on a map
guessing how much the
Here’s how I explained to a group of high school honors English sophomores my ‘mission’ about haikus, an extremely brief form of poetry of Japanese origin. And a couple of examples from my collection, Zigzagging From Point A to Point B…
I was asked to do this and flattered about it and have had some hesitation because I have never done this…because in our common circles people don’t speak of this thing very frequently, if at all — poetry…so how I wondered would I be able to reach ‘you’ about what is so important to me and to those who ‘live for this’ …the written word capturing some aspect of the world in a new and moving way.
Some history: I have written and wanted to be a writer since high school. I wrote for the literary magazine back then. I wrote at all hours and places. When I was young I was moved by what I read…it was a rich time for poetry and lyrics to songs…Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway and others encouraged me to take off and see the world and try to capture experiences on the page. It was intriguing and irresistible and I went to San Francisco..a mecca for writers and the arts.
What matters when I write something: not just the message, although that’s important. Images are also critical – which one advances the idea the ‘best’. Sometimes they write themselves almost, coming out quickly. Sometimes they take all kinds of time and hammering away at them. Rhythm is critical, although not rhyme for me. Rhythm of the words in a poem are what I call …flowing like water or electricity …moving just right or in an intriguing and mesmerizing manner. Now with haikus there’s a new concern on top of the previous stuff– syllables – paring it all down to just 17 beats– very hard especially in the moments when a lot of words are coming….disciplining yourself to choose this word, yes, and this one not.
Inspiration comes from anywhere …it is important to be open to it…to keep all of your senses wide open…to be receptive….to be listening and reading words and have them bounce around in your head and see what comes out that’s interesting and fresh and alive. Or sometimes just looking or listening to things inspires.
Here I am now, far later along in life…trying to get some collection down about going from one place to another…a collection of haikus tentatively called, ZIGZAGGING FROM POINT A TO POINT B, which I began on a trip a couple of years ago to Niagara Falls for a quick vacation.
It deals with travel through two things that affect us…time and space (or geography)…travel and what one experiences – sees – hears – feels …thinks… and how time flies or ticks slowly on… while everything is happening, even when it seems that nothing much is happening…being aware of even those small apparent ‘gaps’ in happening, but really seeing that the ‘gaps’ are happenings in and of themselves. And there’s always so much going on inside and outside our skin, and consciousness, to which we need to STOP BEING OBLIVIOUS.
I’ve also done poetry in my second language …Spanish…for example, there are a few pieces that I wrote for my wife …one I recited to her in our wedding in Peru.
Not a slave to the rules about haikus except that of 17 syllables. What attracted me to the form… the same as that of short story form …is the need to reduce things down to some essence and still say something that moves me and hopefully the reader. Sometimes I can’t accomplish it and I put the poems aside for another type of collection.
Jack Kerouac said ….”I propose that the ‘Western Haiku’ simply say a lot in three short lines in any Western language. Above all, a Haiku must be very simple and free of all poetic trickery and make a little picture . . .”
Today I am showing you a few of these little ‘pictures’ in words…although I admit to some occasional poetic trickery… back a few decades when I first left to go west.