猪がきて空気を食べる春の峠 a wild boar comes and eats
Tohta,Selected Haiku With Notes and Commentary Part 2:1961-2012,
translated by the Kon Nichi Translation Group (Red Moon Press, 2012)
The translation of poetry has to
be one of the most challenging arts. How can someone translate words, syntax,
sound, rhythm and connotation from one language to another and be sure of
achieving something comparable to the original author’s intention? How does the
translator balance commitment to the original text with the necessity of
creating poetic effect in the translated one?
I am not a translator. And while
my reasonable grasp of French and Spanish might help me produce a passable
English translation of a short poem in either of those languages, all other
languages are beyond my reach. So it’s the translation of Kaneko Tohta’s haiku
that I must respond to.
I appreciate the overall scene the
haiku conjures but I’m less satisfied with a close reading: …
Plan your writing time for Spring 2018 with The Poetry School's new list of courses. I'll be leading Haiku Rebellion Studio again, an online course that runs over three to four weeks next April with lots of opportunity to practice and receive feedback on your own haiku. It sold out last time so book early!
In the meantime, here's some background to my haiku practice and the course.
Small is the New Big
I started this blogpost with the
question, How do you write a poem like a haiku? And then really wished I
hadn’t. Because the next question that popped out of my brain was, How do you
catch a moment on the page? No? Nothing? I’ll give you a clue: ¯¯How
do you solve a problem like Maria? ¯¯ Apologies for the Sound of Music ear-worm.
Our minds are full of
patterns. Habits, even. And while habits and repeated actions can be
comforting, like reading the Sunday papers in bed or summer sunsets, the
unconscious repetition of habits in our writing, a continued reliance on what’s
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…
This Single Thread Paul Chambers
£10 availablefrom the authorandAlba Publishing things I have witnessed/ but failed to notice until/ this moment, here, now
I have seen them in the orchard’s long grass – contour, flight, down – from magpies or wood pigeons, and once, the tawny remains of a buzzard. I have slipped them in my pocket or frozen them in a photograph. But now I am watching them move in my memory as dusk begins to shift towards night: evening winda feather tremblesin the grass (p.11)
And on those late train journeys home from London, lights from the back windows of terraced houses glittering past, wafers of smoky clouds shifting across the night sky: overnight traina handprintsmears the moon (p.68)
Paul Chambers talks about haiku as ‘the art of noticing’ and each haiku in this collection is a quiet and precise record of the small moments that are common to us all. Or, if not common, convincingly true: pylon humthe twitch of fibresin a horse’s shoulder (p.27)
Our lives are, natura…
mosquito wings — the colour of evening so thin — Ajaya Mahala (First Place, Shiki Monthly Kukai, May 2014)
It’s probably a default approach to use visual images when writing poetry and I know I consciously nudge myself now and then to consider the senses of smell, sound, touch and taste too. And, sometimes taking it a step further, to consider if synaesthesia ~ when the sensory stimulus from one sense is mixed up with another sense ~ might also be effective with the material I’m working with.
The use of metaphor, in any form of poetry, needs a light touch, and even more so in haiku where the minimal form has no space for a grandstanding author to hide. I want my haiku to encourage a reader to reflect on their own experiences, through the filter of mine, and not reflect on how clever with language I might think I am!
‘mosquito wings’ is written with an incredibly light touch, subtly using synaesthesia to blend visual and textural qualities. We automatically associate mosquitoes…
cylymau tywod ~ knots of sand John Rowlands £12 from Alba Publishing This week a friend on Facebook shared an old photograph of us, standing together on the shore of the Atlantic on Florida's east coast, and I felt homesick for the sensation of damp sand under my feet, for the scent of salt on the breeze. I was born next to the sea in South Wales. The beach and sand dunes were our playground as children. The sound of breaking waves became so familiar I had to focus intently to hear them at night before I fell asleep. roaring seatongues of foamsilenced in sand (p.32) The knots of sand in the title of Rowlands' haiku collection are the ropey-looking burrowings that lugworm leave on the surface of the sand. My dad used to dig for lugworm, to use as fishing bait, on the beach at low-tide. cylymau tywod in Welsh, my mother's first language, the language we were not taught growing up in Port Talbot (for outdated reasons about learning) but one that still formed a natural part of my …
November: a month that begins with a syllable of prohibition then slowly denies us colour and warmth. My father's brother has died at 91. This morning’s frost refuses to melt. I watch a day moon swallowed by smoky clouds; leaves shroud the bare earth beneath the apple trees.
But tonight, as if his age and health are no more than a random number, a misconception, my father's voice on the phone so clear, so bright. And the sky beyond the orchard fired by sunset. Yes. Oh yes. fall I try not to