Skip to main content

haiku commentary ~ Jacob Salzer

haiku


how many
become one
sound of rain

          — Jacob Salzer, Frogpond 38.3

I have a particular fondness for line-break – perhaps because I came to haiku from writing free-verse where line-break is the principal structuring tool. But it’s still something that matters to me in constructing haiku, although I approach it with a lighter touch to avoid any overly dramatic effect that a longer poem might be able to carry and dilute.

And it was the idea of line-break that immediately hit me when I first read Salzer’s haiku, on the page and out loud… the idea that the haiku would work as well without any:

how many become one sound of rain

The haiku’s theme of oneness, alongside the option for the reader to pause in multiple places to play with the sense of what Salzer is saying, make it perfect for the monostich form. BUT… that’s not what Salzer chose to do so instead of simply imposing myself on the poem I want to look deeper and appreciate the author’s intention.

The line-breaks definitely slow the poem down: the slight breath pauses at the end of lines 1 and 2 followed by the white space on the page, before we read over to the next line. It creates a more contemplative mood than the words ‘running’ across the page on a single line.

Line 1 poses both a question and a statement: how many? or [this is] how many. It reminds me of the powerful opening to a koan.

Words placed at the beginning or ends of lines tend to carry more weight and line 2 ends on ‘one’ which reinforces the theme of unity

And the 3rd line isolates ‘the sound of rain’ adding more power or presence to the image.


So yes, it works for me in three lines too. But in my head I can’t help it taking on the form of single line that loops me back through itself, enjoyably, again and again.

Published on The Haiku Foundation

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Consolidation & Simplification

Since January 2020 all my work - haiku writing, poetry, prose, imaginative and non-fiction writing - has been posted on my website   Lynne Rees .  Please feel free to share anything from this archive, or my main site, but I'd be grateful if you could credit me as the writer and link back to the source.  Thank you 🙏 Lynne 

haibun ~ Playing Lego Minecraft with Morgan

There’s only a portal of black obsidian between the zombies and lava in The Dimension of The Nether and The Overworld where Steve is standing and I am counting his sheep, cows and pigs. But we really shouldn’t be hanging around when night is about to fall and mob attacks are imminent: Blazes and Creepers, Spiders from The Cave, all ready to descend on The Farm.  autism spectrum my nephew names all the monsters It’s time to lock up the animals, he says, time to close doors and windows, so I turn Steve around and notice he’s clutching a tiny baguette, something that fills me with unaccountable joy: that in this world of sharp edges and danger a boy has placed Bread in a man’s hands and they are carrying it home.  Presence 63,  March 2019

haiku: a poetry of absence or an absence of poetry?

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 min