Thursday, March 13, 2008

Keeping an Open Mind (repost)

Keeping an Open Mind's Eye

Part of the challenge of being a human and a haijin (haiku poet) is to make sense of the worlds around and within us. Regardless of where you live, work, or play, chances are high that you are surrounded by stimuli. Some stimuli are overt, others more subtle. The perception of these stimuli guide my actions and thoughts. They also guide my haiku. In writing haiku, I try to be aware of the stimuli and to understand the root, or essense, of the sensation(s) they invoke in me. As many haiku demonstrate, the stimuli are almost never extraordinary; they are common pieces of my natural and social environments that I capture by keeping my mind's eye open as best I can. There is no special place to look for "haiku moments" -- so look everywhere.

From what I've learned, haiku are the sights, smells, touch, tastes, and sounds of a moment in words that convey related images and interpretations. Other poems do this, too, but the haiku form does it particularly well by striving for conciseness and "show vs. tell." Because haiku is so often misunderstood or misrepresented as simple and trite, I think there may be haijin and haiku out there that we overlook. Consider the following poem, "Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost:

"The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued."

This poem, to me, expresses a "haiku moment" in a different (and arguably awkward) form. My intention is not to call Robert Frost a bad poet -- that would be wrong and ridiculous -- but rather to remind us to keep space in our days and hearts to be moved by such stimuli. I believe the important lesson is to invite and capture the images and senses of your days. ...The craft and revisions of the poems will come later.

Repost of Comments:

w. f. owen said...
Hi Amy,

Your post was very insightful. I
especially liked the last paragraph
about opening our senses and letting
the "craft" of writing come later. I know
for me the best haiku I've written merge
what I've sensed with the writing all
at once. Kind of a "eureka" moment.
It's as if the poem writes itself. Next
best, again for me, is the perception
followed closely by one or two versions
of a poem, which usually gets resolved
quickly. In any case, the sensation leads
the way. So, thanks for a thoughtful


9:50 PM PDT
Mark Hollingsworth said...
Thank you, Amy.
Yes, I think there's a haiku moment in this poem. Yes, it is awkward. And it tells. And it only has one image. So how might this moment become a haiku. Maybe:

end of winter
crow on the hemlock branch
dusts me with snow

10:36 PM PDT


w. f. owen said...

Hi Mark,

A nice reformulation of the original
poem into haiku form. I identify with the
end of winter juxtaposed with a dusting
of snow. Winter is an end of the seasonal
cycle. If I put myself in that setting, snow on
me, as I am entering a later stage of life,
fits well. Plus, snow in the person's hair
might merge with graying hair. The haiku
is open to multiple meanings. Good work!


m said...

Hi Mark,

Here's a different version-

snow dust;
shuffling on the hemlock-
a crow !

i find the use of me in the haiku a bit redundant and is also one of the reasons why frost's poem lacks the simplicity and tones of haiku (which of course he was not aiming for)

end of winter to me is melting snow. it almost feels like mid winter and possibly the morning after an overnight snow when one takes a walk under the trees and enjoys the majestic silence and white and then the dusting !

ps: i live in minnesota !