Thursday, 27 September 2012
ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE: Haiku
Certainly you know haiku, the elegant Japanese form of short poetry, tiny gems usually about nature but not always. From Jokun:
Ah! I intended
Never never to grow old
Listen: New Year's Bell!
Translated into English, classic Japanese haiku consists of three lines, usually involving a reference to one of the four seasons, each line divided into a specific number of syllables: 5–7–5.
There are many other acceptable styles such as 3-5-3 and even 2-3-2. The number of lines also can vary and seasonal references are not mandatory. One style of haiku called senryu is meant to be about human foibles, sometimes cynical or humorous.
We could discuss all the complexities in detail, but I would rather leave that to scholars and just enjoy.
Because haiku is of Japanese origin, you can imagine that cats make frequent appearances. One of the most famous haiku from 17th century master, Basho, is the first I memorized back in my teen years:
Why so scrawny, cat?
starving for fat fish or mice -
Or backyard love?
The thoughts of another revered master, Issa, who lived about 150 years after Basho, ran in a similar direction:
Arise from sleep, old cat,
And with great yawns and stretchings -
Amble out for love
Both Basho and Issa wrote of age:
A man, infirm
With age, slowly sucks
A fish bone.
As reason for growing old
A cloud and a bird
Jane Reichhold is a well-known American poet and translator who has published several books about haiku in general and Basho in particular. She also writes haiku:
WRITING HER MEMOIRS
THE AGED POETRESS READS
HER FIRST HAIKU
BLUSHES OF YOUTH
Sometimes capitalization matters in haiku so I've left Jane Reichhold's two haiku as I found them online.
You have probably noticed by now that aside from the cats, I have chosen haiku only about aging. That's because I think it might be fun for us to try our hand at writing some.
Let's see what haiku we can create about the nature of growing old: what is good or bad or funny about it, how it changes us, what it feels like or perhaps you can capture a single moment in time, as so many haiku do, that seems to hold a universe of meaning.
Use any style or number of syllables you like. Try to keep to the exquisite nature of such minimal, delicate poetry, but don't get hung up on form. Have fun with it and post yours in the comments below.
I cannot write any kind of poetry. None. I am just rotten at it. But it doesn't seem fair to ask you to take a stab at it and not me. So here's what I came up with:
Benumbed and annoyed
Struggling to retrieve lost thought -
Damn, old memory
Now if I'm willing to stick my neck out in public with such awkward piffle, surely you can take a chance too.
There is no new story at The Elder Storytelling Place today. They will return on Monday.