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With Words (Alan & Karen)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Portable words: The other side of the electric fence - Kate Hall's haiku collection "Irises"
































Portable words:  
The other side of the electric fence.

A haiku collection by Kate B Hall, President of The British Haiku Society.

Irises by Kate B Hall, Hub Editions (2015) 
ISBN 978-0-9576460-5-6 Price £5

277 haiku, senryu and tanka and one 8 line poem including 7 haiku sequences

To purchase a copy, don't hesitate to email Kate: 

Kate B Hall <katebhall@hotmail.co.uk>

As I dived into, and inhabited this collection, I witnessed emerging haiku that go beyond a straight sketch from nature, which is often called shasei in regards to Japanese art.  The shasei technique or approach also tends to be the envisioned early stages of haiku that Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) suggested.  Too often we see straight sketches that both Japanese artists, and writers of haiku, alongside non-Japanese proponents initially misinterpret, and which Saitō Mokichi (1882 - 1953) puts so succinctly, that shasei is:
"...an expression of ‘animation’ or ‘the divine soul’ and never as a simple linear bordering of objects as contemporary Japanese artists and poets in general took the term to mean."
Paraphrasing from: 
”Saito Mokichi's Poetics of Shasei," 
Japanese Hermeneutics: Current Debates on Aesthetics and Interpretation, edited by Michael F. Marra (Honolulu : University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2002)

In a nutshell:

Masaoka Shiki - Three Ways of Sketching from Life

  1. to copy reality as it is
  2. to select carefully from experience (the next stage)
  3. to include makoto, internal, psychological reality of what is truthful (the third development)
Modern Japanese Poets and the Nature of Literature
by Makoto Ueda (Stanford University Press; 1 edition 1983) 

We can still be objective, and not too subjective, otherwise we risk losing the resonance of the poem.  But we want to catch those invisible tensions that make haiku more than the sum of its parts.  And the visible text is, and can be, very much influenced by what is not there, by the invisible text, that negative space effect that powers the haiku beyond its ‘readable text’.  

Negative space in haiku: Writing Poetry: the haiku way

Why am I excited?   I feel Kate Hall is another poet getting away from the yoke of (perceived) shasei methodology, and that this is an emergent collection.  More later. 

The haiku in the collection are a variety of tones, styles, approaches, and the ones that sing out are often the ones where placement or misplacement of words lift them away from straight description. Whether Kate Hall intended this, I feel she has entered into using misprision (Old French: mesprendre, modern French: se méprendre, "to misunderstand”)… 

Misprision:
“A term used by Harold Bloom to describe the process by which strong writers misread or misinterpret their literary predecessors so as to clear imaginative space for themselves. According to Bloom, every poem is a misprision or misconstrual of a hypothetical parent poem.”
Quote by Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown, University of Toronto

…and making use of clinamen, the turn, bias, or twist: “[The] word that Lucretius, in his 2nd century book, The Nature of Things, used to describe how the world works. Instead of describing solid things as fixed and resting in space, he got his readers to imagine that the whole solid spatial world was moving along in the same direction.”
Paraphrased from Pennsylvania State University

Two groundbreaking books touching on this are by Harold Bloom: 
The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry and A Map of Misreading both published by Oxford University Press from his piece:
  
Clinamen or Poetic Misprision
Harold Bloom, New Literary History, Vol. 3, No. 2, On Interpretation: I (Winter, 1972), pp. 373-391 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Often by our mistakes we stumble into the very writing style we didn’t know we were looking for, and so it finds us and not the other way around.

This leads me onto the following haiku which reminds me of Rafal Olbinski whose work is similar to the work of Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte, and where Olbinski describes it as "poetic surrealism”.

I see this very clearly in this haiku:

reading a book
in the park café — through the trees
your blue top

Now Kate Hall could have easily have redacted this to:

reading a book
in the park café
your blue top

Which is a very serviceable haiku, though better with visual punctuation, a cut marker, thusly:

reading a book
in the park café…
your blue top

But by adding that M—dash and adding ‘through the trees’ which echoes Rafal Olbinski and many of his paintings, we have gorgeous fabulism more in step with cutting edge Japanese haiku poets, yet retaining a strong Britishness of its own, and echoing Western surrealism in general.

morning school run
on the back his dad’s bike
eating his lunch

n.b. There is perhaps a deliberate missing ‘of’ or other modifier.

