Thursday, May 21, 2015

Haiku - 8 (Haiku continued part 2)

                                                                    [Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)]

I'm halfway through this book [R.H.Blyth – Haiku – Volume 1], so actually I could zap through the chief haiku of this book, according to about twenty years of reading and re-reading, before we're done.
Do most of you know these particular ones?  Is there anybody that knows these already?

Student 1:  Yes.
Student 2:  Yeah, some of them.

AG:  Some?  From these translations?

Student 1:  (Some)

AG:  (But) the vast majority (doesn't) - so I'd really like to [continue]. Because they're so dear, so perfect crystal clear.  [These are the] precious ones and they're part of the vocabulary of Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, (Jack) Kerouac, myself, and many other people. I'd like to lay these all out because they're part of the basic armamentarium of modern poetry -- at least among the San Francisco Buddhist-influence school -- and appropriate to our sitting silent listening.  (So), page 205 - Have you heard these at all?

Student 2 :  Some of them.

AG:  Well, this is a terrific [one].  This one is one of the central ones of all:

How admirable
he who doesn't think life is fleeting
when he sees the lightning.

How admirable/he who doesn't think life is fleeting/when he sees the lightning.

That's always been, for me, one of the best reference points for cutting off conceptual blather.

This for space, as well as silliness.  That it's looseness of mind -- a fine silliness, or humor of a kind.

A handle on the moon
what a splendid fan.

That is putting up a handle -  A handle on the moon/what a splendid fan.

The women planting the rice.
Everything about them dirty
except their song.

Having slept,
the cat gets up and with great yawns
goes out lovemaking

The next few will be those I read to those who met with me in the credit course. 

Asking the way
all the bamboo hats
move together.

          [Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) -  from "32 Aspects of Customs and Manners" - Looking Suitable (1888)]

The fan seller
pulled one out
showing how to fan oneself.

Peddling [or] pushing the fans.  So eager.  A totally personal thing.  That's one, I think, that's from a painting or a brush drawing to begin with.  It's a tiny little Dickens novel, actually. The fan seller/pulled one out/showing how to fan oneself. In anxiety, to peddle the fans.

So what's not mentioned is that element -- like the frog jumping in the water with the sound of the water -- the anxiety. Simply, the action presented carries the generalization that might be made that there is anxiety by the poor, poverty-stricken, hungry little fan seller, so much so that she's developed all these life tricks or peddler's tricks or anxious moments to sell the fan.

 This in the realm of one that I noticed, which is - [Louis Zukofsky's]  "sight is where the eye hits" - I had a haiku myself after a long meditation ... let's see.


Snow mountain fields/seen through transparent wings of a fly/on the windowpane. That means you're observing actually so sharply you're actually looking and seeing what you can see through the wings of a fly on a windowpane.

By daylight,
the nape of the neck of the firefly
is red.

That's Basho.

And then a little extension of that:

The snake slid away
but the eyes that glared at me
remained in the grass.

A brushwood gate
for a lock
this snail.

Then, the following would probably be in the Vajrayana area, in a sense of turning what would be considered ugliness to beauty.  Uguisu is a traditional bird with a very sweet sound that's mentioned in haiku.

The Uguisu
poops
on the slender plum branch.

And there's a parallel one, which [would] again be the Vajrayanic transformation of poison to nectar.

The young girl
blew her nose
in the morning glory.

Actually it says - "The young girl/blew her nose/in the evening glory"  (Another flower, less recognizable) - And there's another Basho haiku following that, referring to that:

Blowing my nose
on the blossom
Ah! the plum trees at their best.

Or 

Blowing my nose
on a plum blossoms.
Ah! the blossoms at their best.

I don't know.  I don't know the exact formation of it, but Basho's commenting on wiping his snot, or blowing his nose. Yeah - "Wiping my snot/on the flowers/Ah! the plum blossoms at their best." - "Wiping my snot/on the flowers/Ah! the plum blossoms at their best." 

That's Basho.  The most dignified and celebrated of haiku makers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Haiku - 7 (Haiku - continued)



Meeting, the two old friends laugh aloud                     
In the grove, the fallen leaves are many.

Packed in and sleeping with others                          
Again getting up from this night’s lodging.

The wandering poet, Basho, describing his own empty wanderings - "Packed in and sleeping with others/Again getting up from this night’s lodging".

(R.H.) Blyth, who was the author of this, suggests a number of qualities, such as space (and) time, which are, for him, the empty subjects, so to speak, the empty subjects of haiku – selflessness, loneliness, grateful acceptance, wordlessness, non-intellectuality, contradictoriness, thus humor, freedom from conceptions, non-morality, simplicity, materiality – those are the eleven – a series of eleven themes or aspects of the emptiness suggested by the haiku.

Standing still                                                                     
the voices of frogs                                                         
heard in the distance too

Standing still                                                                     
the sound of  car tires                                                   
heard on Marine Street

That’s a common experience, that standing still..

And then there’s a Chinese poem, quoted to back up his contention about the empty forms - or the different forms of emptiness, the different aspects of emptiness. It’s called “Evening Quiet”

"Evening Quiet".

Early cicadas stop their trilling

[(Cicadas – locusts)]

Early cicadas stop their trilling
Points of light, new fireflies pass to and fro.
The taper burns clear and smokeless;
Beads of bright dew hang on the bamboo mat.
I won't go into the house to sleep yet
But walk awhile underneath the leaves.
The rays of the moon slant into the low veranda.
The cool breeze fills the tall trees.
Letting loose the feelings, life flows on easily.
The scene entered deep into my heart.
What is the secret of this state?
To have nothing small on one's mind.


