The following paper was presented at the PALA (Poetics and Linguistics Association) 2015 Conference at Canterbury University, Kent, UK on 16th July 2015. Abstract:HAIKU: A POETRY OF ABSENCE OR AN ABSENCE OF POETRY?Minimalism in Contemporary English Language Haiku The popular perception of haiku as three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables persists in the mainstream poetry world and beyond as if nothing has changed since the first Western translators counted the onji, or sounds, in traditional Japanese haiku and created that misconstrued but enduring template fleshy enough to support a traditional English syntax. And while putting flesh on bones might be a useful metaphor for the construction of formal and free verse, contemporary English language haiku practice is often more akin to the trimming and polishing of bones to create a form where point of view, adjectives and even verbs may be dispensed with entirely. This 30 minute presentation will analyse examples of minimal, micro and monostich…
Sometimes life and poetry intersect naturally. I had a brutal wardrobe clear-out yesterday, as witnessed by the pile of clothes hangers in the centre of the bed and a bulging large carrier bag destined for the charity shop. And then, through one of those random extended internet excavations, I came across this haiku by Annette Makino, published by tinywords a few years ago which I'd commented on briefly.
hanging in my closet the person I used to be
Reading it again still elicited a similar variety of responses: laughter, recognition, resignation and sadness. And this time part of ‘the person I used to be’ was neatly folded at my feet! Most of us keep clothes that no longer fit us, or suit us. I still have an ostentatious, ostrich feather bolero that I bought in the early 1980s and will never wear again but hold onto from a sense of nostalgia. But the haiku also propels me towards imagining clothes that belonged to someone else, a husband, wife or partner who may have left, or died…
spring foghorn . . . cormorants spilling from an over-crowded ledge
Paul Miller, Called Home (2006)
Sound, sight and movement, and texture. These are the explicit physical senses through which the haiku speaks to me. But there must be more haunting the images and the spaces between the lines to produce an element of unease in me.
There’s warning in the sound of the foghorn. Spring tides (despite the natural response of ‘joy’ that we have to the idea of Spring) can be dangerous and have stronger than usual rip currents. The company of black birds spills into the air like a ragged cloak of wing and cry. There’s a sense of danger, or risk, implicit in an overcrowded ledge.
The ellipsis at the end of line 1 indicates hesitation and uncertainty. spilling/ at the end of line 2 also allows the reader to experience that sense of falling into the white space on the page. Line 3 ends gruffly with the definite thump of a single syllable: ledge,
Twice in the last two days I have read the closin…