Posted in Haiku

Cyril Childs’ Full White Moon

Background on the Poet

Cyril Childs was a cricketer, scientist, leading haiku poet, and editor of national haiku anthologies in New Zealand. He was born in Invercargill in 1941. He became intrigued with haiku while living in Matsuyama, Japan for several months during 1989-90. He was a past president of the NZ Poetry Society, edited both of the NZ Haiku Anthologies published by the NZPS (1993,1998), and co-edited Listening to the Rain (Small White Teapot Group, Christchurch, 2002) – an anthology of haiku and haibun by Christchurch writers.

His own book, Beyond the Paper Lanterns: A Journey with Cancer, dedicated to his first wife, was published in 2000.

Cyril judged three NZPS haiku competitions and was co-judge, with Jerry Kilbride, of the HSA’s Henderson Award in 2000. Cyril also wrote in other poetic forms like free verse. His poetry appeared widely in international magazines and anthologies such as contemporary haibun online, Modern Haiku, Frogpond, and Wind over Water: an anthology of haiku and tanka and in New Zealand journals, including Poetry NZ, JAAM, Kokako, CommonTatta, and Bravado. His book reviews appeared in JAAM, New Zealand Books, and on the NZ Poetry Society website. Childs also had a keen interest in sports such as rugby and cricket and in 2010 appeared in the cricket poetry anthology A Tingling Catch: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009.

After a career as a scientist, Cyril retired to Port Chalmers in a home overlooking Otago Harbour and also enjoyed spending time at his beloved bach (crib) in Riverton. A biography of his uncle’s wartime exploits absorbed most of his writing energy in later years. The book was under contract for publication at the time of his death.  Childs died on 27 January 2012, only a few months after himself being diagnosed with cancer. He is survived by his son Norris, his daughter Lia and his second wife Christine.

(From The Living Haiku Anthology, with edits)

Haiku Commentary

full white moon
touching . . . not touching
the top of the hill

© Cyril Childs

Down to our basest essentials, we are something that sways in and out of existence. Our virtual particles flash with life and death. And this relates to enlightenment as well. It is not an assured thingsomething that can be pinned down with the stroke of words. However, we can portray it through conundrums, especially presented in poetic form.

This haiku, in my mind, shows this confusion with significance. The moon touches the top of the hill with its light, but doesn’t at the same time, as the light it emits is not itself. In many traditions, the full moon is a symbol of spiritual enlightenment and fulfillment (and “white” gives a sense of symbolizing purity). However, the experience of it is not something that can be properly defined. That is why in Buddhism, ultimately, there is no difference between the cycle of suffering that we live in and the heightened consciousness of enlightenment.

Why is that? Enlightenment is simply being. It is not as grandiose as one might believe. Suffering is not knowing how or not being willing to be simply one’s self. Yet, suffering leads to the experience of the self, and enlightenment owes its realization to it. Suffering and enlightenment is a single process. There is no goal. Your suffering self is already enlightened, if you would only look a little within, past thought, emotion, and bodily sensation.

“The top of the hill” could be the summit by which we imagine ourselves when enlightened. After reading so many books about nirvana, when one might believe that it can be conceptualized. As this haiku confirms, it cannot.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

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Posted in Haiku

Ken Sawitri’s Friday Morning

friday morning
from the white mosque porch
cry of a swan

© Ken Sawitri (Indonesia)

Chrysanthemum 19, April 15th, 2016
http://www.chrysanthemum-haiku.net/media/Chrysanthemum_19.pdf

Friday mornings are usually cheerful with the prospect of the oncoming weekend. We can also take into account that the poet might have been at the mosque for the dawn prayer time, or Fajr. In Islam, it is seen as God’s most favored prayer since others are asleep. Also, the call to Fajr marks the beginning of the obligatory daily fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

The cry of the swan creates a contrast between the jovial mood of Friday mornings and the peacefulness of prayer time in the mosque. Why is the swan crying? It is inexplicable, as it conveys a different emotion for each person that hears it. One person might see the swan crying and think, “Yes, Islam is going through a troubled time currently,” but another person might think, “Look, even a swan calls us to the mosque to pray, just as the muezzin  (the man who calls Muslims to the mosque) does,” while yet another person might think, “The swan is sad it cannot enter the mosque to pray.” There are a myriad interpretations one can get from the cry of the swan, and that is what makes this haiku engaging and versatile.

This scene reminds me of the term aware, which is a Japanese word that means the ability of an object, event, or scene to stimulate emotion, particularly of sadness or regret. The cry of the swan in the context of the scene brings about emotions, though we are not quite sure which ones exactly. But emotions that cannot be accurately defined are commonly the most powerful.

