jornales

for a moment of joy or moments no one pays for, i give myself a ‘jornal’. this makes me rich. try it.

Need to know why editor passed on these haiku

These haiku belong to a batch of 20 I recently submitted with temerity to what I call a ‘cutting-edge’ haiku journal. None was accepted, of course, although two interested the editor. Why? I can’t figure out on my own. Could you help me think this through? I reworked on three of them (1, 2 & 5) and did not include what got the editor’s eye.

1.
seagulls scanning tide marks
as if tasked

2.
competing with shadows
the winter wind

3.
salmon–
on winter clouds
a hue

4.
stepping into a fog
knowing
white also fades

5.
origami–
in her hands a crane
a smile

Origami crane folded from one uncut square of paper by Andreas Bauer courtesy of wikicommons

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January 8, 2011 - Posted by | haiku, poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

8 Comments »

  1. I love these, Alegria. I’m not an editor, but I can offer my opinions–or at least ask questions–about a few. #3: what kind of hue? “hue” seems abstract to me, although I know you’re referring back to salmon. #4: why “a fog” and not just “fog”? #5. I love where this has come from the original version. Perhaps another word added to line 2–“folded”–which gives the idea of patience/peace also associated with the origami crane, so that the poem reads: origami–/in her folded hands a crane/a smile

    Comment by Margaret Dornaus | January 9, 2011 | Reply

    • Mil gracias, Margaret!

      I know, I’ve been rethinking about “salmon”; it glosses over the fish and skids into the “hue”, an abstract word indeed, derived from the color of its flesh. Maybe I should think back to those salmon runs and abandon my idea of fusing the fish with the clouds!

      #4 stepping into a fog
      I don’t know why I always write this noun with an article as if it were an object. Another habit of my ESL brain? And perhaps in this haiku, I also meant it as a state of mind, as in confused. Coupled or in contrast to white, which is a color of clarity, I must have wanted a closure that’s still foggy–still confused and abstract in the end because I turn it around with the idea that white also “fades”, can turn murky. Maybe I should rethink this ku and stay within the bounds of reality. But my rewrite as per your suggestion:

      stepping into fog knowing
      white also fades

      #5
      I love your suggestion! Amazing how adding a single word can do. Now the closure, “a smile”, has been strengthened with yes, the “folded hands” of calmness. I love it, mi hermana!

      origami
      in her folded hands a crane
      a smile

      By the way, congratulations for your points on your wonderful haiku in the Sketchbook kukai!!! Your haiku do have this silken quality of peace that you so express any which way you write. I feel much blessed for having you in a hand-clasp.

      Comment by alee9 | January 9, 2011 | Reply

  2. Thank you, Alegria. I’m glad you like the suggestions. As to “fog” vs. “a fog,” the first still carries the idea of the abstraction while maintaining the concrete. But, regardless (or, perhaps because) of ESL, you have so much poetry in your soul. You’re amazing.

    handshake–
    two friends exchange
    life’s lines
    through the shared
    pulse of poetry

    Comment by Margaret Dornaus | January 10, 2011 | Reply

    • And you, too, Margaret! What a telling wonderful tanka you’ve gifted me with. With our life lines exchanged and fused, no wonder our “pulses” beat in sync. Otra vez, mi hermana, mil gracias!

      Comment by alee9 | January 11, 2011 | Reply

  3. Hi Alregria. It looks like you’ve got lots of readers now! I’m so happy for you. 🙂 I’m going to post a haiku this evening – can you believe it? It’s been a while…

    //1.
    seagulls scanning tide marks
    as if tasked//

    It depends on how conservative the editors were, but if they *are* a conservative bunch, then they probably didn’t care for the simile “as if tasked”. This is a particularly western way of writing poetry, almost entirely foreign to the way a classical haiku was written. The classical Japanese poets generally did not presume to know (or even guess) at what an animal was thinking. For instance, here’s Basho:

    A bush warbler
    Leaves its droppings on the rice cake
    At the edge of the veranda.

