Poetry forms suggested reference

Some of our Poetry Society of Tennessee – Northeastern branch (PST-NE) members have suggested the book (hardback) by Viola Jacobson Berg entitled PATHWAYS FOR THE POET : Poetry Patterns Explained and Illustrated (copyright 1977 by Viola Berg, published by Mott Media).  Included in the 200+ patterns and examples of poetic forms within this 235-page book is one for HAIKU.  I quote:

 A quote about haiku and senyru from this book follows:
“The Haiku is a 13th century Japanese form which creates a sharp, simple, rich, concrete image in seventeen syllables.  It is described by Harr (Lorraine Ellis Harr, ed., DRAGONFLY (July 1976), p. 64) as an ‘intuitive response to the Natural world.’  It is arranged in three lines of 5-7-5 syllables.  Haiku are not titled.”
 
[an example is given]
 
“Haiku may have fewer syllables.”
 
[an example is given]
 
Berg also discusses and renders examples of TWIN HAIKU, HAIKUETTE, HAIKU-KU, and HAIKU SEQUENCE. 
 
She also discusses SENRYU:
 
“A senryu has the same unrhymed form and syllable count as the Haiku (5-7-5, or less), but in content it relates to people, to our human-ness in nature, to our relationships with each other, our foibles, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies.  Senryu involve human reactions and responses, relating man as he is. (Harr, p. 65)”
 
“This brief form can contain only the essence of a truth as the poet sees it or as he ties a truth and an experience together.  Philosophy, emotion, beauty, and impact must all be unified in some measure so that the combination offered is thought-provoking, a mirror by which man can in some way see himself.”
 
Example:
 
“Hearts that are brittle
resist tenderness and love
fearing they will break.”
 
Rose, as you can see from the Senryu example, quoted exactly as it appears in her book, Berg has capitalized the first word in the first line, but not in lines two and three.  Also, she has placed a (.) at the end of line three.  As I recall, Tom McDaniel capitalized the first word in each of the three lines in the example you provided me in an earlier e-mail. 
 
McDaniel entitled his Senryu; Berg states unequivocally that “Haiku are not titled.”  In my entire semester of independent study of Haiku at George Mason University under Dr. Christopher Thaiss (at that time, Head of the Northern Virginia Writing Project), I never saw a Haiku (1) with a title; (2) with any capitalization at the beginning of a line; (3) with any punctuation at the end of line three.  Ironically, perhaps, Dr. Thaiss thought many of my efforts at writing Haiku were excellent, while the Japanese faculty member in the English Department, Dr. Nabuko, said my attempts were, for the most part, fine examples of “short English verse,” but not Haiku.
 
What I have taken from all of these experiences and sources is:
 
Haiku and Senryu, in the modern American mind, is pretty much whatever one wishes it to be.
 
Perhaps, within the Japanese culture, there is more unanimity as to what constitutes Haiku and Senryu than in our current American culture (one might hope so).
 
Unless MORE specificity is given to prospective contest participants re requirements/expectations of form and style, any increasing number of prospective participants will become discouraged about entering poetry contests (and rightly so).  Imagine a group of mathematicians entering some kind of mathematics competition without clarity as to whether “base 4” or “base 10” would be the acceptable standard for the competition!  Or, whether the complex calculus problem to be solved for the top prize could be approached by “equation method,” “geometric method,” or either/both!  Yes, I would throw my pencil and protractor at the professor also!
 
Perhaps under the rationale of “we Americans are all about improvisation and diversity,” it is my opinion that many in our modern culture go about writing formal poetry with barely a reference to the rubrics for individual forms.  My friend, Dr. Thomas Burton, Professor Emeritus of English at East Tennessee State University, stated to me yesterday morning (Sunday) that it would be more respectful to the art and craft of poetry, and less embarrassing to those attempting to write poetry, it needful attention were given to learning to “write to the rules” before breaking the rules.  But, in my opinion, the rush of our present-day culture, combined with the pressure to have something published somewhere/anywhere has led to many writers pressing a bit too hard to get something they have attempted into print. 
 
Perhaps I have a bit too much pride in what I attempt to do, but I tend to “err” on the side of not getting something into print.  Reading through many of the poetry examples in the LOST STATE VOICES anthology, Volume II, I was somewhat underwhelmed with what I read.  Not that many of the poems were bad, they just were not wonderful or exceptional.
 
While you have managed to “ratchet up” my interest in entering some contests in the near term, unless some clearer rule delineation or specificity is coming down the pike, I will probably become less interested in doing so in the future.
 
Thank you, Ben, for your candid comments.
Rose Klix
 
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2 thoughts on “Poetry forms suggested reference

  1. This was wonderful because I honestly had never heard of SENRYU but I find it fascinating. I would not dare, however to write something along that line and submit it in a contest.But just for the joy of trying I may try to write something in this new form. Thanks so very much for giving me a new approach to expression.

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