5 – 7 – 5 [ 2 ]

July 2, 2012

An old wood bucket—
Prerevolutionary
Water, algae, pee.

Advertisements

10 Responses to “5 – 7 – 5 [ 2 ]”

  1. Tom D'Evelyn Says:

    Here’s a haiku by Basho that reminds me of Jim’s:

    From all these trees,
    in the salads, the soup, everywhere,
    cherry blossoms fall.

    trans. Robert Hass (Essential Haiku)

    the picture of things falling into receptacles is an “image” that the mind easily produces: dishes, bowls, etc, catching the falling cherry blossoms.

    A prehistoric bucket (meaning no one can remember who put it there, could have been the gods), having provided a place for things to fall into. Just a range of things, the 10,000 things . . . .

  2. Tom D'Evelyn Says:

    I’ll make this mercifully short-ish. Jim asked if he had a “cut.” The cut — between the two parts — is the key to the traditional haiku, and it is not just formal (no real art is simply formal), but re-presents a key, crucial, necessary feature of the haiku world: the absolute difference between the “fertile void” and the ten thousand things, the no-thingness and the burgeoning things (algae, rain, pee!). This formal re-presentation in the cut of the unrepresentable absolute difference is the genius of haiku. So, is there a cut? If the single line (cap) were “prerevolutionary bucket” the epithet “prerevolutionary” would secure the vertical dimension. Pre-revolutionary would stand for the sacred index of the fertile void, the creative beyond (beyond, say, time), the time beyond time. Then the base could be the things time has collected for aye: algae, rain water, pee.
    The two lines would need to be worked up a bit but it is doable.
    Thanks for indulging this old man crazy about poetry.

  3. John Stevens Says:

    I’m learning …
    Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to get your bucket out of my head, Jim. Today I came to feel like that old bucket myself:
    “Prerevolutionary [and full of] Water, algae, pee”‘
    You should be taken out and shot, Jim. Or else you should arrange for me to have a lobotomy!

  4. Tom D'Evelyn Says:

    The form of the haiku has been discussed for generations of course and my summary of bits of the discussion is itself drawn from books, one of which, is Kawamoto, The Poetics of Japanese Verse. Anyone interested in the poetic form of haiku should study the available literature.
    Again, I speak of the Japanese tradition of the two part form, which includes the “cap.”
    A student of mine, Judy Brenner, wrote a nice haiku recently: Back and forth / goes the iron / summer breeze.
    This captures a lot of distinctions between human work and spontaneous nature, between repetition and release of energies beyond the self, and so on. There’s a lovely contrast between the word “iron” and the word “breeze.”
    Now, the poem is VERY simple. It is NOT clever. It is easy to overlook. It happens in a flash, then disappears. Like life.
    Aesthetic happening is an aspect of life, but it always occurs as a “punct” in a stream of being which is other to us and to our sense of time. (Eliot’s Four Quartet’s struggle with this same paradox of time and eternity.) The haiku recreates the aesthetic happening in consciousness.
    Big words for such a wee bit of throw-away verse.
    As for seasonal words, none other than Wallace Stevens left a body of work that is profoundly inflected by the cycle of the seasons. Stevens’ poetic is deeply indebted to meditative practices and makes a good contrast to the topic at hand — the poetics of haiku.
    For me — FOR ME — the crunch is finite identity, the singularity of objects (William Desmond has coined the term “idiocy” for this aspect of beings): that old bucket and how it participates in an order which, while transcending it (and me), also embraces it (and me).
    The issue of anthropomorphism is properly philosophic and shouldn’t be used as a crow bar to separate the poetry from the feelings. Phenomenology is a movement in philosophy which has tried to reclaim the incarnate realm from the abstractions of “thought.” I’m sure my willingness to study haiku goes back to my youthful wanderings in existential/phenomenological thought.
    If you compare your discussion of your haiku and the haiku I cited by Judy Brenner, I think you will get a snapshot of the climate of opinion in which our discussion is taking place. Judy’s poem is just not very much fun to talk about. This kind of haiku has lost much of its currency in the anglo-phone world–though interestingly the haiku poets of old Europe (like Bosnia) make a good deal more out of the “nature” traditions in which the seasonal words are embedded. Most American haiku writers are “nature” writers without any mental engagement in the metaphysics of nature, so the output is very flat and quite frankly boring.
    Basho was not boring, IS not boring. He can bring tears to your eyes or make you laugh at the center of your being. He is as canny in his own way as Chuang Tzu, who is gradually being recognized as a major philosophical thinker from the axial period. My own beliefs about haiku are inseparable from my study of Chuang Tzu. I’m sorry to be citing so many books!
    So again, the structure of haiku is the structure of time: human consciousness as an event-ridden site of appearances that communicate something of our embeddedness in orders beyond our capacity to explain or even express. Ecology is a cousin to haiku studies, as Prof David Landis Barnhill has shown, among others.
    Hope this helps, but again, “haiku” as I mean it is just not very palatable to our modern ways of thinking about the self, and ongoing discussions like this are necessarily full of potholes for all concerned, for which at my end I apologize..

