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Volume 33.3
Autumn 2002

editor's speculations


Robert Spiess

As haiku poets we should keep our sense perceptions open and relaxed, not using them forcefully to try to grasp experiences. With this almost detached way we do not block our inner awareness and intuition. Simultaneously we are then perceiving both inside and outside ourselves, so that these two conditions become a unity. (Prompted in part by a passage of Kenneth S. Cohen’s.)

Two words for the haiku poet and haiku reader: "Be hollow."

It can be said that haiku is a knowing of a now-moment, whether immediate or from memory, but this mode of knowing is different from knowledge of something, which is of the intellect. Knowing in haiku is total assimilation into one’s beingness of an experience. It exists in its own right, without qualifications. (Prompted in part by a passage of Hugh McGregor Ross’s.)

In the chapter "Techniques of Haiku," R.H. Blyth informs us that "Issa is well known . . . to have revised his poems over months and years." Then after quoting one of Issa’s haiku he says, "This verse is the result of many revisions, but the final version appears artless and the work of a moment. This revision of verse is a revision of experience. The experience had matured in the words of the haiku so that he came to know what he should have wanted to say." Then further on, "We should remind ourselves of Bashô’s advice to his disciples, ‘Repeat your verses a thousand times on your lips. Haiku no less than waka are songs; they are meant to be read aloud, and repeated aloud . . . the full and perfect meaning of a haiku is not realized until it is heard by the physical ear.’"

Haiku do not explain or overtly tell the poet’s feelings, they hint at or suggest. With haiku the part is greater than the whole. As R.H. Blyth puts it, "The whole is the whole, but the half is infinite." And the perception of that unknown writer of third century China is applicable to haiku, "Heaven loves not what is too complete."

Intuition, which is so important in the creation of haiku, cannot, of course, be elicited by an act of will. It can, however, be strengthened and arise more easily when we use all our senses. This can be pursued to such a stage of sensitivity that we are able to react creatively to the faintest impulse or slightest sense impressions. (Prompted in part by a passage of Lama Anagarika Govinda’s.)

The haiku poet and haiku are instrumental in having the universe become aware of itself in a unique manner. (Prompted in part by a passage of Lama Anagarika Govinda’s.)

The "validity" of a haiku depends upon its ability to evoke an experience corresponding to its contents, and not on some intellective or abstract formulation. (Prompted in part by a passage of Lama Anagarika Govinda’s.)

In a haiku’s now-moment (whether immediate or from memory) the ego and the intellect are to be left behind.

Generally, poets eschew the ethereal in their haiku in favor of material entities, for these in themselves are ecstatic manifestations.

One of the virtues of haiku is that because of its brevity, it is both speech and a mode of silence.

In genuine haiku the heart annihilates intellect.

In genuine haiku the heart annihilates the ego.

A haiku poet must be able to bring and hold together two entities’ opposing energies.

Haiku are no vehicle for preachment or propaganda, even of the noblest kind. They must have appropriate form, freshness of detail, integrity of tone, and especially, relevance to human experience, often involving our relation to outer nature.




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