Nobuyuki Yuasa’s discussion of the use of ugly words, “haigon,” in haiku tradition (see the responses to “In Search of Himiko’s Palace”) touches on a debate I’ve been having with myself over whether to post a new poem. I’m so starved for any sign of spring in the city that even the smallest things cheer me up. Even what might be the Yuckiest Kigo Ever:

Warm sun! First fucked-out
condoms on the sidewalk!
Can spring be far behind?

Maybe I need to get out of New York for a little while…

7 responses to “3/12/10

  1. Gee Ellis you went for the jugular with this one huh? I think the adjective before condoms appears to be telling the reader as oppossed to showing. I guess that would make condoms your ugly word?

    I remember seeing many semingly used condoms along the front of Port Authority on 8th Ave between 38th street and 43rd street about 15 years ago before they cleaned up that area. Talking about a yucky scene on your way to work on a Monday morning..


  2. Does anyone agree with me that, although the verse includes a season word (kigo), it had best be categorized ‘senryu’?

  3. Dear Ellis,
    Franky, I do not understnd your poem. What are you trying to say about the condoms? Are you simply trying to say that you are fed up with the sordid reality of a big city? If it is so, I wonder if the use of this haigon is really justified. I have already pointed out that Basho had called for the need to refine haigon. He also said we must ‘justify vulgar words’ (Zokugo o tadasu).
    Moreover, I do not like your adaptation from Shelley’s famous line because I find no strong yearnings for spring in your line. We feel them very strongly in Shelley’s original. Well, allow me to show you how I would use ‘condoms’ in a situation similar to your poem:
    Sunlight getting warm,
    But the condoms in the street,
    Will spring come to them?

  4. See Richard Woodchopper’s 15 March comment under ‘In Search of Himiko’s Palace’ for more opinion on Ellis’ verse.

  5. I think I understand the motivation here. By neccessity, I’ve been writing from an “urban” point of view (the “poor” side of town) for some time now. An effort to release the inner tensions, the poems stray from the natural world to more directly relating to humanity and its foibles.

  6. My own understanding of ‘haigon’ is that the poetic virtue of things normally (for Japan in the 17th century) not written about in poems (e.g. the kitchen frying pan) was to a certain extent extolled (or at least permitted) in the new haikai of, first, the Danrin, and later the more complete and influential Basho, schools of haiku. In other words, we should imagine from Nobuyuki’s words that ‘haigon’ are not only what today are ‘rude’ words. Workaday, not overtly poetic objects or activities are all candidates for haigon. Ellis’ choice of phrase is particularly vivid and vulgar – possibly too much so – but I like the alliteration of the ks and the way the terminal rhetorical question and seasonal reference thankfully lift us away from the dirt.

  7. Thanks, all, for your comments on my haiku/senryu. It’s only a few weeks ago that the only sign of spring was that the neighborhood prostitutes were working again, and it’s hard now to remember the odd feeling of delight I experienced at this sole and shabby harbinger of the new season. I notice that on this same website a year ago (3/17/09, Saint Patrick’s Day) I posted a poem whose only sign of the season came from the drunkards hollering Irish folksongs in the bar across the street, at whom I in turn was hollering! I have to conclude that mid-March is the lowest point in my haiku year. Thanks for bearing with me, fellow hailstones! Yours amid the new daffodils– Ellis