David Burleigh is one of the editors of A Hidden Pond: Athology of Modern Haiku and spent some time to share some time with us.
H09 asks: First off, what do *you* look forward to at this conference?
At HNA, which I feel honoured to attend, I look forward to putting faces, or even voices, to some of the names I know from haiku books and journals. I especially want to attend the reading by LeRoy Gorman, one of the wittiest haiku poets around, whose work I always enjoy.
H09 asks: What elements of contemporary haiku appeal most to you? Would you have a favorite or two you’d like to share?
DB: At the moment what appeals to me is “cool”, because it is muggy and hot in Tokyo. One of my all-time favourites is Nick Avis’s “freshly fallen snow”, which refreshes me to think about. I have done this in the classroom, and it is almost ideal for that. The syllabic pattern helps to introduce that idea to non-native speakers, and there are at least three layers of meaning, which can be teased out without too much difficulty. I also like Marlene Mountain’s “sn w fl k s”, to show another thing that can be done with words. Two small examples.
H09:Lovely examples. Would you also like to give a taste of your talk to people who may attend, or because of distance may be unable to?
DB: Once, when I was staying with an Irish priest in Kyushu in the summer, I noticed he had a poster of a snowy landscape on the wall of his study. He said he thought it would make him feel cool, as he didn’t have air-conditioning. I put that in a poem once, and a haiku friend in Dublin lately sent me a postcard of a snowy scene by Monet, as a reminder. The message was “cooling card”, and I liked the joke.
H09: That’s a wonderful turn of idea.
DB: I shall be talking about resonance and echoes to some extent. This year is 2009, but I shall refer back to some other years, like 1899, when an Irishman introduced Basho to the world, as well as to 1999, when an important talk was given by Professor Shirane at HNA.
This year, as it happens, marks the centenary of an informal meeting in London at which “Japanese tanka and haikai” were discussed, along with other kinds of poem. The meeting was attended by an Irish poet, but the group was taken over and subsequently named by an American visitor (Imagism, Ezra Pound). A lot has happened between then and now. I shall not attempt to cover all that, though I shall mention in passing the years 1939, and 1989. As you can guess, I will be looking at everything through the lenses of Ireland and Japan.
My interest in poetry was born in Ireland, and fostered in Japan through haiku, and I shall run through this quickly, before getting on to some other observations, which will hark back to what Professor Shirane said, but also examine certain tropes in contemporary haiku that seem to me to describe the relation, or non-relation, of haiku to other kinds of writing. I will then wonder what the meaning of all this is, and how it bodes for the future development of English haiku, led in important ways by what is happening in North America, but played out variously in other places.
H09 asks: How would you say your life has changed due to the effect of haiku?
It has given me a connection with Japan, where I happen to be living. This interest connects on to other things and places, through the world-wide spread of haiku. I suppose that poetry has to do with keeping faith (with ourselves, the past, and so on), and that haiku is a kind of keepsake, but I also sense that here are certain thoughts and attitudes that are held to be in keeping with it, and others that are considered out of keeping. I am intrigued by the contours of this.
H09 would like to thank David for sharing these thoughts with us.