Monday, June 15, 2009

The 1977 Harkinistas

This is my copy of Susie's photo of our old Harkinista band, back in 1977. I'm not in the picture ;-)


An old photograph...
My world has changed — the joke is
how I stayed the same.

That, of course, is an American lowball haiku, the kind the Japanese (and all urban haiku cognoscenti) hate. Aside from the terribly strict 5-7-5 syllable structure, it's just an irritant because it lacks all the standard haiku elements, especially mood, Aha-erlebnis and impersonal reference to nature, seasons and passing time. I like the form because it's hard to compress sufficient sarcasm and cyanide into such a small venue, especially using English free verse prosodic conventions like sprung rhythm, chime and wit.

Here's another example:

Mattress wisdom, this!
   The more refined the princess,
      The harder the pea.

Alan Watts talked about a variant form called senryu which is supposed to be less reverent, more personal and Zen-like, but in actual practice the norms of the form are just as preposterously precious as haiku.

Nobody likes my
   senryu — I can toss them off
      Like toilet paper!

For the true ancient Japanese flavor, haiku should be sung in violently strained, ingressive masculine tonalities with a few slow ridiculous dance steps and fan flourishes worthy of a matador's cape. The kabuki of such moments is deeply impressive. This is the true やまとだましい (Japanese spirit) that, in modern times, has given us karaoke.

Here in the West, we like haiku — with the reverential awe filtered out, of course. The best Western example of the style, as adopted by us Beat Zen film noir devotees, is Roy Batty's death poem in Ridley Scott's 1982 film, Blade Runner. Very effective. Truly pathetic. And, O Ultimate Transcendence, not really a haiku.

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