With the bull on board,
a small boat passes across the river
through the evening rain.

That's a sort of Kerouac-ian powerful one - "With the bull on board,/a small boat passes across the river/through the evening rain".

Another, sort of Objectivist style:

Along this road
no one goes
this autumn eve.

Well, somebody had to go through there to notice that -   "Along this road/no one goes/
this autumn eve".

Then, regarding change, and some element of grateful acceptance of change:

Blowing from the west
fallen leaves
gather in the east.

The grasses of the garden
they fall
and lie as they fall.

Or lie as they fall, or lie where they fall.  Wherever they fall, they lie where they fall.

The heavy wagon
rumbles by
peonies quiver

 I used some similar thing in "Wales Visitation" poem, speaking of my own breath; my own breath trembling in white daisies by the roadside. 

Summer lightning
yesterday in the East
today in the West.

In the vast inane
there is no back and front.

In the vast inane
there is no back and front.

Summer lightning
yesterday in the East
today in the West.

Peter Orlovsky:  What does "inane" mean?

AG:  Can somebody define "inane"?  Somebody define "inane" to Peter Orlovsky. 
((and) can somebody give me a cigarette?)  - Inane?

Student:  (Inanity)
Student (2):  Making no sense.
Student (3):  Harmless.
Student (4):  Heartless, meaningless.

AG:  Is there a classics major in the house?

Student:  Yes.

AG:  What is it?  What's the root?  What's the root?

Student:  Benign.

AG:  And what does that mean?

Student:  Without substance.

AG:  Without substance.

Student:  Yeah.

AG: …I want to go back, because it recurs in the book, but it's.. just right now..

They spoke no word:
the visitor, the host
and the white chrysanthemum.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Haiku - 6 (More Haiku)


                                     [Shinsui Ito  (1898-1972)  -  wood-block print - Night Rain at Mii Temple (1917)]

AG: So this is obviously one proceeding from meditative state, now.

“Rain at Night”


A cricket chirps and is silent                                          
the guttering lamp sinks and flares up again               
Outside the window, evening rain is heard                  
It’s the banana plant that starts talking about it.      
It’s the banana plant that speaks of it first
The morning after the gale, too                                    
the peppers are red..

[(the green peppers, or peppers growing on the vine)]                                                     

The morning after the gale, too/
the peppers are red.

The first snow                                                                   

just enough to bend
the leaves of the daffodils

            [Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) wood-block print from "The Fifty Three Stages of the Tokaido (1833)]

[That’s typical of (William Carlos) Williams, that style or that kind of observation. Williams and (Ezra) Pound did begin to derive from haiku (We’ve got to remember that Pound translated some Chinese and Japanese poetry and did actually try to work on haiku, around the turn of the century.)]

Who is it that grieves?                                                    
The wind blowing through his beard                           
for late autumn.

[You might say that’s an Objectivist poem in the sense that it’s the thought in the mind of the observer, but it’s sort of (an) impersonal observer looking at his own impersonal self]

Who is it that grieves?                                                    

The wind blowing through his beard                           
for late autumn

A flying squirrel                                                                   

is crunching a small bird                                                 
on the withered moor.

The moon,                                                                  

coming back with me from the mountains        
entered the gate together with me.



[That’s so sort of subtle. There’s a lot of little things about distance and dealing with space, distance, actually – dealing with the sensation of space using moon as coordinate – or scarecrow as coordinate. I think there’s a haiku.]
    
Walking through the autumn moor                           
the scarecrow                                                              
walked with me
 
[That is a common observation (from) walking – a distant object seems to move – which conjures up the sensation of space, without having to yatter about space all the time. 
Now this is a little Wordworth-ian.I think I had mentioned “green to the very door”. Have we worked on that?  Yes.]
   
Ivy creeps                                                                          
over the wooden door                                                 
under the evening moon

[Ivy creeps/ over the wooden door/ under the evening moon – Because, first of all, you’ve got the whole human-garden-house relationship, where ivy.. or perhaps nobody (is) there in the house – “Ivy creeps/over the wooden door”. But the ivy under the moon? So there are a couple of space coordinates. Let’s see, there’s the small ivy, there’s the moon, there’s the silence. So you get a silence, you get a spaciousness from the moon to the door.]
  
Student: Opposites.
  
AG: Yeah. You get the opposites. You get all the opposites. But my own insight constantly is that the space is the key. Like in (Paul) Cezanne. It’s the reconstruction of a little sensation of space, (which, in his canvases, Cezanne pointed out as pater omnipotens aeterna deus – eternal father omnipotent – eternal god – but some eternal quality of space itself, which is silent), which is constantly conjured up in these by using coordinates within space to present the space, without referring directly to the space, because, as Francine said, (there’s) the space itself or there is something that is not nameable. You could call it space, but by presenting sharply defined objects in relation within it you do conjure it up. It’s that same space that we practice appreciation of by meditation – through breath flowing out into space, mixing mind with breath, mixing mind, mixing breath with space, mixing mind with space. So that every breath becomes a haiku – Yes?

Student: Also a sense of time, too. 

AG: Yes. Well..                                                       

Student: (Like the ivy on that) house...                          
AG: Yes                                                                     
Student: (..seems to be in this poem)                        
AG: Oh, in this, yes.                                               
Student: (Emptiness in time?)    
AG: Yeah, Well, maybe the time.. the emptiness there of nobody there anymore, perhaps So, a long time gone since that house was dwelt in.
There is space and there is time.