Wednesday, February 29, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxxvi

celtic harp
the first raindrops touch
my cheeks

13 February 2004

deep puddle
raindrops scatter the reflection
of the streetlight

20 February 2004

stone fountain
rust stains
in the empty bowl

3 April 2004

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxxv

wind-rippled trees
i open my mouth wider
for the dentist

9 February 2004

prayer group
eight candle flames flicker
with our breath

10 February 2004

evening stillness
he cups a baby hedgehog
in his hands

10 February 2004

Monday, February 27, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxxiv

winter party
a few crumbs left
in the brownie pan

15 December 2003

dusk shadows
the murmur of the creek
along the quiet road

21 January 2004

robin song
fresh rainwater
in the weed-choked ditch

21 January 2004

Sunday, February 26, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxxiii

bare maple twigs
a stellers jay glides
from tree to tree

5 December 2003

a novel of ideas
the dog-eared pages reveal
cookie crumbs

15 December 2003

silent worship
the sound of her body
hitting the concrete

15 December 2003

Saturday, February 25, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxxii

bare trees
her distracted voice
long distance

3 December 2003

new grass
the jack-o-lantern grins
from the compost

3 December 2003

new grass
a rat scurries
under the woodpile

5 December 2003

Saturday, February 18, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxxi

old fiddle
the first hint of color
in the steeping tea

24 November 2003

forest trail
cigarette smoke
in the parking lot

24 November 2003

blowing leaves
his eyes flick back
to his newspaper

2 December 2003

Friday, February 17, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxx

steaming breath
heaps of gold maple leaves
along the road

21 November 2003

day is done
the crumpled pages
of his call-up letter

24 November 2003

roadside shadows
the sharp ears of the deer at rest

24 November 2003

Thursday, February 16, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxix

simmering stew
trees darken
against the sky

13 November 2003

burning leaves
the ragged ends of her hair brush
her shoulders

13 November 2003

hazy night
the rasp of the leaf rake
on asphalt

21 November 2003

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxviii

A lot of people don't get juxtaposition. This doesn't surprise me. Juxtaposition is not a Western way of looking at the world. We Westerners like to fill in the links, to explain everything. We don't often give people the elements of the realization and let them fill in the details for themselves.

Juxtaposition, though, is the power of haiku. It's the thing that makes haiku an art form. A good juxtaposition vibrates with power, and turns the two images into something that is bigger than both of them put together. It's a form of magic.

I wanted an example of juxtaposition, so I plucked two elements from my environment and typed them in:

gold-tinged leaves
the drone of the saw
goes on and on

I noticed the saw first, because it's been droning on and on all morning. Someone is cutting up a down tree for firewood. It's like a giant dental drill, giving the sky a headache.

Outside my window, the leaves of one tree caught my attention. They are just starting to turn, and I wanted to capture that slight tint of gold that hints at the coming autumn color.

Okay, so I put those two images here to demonstrate juxtaposition. It's not an inspired haiku, but it is a finger exercise. I'm working on my juxtaposition muscles.

This haiku, like most of the early haiku, is also in a social context, which is this conversation. Haiku in a social context have another layer of meaning, one that often escapes the notice of haiku critics. I think this layer of meaning can actually make haiku stronger, because the haiku, in addition to being a juxtaposition of two elements of the natural world, can also be a commentary on the social interaction. Early haiku were often a compliment to the host, and other verses might be gently poke fun at someone at a gathering. Not overtly, as in the case of senryu, but through the use of something like analogy.

Now, in this context, I might have wrought more than I intended. I had no social agenda when I plucked haiku elements out of my environment. In this social milieu, however, "the drone of the saw goes on and on" has a certain edge to it. I could be commenting that the same old saws (rules and thoughts) come up again and again. I could be talking about how this discussion drones on and on. Or I could be talking about my own dogged insistence on juxtaposition, juxtaposition, juxtaposition.

Are there other ways in which my juxtaposition works?

The two elements are not causally or obviously related. A common mistake in haiku is to pull together two elements that have a so-what relationship:

spring rain
the robin drinks from a puddle
of snow melt

acid indigestion
he washes back a tums
with his beer

In these two cases, the individual elements are okay, but the pairing is predictable and so the resulting haiku make the reader yawn. Not good, unless the subject of the haiku is tedium.

You also don't want the two elements to be obvious opposites.

blazing sun
he takes another sip
of ice-cold lemonade

This is tedious in a different way.

Even though you don't want the two elements of the juxtaposition to be obviously linked, you want a resonance between the two elements. A strong juxtaposition creates an intense resonance, but doesn't cross the border into obviousness.

This resonance was totally mysterious to me until I read a lot of commentary on Japanese haiku. The resonance comes out of the words of the haiku, the way they set off associations in the brain of the reader. Resonance depends on cultural context, on people having the same sets of associations to given words.

24 October 2003

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxvii

white bean soup
the soft chatter of birds
settling for the night

23 October 2003

haiku chatter
the pine recedes
in the mist

12 November 2003

somber skies
drifts of dead fir needles
on the road

13 November 2003

Monday, February 13, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxvi

dark cedars
a hawk tilts
through the mist

Port Angeles
Olympic Peninsula
29 September 2003

midnight walk
fog drips
from the cedars

4 October 2003

abstract images
sometimes a cigar
is only a cigar

23 October 2003

Sunday, February 12, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxv

friendly fire
he sprinkles red sugar
on the cupcakes

13 September 2003

tall grass
an old DeSoto
beyond the old Dodge

14 September 2003

The small boy uses “if you exist” in the place of “if you insist.”

“Let's get you dressed.”
“If you exist.”

wet washcloth
the mama cow licks the chocolate
off the baby cow

14 September 2003

Sunday, February 5, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxiv

september 11th --
serving up leftover
devil's food cake

11 September 2003, a day after my son's 8th birthday

september sunshine
the coarseness of his hair
against my lips

11 September 2003

unknown soldier
a fallen comrade carried
by two ants

13 September 2003

Saturday, February 4, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxiii

grocery parking lot
the drivers' eyes meet
over chocolate

8 September 2003

muggy wind
back-to-school ads
in the gutter

8 September 2003

spent dandelions
a weather-beaten lawn chair
on the bare patch

13 September 2003

Friday, February 3, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxii

ticking clock
she brushes pastry crumbs
off her nightie

25 August 2003

empty beer bottle
the stale breath
of the waterfall

27 August 2003

shady arbor
how beautiful these bunches
of bitter grapes

31 August 2003

Thursday, February 2, 2012

haiku retrospective cccxi

the soft hooting
of an owl

14 August 2003

cold tea
the four-year-old finishes
his tantrum

16 August 2003

august wind
the pianist plays one tune
the stereo another

20 August 2003

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

haiku retrospective cccx

the buck gets all four feet
in the compost bin

12 August 2003

silent worship
the old man's face glows
with love

14 August 2003

the swirling cloth
in the dye vat

14 August 2003