On Poetry and Culture Shock

Why I write haikus.

The night lies ahead.
Cup of tea full to the brim.
The poem doesn’t come.

Toda la noche por delante.
Una taza de té llena hasta el borde.
El poema no llega

Let' say this again: Every artist that has stopped to theorise about Art in the abstract, about What Art Ought to Be, reaches a simple and easy conclusion. Art ought to be what I do. I am, of course, no exception. What I like and dislike is dictated by what I do or can’t do.

So: If I say that haikus offer the perfect balance of form and freedom, it means that what I can and cannot write gives me that opinion. First of all, I love haikus because they don’t rhyme. Rhyme is an unnecessary constraint that forces the poet to look for a word that fits form instead of meaning. Rhyme for its own sake, especially when it is difficult as in Spanish rap, is an interesting device. In poetry, is often superfluous, and what’s worse, distracting. And the most important thing: para rimar tiempos verbales, mejor no escribas. That is, you’d better not write at all if you intend to rhyme grammatical suffixes or particles.

Good. We have one principle: use excellent, original rhyme for its own sake, or don’t rhyme at all. Now, the distinction between poetry and poetic prose is in rhythm. Of all the non-rhyming traditional poetic forms, haikus are interesting because they must be concise: you cannot waste a syllable. Forms that don’t have a line count run the risk of heading straight into explanation. “This is what happened” slipping into “and this is the way it made me feel”. A haiku is the photograph of a feeling, not its description.

The last question is why not free verse. Free verse is the hardest of all because there are no rules and that makes mistakes so much easier. The balance is no longer between form and meaning but between freedom and self-indulgence. The old saying “master the rules before breaking them” applies. A good poem is one that is fresh and original even if it sticks to the rules. But, what makes a good free verse poem? Nobody knows. Yet.

1 comentario

Suskiin -

I just entered to visit your new blog in blogia! Hey, I already thought that if you would live in Barcelona, we could go to bellydance together!
I have to try and write some haikus one day.