Loads-a-work, but if I don’t add at least a tiny drop of poetry to the world (I’m thinking of the title “Plus one word to the world“, a fine collection of poems by young Japanese author Hiroshi Taniuchi), the day will be lost, and the robot takes all. Nudged by the photograph below, captured this morning by my colleague Nicky Farrugia (grazzi ras!), a new office haiku.
For me, more important than the 5-7-5 rule (which I try to respect as far as possible, exploring its many possibilities of rhythm and internal structure), the defining feature and challenge of haiku is to depict what happens when two apparently disparate elements meet and interact. When sculpting that depiction into haiku form, it’s often difficult to strike the right balance between clarity and subtlety. With each new haiku, Bashō’s frog takes a new leap: we want the water-sound to be heard, but there’s no need to splash the water in the reader’s face. (Having said that, I do like poetry that is physically refreshing or ‘cleansing’ – more on the psychosomatic effects of poetry another day). Subtlety leaves room for interpretation, and thus engages the reader; better still, where that subtlety implies ambiguity – particularly between opposite positive/negative meanings –, in choosing their interpretation, the reader is engaged to the point of becoming part-author.
Of course, such ambiguities can be extremely difficult to translate from one language into another, and not only where there is word play involved. Even English, with its long tradition of irony and understatement, can be slippery when it comes to haiku translation from other languages. But in any case, here’s a try.
Sema, sħab, siġar
Sky, clouds, trees
in the office windows…
hope in the cage.