  5. extrasimile Says:

    Tom, I’ll wager Thomas and John and Anna and David are quite interested. I confess until recently I thought of the haiku form as strictly a 17 syllable, 5 – 7 – 5 sort of thing and rather good to use to introduce high school students to poetry. Count-em-up and you’ve got yourself a haiku. End of story.
    The three I’ve written recently (and, John, the 5 – 7 – 5 pretense has become just that) take the form more seriously, however. The first one was something of an attack on the haiku—and an attack on the sentence—and Shakespeare—and—well, you get the idea. It was genuine because it did reflect the state of my mind/being after a visit to the WTC Memorial. The second one was terribly clever—maybe too clever for its own good—and it pretty much came to me out of the blue. I like it when that happens. The third one, which I am thoughtfully calling [ 2 ], does represent some serious thought about the haiku, but perhaps it tries too hard to be what I think a haiku should look and sound like—mimetic desire in all its worst and best aspects.
    What I propose to do is sketch in my thinking about [ 2 ] in the light of the above comments Tom wrote, and along the way ask questions/ pose objections/ seek clarifications/ …well, we’ll see what I come up with.
    An old wood bucket. This presents the subject. This is also the seasonal reference—which I take to be more of a grounding of things than a simple statement: it’s summer, damn it!—sure, you can set a bucket down at any time of the year…but, I will get back to this.
    The subject is ‘an old wood bucket’—not ‘the’ , not ‘poor’ old wood bucket. Not ‘wooden’. Not a pail, not a red wheelbarrow… An old wood bucket.
    Now, Tom, you write: ‘the cap is drawn from a source of concepts that point to a universal human condition’…one of which, presumably, is participation in a season of the year. We need more here. First, is the cap necessarily at the end (see below)? And, this season thing: winter, spring, summer, fall. It’s too crude. We all know that. Every day is a season, every moment. ‘An old wood bucket’, is perhaps too private a reference: my associations pumping water into a bucket in Vermont in summer as a kid are not knowable to anyone but me. But to go in the opposite direction—the golden leaves of autumn, etc—is to court cliché, and to ‘study Japanese seasonal words’… well, seems like a good way to find a new set of clichés. Think of the way ‘zen’ has been used. The zen of TV. (You do sit.)
    And: This notion of a cap and a base…does it come from Basho? Or from an older linked verse form, where one is intent on showing one understands what was previously written? (And hence the cap must come at the end.) It’s clear this way of thinking of a haiku could lead to a complex situation: a dialog with the self, a dialog with your different selves, with your illusions of self, etc. But might another way of thinking about this, to see a ‘cut’ somewhere in the poem, be equally interesting? Every sentence courts finality. Every sentence is a bucket. Do we want to cap our bucket or cut it open? Are we not looking for a way of opening the poem and allowing the haiku to be completed by the reader?
    ‘Sabi’, yes, a big subject. An old wood bucket might have the patina of time and participate in some sort of aesthetic world view—a genuine aesthetic world view. A poem, thus, needs to be an act of definition, a haiku a particularly careful one. For example: suppose I was thinking of antiquing here. You’re in Nantucket looking for something to complete your early America collection. Here’s a nice old bucket. You slide right to the next line, ‘prerevolutionary’—hey, maybe this old bucket is worth something. (I will not complete this version, in the interests of good taste…but ‘urinary’ is an interesting…no.)
    Now, as it happens, I was thinking of ‘prerevolutionary’ as being a counter to the previous poem where the center multi-worded line was surrounded by two one word five syllable words. And it is something of a sound bucket, spilling over with syllables: a nice little workout for the tongue and mouth.
    And the suffix ‘pre—‘ puts you in a strange position. You rarely know when you are pre something. My cousin collected coins as a kid. He actually had a coin dated 336 BC. How did he know it was a fake? My point: we are looking back with knowledge of the future. We know who won the revolution. And of course there is the 360 degree revolution that returns everything to the same place. Can you be pre that? And ‘evolution’ is hiding in there (did somebody win that?) and, well, is the bucket being modified by ‘prerevolutionary’—or the water? This poem revolves around its center: spokes in a wheel.
    So, do I have a cut? Do I have a cap? Perhaps not. My intent was lure you down the primrose path from water to algae to pee. So much for our antique bucket. Rhymes with Nantucket anyway. I’m not having it in my living room.
    In short: Does this bucket have ‘sabi’? I fear it may not.
    But then, I may not have it either.
    But then, Anna may have it right: a good laugh completes the poem.

