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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Many poems begin in the mind -- in the imagination and emotions of the "poet." But hokku is not like that. Hokku begins in physical sensation.

You are in the garden early in the morning. You reach to examine a blooming flower, and in doing so, your hand shakes cool dew from the flower onto your wrist.

This initial sensation, perceived by the experiencer, is the first stage.

If you then begin to think about the experience, to add thought and emotion, this is the second stage.

Hokku remains in the first stage. It does not go on to thoughts and commentary and building of emotions. That is too much for the poverty of hokku.

Gy˘dai wrote:

In the continual rain,
Insect voices.

He gives us the experience only. He does not tell us what he thinks about it, or what we should think about it. He does not use it as a symbol of something else, or a metaphor for something else. He allows it to be what it is, and thus he lets Nature speak through him.

If he had added his own thoughts and commentary, that would have been Gy˘dai speaking, not Nature.

A good part of English-language poetry goes on to the second stage, and much of it begins with the second stage. But that is not the way of hokku. Hokku is not about impressing the reader with the writer's thoughts or cleverness, nor about trying to convince the reader of anything moral or political or religious. Hokku is just the writer getting out of the way so that Nature may speak.

Copyright 2007
David Coomler

Posted at 11:05 am by hokku


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