Again this could have been just a perfunctory haiku yet is lifted by the improbable, as also seen in these enhanced imageries that are not just plain concrete but touch on the extraordinary. A lot of Hall's haiku do eschew a number of modifiers which lend that extra bit of poetic surrealism.   Think of a smallish boy buried in his backpack, and eating snacks, and it looks like the bag is eating him, or eating its own packed lunch:  Very British surrealism.

two men on bikes
pass each other singing
an open duet

The use of starlings brings these two haiku into another dimension, with the first dropping the sound of the sea into the reeds:

starlings
drop into the reeds
a sea of sound

And again, where the author has herself turned the starlings homeward:

full moon sunset
a swirl of starlings
I turn for home

And here we have dogs bouncing harebells into a wood:

someone else’s dog
bounces between us
bluebells in the woods

Here we have the playful and strangely forlorn beach scene transformed by the middle verse of the haiku sequence Three from Margate:

father
buries his twins
next to their castle

And partly using something akin to synesthesia via concrete imagery:

amongst the weeds
the pungent smell of fox
and a small leg bone

It’s all in that last line, and that small leg bone.

This childlike almost faerie like verse, where the first line can be read literally, or where dusk is camped, or placed by the author, or the pigeon whose call brings back an idyllic time of childhood between before the realism of adulthood:

camping dusk
pigeon calls echo
childhood bedtimes

Yellow has always evoked emotions for me and appear in many of my poems. The yellow house in a river, which we might logically correct or perceive as “by” the river and not literally within it, reveals something else happening: A parallel narrative, mysteriously conjuring more than the logical content of the sum of its words.  The double spacing between river and heron is intentional by the author, and is effectively used as another way to use white or negative space. 

yellow house
in the river  a heron
walks on water

Kate Hall doesn’t just do one style as these three haiku show, and they remind me of Carol Ann Duffy’s Rapture (Picador; 1st edition 2005), her seventh collection, and book-length love-poem, and her refusal to simplify the contradictions of love:

chilled through
I come home to eat toast
with you

your toothbrush
gone with the slam
of a door

Milky Way night
you see a shooting star
I miss it

Humour is an important device in both haiku and senryu, and brings out the fun in a slightly  surreal image where dogs and their owners are almost interchangeable:

warmer weather
new haircuts for the dogs
and their owners

Her other poetry background comes into force with alliteration and strong use of verbs:

deep dark dusk
on the last day of the year
blackbirds mither outside

Here we have the succinct beauty and yugen bringing out an atmosphere stronger than the sum of words alone:

first long dark evening
I thought I would mind
rain on the window

Alongside this hauntingly intimate image:

in the dark
I cradle snow
on my tongue

As well as haiku and senryu there are tanka that employ subtle changes in the turning of the poem into another one, especially with these two examples:

at the hospital
she doesn’t recognise us
but winks anyway
outside we break the ice
in a muddy puddle

our garden covered
with thick snow
squirrels dig
in the window box
for things they didn’t bury

There is also an eight line poem using well hefted enjambment with ‘on a cliff path’ which again is worth the admission of a journey into her world.  I won’t spoil the enjoyment by quoting this non-haikai poem, although its use of haiku tension at its best makes it so strongly effective.

This is one of my favourite monostich, those last five lines resonate deep in my bones:

almost forgotten in a drawer — a photo of sea mist

And the half-said bitter-sweetness of a memory of a mother:

talking about my mother
I bite my thumb
until it bleeds

Although this next haiku appears just to be concrete, the two parts although not distant juxtaposition, yield a richness despite its plainness, and just cheers me up by reading it yet again: 

cold wet day
bright red seats
on the train

I am now excited to anticipate Kate Hall’s next collection, which I hope is already in its embryonic phase.  Perhaps the next collection could be a “New and Selected Works” with great potential titles if two of Kate Hall’s haiku were selected as part of that idea for her next collection.

e.g.

Waiting for Pain Killers

waiting for pain killers
to work — a fall of snow
down the chimney

This haiku is just sheer magical juxtaposition at its best, with ‘waiting for pain killers’ partnered with this phrase:

a fall of snow
down the chimney

Either part of the haiku on its own doesn’t carry the power but coupled together they bring an incredible sense of synesthesia via concrete imagery.

The other great title for a collection, a strong contender as my favourite potential title, would be 

The Other Side of The Electric Fence:

the other side
of the electric fence
always one sheep

Those first two lines apply so strongly for haiku writers, and other poets, who go beyond,  tentatively at first, and I see that is just what Kate Hall is attempting to do, whether beknownst to her or not.   

That last line isn’t as simple as it appears:   As haiku poets we sometimes feel the pressure to conform, to bow before our peers, yet we push ourselves just a little, a little more and a little bit more, until we are fully realised on the other side of that electric fence.

Although as I said this collection has weaknesses, I urge you to buy a copy.   It’s a bridging the gap collection until the anticipated third collection by this writer evolves. 


