Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

#603 – #606, #608


Waiting in his car
a timorous husband
looks at his watch
and sighs.


Shrouded in a doorway
he watched her pass
and followed like a shadow.


She smiled when I encouraged her
but she would not pay the ferryman.


I found the bath empty:
someone must have committed

17 October 1986


I bent over the coffin to kiss him
but he turned his head away.

20 October 1986

I have never been the biggest fan of the haiku. I like the idea of the haiku. I like koans. I like proverbs. I like concision. And, for me, poetry is all about that. As I’ve got older I’ve found myself producing slightly longer pieces but nothing you couldn’t fit onto an A4 page with breathing space. Why, in 1986, I decided to write a handful of, what I called at the time, “haikus” I have no idea. These days I admit to writing one haiku (#996) —although even that one doesn’t stick to the rules—and regard the above handful as nothing more than short poems. ‘Nightmare’ was published in Inkshed #19 in the spring of 1990.


Kass said...

Sometimes writing within constraints aids creativity. I like the way you've incorporated non-traditional line breaks in your Haiku. These offerings are charmingly dark and mysterious. For instance, was the tub empty of water or spiders? Did the spiders drink all the water and explode? Did someone pull the plug, washing spiders away? So mysterious.

Jim Murdoch said...

The English-speaking world has a different idea as to what a “traditional” haiku should be compared to the Japanese, Kass. It’s like a dog. Dogs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes— they’re perhaps the most diverse species of animal on Earth—but even if we encounter a breed we’ve never seen before we immediately recognise it as a dog. It does make one wonder what the first dog looked like that such diversity could be extracted from its DNA. None of the poems above have the three strand form that I generally associate with “traditional” (even by Western standards) haiku. None of the poems contain what I suppose I’d call a pivot, what the Japanese refer to as a kireji. The most common type is ya which emphasises the preceding word or words. Cutting a poem into two parts, it implies an equation, while inviting the reader to explore their interrelationship. None of these do that. Which is why I stopped thinking of them as haiku. That doesn’t mean they don’t work as poems and, like the haiku, they are open to interpretation. I think my favourite of this little group is ‘Gone’. I like its humour and although I like to think I have a good sense of humour it rarely trickles through into my poetry. Prose is a different matter; I find it hard to stay serious in prose.

Kass said...

Yes. "Gone" is good. And I'm so glad you approach prose with my personal favorite musical marking "poco a poco meno cosi serioso" (little by little not so seriously {played})...which leads me to another favorite in the classical music world: Scriabin's musical notation, "avec une volupté de plus en plus extatique" (with a voluptuousness becoming more and more ecstatic).

Trickle away.

Jim Murdoch said...

There are a number of articles talking about the musicality of Beckett’s writing, Kass. If you’re interested there’s one here . In 1962 he had lunch with Igor Stravinsky and quizzed him on the possibility of notating the tempo of the performance of his plays; he was especially interested in timing the pauses in Godot. In her memoir Billie Whitelaw wrote, ““I have a memory of him saying: ‘Billie, will you bring your pencil over here and look at [Play], page 2, speech 4, fifth word. Will you make those three dots, two dots.’ […] I can’t read or write music, but [looking back] if I were a musician I’d have put a crotchet instead of a quaver.” In deference to him I include a number of musical references in my new book: “As Jim approached—rallentando—Joe looked up and smiled at him,” “He picked up his pace—allegretto ma not troppo,” and “The only word he could think of to describe it was adagio.” Musicality is an important part of this new book. Carrie was discussing a minor change with me a week or so back and although I agreed a change was needed I vetoed her first choice because it added a syllable to the line and ruined its flow.

Kass said...

Glad to have the link to musicality in Beckett's writing and to read that musicality won out in the syllable war.

Naresh said...

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