Another thing to consider is “white” being used directly and being implied in the haiku. The swan, in a sense, blends in with the mosque, and could be acting as its mouthpiece. Or, we could think of the mosque blending in with the swan, suggesting religion returning to simpler times. White is often a symbol of clarity, and maybe the haiku is suggesting the swan and mosque are not so distant from each other.

Sonically, the sounds of “f” in “friday” and “from,” and the “m” sounds in “morning” and “mosque” brings out the intensity of the swan’s cry. In terms of punctuation, I believe the author was correct in not using it in the first line, as it will make “friday morning” too heavy, when it is something light.

A haiku that lends itself to be commentary on religion and its connection with the natural world, it also showcases an excellent sense of sound, color, and scenery.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Posted in Haiku

John E. Carley’s Gate

Background on the Poet

John E. Carley, translator, polyglot, creator of the zip form of haiku, renku master, author of “The Little Book of Yotsomunos” and “The Book of Renku,” was born and raised in an Irish Catholic family in the north of England in 1955. He lived in the Pennine Hills of northern England. Discovering poetry helped John to overcome dyslexia in his early years. A former musician, John developed a particular interest in the phonic properties of poetry and has written, performed, and published a wide range of material in English, Italian, French, and Piedmontese as well as literary translations from Urdu, Bangla, and, more recently, Japanese. John was inspired by working with William J. Higginson, as he always paid a great attention to minor detail. But the figure that made the biggest impression was without a doubt Nobuyuki Yuasa with his 1966 translation of The Narrow Road by Basho. In John’s eyes, Yuasa held the keys to the spirit of haikai.

In recent years, John’s radical analogue to Japanese teikei (the patterns of rhythm and sound used in poetry), nicknamed the ‘zip’ style, has earned both dismay and support amongst those specializing in Japanese verse forms in the English language. His love of linked verse saw him invent the four-verse yotsumono, and he celebrated the form with a collection written with several authors, in The Little Book of Yotsumonos (Darlington Richards, 2012). The same publisher is bringing out the hard-copy edition of The Renku Reckoner, John’s life work and taken from his website of the same name.

From 2004 through 2006, John Carley served as renku editor for the haikai journal Simply Haiku and has appeared frequently as an essayist for the World Haiku ReviewThe Journal of Renga and Renku, as well as in A Hundred Gourds, and other journals. His Renku Reckoner was considered to be the most viewed source of renku diagram and aesthetics in the English speaking world.

John has acted as a poem leader (sabaki) for more than a hundred renku sequences, many composed in more than one language. Several have been published in international venues and won awards, including First place in the 2013 Einbond competition.  John’s emphasis lied in that kind of collaborative linked verse composed after the style or in the school of Matsuo BashoShomon haikai rengaa distinction he strives to make perfectly clear.

John E. Carley died on New Year’s Eve in 2013 after a four year battle with mesothelioma. He was a friend, a supporter, and a mentor to so many. The haiku community will be reaping the rewards of his kindness for a long time to come, and his support for renku made him a modern master of the form in English Language Haiku.

(From The Living Haiku Anthology, with a few edits)

Commentary

by the time I      reach the gate post

another leaf      has fallen

© John E. Carley

This is a zip poem, which closely resembles haiku in form and content, though it is 15 syllables and contains one internal caesura represented by a double space. You can say the poem is divided into four parts. Let’s take a look at why the poet possibly divided the poem into these parts.

I think the first gap shows the time it took the poet to reach the gatethe elongation of time. The second gap demonstrates the moment of witnessing: him watching the leaf fall.

The meaning of the poem can be said to be many things. The poet, through his keen awareness, notices the decaying world around him, symbolized in the fallen leaf. It is not just decay, but the amount of it. The poem could be reminding readers that in each thing we do, there is loss, and that things around us are ceasing to exist. It is saying, in a sense, that we must weigh our construction in light of deconstruction.

The poem could also be about reaching one’s goals, and seeing loved ones pass away in the process.  Also, when he writes “another leaf,” we can start to think about the other leaves that fell. There could also be an implication that the poet is the other fallen leaf.

But I believe at the heart of the poem is an awareness of longing, and giving sacred time to view it—not ignoring it. 

The sound of the poem contributes to its reading. “by the time I      reach the gate” has a string of “eh” sounds, which bring out the starkness of the moment, and the “eh” sound continues with “another leaf      has fallen.” What’s also interesting is the pivot sound of “post” having a long “oo” sound, showing the length of time the leaf has fallen.

John E. Carley created haiku and poems that made us think of the greater potential of micropoetry. Through spacing, sound, and aesthetics that seemed new but linked with the past, he presented a fresh voice for the world.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky