On Heathen Haiku
Let's start with a poem--which I posted to Ye Olde Facebook today as it is a toothsome thing, and then mulled further in comments, said pontification to be found beyond the clicky curtain below.
Dying for you, Hár,
Holds no fear; what scares me is
Living without you.*
All the best poetry, whether it's tongue-knotting dróttkvætt or bathroom-wall doggerel, attempts to snare the ineffable in a net of words—to grant to words more dimensions than the length, breadth, and depth that the concrete world suggests.
In haiku, you have seventeen syllables to express exactly one image. Traditionally it's supposed to be natural, not theological, and one's sufficiently keen audience is supposed to glean an appropriate tone from your specific word choices, calligraphy strokes, and so on...but not so in the modern English appropriation of same. However, what it does do, and do well, is encourage the use of sparse language to describe concepts that would otherwise take paragraphs and books and still be talking eight sides around a nonagon around whatever-it-is.
And that, that use of a scant number of word-strokes to indicate rather a bit more stuff, is a very Northern thing indeed.
In the trance class that we're currently running based on dpaxson's Trance-Portation, we have an exercise where we pass around postcards and demand that the class, as an articulation exercise, write something about them--a haiku, a short paragraph, and so on. I got rather good at this, and can still, given a sufficiently arresting image, deliver a haiku in nine minutes or less.
The next step that I suggest after haiku, if you'd like a few more chisel-strokes and a few fewer brush-strokes, is to do all that in what it pleases me to call "Anglo-Saxon Dog Verse": four lines, four beats per line, alliterate like mad especially on the stresses. Bonus points for avoiding Romantic vocabulary, but don't pull a Hollander and get hamstrung by it.
Poetry, done right, is like the Uffington Horse: it looks nothing like how a horse looks, but it looks everything like what a horse is.
So my wish to you all, on this Wednesday—
May you learn to hear the whispers in the stillness. May you learn to haul them, raw-reddened, from throat and keyboard and every other way when they /must/ be screamed into the world, for in such runes is the world remade.
This work by Michaela Macha (www.odins-gift.com) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives License. (back)