The blog of Alan Summers, Recipient of the Japan Times Award (2002) and co-founder of Call of the Page, a UK provider of literature, education and literacy projects, often based around the Japanese genres.
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An article in progress for Writing Poetry: the haiku way by Alan Summers
Presence and Absence in Modern Poetry
‘Modern Poetry’… [is] “something” [that] has been called everything from a return to “reality” to an emphasis on self-reflexive poetry, but the reality these poets see is so various and the reflexivity of their poetry so different that another approach to their work seems necessary.
One could say that presence and absence ultimately come to be defined in terms of the relationship between language and reality, but for both TS Eliot and William Carlos Williams the problem was more profound than that.
James S. Hans (Assistant Professor of English at Kenyon College and author of The Play of the World who although not in total agreement is indebted to the following works:
J. Hillis Miller, Poets of Reality (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1965)
Joseph Riddel, The Inverted Bell (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 1974)
Wayne State University Press 1981
The state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present.
“Haiku play in this way with presence and absence, and also with the present as “ever-now,” presence as an un-fleeting eternal. The very brief non-narrative poem lives and dies, brightens and fades in the way we attend through presence, in reading and contemplation. Such “edgy” aspects of context, background and backstory promise haiku romance.”
From the opening section called As fireflies from The Romance of Endings in Haiku by Professor Richard Gilbert
I would like to put forward that haiku operates as both a poem of presence as it does with an absence of something, and that the absence of that something is as vital as placing a presence of a something or somethings.
In the final version of Writing Poetry: the haiku way therewill be haiku by various poets. For now I will show examples of my own haiku, and as the main title is called Presence, these will be examples from the highly regarded haikai magazine Presence: haikupresence.org/home
the railing spikes collect
Of course we don’t need to see the actual children who have dropped a glove or two over time, but think of all the children who have, as they are lost in the moment perhaps. Then of course we could also remember news stories of displaced children due to war and famine.
down side streets -
gulls turning the sky
in and out
A biographical haiku again (experiential) and the sky is not really visible to the naked eye nor do birds really ‘turn’ the sky, but just themselves.
of the roadside cat
You could say this is almost like Alice only seeing the Cheshire cat’s grin
The Cheshire Cat is a fictional cat popularised by Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland where one of its distinguishing features is that from time to time its body disappears, the last thing visible being its iconic grin: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheshire_Cat
a dog’s deposit
I was amazed that people on a very busy and bustling street crossing were unaware or disregardful of people’s personal space, yet somehow the “low on the ground” dog faeces was somehow visible amongst hundreds of feet, and respected in its way, moreso than our fellow humans.
a blackbird hops
along its notes
Do we see the train? Do we need to see the train?
deep into winter
the sun measured
in kettle clicks
Perhaps we don’t need to see the kettle, and perhaps the kitchen where someone alone regularly makes hot beverages by boiling water. Its absence except for the sound of being clicked on, and later automatically clicked off is perhaps enough, and a symbol of the passage of time.
my father's war
a story of the dark
collecting its own
My father did not suffer the horrors of war as much as his brothers and fellow participants within the arena of World War Two. He mostly told of the great experiences of Africa and India, but once, only once, did he tell me the horrible experience of picking up some blown up body parts of fellow soldiers for identification purposes in the deepest night, with no light allowed, after strafing by enemy aircraft.
and the butterfly
It’s always a wonder to see the multitude of stars during the dark hours of the night and very early morning, only to witness them disappear. Of course they are always there.
dry stone wall
out in the rain
Do we see ‘Paddington Bear’? Do we just think of him at Paddington Train Station arriving from Peru all alone and initially friendless? Is Paddington Bear, the fictional creation of Michael Bond, a symbol of loneliness, or of adventure? Is this the first great adventure of a child finding their independence? I can let the reader decide.
Photos by myself yesterday at London's Paddington train station.
For anyone interested in becoming part of Call of the Page online courses in haiku and related genres please do drop Karen a line at our email address: firstname.lastname@example.org