Featured Poet – Simply Haiku Summer 2011


A commentary by Robert D. Wilson

It’s my practice to feature five of a given poet’s haiku in the haiku section of Simply Haiku, in order for you to get a feeling of a poet’s style and vision. Displaying one or two of a poet’s haiku in a journal is standard procedure, yet it robs the reader from being able to get a handle on and to learn from the poet. Writing haiku is not a hobby, it’s a path to be taken seriously. When I read the haiku in online publications, most are weak, not memorable, and say little.

It amazes me that some of the same haiku poets, after only one year of off and on again practice, feel they are ready to self-publish a book of haiku. Either they are savants or have been led to think they are top poets deserving of a broader fan base. Haiku is not mastered in a few short months, let alone a year or two or three. Imagine a person taking beginning painting lessons and feeling he or she is good enough to have a show of their own, and while preparing for the show, sending out photographs of their paintings to various galleries to be considered for future showings; or a teenager who takes weekly guitar lessons for a year and sends recordings to music companies feeling he is ready to become a recording star.

Art is the product of hard work, practice, study, and the paying of one’s dues. Serious literary journals are not a showcase for amateurs. When they become one, they lose their relevance, and become another run-of-the-mill publication under the heading: Seen one, seen all . . . Perhaps this is why most publications feature only one or two of a poet’s haiku.

I will not sacrifice quality for quantity. Speaking of which, Svetlana Marisova, Simply Haiku’s new Tanka Editor and Webmaster, is a haiku poet worthy of broader attention. She takes her art seriously, reading, studying, writing, editing, re-writing, hungry to grow as a poet, and never satisfied with her finished poems. She’s not a member of the herd, following the leader, mesmerized by the Pied Piper’s off key flute. Hers is a fresh voice, one refreshingly in tune with the zoka. Once again she submitted several haiku. With few exceptions, most were worthy to be showcased. After discussing this with Sasa Vazic, my fellow co-owner and co-managing editor, we decided to make an exception regarding our five haiku per showcase rule, and showcase Marisova’s haiku.

Read Svetlana Marisova’s haiku. Her haiku is a vivid example of the quality of haiku Simply Haiku publishes.

floating downstream – 4 syllables (short)
the burden of my shadow 7 syllables (long)
on a mayfly 4 syllables (short)

floating: an action verb
downstream: an involuntary movement and descriptive modifier; the product of
the zoka
the burden: a descriptive modifier
of my shadow: shadows aren’t objects.They are brushstrokes painted
by the zoka.

Marisova’s short poem is an activity (process)-biased haiku, in line with Basho’s teachings. It’s not object-biased, or subjective. Marisova makes good use of yugen, hinting at and suggesting, versus “telling all.” Likewise, the poet uses ma (dreaming room). These two aesthetic styles play an important role in bringing to surface the unsaid. It is the un-said’s dance with the said combined with a haiku to make room for multiple interpretations. Marisova makes excellent use of the Japanese styles (aesthetic tools) that transforms haiku into a medium that says much with little, with its ability to suggest, hint at, coupled with a proper understanding of kigo.

Wrote the artist (1617-1691) Tosa Mituoki in regards to painting, which applies to haiku as well:

“Do not fill up the whole picture with lines; also apply colors with a light touch. Some imperfection in design is desirable. You should not fill in more than a third of the background. Just as you would if you were writing poetry, take care to hold something back. The viewer, too, must bring something into it. If one includes some empty space along with an image, then the mind will fill it in.”

Look carefully at Marisova’s haiku. She doesn’t tell all, encouraging readers to interpret her haiku, to explore the correlation between her words and the Dao (path).

swan song …
the limb-loosening rush
of dark feathers

swan song: a swan is a living object but, in the context Marisova uses the word. It’s not a noun but a descriptive modifier for the word “song.” Knowing the source of the song is pertinent to the rest of her haiku, as every bird has distinct behavioral patterns, flight patterns, and songs.

the limb-loosening rush: rush is a verb indicating speed. The two words prior “limb–loosening” serve as descriptive modifiers to give breath and definition to “rush.”

of dark feathers: dark appears to be a metaphor for night or an actual predator with dark feathers (nouns).

Marisova’s use of juxtaposition is creative, and well thought out, leaving readers with a mystery to interpret according to their own experiential-based cultural memory, education, parental upbringing, etc. Why the rush? Is this a white swan attacked by a black-feathered predator? Is the swan a rare black swan, and if so, what is the cause of her rush? Her use of “swan song” to begin the haiku adds further depth to the haiku. Although a “swan song” is usually associated with poetic serenity, an effective juxtaposition will place opposites together in order to stimulate thought that can form an entirely different picture.

Only a properly written haiku using aesthetic tools can express so much with so little. Svetlana Marisova puts these tools to good use. The zoka, nature’s creative power, sculpts everything that isn’t human-made. It’s unpredictable, never static, capable of an infinite number of variables.

It’s your turn now. Read each haiku once. Then re-read each one a second time. What does each haiku tell you? Remember, your job isn’t to figure out what Marisova’s interpretation is. You interpret it, finish her haiku with your interpretations. By doing so, each haiku becomes a living poem, without a beginning or an end, transcending the obvious, reaching deep into your synaptic endzone.

falling leaf,
do you forget
your roots?

first light …
for a moment all colour
is this

silent dance …
the distance between,
pulsing in time

autumn rain –
the colour of birdsong

morphine …
again my dreams

pearl diving …
haiku and tumours
from the depths

in the wind
what might have been …
sleepless moon

the universe
suddenly personal …
newborn child

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