Turning Japanese

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.

— David Bohm

I’ve heard it said that when we label something we’ve already lost it. Our mind closes around the label, and in our rush to apprehend it, it escapes us. Perhaps we should reconsider such common assertions as “It is a tree,” and choose instead to say “It is called a tree” … or a “cat” … or even

“I am called Michelle.”  Recently during a brief (unsolicited) encounter with a psychic I was told that I am, or have been, a Japanese man.

How does the seed become the tree?
          Falling in and out of white

Question Harry Hudson,  Answer Michelle Tennison, (2004)

The Brilliant Madness of e.e. cummings

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
againless depths

of silence) and
forever touch
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?
          hourglass —
          I open my eyes 
         in another room
 
Question Sabine Miller, Answer Michelle Tennison  (2017)
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Dream Haiku for Kaneko Tohta

 

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

                                         now gone

 

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
not A-bombed

 

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.

 

Of note:

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:

https://roadrunnerhaikublog.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/kaneko-tohtas-blue-sharks/

 

 

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)