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Gist and Brushwork

Haiku, together with the music of Bach and Chinese paintings, have given me the greatest, purest and most constant pleasures of my life. - R. H. Blyth

Haiku is a short form of poetry of Japanese origin. Professor Reginald H. Blyth (1898–1964) was an English author and devotee of Japanese culture. He is most famous for his writings on Zen and on haiku poetry. His works stimulated the writing of haiku in English (see the book list at the bottom of the page). (WP, "Reginald Horace Blyth")

'Matrix' is Latin for 'womb'. A womb for making baby-poems can produce verses to delight in, and all the others. On the previous page is a poem generator. It could be of some assistance as long as the poems you decide to form on top of it, do not bring too much fame to handle. Fame - being in the public eye - can be a tough thing at times, just like public lavatories. Briskness alone will not do all the time; you have to be on your guard also, supposedly.

In forming poems that suit your taste, a little brushwork of the draft may give you a poem that makes sense, at least to you. Also, for good poems that sell well (figuratively), there are the impressions and opinions of others to tackle.

People tend to see or read into poems much from their experiences, which vary widely among people. A deep human sees deep issues where the shallow do not. To learn that could mean a lot.

Brushwork example


Substantial, large-breasted mom,
Ruling the world on top of all these cornflakes,
Listening full well takes what it takes.

Transmute concretes into abstracts, and meanings may start to come to the fore. For example,

  1. 'Substantial' signals real and not only imagined or loose.
  2. Try 'very compassionate' as a replacement for 'large-breasted', if that suits you. Breasts go softly along with all of these: 'sympathetic, kindly, understanding, tender, pitying, humanitarian, charitable, humane, indulgent, benevolent, lenient, merciful, kind-hearted, tender-hearted' (Collins Dictionary). There are replacement terms like "ample-bosomed' and many others. Suit yourself: [Melons]
  3. Some take mom or ma to mean "Divine Mother" The manifesting side to Bhavana* may be regarded the she-side of things and happenings, a shakti, and so on. In Hinduism many goddesses and many names are venerated as manifestations of the Divine Woman (the Deep Mother and so on, reflecting the stages of womanhood).
  4. 'Cornflakes' calls for your interpretations of it as a metaphoric device. What could it be? To what do your associations lead you? Compare how individualistic mental associations are. [Mental associations]
  5. 'Listening full well: Listening thoroughly means hearing the sounds of nadis in the body, and such listening is crowned with attuning to the muffled sound which spells "listening fully" in the highest yoga.
* Bhavana means "producing" in the sense of "calling into existence" and "development" etc. The word appears in terms like citta-bhavana (the development or cultivation of the heart/mind) or metta-bhavana (the development/cultivation of loving-kindness). When used on its own, bhavana signifies 'spiritual cultivation' generally. [WP, "Bhavana"]

If you work on the three-liner a bit more, being allied with good meditation teachings, you may evolve views - allied to facets of yoga and meditation that are not necessarily mainstream in the West yet.

If you decide on another ending of a matrix-generated poem of a sort, you may soon see that there are many alternatives to choose among in each box. For example a change of ending in the very last box brings about 17 variants. You may not like all of them.

Be that as it may. Here is an interpretation of the poem for us:

Tender love rules the universe
from the source outwards.
By so-called attentive proficiency you may hear the source.

That is one way to look at it - to interpret the poem as a mystical, cryptical thing. There are stories about the great Ramakrishna that exemplify the approach of aligning to Divinity in several ways.

The slim poem generator can be fit for more than a million poems - [(18 x 21) x (13 x 7 x 14) x (17 x 18)] full poems, and also fragmented lines, singly or added to other lines, two or more full three-liners made into a longer poem with verses, and further. Allowing for such as overlaps; chunking and compounding terms; and refined polishing with omissions and additions with discretion - not wholly as you please - the sum total can be larger too, but that hardly matters where a million is quite enough.

So stick to the phrases that you respond to, and try to deal with most of them cogently for the sake of having a reputation better than senseless, that is. That is perhaps where much from the poet's craft sets in. Addonizio and Laux tell main elements in it. These include such as:

  • Images
  • Simile and metaphor
  • The music of the line
  • Voice and style
  • Stop making sense: Dreams and experiments
  • Metre, rhyme and form
  • Repetitions

To dwell on their "Stop making sense": The authors grant there is something in a good poem that can't be accounted for logically. (1997, 129). "When we say of some gesture or experience, 'That was pure poetry,' we aren't talking about meter, or similes, or line breaks; we mean that something . . . even beyond words has touched us." (Ibid, 129-30)

Go for that, use words to get beyond words and influence decently. That is a fine thing to use mantras for, it is held in higher Yoga. It is also a facet of Taoism.

