Elle, while attending Goldsmiths in London, came home with an instruction to write a few haikus for her next English seminar. We talked about what they were for a while, and she said she was off to the park to think on it. A little later she showed me what she had written. I am always surprised at what my children are capable of. I told her I thought they were excellent. I have always loved haikus. They seem to be like a verbal out breath and a gentle ‘aha’ moment. Traditionally they are an observation based on nature, and there are three non-rhyming lines, and a 5-7-5-syllable sequence. They can vary these days. It is so like Elle to have changed the syllable order!
Below are her three haikus and her notes for the seminar:
These are 3 western Haikus. I tried to capture an examination of nature by visiting Hyde Park, but was struck by the artificiality of London’s nature. Yet I observed a stunted, unattainable power that seemed to exceed the confinements of the park. I experimented a little with alliteration and sound, mainly in the second poem, trying to create a ‘k’-‘sss’ sound, imitating waves on a shore. I wanted the first line of the third poem to create staccato pronunciation to give a sense of discomfort and prolonged emphasis.
Obscure miniscule creature
Little ugly bug
How often have you been seen?
Wind coins consistent current
Does Richard Wilson*?
Or study simply too still?
Moss coat concrete water bed
Mask on mask on face
Mother’s hand grasping gasp
*Richard Wilson: Artist: Saatchi Gallery: Wilson’s 20:50. “The gallery is filled to waist height with recycled engine oil, from which the piece takes its name.”
That would have been in her twentieth year, so therefore 2009. A couple of years later, while Peter and I were in South Africa, and after Elle had moved to Ibiza, she sent us the following email. I suspect she was filling in time while looking for work on the island.
“Everyone here is going to hate what I am about to say, but I think that my poems are the best, and that no one has had the eye to hover over them long enough to realise it.
I wrote these poems as I sat in a moment of shallow and superficial despair, and in knowing that this work had to be done, I was able to escape the world by observing it. I watched a ‘bug’ long enough to begin to really see it; what is this creature? And who has taken the time to look at it? And then it hit me, I was probably the first and last person to see it, or at least to watch it for longer than a few seconds at the most. This ‘minuscule creature’, a mere ‘ugly little bug’, then became a metaphor for a larger world we live in; an ‘obscure’ world, foreign to our own individual little worlds that seem of such importance.
In the second Haiku I continued with this trail of thought by creating an opposition between the natural world that has existed and been developed throughout time with the world that we ourselves have created and developed. Two detached worlds that capture the zeitgeist of our time. In referencing artist Richard Wilson, not only am I relating his own works to the subject of the poem, but I am referencing the currents, zeitgeists and interpretations of society that the arts have stimulated since their beginning. The reason for this being that we have created a literary world within a world within the world, “a mask on mask on a face”. The literary world is a reflection of our world, a world in which our currency is symbolic of nothing. Over the generations, humanity has created a world on a foundation without substance. It is all smoke and mirrors like Richard Wilson’s work. Unfortunately, we are so absorbed with our own problems that we rarely have the time to relate our own microcosmic perceptions with the larger macrocosm. And then furthermore lack the time or the ability to question the reality of that macrocosm. As a a result, to our ignorance, the ‘ugly little bug’ goes unnoticed.
I could continue to discuss the relevance of our smoke and mirrors man-made world in a post-apocalyptic scenario, when civilisation ceases and all that remains is the endeavouring planet. A planet that has been so hospitable while we play and destroy. But I do not have the time or the inclination to preach to a room that did not have the time to observe a piece of writing that they deemed insignificant because they lacked the vision to see any value in the unfamiliar or unconventional. This exercise has proven the subject of these poems. If anyone thinks their work is better, I am open to persuasion.”
I thought that I would push myself to have a go at writing a couple of haikus, and I have gone for one 7-5-7 sequence and the other 5-7-5. My little obscure link!
My heart torn into pieces
Tears away at it
Fly above and beyond now
Who has less cries less
Who has more wants ever more
Tears away my love
I am adding (21 June) a new haiku, which is in response to one Elle wrote, and came to me directly following an interaction with an observation between a bug and me late one night. It settled on my iPad, as I lay reading in the dark.
Little bug I see you now
Oh the Bhodi tree
Fly away and on with me
I am currently filled with remorseless self-pity. I suspect this streak will continue until after Elle’s 29th birthday. My anger knows no bounds today. Scatter and be gone.