All are hereby invited to attend a Poetry reading and workshop on Wednesday, October 6, 2010 at Borders Books in Towne Centre, Alameda. The free event will take place on a pleasant California Indian Summer evening. Reading and workshop to be conducted upstairs beside the snack bar near the elevators.
Workshop starts at 6:30. Reading at 7:00. Sandy Stilwell and Eileen Malone, two wonderful native American Poets are featured readers.
The September monthly reading was a great success, Amos White presented an interesting, informative and stimulating workshop on internet publishing, marketing and promoting. The featured event, a standing room only showstopper, saw Adele and Jack Foley putting on a great show. Fifteen additional poets at the open-mic session gave high quality performances. New readers and new faces in the audience made September one of the liveliest AIP reading in recent memory.
The previous workshop in August was also well received. Not because of the presentation or the presenter (myself), but because of the intrinsic interest of the topic by Alameda Island poets. Participation in the writing exercises resulted in the creation of good Poetry.
This October the workshop will continue examining some mechanics of haiku. Two of which were previously mentioned in the August workshop announcement.
Asatoro Miyamori, the great scholarly expert of classic Japanese poetry, wrote, “seventeen syllables and reference to the seasons are the two essential elements in haiku”, these two elements are generally accepted as usual characteristics of haiku.
However, they have not always been used. Even Basho, the first and greatest of the classic haiku masters, varied at times from the seventeen syllable structure; some of his haiku did not use season-words.
As Japanese haiku developed circa 1900, these departures increased.
English (American) haiku often departs from both of these rules.
The season-word seems to have originated 350 years ago, before Basho’s time, emerging from an artist’s desire to articulate topics of general appeal and understanding. Mentioning the weather seemed pretty commonplace.
Harold G. Henderson, the great haiku writer and expert, suggests that, from the haiku use of nature stemmed the idea that haiku is only about nature in general and not about human nature. Henderson says this is clearly not so. All great haiku writers have written superbly about human nature, personal feelings and experiences. These most often reappearing themes of haiku are especially recognized as pertaining to classic haiku.
The season-word is one of more than 600 words or phrases which have been established as denoting particular seasons of the year. The Japanese have five standard seasons, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and New Year. Sometimes the names of seasons are actually stated, most often other words are used.
Many of these associations have no meaning to poets in other languages. Some of the traditional Japanese season words still may be used even though they have fallen by the wayside, the meaning is no longer understood even by the Japanese.
This among other reasons is why many poets, including Siensensui, one of the best known disciples of Shiki, the last of the four great masters, has a following which abandoned the use of the season-word as obsolete (and so write in lines and phrases of irregular length.) Such practices increased in modern Japanese haiku during the first half of the Twentieth Century.
None-the-less, it is wise of American haikuists to be familiar with the transformation of the Haiku concept and its use.
Spring is denoted by cherry whcih always means cherry blossoms, butterflies, unmelted snow and frogs are also references to Spring.
Summer words include May rains, poppies, goldfish, peonies.
Fall includes Harvest moon, woodpeckers, wild geese, insects
Winter includes frost, snow, Mandarin ducks, withered fields.
Various holidays and festivals are used as season-words.
English and language poets in geographies other than Japan, have created season-words to fit their own locations and cultures.
In the workshop we will explore the grammar and syntax of our own language, going so far as trying to use and create if necessary, season-words.
The second mechanical matter which we will discuss is the question of titles or no titles for haiku.
Traditionally a haiku is not titled. There is a good practical reason for that. Haiku is short, when a title is added it changes the look and feel of the verse. In a print presentation or even a reading of many haiku, the regular addition of a title will look and sound awkward.
Titles are sometimes required by publishers or contest operators and are handy for critics and scholarly analysts. Titles are useful to the poet in arranging and keeping track of works. Titles may well be a matter of choice by an author in a particular situation.
Another haiku characteristic.
We have earlier discussed variations of English form attempting to savor the flavor of Japanese haiku characteristics. Condensed thought, images and sound lead to English haiku of less than seventeen syllables, for example, a totally doable exercise only requiring linguistic self discipline and thought.
Another admirable quality of Japanese haiku is smooth and melodious language usage.
This is seldom seen in English haiku yet it’s a goal worth striving for.
See you next Wednesday at Borders at Alameda Towne Centre.
President emeritus, Alameda Island Poets