The use of repetitions is a key feature in mantra yoga, and "Poems partake of this tradition, too," write Addonizio and Laux. Further: "Repeated words are powerful; they assert themselves, insist on our attention. Children know this: "Can I have some more? Please? Please please? Please please please please please? . . . Buddhists repeat Sanskrit phrases to bring themselves in contact with the divine. Many peoples of the world have a long history of using repetitive chants and spells, prayers and invocations, to get the attention of the powers that be – to heal the sick, bless the crops or the marriage or the household, or to show their devotion." (Ibid., 151-52)

Old poem

A haiku is a terse poem, shaped according to several rules, and appears to be almost like a telegram. Some translations of haiku also look like that. Let us illustrate it: There is a Japanese haiku from the 1600s written by Basho (1644-94). It is "a pregnant picture of the moment" and tells of a frog that jumps into the water in an old pond (cf. Dørumsgaard 1986, 55-59). Haiku, or hokku as it was called during the lifetime of Basho, is the shortest among the traditionally accepted forms of Japanese poetry.

The ancient pond,
A frog leaps in.

This haiku is said to be hard to tackle for a translator. Yet it is among the most often translated ones in the world, writes Arne Dørumsgaard, and presents material from the cultural background and the specific history of the frog poem, and from steps or stages that went into forming it (ibid.). The many European translations of it differ substantially. Translators are allowed some leeway. There is often room for options. Thus, the last line is not 'plop' in many translations.

Translators have to decide which words seem best and in which order also - to them - under the circumstances: Is it 'plop', 'splash', or something else, like 'the sound of water'? Although translator opinions differ, frogs seem to plop more than they spash, at any rate.

  • The pond in the haiku can serve as an image of the more or less timeless existence, and this world we are in for as long as it lasts.
  • The frog: "A frog leaps in": The frog can be yourself in this world.
  • Plop: The splash serves to illustrate the meeting-point of the juxtaposed main figures - the pond and the artist (frog). The waves a human makes by his life, may be taken to be an image of a human's life unfoldment. Fitness does not mean a lot in this picture.

Conventions form poems and perspectives on life, and co-form aspects of the reality. In the case of the Buddhist monk Basho, to Buddhist ones, where a human life is likened to a dew-drop on a lotus leaf. Alternatively:

A man was born,
and died.

- From a Peanuts strip by Charles M. Schultz.

"Fascinating," is the comment by Linus van Pelt.

This all shows how there could be deep hints within a poem, according to set-up ways of presenting things (traditional ways), or personal interpretations, or both in a blend somehow. [Link]

Adjust to this: "The deeper we go, the more difficult to prove it." But we can do something, such as looking into what typifies the poet, some of his developments, the times he lived in, the traditions and conventions he adapted to and grappled with. Here is something Cheryl A. Crowley finds in a much instructive book:

Basho's verses are restrained and sensitive . . . They reflect the aesthetic of . . . a state of being so intoxicated by poetic or artistic sensibility that one is compelled to commit spontaneous, apparently crazy acts. (Crowley 2007, 112)


Get Smart or Wise - Options Abound

Allan Persinger offers an example on how one and the same poem - in this case by Buson - is translated differently by different translators.

  • Flowers of the pear— / reading a letter by moonlight / a woman.
  • A woman / reading a letter by moonlight / pear blossoms.
  • Under pear blossoms / in moonlight reading a letter— / a woman.

All three of these poems have their strengths and their weaknesses, Persinger assesses, and goes into some of them. The third is closest to the sense or texture of the original, he also finds. But as the examples show, "Different translators, different opinions and different ways of wording." (Persinger 2013, 19-23). Thus, we have got an example of how a poet or maybe a translator too may get away with stacking words in different ways, perhaps in the hope of being understood.

Now, by using the poem generator quite a lot you get freed from reading many books, perhaps. For there could be many settings, nuances and "local colours" to take in otherwise. Other facets of words, their order and typography play along with the poems too. Still you could generate as many poems as many thousand poetry books. What is termed "first-class" could be quite another matter, though. Or perhaps you get able to produce more rewarding poems than you find in books and translated books. And maybe it is the other way round in the start at least.

Many generated poems may function all right but can all the same be improved by brushing, adding to them, replacing words, and so on. You may decide to fill in just a little here and there in your chosen poetry to be understood. From such an amplifying and/or tidying process you could eventually get poems that "talk to" you.

Consider possible metaphors at work in the matrix-produced poem and stay on the safe side by taking into account there could be hidden meanings somehow, since concrete words may be "lifted" and used metaphorically. So there can be more than one interpretation of the terms used.

