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More on Haiku: Anthropomorphism &

byjthserra©

More on Haiku: Anthropomorphism & Suchness

Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism. That's quite a word. The first time I saw it, I wondered if it was contagious. When I realized it was a magazine editor who used the word referring to some of my haiku, I quickly looked it up in the dictionary. The definition read: an interpretation of what is not human or personal in terms of human or personal characteristics: Humanization.

Since the magazine accepted none of my haiku, I quickly realized anthropomorphism was not good in haiku. While anthropomorphism (big brother to personification) can be interesting and artistic in some poetry and prose, most haiku editors avoid it.

rain heavy on leaves
already bent boughs strain more
and trees cry their pain

The trees didn't cry, and watching them, try as I might, I never heard them cry. They can't cry: they are trees! As poetic as the thought of crying trees may be, my job as a haiku student is to impart an observation without applying my own emotion or judgement to the haiku. Perhaps a better way to write the haiku would be:

heavy rains
boughs bend in the wet
trees lean

Yeah, not a particularly good haiku, but the rains, the boughs and trees are basically doing what they do, they fall heavily, they bend and lean. In this haiku, I have observed the events, allowing you, the reader to experience the event and then impart your own meaning to it.

gardenia winks
fragrant flutter eyes
steals my breath

Ah, you caught me. The gardenia has no eyes and does not wink. While it may seem to wink at me, that is not what happened.

gardenia blossom
its fragrance
steals my breath

Hmm… A bit better, but can the fragrance steal something? I'll have to think on that.

After I finally figured out what anthropomorphism was, I sent off a new batch of haiku to the same editor. I worked hard removing any poems from the submission that had any hint of anthro… (you know what I mean here).

leaves flutter
anticipating
rain

Oops, I thought I fooled him. But here is the editors response, "…this is a human perception leaves flutter for whatever causes, and we deduce rain this is not the reality of the leaf, then, but of the mind and therefore logical not intuitive." Damn, I had done it again.

The rest of my poems were returned for a number of other reasons that I will discuss in future articles. I had a stack of several dozen haiku that I realized, in spite of how well my friends received them, were not very good. But I didn't give up; I was beginning to learn something. I was beginning to learn how little I really knew about haiku

Stick around, read some more of my bad haiku. In the end it does get better. Well, I like to think so.

Suchness

Suchness. Now hold on a minute, don't you go looking at me rolling them eyes. Yeah, I said suchness and no, I'm not vacuuming without a vacuum bag. Suchness, say the word, let it roll slowly off your tongue, while I figure out what I'm gonna say next about it.

Seriously now, as I alluded in my earlier articles, haiku is something much more than seventeen syllables typed on a page. One of the things I ask you to consider here is suchness. I don't think the word is in the dictionary, it certainly isn't in my spellchecker. Such is in the dictionary. My dictionary (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1980) defines such as: 1a. of a kind or character to be indicated or suggested. Woah, I'm scratching my head with you on that one. Let me skip on down the page a bit: 2a. having a quality already or just specified. Hmmm, I think I'll try to rope that one.

A quality already or just specified -- okay, something that already exists. Perhaps is should be, in other words, a state of being. Okay, for our purposes, such is defined as a state of being. Now let’s look at ness, or I should say -ness since it is a suffix. He, he… I think that's the first time I have said suffix since I got out of high school.

Anyway, consider -ness. My dictionary defines -ness as: state: condition: quality: degree. So based upon our dictionary definitions, if you have suchness, you are in the state of a state of being. I wonder if that is better than being in the state of Mississippi. Oops, forgive me for that, it's been so long since I got run out of Mississippi. The tar and feathers wore off long ago.

While I will not call suchness a rule, haiku is something that kind of transcends petty rules, suchness is desirable in haiku. The thought that you are observing something that has always been is kind of the idea. As an example I refer to a haiku I had submitted, along with the response.


the fat
mosquito is slow
and dies


"and what else would we expect? haiku is the capturing of a moment of insight but this is no surprise to anyone, so how are we enlightened? it does have suchness, but that in itself is not enough we seek the suchness that we discover we have known all along, but have forgotten, as r h blyth suggests"

Ah, my haiku has suchness. That is good. Unfortunately, the poem was not accepted. Although it had suchness, it was perhaps too obvious. But dogonnit the haiku has suchness. Another example:


the waves
again
and again


The editor responded, "same as above." Wow, although it was not accepted, I got suchness two times in a row. You see, I did find something in nature that was "such," I just didn't find the surprise in the observation. I needed something more. I received the editor's comments and was encouraged to continue to strive for haiku.

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