats T-C Haiku as a divergent literary art form. An art form which
acquires limited tangible or artistic value in A-W society. This is where, how, and why ehi like haiku
struggle in A-W society. It is also part of why senryu is beginning to thrive, often under a guise that is
indistinguishable from haiku.
The primary distinction between senryu and T-C Haiku can be discerned in how
haiku references nature as defined by kigo/kidai drawn from saijiki as its primary subject. So what does it
mean to have nature as the primary subject of a haiku? Well when writing traditional haiku nature is
defined as anything that is identifiable or listed as kigo/kidai. Saijiki do include some references to
humanity or manmade objects. Again this is where confusion can creep in. Since saijiki include
references to humanity and manmade objects, this does not give us free reign to begin speaking of
manmade issues (as the primary subject of a haiku) if they are not included in saijiki. Although if we take
the time to create our own saijiki, and document manmade issues under a specific season then the poem
can be called T-C Haiku. Writing haiku derived from a list of saijiki or kigo/kidai can simultaneously limit
and expand the subject matter available to a haiku poet. kigo/kidai allow us to indirectly speak of nature
without necessarily directly referencing nature, its plants, animals, etc; to do so we have to use seasonal
references/kigo or topics/kidai when speaking of humanity or manmade objects.
Still when writing haiku outside of the geographic area of Japan I believe we have to improvise if
you will. If you are going to improvise then I think the kigo or kidai you use must reference nature from
the locale you are writing of. It is also perfectly acceptable to create your own book of saijiki for your
own geography, culture, ethnicity, etc as well. Again I want to reiterate there is nothing wrong with
writing senryu, or non-traditional haiku not derived from saijiki. I’m just trying to create a clear
framework for future distinctions between them.