A letter to the Shiki List
Is it Haiku?
This letter was written by Jane during one of the frequent
discussions on the Shiki Haiku List as to the nature of haiku. I am including it on
these pages because, as I told Jane when I asked to use it here, I read it often when
I am in need of a gentle reminder to stay on the right path, or to center my own
thoughts when some of the discourses get a little heavy handed.
The points brought up in these previous messages are valid and very interesting. I believe
it shows how meaningful haiku can be when we remove a few pickets from the *fence*. I am
bothered by the several times it is asked, "Is this a haiku?" I think the better question is,
"Do I want to accept this poem as an example of haiku for myself?"With this way of stating
the question, perhaps one can avoid painful discourses. I am totally for discussion, but
when anyone assumes the authority to say "what haiku is(or isn't)", I feel the
discussion has ended and turned into something quite different.
The necessity of our asking ourselves this question becomes weightier when
we each realize that we are responsible for what haiku IS; and what it is becoming. By
our writing, we are defining the form. By our changes in the form it is being changed. If
the style of current haiku seems to be going in a direction which is not compatible
with yours,then you have an even greater *load* of responsibility to make sure people
see the finest work you can do in your style. Surely someone will be inspired to work
harder with the same rules you have taken up for yourself.
In regard to Laura's question, "Does anybody out there know anything about this
linked form, or is it just a twist on the traditional renga?". I was in correspondence with
both authors (Christopher Herold and Maggie Chula) and this renga, (as it seemed to me
from their words), was an experiment -- a sort of listening to themselves. It is obvious
that they both knew renga from participating and also knew the koan method of teaching Zen,
which surely *gave them the freedom* to use questions. Using questions is a poetry
technique older than written history. Probably the very early *poems* were teaching devices
in which a question was posed and then an answer given (like riddles which koans are the
farthest extension). In fact the *magic* that happens between a'question' and an 'answer' is
the very stuff we aim for in haiku, (and tanka and renga) -- that connectedness which can only
be followed by a leap. Thanks for reading this.
Gualala, CA 95445 USA
Fax: 707 884-1853