Two Hundred Days—Another Hundred Haiku


At the British Haiku Society Spring Gathering in May 2012 a new phrase was invented: ‘Knotweed Hykoo’. This refers to ‘Modern’ or ‘Gendai’ little poems. Most people know that Japanese knotweed is a pernicious weed whose roots can burrow through concrete and undermine houses. It seems to me that the House of Haiku is under threat.

So-called ‘modern’ haiku represent a move away from depicting the fundamental thinginess of things towards recording things and congeries of things as mental construction. The essence of the problem seems to me to be that in a hykoo of the squid-peppermint-Red-detective-arson-marigold variety we are not so much focussed on the specific squid on the fisherman’s slab or the actual peppermint required to sort out indigestion so much as being invited to play some arcane mental game (Ellery Queen, name from the past, red from head to toe…) We are asked simply to be clever. The outcome of the cleverness of the hykooist is that we become able to study what happens to the dance of hykoo gurus as the poet pulls counters with random words carved on them out of a bag and shunts them more or less into three lines—don’t they just love to be abreast of ‘the issue of the day’…

On the contrary, the proper task of the haiku-writer is to come to terms with the fact that ‘…we are so surrounded by things that the effort to look at ordinary things closely is not unlike a fish trying to understand what is meant by water: for the fish, water; for us, things…’ (The Recovery of Wonder—Kenneth L Schmitz) Notice: not the poor shadow of an idea of things, not Bertrand Russell’s logical construction of things, not the surreal invention of The Thing beyond things, but the very things in themselves, the suchness of things, Istigkeit—this is what we are invited to contemplate in a real haiku.

Not life as ‘One Damn Thing After Another’—a lot of abstract ‘things’—but life as a very long succession of things (rocks in paths, birds on a dawn lawn, dogs’ nails on lino, puddles bubbling) to be marvelled at in themselves, for themselves—so many separate trance-inducing events in the long trance of life. The marvel of the brass handles on an old chest of drawers, the chink of sunlight that moves on the wall never ever to be seen in exactly this way in the whole history of the universe. This particular configuration of things like this never again; my body, its eyes, its breathing, its sense of purpose in relation to this particular configuration of things never ever disposed thus again.

It may be that something as huge as Freedom is at stake in these considerations—the freedom just to BE without having to go beyond our natural element. ‘…Human freedom increases not in so far as we subjugate things but in so far as we give them their due…’ (Schmitz op cit)

Hykoo subjugate things to some other purpose best known to the writer; haiku give to things their proper due—an acknowledgement of a sense of wonderment at them.

*

Two hundred days away from January 1st 2012. Here are another hundred haiku posted in Facebook on a daily basis.

*

long hair hanging
straight down to her waist…
still the phone doesn’t ring

(after Alan Gray)

*

favourite cat—
his nearly blank yellow eyes
staring into my own

*

expecting a concerto
I wait in vain
for the solo violin

*

the path we walked
this afternoon in sunlight
now star-dark

*

tortoiseshell cat
waltzes into the room
—coils in a contented patch

*

the real shape
of a cloud—the real sound
of a violin…

*

a philosopher’s table—
one like this
which can never be known

*

oh owl at daybreak
accompanied by
daffodils

*

throwing wide the curtains
to sickle moon
& woodpigeons

*

‘Margate 1973’
—the place I bought this book;
losing my self back there now

*

as things should really be known
—from the beginning
from the first few notes

*

the horizon
darkening hills—
the whole visible circle

(found in WHHudson: Green Mansions)

*

awake at six knowing
that last night’s drunken friend
will not rise till nine

*

deep bell sound
invisible in space
suspended on nothing

(found in WHHudson: Green Mansions)

*

moonlit dances
on wide alabaster floors—
melting into moonlight

(found in WHHudson: A Crystal Age)

*

listening
in the portico shadows so as
not to disturb the singers

(after WHHudson: A Crystal Age)

*

her life now
nothing but a shadow
of other people’s lives

(found in WHHudson: A Crystal Age)

*

the creaking
of a wood-pigeon’s wings flying
through my garden reading

*

Underground Babel—
many languages
pushing & shoving

*

where the Sandeman advert
spooked me in the old days—
a blank white space

(at Vauxhall on a train)

*

aching limbs
prompted by noises in the night;
my old ash stick

*

after the choir sounds
the table becomes a drum
you inspect a keyhole

(Dream Haiku 28th April 2012)

*

a cloud
in a field—
sunlight & swans

*

now the blackthorn’s out—
how often that first line?
spring after spring

*

cherry blossom—
tree-giant in a wasteland
with sun-burst

*

all-night café—
the talk is of anything but
Michelangelo

*

mother swan
carefully moving her nest
from the advancing flood

*

a gap in the clouds—
century-old belvedere
& sudden sunlight

*

after the storm
the new-washed landscape
ready for gazing

*

Chanctonbury Ring
twenty-five miles across
the misty valley

*

a bank of elm trees
strange past hopes of youth
something like pain

(Constructed out of ‘News From Nowhere’)

relentless rain
folk waiting for trains
stare at pansies in a tub

*

this grey noon closes in
on raucous rooks
in sycamores

*

the glint of a stream
at the edge of a wood seen
from a passing train

*

solace
from the dying cat
urgent to sit on my lap

*

outside darkness falls
inside she says—
it all comes from the darkness

*

bush
burbling with
baby long-tailed tits

*

dream train—
I drive it into a railway siding
to write a haiku

*

in a dream
yearning for an Irish woman—
her narrow waist

*

woken from dream
by dreaming a rumpus
in a dream corridor

*

so much depends on
a red wheelbarrow
after a shower of rain

(after William Carlos Williams)

