Friday, November 20, 2015


I shall begin with a quote from an older attempt where I found that, more rarely, indeed, in haiku sometimes a text is used that does not evoke a frame clipped from reality and offered directly to the reception by the senses. A text that does not contain (at least) a noun or a verb, whose referent is an object or a manifestation of it. A text that, therefore, does not put forth before our eyes (or our senses) an actual image.

The poem below is about solidarity between dogs and hunters. A beginner would have been tempted to write as the first line the word solidarity, revealing the emotional relationship between two beings and thus losing the possible concreteness and discretion of the poem. Always side by side is a phrase that captures the concrete, the core of the relationship, calling it by metonymy. Modeled on bringing together a pair of boots and a dog which dries up in front of the fireplace, the phrase suggests in fact the warmth that exists between two beings - man and dog.

always side by side
next to the fireplace the boots
and the wet dog

Radu Ignătescu

Always side by side chooses words (two adverbs and no noun or verb) that say less, but suggest more. It confesses reticently only a detail of the relationship, which is, nonetheless, a symbolic and essential detail. The construction of the poem leaves the first image in the vague - who, what? and in need of completion from the second image. And the phrase side by side continues however along the line of a minimalism of flat display, leaving up to the reader perception of the aura of an image presented too roughly. We are only given a still life, but it soaks of unrevealed meanings. The ellipse, well-built and perfectly harnessed, contributes greatly to the challenge, cooperation and, finally, to the satisfaction of the reader. The poem is simultaneously attraction, difficulty, and, above all, playful.

What I wish to make everyone notice is that this time always side by side is very close to the language of advertising. Its characteristics are: preferred short, expressive, easy to remember formulations, having a greater impact on those to whom it is addressed. Always side by side reminds of the name of a humanitarian organization. The expression could not have been more suggestive: to have someone close to you means that you are always ready to help when they need it, and always means anytime, it means being constant and faithful. Something that also helps us having this perception is the turning into a noun of the word: from side by side, we can say our neighbour, in a religious, Christian sense, that is, the word for understanding man.  True, such a short phrase is ambiguous and versatile, which is why it can be easily abused. Who remembers the figure of Sorin Ovidiu Bălan and (his) mobile Brigade (will not easily forget the order with which he concluded, holding his fingers in the shape of a gun, his show: Stay tuned!

Returning to the original wording, always side by side has a touch of solidarity which is warmer, although in the context of the poem it is a subordinate togetherness. The dog is somewhere at the level of the boots. The affection is one between master and animal, based on care and obedience.

It so happens that, once the results of the Romanian Monthly Kukai are posted, someone says: "Haiku # 25 looks as if it has been inspired by or it looks a bit like an imitation of this label: The taste of childhood in a jam jar (and of this phrase: It is all about the taste of childhood in a jam jar) used by my sister for her culinary blog.” The poem in question is this one:

rosehip jam –
the taste of childhood
caught inside a jar

It is not very clearly where the notification leads. It could blame the lack of originality of the poem, if not something worse. It is clear, however, that there is an affinity between the formulas of the advertising language and that of writing haiku. Both formulations appeal to the colloquial language. Both are characterized by brevity and expressivity, by their impact on the reader. And through the fact that they remain etched in the mind of the reader.

The poem does not seem special to me. I'm not sure that the culinary blog was the source of its inspiration. And I’m not sure either if that phrase is extremely original. And even more so that it could be the literary or intellectual property of someone. Most times, having to do with the casual style of everyday language, it is hard to believe that one can claim ownership over it.

Even if the author of the poem faithfully took over that phrase, he deserves to be congratulated for the risk he assumed. But especially for the proven sense trying to transfer it in a haiku, where it can work just as well as in advertising. Haiku is a humble poem that can appeal to the less demanding languages and speeches. It only needs to be able  to underline their value.

(Corneliu Traian Atanasiu)

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