kick kick kissyface
Recently, I reached out to a fellow poet who curates a blog of mostly haiku and some tanka to see if they were interested in reviewing my new collection, 92 TANKA, or maybe publishing some of my tanka or haiku. It was a lark, really. A friend, also a poet, had recommended this site as a potential place my poems might find an audience. I don’t take it personally if my work doesn’t connect with some people; I think every poem has an audience, even bad poetry, which honestly accounts for a lot of what’s out there now. And I don’t get into aesthetic pissing contests with poets. There’s too much academic harrumphery in that sort of thing. It’s also become the vogue amongst some scribes trying to make a name for themselves and make some coin in the digital realm to engage in what I call the “kick and kiss” — a variation the “kiss and kick” which a commonly used strategy for social media influencers and those who want to be. Think of it as brand-on flirtation. The kick and kiss is the opposite of that: the “curmudgeon with a heart-of-gold” approach. The idea is to start fights but then eventually people who get past the “rough exterior” will discover the true and honest sensitive soul underneath.
Yeah. I don’t know, either. It feels like too much work for too little pay off and there’s too much of that bullshit floating around. So back to my interaction with a fellow poet about haiku and tanka.
This poet responded quickly and professionally. I appreciated that. Bear in mind I’m not mentioning them by name or referencing their site because really, none of that matters. They did tell me however, that they aren’t reviewing books because they don’t have time (honest and direct) and that while they DO sometimes publish tanka, it — like the haiku they curate — has to flow in “one breath.”
I didn’t take this personally. But I did chuckle a bit. One of the things about older forms — like haiku, haibun, or tanka — is that people develop ideas about them. That the form means more than the language is one pitfall a lot of people fall into, poets and readers of poetry alike. And form does have to have some say if you’re deliberately writing in one. But even Basho, who is most well-known for his haiku (maybe unfairly) didn’t let himself get too tied to form as he got older. The quote above is his answer to questions about adhering to form over content. I keep thinking I need it on a t-shirt but even that might be too much codification.
Form is fine and it serves a purpose. I could go on with multiple examples of poets out of antiquity who broke their own rules — Basho included, since his preferred haiku style was 5–5–7 instead of the 5–7–5 that most people learn in elementary school and then forget. I could talk about pillow words and how they tend to translate to English as punctuation and how the notion of a “cutting word” has been lost, more or less but was considered central to the form.
Of course none of it matters. Poetry needs no theory and the colleague I interacted with over email is doing very well.
I’ll go off write mine they will write theirs: it all goes off with the wind anyway.
Originally published at http://dirtysacred.wordpress.com on October 11, 2021.