Unless stated otherwise, all poetry on Swimming in Lines of Haiku is Copyright Kirsten Cliff and may not be reprinted in any form without written permission from the author. kirsten(DOT)cliff(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Friday, March 23, 2012

Straight From the Haijin's Mouth #2

'Straight From the Haijin's Mouth' is one of the features that makes up my haikai column in a fine line, The Magazine of the New Zealand Poetry. This edition is from the November 2011 issue, and is reprinted with the kind permission of Laurice Gilbert, Nola Borrell and Karen Peterson Butterworth.

Straight From the Haijin's Mouth

I asked the co-editors of the latest national haiku anthology the taste of nashi, Nola Borrell and Karen Peterson Butterworth, 'What is the most valuable piece of advice you have ever received about writing haiku?'

Nola Borrell's answer: At the risk of being contentious (or not published!), I think 'challenge' is a more useful word than 'advice'. Good haiku depend so much more on a way of seeing, or as Martin Lucas (Editor, Presence) says:

'To begin writing haiku, and to make progress to any significant extent, requires two gifts:
  • The ability to be alert to the subtleties of sensory or psychological experience (i.e. to notice things)
  • A sensitivity to the subtleties of language (i.e. to be able to express things).'

A challenge from Martin Lucas stimulated me to look more critically at my haiku. He talks about making a 'magical utterance' or a 'poetic spell', something archetypal/ rare/ essential, and in poetic language (4th Haiku Pacific Rim Conference, 2009, Terrigal, Australia). This seems more likely to reduce the human focus frequently dominant or at least intrusive in many current haiku, as well as prosy statements masquerading as haiku.

A specific suggestion (just to keep in with Co-ordinator Kirsten!): Early in my writing I received this comment on a mainstream poem: How about avoiding weak endings to lines, such as 'of', 'the',' in'. Of course. Why hadn't I seen it! Thanks Harry Ricketts (V.U.W., Co-Editor
, New Zealand Books). This makes even more sense in haiku - where each word and line ending is that much more significant.

Karen Peterson Butterworth's answer: First the foundation. My artist mother who trained my eyes. When a boring (to me) visitor arrived, ‘Watch her hands and do me a drawing afterwards.’ With her water colour tubes laid out on a white enamel tray, ‘Which colours would you mix for that sunset?’ Five minutes later, ‘Now which?’ My music teacher. ‘When it says “staccato”, leave a tiny gap between each note, and for “legato,” make the notes flow into each other.’ My Dad who sang while he turned the separator handle for the cream on our porridge. My bout with polio which gave me five months with nothing to do but read and observe. 

Then meeting haiku in my 50s. Reading, listening, attending workshops. No single piece of advice springs to mind, but gradually three pivotal messages crystallized. 1. Learn to recognise a haiku moment. 2. Note it down straight away. 3. Choose, change, chop, and chisel your words till you make them sing. 

Copies of the taste of nashi: New Zealand Haiku (Windrift Haiku Group, 2008) are still available for sale. Find all the deatils here.

No comments:

Post a Comment