    Basho doesn’t tell us why the warbler pooped on the cake, he merely observes. We are left to read it as comedy or tragedy.

    Here’s Issa:

    Look at that warbler –
    He’s wiping his muddy feet
    All over plum blossom

    Again, Issa doesn’t impute motive or reason behind the warbler’s foot wiping. Issa only observes that the warbler has done so. When you wrote that the seagalls scanned “as if tasked”, you interjected your own identity into the identity of the seagull. Even by saying “as if”, you made a guess at the seagull’s reasons for behaving a certain way.

    Here’s another haiku by Issa:

    The fish
    not knowing they’re in a bucket
    cool by the gate

    This is probably as close to your effort as you will get. Issa, as you know, was famous for his compassionate take on animals.

    The second issue is that “as if tasked” is not an image. There is no contrasting moment of recognition. If you had written:

    Seagulls scanning
    tide marks – child drawing
    in the sand

    Then probably would have been more in the spirit of classical haiku.

    2.
    competing with shadows
    the winter wind

    Again, you introduce yourself into this second image in a way that a classical Japanese poet never would have. You insert yourself my giving motive to the winter wind. You anthropomoprhize the winter wind. A classical Japanese poet would have found an image to express a similar idea to “competing with shadows” perhaps.

    3.
    salmon–
    on winter clouds
    a hue

    This is closer to haiku spirit. A ‘hue’, however, is an idea rather than a concrete image. The old Japanse poets liked to juxtapose ‘things’ rather than abstractions. You are also creating a simile. In other words: The hue of the winter clouds “is like” salmons. Simile’s were exceedingly rare in classical haiku but exceedingly common in western poetry. So, you are writing haiku like a western poet.

    4.
    stepping into a fog
    knowing
    white also fades

    This sentiment is beautiful. However, the word “knowing’ is already implied. You could have written, for example:

    stepping
    into a fog – white
    also fades

    This omits ‘you’ from the haiku and lets the reader draw their own conclusion. Classical Japanese poets almost *never* introduced themselves into the haiku. It would have been considered contrary to the spirit of zen – the idea of oneness. The concept of the self creates, by definition, a division (observer and world).

    5.
    origami–
    in her hands a crane
    a smile

    This lacks subtelty (in terms of the classical ethos). Your reference to “A smile” is an emotional queue instructing the reader as to how to interpret the poem. THe poem also risks being mundane because there is nothing unexpected or “enlightening”. See what you think of this:

    origami

    in her hands
    a crane – no one to answer
    the phone

    But all this is based on the thought that the editors were more conservative in their view of haiku. Your haiku easily fall within the modern western conception of haiku.

    The calm,
    Cool face of the river
    Asked me for a kiss.

    – Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

    I doubt that any classical Japanese poet would have considered Hughes’ haiku to be a “true” haiku.

    Comment by upinvermont | January 10, 2011 | Reply

    • Patrick!!! What joy to hear from you again! Everything you’ve written here is a huge lesson for me. I know, I have been sliding back into a habit that’s anathema to haiku. It’s like committing the same sins I’ve had when I started out writing haiku. “Author-driven”, that’s what Michael Dylan Welch, I believe, described this weakness among failing haiku writers in some notes of his I’ve read somewhere. I don’t want to rationalize it, yet, it could be my having been immersed again in writing lyric poems. But I’m determined to crawl out of this. Thank you for beaming the light, to startle and blind me! Thank you for being you again, Patrick!

      Comment by alee9 | January 11, 2011 | Reply

  4. None of these have active verbs in them…only -ing verbs…editors tend not to like that…

    Comment by contemplativemoorings | January 11, 2011 | Reply

    • Thank you for taking the time to respond to my cry for help and write this comment! I’ll strive to keep this in mind and take care I don’t slip into my faults in my next haiku.

      Comment by alee9 | January 11, 2011 | Reply


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