  6. John Stevens Says:

    I haven’t commented on this one yet, Jim, but I’ve found the idea of that old wood bucket (and its peculiar contents!) has lodged firmly in my mind the last day or two. It is a strangely powerful image.
    I’ve also been thinking about Tom’s instructive remarks on the haiku form – although I know that you have avoided strictly calling this one a haiku.

  7. Anna Mark Says:

    oops…I meant “pee” not “pea”! I don’t normally correct typos, but this one I couldn’t pass over ; )

  8. Anna Mark Says:

    Well, this second 5-7-5 made me laugh. The image of an old wood bucket is delightful, a simple, timeless tool (but, I assume — broken). And then to think about all the things it may contain or carry…and to think about how useful an old bucket remains to us today…how many years later? We are still using buckets for water and pea. Perhaps it’s as old as the algea itself. I especially enjoy the presence of the algea.

  9. Tom D'Evelyn Says:

    If it matters, and it really makes no difference to most people, the “cap” of a haiku — the single line — is drawn from a source of concepts that point to a universal human condition, say, seasons (the Japanese “seasonal word”). The cap is only thematically linked to the two-line base, which has a narrative or scene structure. Once one studies Japanese seasonal words, one finds equivalents in one’s own ecological setting. Most modern haijin don’t like the old way of structuring haiku, but to me it is what makes haiku a distinct genre. Otherwise it is just a vague sense of rhythm provided by a three beat structure. Modern haijin enjoy writing one line ku, observing the tripartite structure.
    Your “old wood bucket” as some of the “sabi” canonized by the Basho school: the patina of time assumed by old things in constant use. But sabi is of course a much larger concept. Anyway, your two-line section gestures toward a “gist” of meaning in various states of water. If you were my student, and you had agreed to the whole Basho-smash up, I would have you work with the bucket and the word pee and try to make an old-fashioned haiku out of that juxtaposition. It would be a good exercise, restrained by the image of the bucket, which would easily fit into a two-line section in various narratives. If you were really ambitious, I’d suggest a two-line section with the two key concepts and a new cap.
    Again, I’m fully aware this note will be irrelevant to most people who read this blog. But the historical info may be of interest for its own sake.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: