2003, Volume 1, Number 6
With Bruce Ross
aside, what do you think are the main differences between Japanese
and English language haiku?
A) “Onji” not
aside, the Japanese have 5 and 7 sound patterns in their poetry
for centuries.The impact is enormous. Free verse obviously doesn’t
provide the equivalent. English-language haiku lacks rhythm and
music. Also, the codified flora, fauna, etc. in the saijiki are
infinitely more subtle and universally available to the Japanese
as a collective inheritance of feeling—unlike the “hit
or miss” associations of English-language haiku poets.
All this is not to say haiku in any language cannot connect to
the “haiku Moment.” It can.
classical Japanese haijin would you recommend a beginning writer
study and why?
would study the “big four”: Basho (for depth), Buson
(for craft), Issa (for humanity), Shiki (for a modern voice).
That works for the Japanese, modern and postmodern trends notwithstanding,
and it should work for others as well.
English language haijin would you recommend a beginning writer
study and why?
would have them study J.W. Hackett, Charles Dickson, and John
Wills for precision of feeling in nature. Cor van den Heuvel
for depth of feeling.
writers have had the greatest influence on your work?
suppose Kerouac and Gary Snyder for a reorientation of spirit.
Basho for haiku depth. Cor van den Heuvel for the persistence
of his mental focus. Also the many classic and modern Zen practitioners
writing about consciousness. And, in a deep sense, certain Native
American beliefs and practices.
there was one tip that you can give people when writing a haibun,
what would it be?
just tell a story, concentrate on feeling and its expression,
especially in the linking of haiku to prose.
is your view on the offshoots of traditional haiga in different
pretty much anachronistic (traditional) but open-minded. I like
being stimulated visually and prefer expressionist overtures
I see in some seemingly non-traditional haiga that look like
wild Zen drawing to me. I am not so sure about much of the graphic
constructions however impressive they are. Too suggestive of
commercial art. Linking to photos seems a bit unnatural to me.
Apparently the element of humor is also too often left out of
haiga, traditional or not.
recent times there have been a lot of politics between orthodox
or (non-conformist) and freestyle haijin in every Japanese short
form. What is your view?
have been disagreements as to style from Basho’s time onward.
As Aristotle says, people are political creatures. Too often
free expression degenerates into vacuity and nonsense. Follow
the old masters but make it new. Unfortunately these times encourage
political dialogue and one-upmanship as the final say on things.
In Japan, apparently, things as you mention, are as bad as in
the West. Astonishing that there is so much (negative) bother
over such a little, wonderful poem.
have written many books, and earned and deserve every bit of
your celebrity. Yet you are down to earth and always willing
to help others. Why is this important in your life?
that is true, I’m down to earth and willing (not always)
to help others based on my parents’ attitudes toward life.
St. Augustine said: “Every bit of light adds to the totality
of light.” As a metaphor this suits me and perhaps describes
what I am after—finding measures of truth and beauty in
the earth around us and sharing it with others. What else is
is your take on the online poetry movement?
online poetry movement initially overwhelmed me, but now I check
in on selected sites to see what’s going on. I still have
cybernetic-related misgivings about the medium (the medium “is” the
message), and the proliferation of spam-ku is truly amazing but
probably akin to the endless haiku jokes in the media—an
inability to own up, particularly in males, to true feeling and
therefore the need to be defensive, jokey, and “cool.”
Ross is the editor of Haiku
Moment and Journey
to the Interior, American
Versions of Haibun and author of How to
Haiku, A Writer's Guide to Haiku and Related Forms and
three collections of haiku. He lives with his wife in Maine where
they climb mountains, cross-country ski, and birdwatch
Copyright 2003 Simply Haiku
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