Review by Alan Summers for Blithe Spirit, journal of the British Haiku Society: http://britishhaikusociety.org.uk/journal/




Monday, November 07, 2016

Some recent haiku by Alan Summers



A very young me as haiku poet in residence!
Falmouth, England, U.K. photo by Karen Hoy



meadow borders the river clouds

Publication credit: Presence #56 October 2016 issn 1366-5367




broken boats
the coastline tagged
with shearwaters

Publication credit: Presence #56 October 2016 issn 1366-5367



skittish clouds
the lightning tree
grows a crow

Publication credit: Presence #56 October 2016 issn 1366-5367
photo/image©Alan Summers
































ursa major
a plane's navigation lights
leave the system

Publication credit: Asahi Shimbun, Japan (September 2, 2016 at 10:10 JST)


the sunken mountain
this talking of things we see
and then cannot see

Publication Credit: 
RLIndiaPoetry 2016 (twitter)


a teaspoon of spice
crows bottle the wind in caws 
and then release it

Publication Credit: 
8th Yamadera Bashō Memorial Museum English Haiku Contest Selected Haiku Collection
July 2016


cusp month the housemartins field a meadow

Publication Credit: Blithe Spirit 26.3 (2016)
haibun: Growing Pains Of The Fairy Tale Train
re May into June 2016


bee hotel
all the lonely people
waking up

Publication Credit: Blithe Spirit 26.3


altocumulus
the rooks measure up
one by one

Publication Credit: Blithe Spirit 26.3


just a shooting star
in the wide expanse
unfinished poem

Publication credit: Asahi Shimbun, Japan (September 2, 2016 at 10:10 JST)

all the demons
are in mourning
sparrowsong

Publication Credit:
A Journey With the Poetry of POETS Part 3 (July 2016)



secret garden
a clue to everything
lies with the crows

Publication Credit: 
Mainichi Shimbun (Japan) July 7th Thursday 2016


restless rain
this flag planted
where it counts

Award Credit:
7th Place, 2016 first edition of Bangabandhu Kukai contest organized by the Haiku Society of Bangladesh


pink bullets
an armadillo ricochets
off the blossom

розови куршуми
броненосец рикошира
от цветчетата

Publication Credit:
Ohanami: "One Hundred and One Cherry Blossom Haiku”
Annual Ohanami Festival, Sofia, Bulgaria April 2016
101 authors from 27 countries
The following collection includes haiku from 101 authors and 27 countries (UK, Scotland, France, Austria, Slovenia, Japan, Canada, Brazil, India, Belgium, Poland, Croatia, Montenegro, Germany, Nigeria, Denmark, Greece, Serbia, Finland, Switzerland, Lithuania, Northern Ireland, Portugal, USA, Holland, Romania, and Ghana), which participated in the International Section of the Second International Haiku Contest “Cherry Blossom”

The poems were translated into Bulgarian by Iliyana Stoyanova for the Annual Ohanami Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria. 


a breath smiley
below the astronaut’s nose 
fields of world food 

Anthology:
EarthRise Rolling Haiku Collaboration 2016 Foodcrop Haiku



call of geese the heart I eat inside

Publication Credit: 
otata 4 (April, 2016) An e-zine of haiku and short poems, Otata ed. John Martone


shadows that don't daffodils belong

Publication Credit: 
otata 4 (April, 2016) An e-zine of haiku and short poems, Otata ed. John Martone



not yet light the wall its black cat

Publication Credit:
brass bell: a haiku journal: April issue: one-line haiku 



Easter Sunday
a For Sale sign leans
into birdsong

Publication Credit: tinywords ISSUE 16.1 | 25 MARCH 2016



war moon
the flickering of humans
at birdsong

Anthology Credit: Heart Breaths: Book of Contemporary Haiku ed. Jean LeBlanc
ISBN: 9789385945038


honeymoon hotel
I peel away the seasons
of a red rose

Anthology Credit:
Heart Breaths: Book of Contemporary Haiku (Cyberwit March 5, 2016)
ed. Jean LeBlanc


house clearance
room by room by room
my mother disappears

Publication Credit: Blithe Spirit 26.1 (March 2016)
Shortlisted for Museum of Haiku Literature 
Blithe Spirit 26.2 (May 2016) 


















my father's war 
a story of the dark 
collecting its own

Publication Credit: Presence issue #55 2016




the blue guitar
how many snails
dream of race

Publication Credit: Frozen Butterfly issue 4



the rain in our fingers return journey

Publication Credit: Blithe Spirit 26.2 (May 2016)


a ripple through fields
whistling down the wind
the train on its way

Publication Credit: Blithe Spirit 26.2 (May 2016)


blood moon 
the wind whips 
up a fox

Publication Credit: otata 11 (November 2016)


elm groves
Christopher Logue slips 
into the Iliad

Publication Credit: otata 11 (November 2016)



postcoital coffee 
songs out of the blue 
drown the highway

Publication Credit: otata 11 (November 2016)



wolf rain my taste maps a cloud

Publication Credit: otata 11 (November 2016)



dark fields
tightly the vee of birds 
into pockets of forest

Publication Credit: otata 11 (November 2016)


night shadows
a star catches something 
out of an office window

Publication Credit: otata 11 (November 2016)