Saturday, 11 July 2009

Beats Haiku

In Jack Kerouac's famous novel, The Dharma Bums (1959), the Beat-generation writer tells about his climbing Matterhorn Peak in California with his friends, among them "Japhy Ryder" (in real life the poet Gary Snyder) an expert in Far-Eastern cultures and languages and Kerouac's Buddhist inspiration. Below is a passage where the climbers are throwing haiku left and right:

'Look over there,' sang Japhy, 'yellow aspens. Just put me in the mind of a haiku . . . "Talking about the literary life--the yellow aspens."' Walking in this country you could understand the perfect gems of haikus the Oriental poets had written, never getting drunk in the mountains or anything but just going along as fresh as children writing down what they saw without literary devices or fanciness of expression. We made up haikus as we climbed, winding up and up now on the slopes of brush.

'Rocks on the side of the cliff,' I said, 'why don't they tumble down?'

'Maybe that's a haiku, maybe not, it might be a little too complicated,' said Japhy. 'A real haiku's gotta be as simple as porridge and yet make you see the real thing, like the greatest haiku of them all probably is the one that goes 'The Sparrow hops along the veranda, with wet feet." By Shiki. You see the wet footprints like a vision in your mind and yet in those few words you also see all the rain that's been falling that day and almost smell the wet pine needles.'

'Let's have another.'

'I'll make up one of my own this time, let's see, "Lake below . . . the black holes the wells make," no, that's not a haiku goddammit, you never can be too careful about haiku.'

'How about making them up real fast as you go along, spontaneously?'

(Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums, London: Penguin, 2000, 52)

1 comment:

  1. I hope that you would keep on posting these extacts... i find in them guidelines to improve any wiritng especially haiku...