Poetry Dispatch No. 67 | May 1, 2006
The Small Poem Revisited – Again | ONE MOMENT, HAIKU | by Jeffrey Winke
Haiku, like anything originally conceived to be some one thing…in time becomes something else. Something more. Something less. Something different. Yet what ‘is’ remains.
Haiku traditionalists insist upon the 17 syllable pattern of 5 (1st line),7 (2nd line), 5 (3rd line). Subject matter: nature, the seasons. Anything other than this, you’re committing haiku hari-kari
R.H. Blyth, one of the first translators to first open the haiku gate to English defined the small art in this manner: “A haiku is the expression of a temporary enlightenment, in which we see into the life of things.”
While Harold G. Henderson, translator and author of one of the finest anthologies ever published on the subject (AN INTRODUCTION TO HAIKU) claims that “In the hands of a master a haiku can be he concentrated essence of pure poetry.”
Gary Snyder will tell you: “The haiku of Basho and his immediate disciples have the quality of the poem pushed as far as one can push it. ‘The words stop but the meaning goes on.’ ”
Kerouac puts the Eastern in a Western perspective (which he was always doing) in this way: “I propose that the Western haiku simply say a lot in three short lines in any Western Language. Above all, a haiku must be very simple and free of all poetic trickery and make a little picture and yet be as airy and graceful as a Vivaldi Pastorella.
When West (the U.S. of A.) met East on the haiku trail, things were bound to head in other directions. Given western industrialism, technology, urbanization, ‘doing it my way’…given the word according to Whitman, the lingo of Sandburg on the streets (verse gone vernacular), all hell was about to (and did) break loose in the structure of line and short breath syllables, what a poem was all about.
Haiku-like poems about nature? How about skyscrapers? Factories? Stores? Taverns? Trains? Shoes? Desire? What have you?
Which brings me to the featured poet for this particular dispatch on the small poem, Jeffrey Winke, who writes some of the best Western/Eastern haiku to be found anywhere on the map. See. Take a short breath. How it lives inside you for a long time. Norbert Blei
One Moment by Jeffrey Winke
the sound of dry leaves
rustling in the wind
leaning against the juke box
someone’s chain saw
her cherry nails
against the gray print
scanning the obits
my spiral notebook—
the day’s pattern
she closes the blinds
to the leafless tree
the toilet tank
bolted to the wall
the daily sameness—
shoes neatly paired
her bra unhooked
on the doorknob
with my father’s voice
I call into the summer
for my own children
from WHAT’S NOT THERE, selected haiku of Jeffrey Winke, Deep North Press, 2001