Friday, December 11, 2015

James W. Hackett (I.M.): 4 Haiku

Recently, I've been re-reading the introduction to Cor van den Heuvel's The Haiku Anthology (3rd ed.) and, when it comes to English language haiku poets, it essentially begins with James W. Hackett and Nick Virgilio. Of course, there were others earlier, but these are two major poets at the beginning of what van den Heuvel speculates may someday be called 'the golden age' of English language haiku.  

This sent me back to a collection of his work, The Way of Haiku: an Anthology of Haiku Poems, Japan Publications, 1969. I read it a few years back and, as is customary when I read poetry books, I have a slip of paper inside that serves the dual function of bookmark and place where I note down the page of poems that are, for me, highlights.

The book is over 250 pages long, 3 haiku to a page, and my note sheet has lots and lots of poems marked. Often I will put a special mark - an asterick or check - next to a page for poems that moved we especially. So, I looked at these first and, of all things, 
a particular image/theme appeared and so here are 3 of the especially highlighted poems:

 Photo by Nebojsa Mladjenovic

Now that I have freed
  the butterfly from the web
    I feel uneasy.

The design that spins 
  the spider, allows him no rest
    until its done.

A long line of web
  loose at both ends, riding free
    on the summer breeze

Photo by Chris Sorge

Early on, Hackett received the imprimatur of haiku guru R. H. Blyth, who, in Hackett, saw the very real possibility for haiku in English. You will note that all the haiku are in the strict 5/7/5 form, with beginning caps and punctuation, as was the prevailing approach of the day.

And none seem worse for that. I could talk a bit about what attracted Hackett to this imagery (and me, as reader, to those images/themes in his work), but perhaps it best to leave the air of mystery.

After all, it is life, isn't it?

One other observation is that the poems are all focused exclusively on nature. "Now that I have freed" is a rare instance of the intrusion of the poet (or any other human) in Hackett's work. The last poem below does not have that intrusion, but in it, I feel, you can sense very real human emotion and, so, not surprisingly, for those of you who know we and my own approach, it is one of my favorites:

Left by the tide
   within a shallowing pool:
        a frantic minnow

Photo by Brad Smith

some stay behind
in the green leaves...
low tide crows
trans. by David G. Lanoue


PS  Click to learn how to contribute to Wednesday Haiku  


mary f.ahearn said...

Thanks for this post - enjoyed reading these haiku and your thoughts. On my bookcase is one of the first haiku books I bought. It's his Haiku Poetry, Vol.Two. One of the poems I have a check next to is this -

An elusive deer
wandering through autumn leaves:
the taste of tea.


Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Really lovely, Mary, and, perhaps, the other side of the leaf from the ones I highlighted. Appreciate very much you posting this. Don

Scott Wiggerman said...

Very much enjoyed these haiku, Don. Here's another one of Hackett's haiku from Cor Van den Heuvel's Haiku Anthology, which I've been rereading:
The stillness of dawn:
crashing between the branches,
a solitary leaf.

Michael Dylan Welch said...

A timely posting, Don. You may not have heard that Hackett just passed away last month, on November 9, at the age of about 85 or 86. Or perhaps you did know, if "I.M." in your blog title might mean "In Memory." Hackett lived for many years in the town of Haiku, on Maui, after living in California. His wife Pat died in the summer of 2014. As an aside, note that the middle poem is 5-8-4 -- he was never strict about 5-7-5. Hackett certainly wrote some classic poems, and I agree that he deserves to be remembered as a pioneer of English-language haiku.

Alan Summers said...

Lovely tribute.

re Cor van den Heuvel, did you mean The Haiku Anthology?

A timely reminder that haiku can be written and read in many fine ways.

warm regards,

Alan said...

Hackett is new to me, but Issa is one of my favorites...along with Saigyo. Different forms, tanka and haiku, but superb forms they are.

I find some of the same sentiment of compassion in Hackett's poetry here as is fundamental in Issa. Plus, he has great wit and humor.

Lady Nyo

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks, Scott, very fine.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Hi, Michael, what originally prompted the post was a note from Deborah Kolodji about his death. I couldn't confirm it independently so contacted her and she said the post she had seen on the JWH site was no longer there. I left in I.M. in the title of the post but didn't want to emphasize it without corroboration.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

I did mean Haiku Handbook, Alan. Thanks for catching that, I'll correct it. Don

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thank you, Lady Nyo. Issa is my favorite of the great classic haiku poets. Don

Anonymous said...

let it be noted that Hackett's poems demonstrate that 5-7-5
elh can be breathtakingly beautiful

Alan Summers said...

Dear Anonymous, and everyone else,

You might be interested in The Haiku Foundation librarian's account of this 575 haiku poet:

warm regards,

THF admin

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Alan ... thanks for sending along the link. Best, Don