Vol. 12, No 20, Summer 2015
Vol. 11, No 19, Winter 2014
Vol. 11, No 18, Spring 2014
Vol. 10, No 17, Summer 2013
ESSAYS, CRITICISMS, ANALYSES, CONTEMPLATIONS, RECOLLECTIONS...
This page deals with essays on any haiku topic, criticisms of good and bad approaches to creating and shaping haiku, to producing books, magazines, journals..., analyses of your own and other authors' process of capturing a haiku moment and shaping it into a piece of artistic work, contemplations regarding a variety of haiku topics of your interest (including spontaneous "single" and group conversations, interviews and the like), recollections of your own and other authors' way into haiku and on various topics you may find appropriate to bring out from your memory and share...
A good example of the topic is an extract from David G Lanoue's "Haiku Guy" entitled "Crashing Symbols":
"Inevitably the mind plays symbols. But if you allow the control-mad, analytical part of your mind to seize a moment, especially a haiku moment, beware. Such moments, like trembling gazelles when the lioness is near, die quickly. The analytical part of your mind licks its chops with glee, declaring to itself and to anyone who will listen, with smug satisfaction, 'I figured it out!'
But you haven't.
Consider this example, one of Cup-of-Tea's best-loved haiku:
soro soro nobore
In one of my undergraduate classes at the Jesuit college in Omaha, I read J. D. Salinger's novel, Franny and Zooey. Somewhere in that book, this poem by Cup-of-Tea appears in translation. Here's my own version:
inch by inch, climb
To illustrate the wrong approach to symbolism, let's imagine that this scene of a snail creeping up the great mountain stands for something, and let's try to figure out what this 'something' might be.
'It's obvious!' intellect roars. 'It's a parable of persistence, the snail symbolizing how a person, slowly, slowly climbs to the 'impossible' goal. End of story.' Jowls dripping with blood, intellect moves on to stalk new prey, perhaps the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle.
This rush to judgment has utterly closed down the possibility of coaxing further meaning from Cup-of-Tea's moment. All has been defined, confined, mastered, killed. In the future, when the thinker of this thought stumbles upon the poem again, on page or in memory, he or she will not see it. The haiku will been countered as a puzzle already solved: 'Oh, that; that's the perseverance thing!'
But haiku should be approached in a less grasping way. Instead of pouncing, we should emulate the little hero of the poem and inch slowly, slowly toward meaning. This keeps the haiku, and the moment, ever alive, as they should be, and, really, are.
When I first read this haiku, back at the Jesuit college, I visualized a snail scaling the real Mount Fuji, which I knew from pictures to be vast and snow-capped. But years later, when I visited Japan, I was told by a haiku enthusiast on the bullet train to Kyoto that the poem really describes a pseudo-Fuji, a man-made imitation-Fuji, a mere hill in a temple garden. If so, then the snail has a much less imposing task than in my original thought. However, both images work. It is Fuji; it isn't Fuji. Let all images that pop into your mind, be. When you close your eyes and imagine the scene, right now, what do you see?
inch by inch, climb
Keep your lioness of intellect on a short choke chain! Don't let her attack the visionary moment head-on. Force her to circle and circle the gazelle that is the poem. See it move, kick, blink, tremble, and, constantly, change.
Play with symbols, but do not grasp them. Pick them up, one by one, like pebbles in a stream; consider one, toss it back, pick up another.
Try this pebble: the snail is the poet Cup-of-Tea on his
haiku journey through life.
Or this: the snail is you, reader, and Cup-of-Tea in the moment gently pokes fun at how you, we, plod along on your, our, absurd quest to understand this very poem.
Or try this: the snail's just the snail. That's all.
Or: the snail is Buddha, which makes Fuji the universe and its peak Supreme Enlightenment.
Or: Fuji's just Fuji.
Or: Fuji's an imitation Fuji in a temple garden, as I was told in Japan, so the poem depicts how people are misled by false assumptions, the snail a poor fool clinging to a huge misconception.
Or: the mountain in the haiku is each of us, our true, immense Self, which makes the snail our creeping, one-thought-at-a-time, intellect, what Mido called the 'right mind.'
Or: there is no mountain, as Zen priests like to tease.
Or: the snail is climbing Cup-of-Tea's idea of a mountain.
And soon, on and on.
See what I mean? The haiku remains alive, bountifully yielding meanings simply because we respect the depths of the moment. Don't try nailing just one interpretation onto a moment!"