2nd EUROPEAN HAIKU CONFERENCE
Vadstena (Sweden)- 8-9 June 2007
Haiku: transversal poetry
Pietro Tartamella – Cascina Macondo, Italy
translated by Antonella Filippi
Some years ago in Italy our television news informed that in Naples was born a Committee fighting for the acknowledgement of the Neapolitan Pizza’s “origin mark”. The committee asserted that only a recipe made with a series of specific ingredients had to be considered as the real recipe of the Neapolitan pizza. In consequence of legal acts and petitions, the Neapolitan committee managed at last to state its point of view. Then we asked ourselves: if Japanese people did the same thing with Haiku poems? If they wanted to claim paternity laying down the rules and the specific ingredients of Haiku? Well, we believe that they would win the battle, just like Neapolitans did. All the quarrels and the issues in the western world, relevant to Kigo, 5-7-5 syllables, blank verses, would immediately fall and have no sense at all.
Change of course
In the past, Cascina Macondo maintained that it was necessary to free the Haiku poem from the too tight chains of the 17 syllables and of the season. Some of us used to compose Haikus with blank verses, without feeling obliged to refer to the season.
Thanks to the television news about Neapolitan pizza, we revised our positions and arrived to compile the “Manifesto della Poesia Haiku in Lingua Italiana” (“Manifesto of Haiku poetry in Italian”), defining in a simpler and clearer way as possible a functional terminology. The necessity to draw up a Manifesto was born also from the technical problems linked to the organization of an International Contest of Haiku Poetry in Italian like ours, that reached this year its fifth edition and that ended a few days ago, on May 31.
We chose, then, to follow the traditional way, accepting the limit of three lines of 5-7-5 syllables. In truth, with some derogation as to the syllables, but only within the limits that the metric phenomena of the division into syllables allow.
This choice pushed us to study and to deepen the division into syllables and the metric phenomena, until writing a “Manifesto della sillabazione italiana per la composizione di Haiku” (“Manifesto of the division into syllables of the Italian words for the composition of Haikus”) that broadens and makes more elastic the possibilities of Haiku poetry.
A name for each thing
· HAIKU a composition of three lines of 5-7-5 syllables containing the Kigo or the Little Kigo
· SENRYU a poem of three lines of 5-7-5 syllables that does not contain the Kigo or the Little Kigo
· HAIKAI a composition of three lines of 5-7-5 syllables containing the Kigo or not, whose characteristic is to have a humorous or comic connotation
· HAIGA a composition of three lines of 5-7-5 syllables (that can be a Haiku, a Senryu, a Haikai, a Haisan) matched to a photographic, filmic, graphic, multimedia image
· HAISAN a composition of three lines with a free quantity of syllables, containing the Kigo or not, and that can be lyric, dramatic, comic, surreal. With the specific term HAISAN we want to give major dignity to those compositions and those authors that chose to use blank verses. Compositions that are generically defined as “pseudo-haikus”, “improper haikus”, “false haikus” and other similar expressions.
Great cycle and Small cycle
We introduced also a new concept, not contemplated by tradition, the concept of the LITTLE KIGO, meaning an element that refers to a part of the day. Following and going deep into the concept of “here and now” (Bashō and the classic poets considered it fundamental), we thought it was pertinent the comparison between the great cycle of the seasons that repeat and the smaller cycle of day and night that unceasingly repeat.
In our manifesto we maintain that a part of the day mentioned in a Haiku (LITTLE KIGO) makes the composition a perfect Haiku, as if the Kigo was present.
Some say: “You of Cascina Macondo have a way to divide into syllables that is too complicated”. It is nonsense. The division into syllables is the same that we all learnt at school, and that everybody should know. But in Italy normally people know only the grammatical division into syllables, the one that is taught at school. In our manifesto we explore the metrical division into syllables and we conclude that the haijin is free to choose, in case of need, the grammatical division or the metrical division, seeing in this way remarkably increased the possibilities to play with words, still remaining into tradition. We have not to be amazed reading a line of 10-11 syllables (grammatical calculation) that come down to 7 syllables if we use the metrical calculation.
Anyhow, many judge our choice as excessively “traditional”. It is right, we chose to be traditional in practising with precision the formal structure of Haiku, but this does not prevent us, within this choice apparently restrictive, from being “transgressive” just like the ones that chose to adopt the blank verse. We think indeed that the introduction of the Little Kigo is a transgressive choice, breaking with tradition, still remaining into tradition.
Haiku, transversal poetry – handicap, children, literary people
For many years Cascina Macondo taught Haiku poetry to children (primary and secondary schools, high schools) and to young people with disability and handicap. An experience that makes us believe that the Haiku composition is the only kind of poetry really “transversal”.
With the word “transversal” we mean that it can be composed by everybody, without any distinction of race, colour, language, religion, culture, academic title, profession, age.
It is not necessary to be literary people to write wonderful Haikus. It is necessary to have understood what Haiku is. Peasants, workmen, graduates, housewives, children, handicapped people, as regards the Haiku poems, are really on the same level.
Our experience with schools, children, disability, demonstrates it.
Wonderful Haikus can be written also by chance, as “Haiku tombolato” (Tombola Haiku) demonstrates, that is composed drawing out at random the three lines of a Haiku from a great quantity of lines.
Poetry already exists
We share the thought of the poet Jan Skachel when he says: “poetry already exists, it lays hidden somewhere from time immemorial; the poet does not create or invent anything, he simply discovers poetry and brings it to light”. Children, disability, tombola Haiku, cut-up seem to demonstrate this truth, that can be a little scary, because it can put in crisis our identity of “authors”.
Here are some Haikus written by children and by young disabled people during our poetry, Haiku and affabulation workshops.
Ha il cappello
un pupazzo di neve.
Gocciola il naso.
wearing his hat
Marcello (7 years old)
belli i fiori
di papà in giardino
il mio haiku
dad’s flowers in the garden
Emilian Ratis (7 years old)
nell’armadio del pane
in the kneading trough
Rafis Raham (8 years old)
salta la rana
dalla foglia all’acqua
fiori che sbocciano
from leaf to water
Torino - Italy
spegnere la candela
e il cielo azzurro
putting off the candle
and the blue sky
Torino – Italy
Just two words about this last Haiku. To grasp its many meanings it is necessary to scan it with different pauses. If we read:
putting off the candle (l o n g p a u s e)
and the blue sky
it means that the author, in some merry occasion (probably a birthday) is moved when she puts the candle off. She looks at the sky and she simply realizes that the sky is so blue and bright.
But if we read it with another rhythm:
moved (little pause)
putting off the candle (not any p a u s e)
and the blue sky
it means that the author is moved while she puts off the candle and the blue sky. That is to say that she puts off the candle and at the same time she also puts off the blue sky.
The question is: how is it possible to put off a blue sky while putting off the candle with which I am celebrating my birthday? There is only a sensible way to put off a blue sky in such circumstance: closing the eyes for the emotion! With eyes closed for the emotion the blue sky disappears for a moment! As if, for a moment, I had put it off! A good Haiku, as Hans-Peter Kraus says, begins after the reader has finished reading the three lines that compose it.