Art to be had

"It does not have to be haiku" to be pregnant, by all means. There are other sides to poetry than brevity and little or no flowery descriptions. Bownas and Twaite (2009) gives examples of various sorts of Japanese poetry. There are also Korean types of poem that are terse. The most popular of all traditional, Korean poetic forms is the sijo. It originated with the old songs of the Hyangka of the Sylla Empire (668-936) and the prose songs of the Koryo Dynasty (918-1392). Sometimes likened to haiku for its brevity, a typical sijo poem follows a three-line pattern, but its descriptions are more flowery (cf. Rutt 1998).

And then there is China, ancient mother lode of Far Eastern Poetry. From its Odes and onwards, In poetry as in other forms of writing, much depends on what is put together, and how it is done (assemblages, grouping and arrangement of items). Moreover, the poetry-maker who decides on really simple poetry can remain functional, such as Po Chü-i (Bai Juyi). Burton Watson writes of him:

He worked to develop a style that was simple and easy to understand, and posterity has requited his efforts by making him one of the most well-loved and widely read of all Chinese poets [and] also influential in the historical development of Japanese literature. (WP, "Bai Juyi")

Better still: Meditation serves rising above words and transcend bad. It comes by degrees. There could be more than paper and large trees to save in this.

Haiku is not all

To have a wealth of things but not of time suggests that free time has been dwindling much. For thinking through things, good time is essential. One of the Japanese poets founded a poetics school of his own, after passing through a certain apprenticeship. Then he insisted that a haiku to his liking must contain both a perception of some eternal truth and some "now and here" some way or other. Others rose in time to acquire opinions of their own on forming Japanese poetry well.

However, people are different. There is room for variation - variety is a spice of life. There is variety of spelling, of arrangement of topic and so on. What can amount to please the inner Child (zest in living) might fit you. [TA terms]

You can dream at night; you can find a main source of poetry deep in you. It is innate, actually. A dreamer is also a poet, a film maker, a creative one deep inside. One can learn how to interpret dreams a lot. (Blass 2002; Hall 1983; Snowden 2011) [Jung on Dreams]

Poems generated, Literature  

Addonizio, Kim, and Dorianne Laux. 1997. The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry. London: Norton and Co.

Basho, Matsuo. 2004. Basho's Haiku: Selected Poems by Matsuo Basho. Tr. David Landis Barnhill. Albany, NY: State University of New York.

Blass, Rachel B. The Meaning of the Dream in Psychoanalysis. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2002.

Blyth, Reginald Horace. 1949. Haiku Vol 1: Eastern Culture Tokyo: Hokuseido.

Blyth, Reginald Horace. 1950. Haiku Vol 2: Spring Tokyo: Hokuseido.

Blyth, Reginald Horace. 1952. Haiku Vol 3: Summer-Autumn Tokyo: Hokuseido.

Blyth, Reginald Horace. 1952. Haiku Vol 4: Autumn-Winter Tokyo: Hokuseido.

Bownas, Geoffrey, and Anthony Thwaite. Japanese Verse. Rev. ed. London: Penguin Classics, 2009.

Crowley, Cheryl A. 2007. Haikai Poet Yosa Buson and the Bashu Revival. Leiden: Brill.

Dørumsgaard, Arne. Fra duggens verden: Basho i norsk gjendiktning (1644-1694). Oslo: Dreyer, 1986.

Hakutani, Yoshinobu. Haiku and Modernist Poetics. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009.

Hall, James A. Jungian Dream Interpretation: A Handbook of Theory and Practice. Toronto: Inner City Books, 1983.

Higginson, William J., with Penny Harter. The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985.

Livingston, Myra Cohn. Poem-Making: Ways to Begin Writing Poetry. New York: Charlotte Zolotov / HarperCollins, 1991.

Persinger, Allan. 2013. Foxfire: The Selected Poems of Yosa Buson. A Translation. Doctoral Dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Ramet, Adèle. 2007. Creative Writing. 7th ed. Begbroke, Oxford: How To Books.

Rutt, Richard. 1998. Bamboo Grove: Introduction to Sijo. Ann Arbor Paperbacks / University of Michigan Press.

Seaton, Jerome P, and Dennis Maloney, eds. 1994. A Drifting Boat: An Anthology of Chinese Zen Poetry. Fredonia, NY: White Pine Press.

Sher, Gail. 2008. The Haiku Masters: Four Poetic Diaries. Emeryville, CA: North Crane Press.

Snowden, Ruth. Exploring Your Dreams: How to Use Dreams for Personal Growth and Creative Inspiration. Oxford: How To Books, 2011.

Watson, Burton, tr. Chinese Rhyme-Prose: Poems in the Fu Form from the Han and Six Dyansties Periods. Rev. ed. New York: New York Review Books, 2015.

Yuasa, Nokuyuki, tr. The Narrow Road to the Deep North and other Travel Sketches. London: Penguin Books, 1966. ⍽▢⍽ On Basho (pp 9-49). Yasuda, Kenneth. 2001. The Japanese Haiku. North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle.

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