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Splash Poetry Close to the Heart

Haiku depend rather much on what each person is attuned to in them.

The old pond
A frog leaps in.
Jumping over the brook
for water
not needed.

Illustration The shorthand-looking poem to the left is by the Japanese Zen poet Basho. To the right is a simplified Scandinavian proverb, "Crossing the brook to fetch water is not necessary" presented on three lines.

There is a lesson and perhaps skilful rhyming in a stout Nordic proverb fit for cosy living. It shows up that if we "poetically" spread out one such proverbs on two or three lines, we come quite close to modern haiku and older haiku in translation. Actually, some traditional proverbs do rhyme and are presented on several lines rather than being one-liners, as in our Norse teaching poem Havamal.

You are free to experiment with and space out other proverbs too, and make them terser if you can. The "haikuised" Norwegian proverb above serves to show that if we condense a statement, it may (or may not) become more ambiguous, and hence more difficult to get to some. The original proverb says: "You ought not to jump over the brook for water." In the haiku mode it says either the same, or suggests it is water that is not needed. It can be both. It is legitimate to understand it both ways, and even combine these ways too. Choose the best; it may be closest to your heart.

You may reach the water from the bank nearest to you. You do not have to go to Japanese poetry to grasp things through a terse style with or without rhymes and neat rules. Also, "One step at a time" seems to be involved in the Norwegian proverb too.

You can experiment to find a form you like as you take in the main content of the rearranged proverb quickly.

Haiku With or Without Headings, as You Like It

The next haikuised proverb poem takes off from a Swedish proverb that is slightly altered, broken up and given a heading:

A Still Tongue (It helps to be bulwarked)

You may not say
exactly what you want to,
but think, somehow.

Compare Man får inte säga vad man vill, men man får tänka det. [Swedish proverb].

In the Dark (Icelandic)

The darkness
does not bother me,
said the thief.

You can think "The thief is in the dark because he steals" and things like that.

No Boast (Danish)

Much screaming and little
wool, said the woman,
shearing her sow.

Not Sure of What Comes (American)

When it gets here
It's today.

Many can learn to combine various proverbs into co-working poems too. Behold:

Regretting a Vow

Vow of the calm
forgotten in a storm.
Great regret.

This combined "hokku" makes use of American proverbs that say that vows made in a storm can easily be forgotten in the calm, under seemingly better conditions, and perhaps that great regrets may follow great vows if they get broken. The greater the broken vow, the greater regret, perhaps.

And - in case you didn't know it - many of Basho's haiku poems were actually the hokku (initial verse) of a renga (linked verse). Well, would you know . . .

Old and New - Telegram Style

Modern haiku had better help us open up to those parts of ourselves that stay centred in a truth when we perceive it. Haiku poems that have remained active and latent over the centuries, tried to do just that, as a matter of traditionally handed over ways of looking at things.

The capacity to open up and remain receptive and perhaps advance into further possibilities through ascended inner perceptions of oneself in unison with nature; in one's circumstances of life; and among many common purposes, could bear on one's willingness to see and listen as well. See, listen, observe, remain aware to the finer nuances of nature and happenings; that is part of good Buddhism, its awareness training is formidable.

The modern poem may use symbols and images. What happens when the different planes of references blend, may be fit. Being prepared somehow may ease the subtle and gentle perceptions.


Spring themes and fun on high heels

Knowing the Language Can Be Good Help


A poem that is intended to amuse for a moment rather than last for all time, is not bad. Here is a haiku the translator Reginald H. Blyth liked:

Heh heh heh, heh heh heh.
Heh heh heh, heh heh heh.
Heh heh heh, heh heh heh.

HOHO The poem was made right after a guest in a party farted. You hardly need to know so much of any language to appreciate it. See Arne Dørumsgaard's slender book Om å gjendikte kinesisk poesi (About Rendering Chinese Poetry) (1970).

Haiku by Leonard Cohen

Many artists of the West have been inspired by the haiku (hokku) form of poetry. One of them is the Canadian poet, songwriter and singer Leonard Norman Cohen (born 1934). He entered a Zen monastery in the 1990s, got ordained under the name of Jikan, but left after some time. One of his haiku poems runs like this:
She's sixteen years old
She wears her hair straight back
She has no goose-flesh.

Note-taking and Jean Baudrillard

Horses in midstream
Don't change.

Here is a conciseness that appears to outflank even haiku. That briefingly terse reminder is from the British proverb "Don't change horses in midstream". Or, if you like it better, horses hardly change a lot for being midstream. However, being somewhere in between different cultures and widely different cultural outlets all along may not be easy at all.

To change a genre of poetry or parts of culture that really matter, be grounded well enough, be firm and draw benefits from your roots.


Much footloose American culture has difficulties with getting grounded in all right ways, thinks Jean Baudrillard, one of the most topical and controversial theorists of France. He died in spring 2007. The following consists of gathered fragments from his sort of travel diary of a book, Amerique [1986].

Salt Lake City
What stunning brilliance
these Mormons show
these rich banker polygamists

I went in search of
the finished form of the future catastrophe.
To understand it, take to the road.
This closes the series. But a computer-helped way of generating your own favourite poems is suggested here. Some twenty examples with comments are given on one page, and some details on how to "knit" your own poems follow.


Novel haiku, Literature  

Baudrillard, Jean. Amérique. Paris: Grasset, 1986.

Dørumsgaard, Arne: Om å gjendikte kinesisk poesi. Oslo: Dreyer, 1970.

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