I’ve long been fascinated by the strange, multidimensional poetics of e.e. cummings. His work seems clearly to echo movements in the visual arts, and in fact he was also a painter whose early influences included Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism.
Sometimes amid the collage of neologisms and images he holds out until the final line to unveil a poem:
until No least
leaf almost stirs
as never (in
of silence) and
or until she
and he become
(on tiptoe at
the very quick
of nowhere) we
— While one thrush sings
–ee cummings, 95 Poems
How do I know if I can get there?
I open my eyes
in another room
Question Sabine Miller, Answer Michelle Tennison (2017)
The following haiku is from a dream, copied down verbatim. At the time I knew it was written in response to, and in honor of the work of Kaneko Tohta:
at what point
during the A-bomb
did the cherry blossoms bloom
How did the impact of Tohta’s poetry weave a way into my dreams? His work was largely unknown in the west until the publication of a series of works translated from the Japanese by The Kon Nichi Translation Group, (of which Richard Gilbert is a member). The strikingly original imagery and often surreality of Tohta’s haiku cause them to linger in the consciousness long after reading.
I was struck by his unflinching, matter-of factness when addressing topics like the war and the unspeakably horrific Atomic bomb:
one dog two cats
we three finally
This alongside his gift for transcendently sensitive imagery reflecting on man’s relationship to Nature makes Tohta’s work remarkable, moving, and deeply affecting:
we all flow, float away
the sea tide stays
The two haiku above are from Kaneko Tohta: Selected Haiku With Notes and Commentary, Part 2: 1961-2012, published by Red Moon Press in 2012.
Scott Metz has written an exploration of Tohta’s blue sharks haiku, including numerous possible translations from a variety of sources, as well as a look at the unexpected role of surrealism in haiku. This R’r blog entry is well worth a second or even third read and can be found in the Roadrunner Haiku Journal archives here:
Cherry Blossoms, Digital Art Collage by Josephine Unglaub
Surrealism takes the logic and continuity of the dream to have a truly given significance, equalled only by the revelatory power of the unexpected analogy, the marvellous conjunction.
— Mel Gooding, Introduction to Surrealist Games
What does the flying bird see?
What is invisible can be trusted.
Question Michelle Tennison, Answer Beverly Borton (2016)
I wonder if we could view ourselves from the next dimension if our words and actions would seem as odd as dreamspeak does upon waking …
I can’t deep rain of thorns
The rules of the game belong to the tombstones (post 2016 election)
remember childhood math
a big dip
of the big dipper
angel of God,
I’m ready for my closeup now
These are so nonsensical that I couldn’t in good conscience try to include them in murmuration, (my first collection of haiku), but I love them just the same!
. . . the surrealists are not politicians nor scientists, philosophers nor even physicians. They are poets, specialists in language, and it is language they will attack first.
First of all, no more logic. In language especially it must be hunted down, beaten to a pulp, reduced to nothing. There are no more verbs, subjects, complements. There are words that can even mean something other than what they actually say.
— Maurice Nadeau, The History of Surrealism
Which dead end will be reincarnated?
The river above the sound of the river
Question John Levy, Answer Michelle Tennison (2017)