Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Haiku by Magda Kapa

Image by Magda Kpa taken from her website

The set of love haiku underneath are by a Greek-born poet who writes under the name Magda Kapa. She lives in Germany and blogs poems and notes at her website, I Was Not Born in English. I made her acquaintance - we have never met in person - via Twitter where, sometimes, a few of us would co-operate on a stream of short haiku-length poems on some common theme, developing it as we went along. Kapa is usually one of this group of five or six.

Haiku form, in the 5-7-5 syllable sense, is one of those readily fitted for Twitter with its 140-character limit. I rarely thought to write haiku before going on Twitter, but once on there I experimented a good deal, writing about the form itself before going to write seriously in it. I do now and compose ever more frequently in series treating each haiku as a self-complete poem that then joins with others in some narrative or dramatic form. The writing of haiku has brought out something in my work, possibly a kind of plain-spokenness and a greater willingness to engage with the abstract. I save the absurd and the tangentially poetic for prose.

For Kapa the form offers an extension of the lyric in its traditional guise of the poetic as direct emotion. Born into one language, living in another and writing in yet another, she takes advantage of the brevity and its clear symbolism.

Her invention, which is considerable - I note the boneless world, the ironed white Sunday shirt, and the sense of seeing others seeing - can underwrite the more familiar Schubertian images of prisons, winter and moonlight.  The inventions direct our emotions to life as well  as to literature, to the shock of sensations of love, desire and loss beyond the known language of love, desire and loss.

I have quoted before the maxim from Rochefoucauld in which he wonders who would ever love if they did not already know the discourse of love. The poet's task then is to write poems of love - if love is the subject - that move beyond the known language or 'discourse' of love. The language of love does not normally deal in boneless words and white Sunday shirts but it needs them.  These haiku carry off that task while allowing for the archaic tropes that underlie most deep feeling to remain in place. I was given permission by her to choose those I liked best from the long series. Here they are.

 My dear, late at night,
almost midnight, and banned words
escape from prisons.

My dear, a cold day,
one more winter, then one more…
Never is so long.
My dear, last dream was
a boneless world where one could
change the shape of all.

My dear, clear moon night,
an ironed white Sunday shirt
on a wooden chair.

  My dear, it happens
without a warning, at night,
sleep leaves and you’re there.

My dear, people try
every day to remember
how it is to be.

My dear, when we see
we also see the others
seeing us seeing.

My dear, my hand writes
and your eyes follow the lines
because you can see. 

My dear, we search for
traces of others, long lost;
we dream of footprints.

My dear, the year ends,
last letters must be written;
 no lists, no wishes


Gwil W said...

I do haiku in 575
And I do haiku about blossom
But not very often.

So why don't I do?

The poet said after Fuku
no more by the rules
with haiku.

Dennis Tomlinson said...

I started to post 5-7-5 haiku on websites six years ago, but accredited experts such as Alan Summers convinced me to give up the strict syllable count and also to be sparing with capital letters and punctuation. 5-7-5 is passe!

a yellow leaf
on the apartment stair
the smell of cabbage

George S said...

Dennis and Gwilym -

I ought to clear something up (again) because I have cleared it up before, albeit elsewhere.

I am not really interested in the notion of an 'authentic' haiku. I have no ambition to write authentic haiku. I am not of that cast of mind. I am, however, interested in a form that goes shot-long-short. It's like writing in rhyme or with stress or with syllabics. The pattern of three short lines in simple language with a swell in the middle offers possibilities I, and other, like to explore.

In a similar way I am not interested in writing only Spenserian or Shakespearean or Petrarchan sonnets. I don't believe inthese mysteries: above all I have no particular love for authenticity.

A sonnet is a 14 line territory with echoes and landmarks that behaves in certain ways but can behave in others.

Rhyme is a process not a merely a product.

A 5-7-5 pattern can be called a haiku for convenience, but, likt the sonnet, it is a territory with echoes and landmarks.

Ditto all other givens or constraints.

Constraints are for enabling processes, not golden rules for the production of a certain kind of product.

This is what I have always believed. It is what I have always practiced. It is a kind of new testament: the sabbath was made for man, not mad for the sabbath. That is where my vote goes, even despite Alan Summers.

If people want something else they can get it somewhere else.

Dennis Tomlinson said...

Ok, George, I should not have been so definitive there. The English-language form with 5-7-5 syllables is a mainstream kind of haiku which I sometimes use myself. Some poets prefer to use a freer form of short-long-short. Some write the haiku all in one line in the Japanese fashion. Etc.

The haiku is an umbrella which covers forms with different degrees of 'constraint', likewise the sonnet. Sometimes one sees a sonnet without rhyme or with unusual line breaks. Etc.

Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend!

Clotho's Fates said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Magda Kapa said...

For my part, just like George, I was looking for a form that would fit in a tweet and would work as a one-tweet-poem or, if wished, as a stanza in a longer one, part of a chain of tweets. The 5-7-5 form is a rhythm. The theme varies. The dance has no real name; some name it haiku. I do, too, sometimes. Important is to dance.

Dear George, thank you for posting these here on your blog. Your introduction to my work honours and inspires me. Our co-operations on Twitter are a great pleasure.

George S said...

I think we can have various views of haiku and, as I suggest, it is much like having various views of the sonnet or the sestina. I am in many respects a great anti-purist, in politics, in literature, in most things I can think of.

It's good to be able occasionally to display work that I admire or have become involved with in the sense of watching it for some time and seeing it flower and develop. A blog isn't a big space. It is not like publishing in a major newspaper or magazine but it's nice to have it and use it.

The form the admired work takes is not of primary concern to me, though my own history tends to the formal in that it deploys stanza, rhyme, metrics and the whole baggage of the European tradition as expended by its contact with other traditions and of course its passage through Modernism and even postmodernity. One lives and learns. The less one learns the less one lives.

This election of ten 5-7-5 haiku seems admirable to me in its handling of direct emotion which is by no means easy. I am glad to have been able to share with a few readers.