This book is my way of adding my voice to the growing worldwide discourse ... in regards to english haiku idioms (ehi) ... I’ve never been privy to a haiku poetry book that addressed technical … interpretive ... artistic qualities… the artists process … and is accompanied by a significant body of work ... one that encompasses a single artist over a decade ... This is the fourth edition of this book ... For me it acts as a seminal piece of poetic literature and visual art … One I’ve continually built upon over a decade … It was Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass that inspired me to continually build upon a single book over several years … Visually … technically … artistically … and in addressing my artistic process.
The formats for writing romanized and or non-romanized ehi have been in a state of slow but steady flux as they've incrementally evolved and matured over a century ... As a result they continue to produce unique and novel methods of poetically interpreting the english language well beyond the more straightforward ... linear ... and contextually limited format found in the traditional english sentence structure.
In part as a result of these fluctuations that characterize its slow evolution ehi lack a universally accepted interpretive structure … especially when presented in a language other than Japanese ... This lack of a definitively universal structure is to a great extent what makes it a unique form of poetic and visual art.
Relating poetry to martial arts & music
This lack of a more definitive literary structure reminds me of the reluctant and often reductive initial acceptance of novel/new and foreign art forms in the west ... like Indian Hindustani Music … Jazz … Rap … or abstract forms of art …It is in part the literary abstractness of the haiku idioms presented in Japanese or any other language that so confounds most of the literary and academic world in the west ... Here in the West we are more accustomed to photographic imagery as being tact sharp ... and our poetry as being more artistically verbose … representational or figurative … rather than having to actively …intuitively … and abstractly connect the seasonal dots ... It is what we are socially and culturally accustomed to … to passively digesting a poem rather than actively engaging with the text ... We are more conditioned to engaging with a text as part of an academic close reading here in the west … which is counter to the way ehi should be read … at least initially.
As a result I think it is up to the reader and writer to intuitively judge for themselves what does and doesn't work ... it has been much the same in martial arts ... As opposed to looking to definitive grammatical structures as fixed guidelines … as they're often employed when defining a sonnet or a rhyme scheme that defines a specific poetic style of english poetry.
It all reminds me of how O’Sensei the founder of Aikido studied several martial arts … Judo ... Jujitsu ... and Iaido among them and created his own martial art form Aikido ... after having mastered the fundamentals of each … It’s similar to how Bruce Lee created Jeet Kune Do … by forming an amalgamation of what was martially practical ... of what did and did not work ... O’Sensei and Bruce Lee amongst others were the mixed martial artists of their … of my time … I realize as an Aikido Blackbelt of over twenty years I am no longer as martially effective as the mixed martial artist of today … in part because I’ve remained fixed to a relatively static martial arts form … Yet I am still much more of a martial “artist” in comparison to a mixed martial artist who has never extensively focused on the artistic aesthetic of a single martial arts form.
Thinking again of music … Jazz and Classical Indian Hindustani Music ... in particular in comparison to western classical symphonic music … It seems western symphonic music … literature … and academia have much in common … all are more absolutely fixed and static ... We westerners thrive on the tangible … the empirically quantitative and qualitative … whereas ehi are much more intangibly abstract and must primarily be intuitively interpreted to gain full insight … never mind melding what the west has great psychological difficulty formally acknowledging in any formal academic or religious manner … a mind body connection … some would even say a spiritual connection with its readers to nature.
In regards to music haiku idioms use the 5-7-5 (-7-7, etc.) sound counts as a conductor would the notes in a musical score or as a jazz musician would when improvising a solo ... while remaining a cohesiveness component of a Jazz Quartet ... It is this stochastic solo of the jazz musician that so personifies the 5-7-5 (7-7) syllable count that acts as a stochastic structural guideline as opposed to acting as a fixed binary rule of interpreting a sonnet or rhyme scheme ... Yes both a sonnet and a haiku have specific syllable counts ... but haiku's onji or syllable counts act much more as a supportive structure rather than a definitive foundation for a haiku … This is made especially difficult … some would say impossible when attempting to align Japanese onji with english syllables counts in translation.
I realize that traditional english haiku were first definitively introduced in a 5-7-5 format ... Yet this syllabic count was more of a well-intended yet never the less roughly translated interpretation of onji into syllables ... regardless an exact sound count translation still only acts as a structurally supportive rather than a definitive foundational feature of the haiku idiom ... Whereas the decasyllabic count of a sonnet was more a definitive foundational feature … rather than a supportive structural feature of it's poetic form.
Up until the opening of Japan to the west there were no definitive rulebooks for writing in haiku idioms that I am aware of ... just as there were only a few for martial arts or Budo … Musashi Miyamoto's The Book of Three Rings comes to mind ... Yet once introduced to the west ... westerners began deconstructing and defining definitive interpretative guidelines for Asian cultural art forms ... This is not to say that they didn't' already exist ... but less weight was associated in their being formally laid out in western style texts so definitively and absolutely ... In the past more weight was given to these guidelines being handed down orally from generation to generation via individualized interactions with say a Sensei or SiFu ... rather than being read analyzed ... deconstructed ... and compartmentalized in a book ... classroom ... or literary critique ... where they're theoretically digested ... contrasted and compared to western artistic standards and frequently classified within the confines of already established western genres ... and assigned sub-genre status at best.
As a child I noticed numerous examples of what I would today characterize as subcultural neologisms ... in written forms with the advent of email ... and in verbal discourse in the culture of Hip-Hop & the lyrics and beat boxing in Rap Music ... In the ways the MC's used short phrases in between musical notes or atop harmonies ... when using their voices as musical instruments (akin to the scatting of Ella Fitzgerald) ... or as part of the melody ... chorus ... base beat or beat box ... As an adult I noticed numerous regionally specific neologisms employed via verbal chatter on the C.B. and short wave radios of cross country truckers and especially from the legalized Kat Houses of rural Nevada ... All of which reminds me of how ehi has and continues to create its own neologisms … kigo … and phrases … Terms that are derived from Japanese kigo but that can have varied ... derived ... or different meaning depending upon which region of the planet a poet is referencing … that is if they choose to reference a specific region at all.