*

just seconds remain
in the old house—
all of the yellow carpet

*

man with woolly hat
counts his change
leaning on the cafe counter

*

the fish & chip shop man
and I spend time lamenting
the passing years

*

streaks of mud—
my inarticulate
shadow

*

waiting for the train
to depart with beeps
of multiple e-things

*

may blossom loaded
beside the railway track—
my unquiet soul

*

a black horse
nibbling at abandoned
farm machinery

*

reading a newspaper
in bright sunlight—
blinded by headlines

*

station official
waves his OK sign
at the waving baby

*

looking up
at the slam of a door
over the line

*

—hello bird!  shouts
the small boy; a mere sparrow
hops to another branch

*

The Largest Hanging
Garment Warehouse
in the Universe in sunlight

*

jubilee flotilla
churns Thames mud
—an Eastwick storm-cloud

*

far-off rooks
echo the one here
in the old inn yard

*

glass animals
in a shop window—
did she people her life with them?

*

now at first light
two male blackbirds sparring
across an ancient stairway

*

the minute hand ticks off
point by point
as the speaker makes them

*

marginal note
in an old manuscript
—what was its time of day?

*

passing in the street
the bold smile of yet
another woman

*

old man hobbles
from one side of the graveyard
to the other

*

minor cadences—
all the stained glass windows
singing together

*

church choir finishes
its rehearsal & wanders off
hands in pockets

*

the sound of vespers
descends into church-loud
small talk

*

a furious rapping
at an upstairs window—
I refuse to look up

*

raucous rooks
threading themselves
into my dreaming self

*

mason bee lands
on my book painstakingly
cleaning its proboscis

*

garden stillness—
the weft of a million
midday stars

*

up at the big house:
all the guests long departed—
still the music plays
(watching the film ‘The Great Gatsby’)
*
dust
floating in the wake
of dreams
(The Great Gatsby)
*
shadows of dancers
on the marquee wall
—late evening
(The Great Gatsby)
*
a clasped hand
extended towards the sunset
darkening ocean
(The Great Gatsby)
*
still October night
with roses
before the war
(The Great Gatsby)
*
summer ends
in a scratchy
old 78
(The Great Gatsby)
*
half a moon
up in the crinkly willow
wood pigeons
*
the poet—
able to think even
while peeling an onion
*
now    my dawn chaffinch
the year begins to turn
back in on itself
*
local politicians meet
& talk to ghosts
about apparitions
*
midnight indigestion—
with Jupiter’s seventh moon
the gurgling
*
quitting the screen
to watch the sun rise
through the crinkly willow
*
last dawn in June:
the distinct impression
that I am just a joke
*
a dawnful
of woodpigeons
& mist
*
first light
yesterday’s gardening
in creaking bones
*
looking at Emily—
as she ducks & weaves
all out at sea
*
deer in the town
leaping at a glass window
twice before running off
(after Alan Gray)
*
nailed to the army camp gate
advert for a play
called harmony
*
friends meeting after
twenty years—many
conversations left dangling
*
filling faces
not seen for twenty years
with your own memories
*
now it gets darker
by the morning
daily darker
*
church spire
rising above woodland—
odour of elderflower
*
the empty room—
a dynamic
all of its own
*
cat noses my sleeping hand
into a stroke—half a moon
high in cloud
*
moving slowly
knowing the white
but keeping to the black
*
red acer
& oxeye daisies—a gold
and a silver koi side by side
*
string quartet:
in the bar marked ‘absolute silence’—
woodpigeon solo
(Ligeti 2)
*
the string quartet sends
the black dots on the page
up to heaven
*
half the garden
in early sunlight—
roses & lavender
*
the viola player
corrects the first violin
speaking in octaves
*
reclaiming the universe
after a night of swimming
in darkness
*
the emptiness of a page
—so this is how
it begins to fill
*

3 thoughts on “Two Hundred Days—Another Hundred Haiku

  1. “This particular configuration of things like this never again; my body, its eyes, its breathing, its sense of purpose in relation to this particular configuration of things never ever disposed thus again.” What a perfect expression of what mindful awareness is all about, Colin! I hope you won’t mind if I quote your description to the meditation group I belong to the next time we meet.
    Tom

    Like

    1. Hello Tom

      I don’t mind at all. Thanks & good to hear from you thus.

      I’ve been motorbiking and attending Music Summer School composition course. Got back to 356 emails!

      Best Wishes

      Colin

      Like

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