Wednesday, January 8, 2014



A critical haibun by Dimitar Anakiev

All forms are universal, all cultures are equal

- - -International P.E.N.

Haiku community, as well as any international community of poets, was always built on the unifying power of poetry. The mission of art in general is to show that all people are people independently of cultural differences. Important part of the multiculturalism is existence of two main approaches in haiku: "classical"-" teikei (定型 fixed form), based in original 5-7-5 syllables structure and "modern"based in a "free-form", established firmly by jiyuritsu (自由律 free form) movementin Japan. Like ancient "yin" and "yang" the dichotomy between "fix" and "free" form was always creatively productive in the history of literature (for example, in sonnet). Some people of suspicious knowledge and skills decided that "classical form" in haiku needs to be eliminated, similarly as Taliban decided to eliminate standing Buddhas' statues in Bamiyan. This tendency was grounded in famous quasi-scientific learning of Bill Higginson that Japanese "on" is not the same as Western "syllable" (by up grading this racial theory we will soon find ourselves in logical paradox: "kanji" too are not the same as "letters" consequently the Japanese shouldn't be considered a language!). Completing their "poetic teaching" with some additional cultural reasons (such as mechanical length of poem) and ignoring some others (such as richness in meaning) they tried to establish a separate cultural genre named "English Language Haiku" (ELH) as a quasi-ontological form of haiku. Political power of English would guaranty the domination of ELH with assimilation of others cultures and definitive eliminationof classical (Japanese) form (instead Mr. Higginson suggested English" classical" form of 2-3-2 syllables).
Notable English poet James Kirkup, and American novelist and poet Richard Wright, along with all others poets of English language who wrote classical 5-7-5 form, were completely excluded from the strategy of ELH.

Are the syllables
only "sound symbols" because
the Japanese?

Result of such politics is a conclusion that one writes "free form" not for personal reasons following what is known from ancient timesas "licentia poetica" or freedom of choice, but paradoxically "free form Higginson way" is a result of "cultural belonging", so the reason is racial, it speaks not for personal freedom but on the contrary, for cultural restraints. In the interpretation of Higginson and his followers, poets are not a culture-makers but people subordinate to culture and politics-a kind of national soldiers.
For first couple of years of existence, the most popular American haiku movement, the NaHaWriMo (National Haiku Writing Month) –
whichis held every February– was visually defined as an "Anti-5-7-5movement". This contemporary cultural Ku Klux Klan took for its symbol a kind of prohibitory traffic sign: "Crossed 5-7-5"(“No 5-7-5”).
I complained publicly many times to its leader, Michael Dylan Welch, for its anti-cultural character, but they always answered that they in fact do not prohibit 5-7-5 and that they “even allow 5-7-5 poems...”The position of cultural boss and dominant culture is clear. They "allow" something that must be free a choice, they permit, they have power. And they are in a (not so) subtle way racist. They let you know that poetic rhythm 5-7-5 doesn't belong to Anglo-Saxon culture. Talking to some of NaHaWriMo poets, I understood, that they think “free-form haiku” is a result of American liberalism, result of Western democracy, and they are shocked to learn that “jiyuritsu” movement in Japan “invented” a free form haiku.

Haiku and Palestine
two precious things with the
similar destiny

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