Monday, August 4, 2008

Haiku and Cleveland...

I've been reading through books from Jim Kacian's Red Moon Press, specifically the "New Resonance" series, trying to deepen my understanding of contemporary haiku. I have been actively publishing in the haiku field for a few years now, and have a haiku collection coming out on VanZeno press sooner or later, but like any poet, I'm always seeking more.

In this video, editor Jim Kacian lists 7 steps for haiku mastery.

1-Entry level haiku (simply knowing 5-7-5 syllables), which is the "welcome" stage.
2-Content (What is a good haiku about?)
3-Technique (What's your style, as opposed to imitating someone?)

He lists these as one large group, again, all basic stages.

4-Reconsider form (my poem needs this, not "haiku needs this")
5-Reconsider content (what do I need to include for my poem?)
6-Reconsider technique
7-Mastery (you do these things because it's what you are)

I'm always curious as to how this relates to Cleveland, both academically and non-academically. While I'm not sure I completely agree with those binaries in poetry (perhaps more of a sliding scale?) or in a town like Cleveland, I am concerned with the potential for haiku in this city. As far as I know, I am one of maybe three or four poets from Cleveland to be published in Frogpond, the Haiku Society of North America's tri-anual magazine, and that might be over stepping it. I certainly hope that I'm wrong, so if you've landed there or any of the other biggies, let me know.

Some questions:

1) Are people studying haiku? If so, how? If not, why not?
2) Are people sending their haiku out?
3) Is haiku being addressed in the academy? If so, how? If not, why not?
4) What are the potentials for haiku in Cleveland?

In my experience, the answer to the first three questions is no, with a possible "maybe" for question 1. A lot of folks I know have read Kerouac's Book of Haikus, but have not read Wililam J. Higginson's The Haiku Handbook, Lee Gurga's Haiku: A Poet's Guide, or even Cor Van Den Heuvel's A Haiku Anthology. Many folks have read America Zen, but how many then went on to explore bottle rockets, Stanford M. Forrester's haiku magazine? So the study, the actual gathering of information, reading poems and what's been done in a genre, etc. does not seem present. Some of this could be ignorance (people don't know these books exist?) and some of this could be avoidance (people aren't interested in haiku), but it seems to be a problem.

Why? Because Cleveland is a city surrounded and infiltrated with nature, and haiku, as a form that, in one aspect, shows and explores man's relationships with nature. We are a city aching for haiku, and yet I can count on one hand the number of haiku collections (taking into consideration a fairly specific definition of haiku, i.e, breaking the 5-7-5 myth, etc.) published in this city or by it's authors, and have fingers left over, which irks me for some reason.

Haiku is also a very marketable form. A major issue with a lot of non-poetry readers is that it "takes too long" or that "they don't have time," either to read in general or to delve into the connotations and intricacies a poem might require. A haiku is three lines--THREE LINES. If a non-poetry reader doesn't have time for three lines, there's a problem. Haiku also have a guerilla poetential. A haiku is short enough to fit on a t-shirt, sticker, postcard, short enough for text messages and e-mail signatures.

So why aren't folks pursuing this? Alternately, with so many resources available, both on-line and in print (library!!!), why do folks remain ignorant about haiku and what's been done in the genre, specifically academics whose job is to teach poetry? Are things being done in the community, and I'm simply ignorant? If not, what can be done to change this?


pottygok said...

Sorry, that should be "Because Cleveland is a city surrounded and infiltrated with nature, and haiku is a form that, in one aspect, shows and explores man's relationships with nature."

Anonymous said...

Great post, Josh! I'm curious who the three or four poets are. I know Dianne Borsenik has been published in Frogpond and other prestigious haiku journals. I'll forward this blog to her.

The first poems I ever had published (in Midview High School's Kaleidoscope magazine in 1983) were "haiku".... And folks have called the poems I have in the latest issue of "haiku" - although I'm sure many other folks (including me) would disagree that "haiku" is the most appropriate term for them. ;)

pottygok said...

I've been reading over my comments, and I just want to make clear that my specific jabs at "the academy" are based on personal experiences in both this community and the larger academic community (AWP conferences, etc.), and not at any individual person or school. I have had teachers at Cleveland State, Naropa, Sarah Lawrence all insist certain things about haiku that simply are not relevant to the current form or discussion, as well as heard comments from folks at Kent, John Carroll and BW. Again, I'm not aiming at any one individual, I'm just wondering why, when we're surrounded by the Emerald Necklace, when deer and coyotes are trying to reclaim the suburbs, when we live on the breath taking Lake Erie, more haiku aren't being written by the citizens of this city. I would almost issue this as a challenge...Read The Haiku Handbook, read The Haiku Anthology or Haiku Moment, and learn what is happening in the genre. Then, walk the streets of your city, town, suburb, taking the time to notice and participate in nature, and write a few haiku. See what comes up.

Anonymous said...

One problem, which still exists today, academically, students are still being taught that haiku is a Japanese 5-7-5 syllable count poem. This was incorrect a century ago and it is still incorrect today. Japanese use syllable sounds [onji] which equals somewhere between 9 and 11 English language syllable count. This is where the problem lies. Another problem is haiku is not a stick three line poem. You can write a one line haiku, two line poem, and Gurga writes verticle haiku. Within your laundry list Josh, you neglected to include a tattoo, yes, a haiku tattoo. These are all good titles and I would strongly recommend reading them.

Why you are at it, another problem maybe that a lot of people do not know how to read a haiku & other than using a kigo or seasonal resference, you can use an event such as:

Berlin Wall
a smooth stone
in my pocket

Originally published in The Heron's Nest. A Cleveland Poetry Fest, would be a good idea, and since I am living in ohio now, who knows, I may even show up?

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion, and thank you for posting this clip of Jim Kacian, Josh. I would like to someday watch the the video in its entirety.

Gene, correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe originally haiku in Japan was written in one line. I'm not exactly sure, but I think it began to take the 3 line for the purposes of haiga?


Anonymous said...

Jim Kacian is really a wonderful performer if you ever get a chance to see him live, check him out.

Anyhow, I believe that haiku was written as a one line poem, but vertically & I have seen haiga, though reprints, with a one line poem too. So, I am not really sure Collin. I would know if I was really into haiga, but to often in my opinion, the haiku within contemporary haiga, illustrates the image rather than complimenting it. I have the same issues with haiku within a haibun.



The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau