Sunday, March 27, 2005

On Haiku

To the best of my knowledge, there has been a complete absence of Asian-American haiku. No matter how one defines Asian-American poetry, there is just no Asian-American haiku out there. One might consider that strange, considering the elevation of the pantoum to new heights in recent years.

Haiku are seldom published in "respectable" poetry publications. There are poetry publications and organizations dedicated exclusively to the haiku, but they remain largely segregated from "mainstream" poetry.

I think that, subconsciously, many poets feel that haiku is a stupid, childish form. It is a form that an elementary school teacher can teach to third and fourth graders. The democratic ease of writing haiku, in a society that increasingly values complexity, renders it an obsolete art form in the eyes of many people. As the Freudian adage might go, "Pantoums are for smart, sexy, sophisticated urbanites. Haiku are for lazy morons who don't have the patience to write a real poem and/or don't know enough intelligent words." (Of course, that's how a lot of prose writers subconsciously feel about poets, so there are probably fingers pointing in all directions.)

I happen to think that the haiku is a wonderful, joyous form. Their compactness is often a breath of fresh air. I would concur that a haiku is easier to writer than a pantoum. But so what? I am not so sure that we would want to live in a world where quality of poetry necessarily hinges upon the difficulty of writing it. Complex forms and poems may be good, but they may be bad as well. There are reasons why a poem is good or bad (and a critic making a claim as to goodness or badness of poem should explain at least why he or she believes it to be so, if only out of an ethical responsibility to the poet), and I don't think that the reasons are inherent in the form itself.

So bravo to the haiku! If Asian-American poets are salivating over pantoums, reaching out for a little Asian lovin', then they should also get their mouths watered for a little side dish of sweet haiku.

7 Comments:

Blogger Gone Away said...

Not a complete absence or dearth, Roger (I'm not sure where you are looking for haiku or Asian forms, and Asian American poets).

You can find some fine Asian American (or American Asian?) poets, as well as Asian European poets and native Asian poets of haiku at the World Haiku Club and elsewhere...Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, and more, writing haiku...and senryu, haibun, tanka, renga, sijo (a Korean song/poem), doing haiga and photo-haiku, etc.

You can find most of these poets and others outside the WHC as well, published in excellent haiku and tanka magazines and journals. You will be happy to know that many have been writing (haiku and related verse) a very long time, are well known and respected in the world haiku community. And you will find many Japanese nationals today, writing haiku in English as well as in Japanese, and being published in American journals.

Yes, let us see more Asian Americans and Asian Europeans learning, writing and publishing haiku in English and in other languages as well.

Best Wishes,

DW Bender
http://www.worldhaikureview.org
http://www.worldhaikuclub.org

8:02 PM  
Blogger Roger Pao said...

Hey DW, thanks a lot for the post! Yes, the word "complete," in my first paragraph, was not correctly used. The second paragraph is more in line with what I was trying to say -- which is that there's not enough haiku in poetry publications in general, and there should be more. Of course, there are quite a few organizations and publications around that specialize in haiku, and quite a few people who do write haiku, which is partly why I feel that poetry pubs that tend not to publish haiku need to more seriously consider/perhaps solicit submissions using the form.

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