Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Four Seasons - My Haiku Prints
Prints on Paper

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

This blogspot is not only devoted to ArtCloth and all things fabric (e.g. wearables) but also to limited edition prints on paper and artists' printmakers books. I have listed below for your convenience my contribution to this artistic genre.

Made to Order
Unique State (Partners in Print)
Wangi's Djiran:"Unique State" Prints
Veiled Curtains
A Letter to a Friend
Beyond the Fear of Freedom
Travelling Solander Project
Star Series
Cry for the Wilderness
Federation on Hold - Call Waiting
Wish You Were Where?

During the Heian period of Japanese culture (700-1100 AD), it was a socially acceptable to instantly recognize, appreciate and recite Japanese and Chinese poetry. It was around this period that short forms of poetry (tanka) grew more popular than the longer forms of poetry (choka). Every poem had to have a specific structural form. The approved form was the 5-7-5 triplet followed by a couplet of seven syllables - this was the Japanese equivalent to the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare's England.

Artist Marie-Therese Wisniowski: Autumn Haiku (see below for more details).

From this form developed the renga (linked verse) and the kusari-no-renga (chains of linked verse). These forms were used almost as parlor games for the elite. However, in the mid-sixteenth century there began a rise in "peasant" poetry. It was then that Japanese poetry underwent a rebirth in which the staid forms of the past were replaced with a lighter, airier tone. This new form was called haikai and was later named renku.

Haikai consisted of a beginning triplet called a hokku. The hokku was considered the most important part of the poem. It had two principal requirements: a seasonal word (kireji) and a "cutting word" or exclamation. For example, Chiyo (1703-75) the haiku poetess of Kaga wrote:

Hototogisu............Hearing a cuckoo cry,
Hototogisu tote,....All night long,
Akenikeri!..............Dawn at last!

Chiyo - front cover of Patricia Donegan’s book.

Of all the forms of poetry, haiku perhaps is the most demanding of the reader. It demands the reader's participation because haiku merely suggests something in the hope that the reader will find "a glimpse of hitherto unrecognized depths in the self." Without a sensitive and knowledgeable audience, haiku becomes unfathomable.

The poet Basho infused a new sensibility and sensitivity to this form in the late seventeenth century. He transformed the poetics and turned the hokku into an independent poem, later to be known as haiku.

Basho Painting Bamboo - Artist: Sugiyama Sanpu (1647 - 1732).

Basho's work focused around the concept of karumi (a feeling of lightness) - so much so that he abandoned the traditional syllabic limitations to achieve it. For example,

Furu ike ya!...............The old pond, ah!
Kawazu tobikomu,.....A frog jumps in:
Mizu no oto...............The water’s sound!

Thus a haiku is an expression of instantaneous enlightenment – a flash of insightfulness – in which the reality of life is reveal. Basho achieved this in just seventeen syllables!

To give further flesh to the power of his haiku let us explore another one of his poems. When Basho was travelling on the narrow road of Oku, he happened to meet two prostitutes on their way to the Ise Shrine, and they all stayed in the same inn. After listening to their tale of wretched life, which they abhorred, Basho wrote:

Hitotsu ya ni...............Under one roof,
Yujo mo netari............Prostitutes, too, were sleeping;
Hagi to tsuki...............The hagi flowers and the moon.

Note: hagi is a bush clover that blooms in early autumn and is very much liked by the Japanese people.

Miyagino hagi.

To interpret the full significance of this haiku, one must turn to the Japanese Zen scholar - Daisetz Suzuki[1]. His take on the poem is that Basho has accepted the reality of the situation (prostitutes and himself under the one roof) but treats them not as the fallen specimens of humanity, but rather he has raised them as poetic equals to the bush clover (the latter is associated with unpretentious beauty) while the moon impartially illuminates good and bad, comely and ugly. There is no conceptualization here, but this haiku reveals the mystery of "being" and of "becoming". Without being immersed in the Zen culture of Japan, this poem’s meaning would be difficult to extract.

The Four Seasons - My Haiku Prints
To construct my haiku prints I have centered on the haiku poem requirement to contain a kilo (season word) that symbolises or intimates the season in which the poem is set. For example, in my Autumn haiku poem I pen - "Autumn rustles" - it is the word "rustles" that is the "season" word for this haiku. Note: my haiku poems do not follow the 5-7-5 syllable count.

To give a consistency to my voice I have created each print within the following constraints:
Subject: A maple-like leaf charts a destiny within each of the four seasons. For each season I have written a haiku, which although is not structurally perfect, represents my sense and sensibly of that season.
Techniques: Stenciled, mono texture prints and collage effects on acetate film employing pigments and papers. Final works printed as archival inkjet prints.
Stock: White Stonehenge and inkjet paper stock.
Size: 13cm (width) x 19cm (height).
Edition: Three prints per paper stock.

I have written a haiku poem for each print. The structure of the poems is similar in that: (i) the first line contains a sensory feel associated with each season; (ii) the second line - the particular effect of the season on leaves; (iii) and the last line - a general observation of the effect of the season on life.

Autumn Haiku

Autumn rustles,
Leaves are grounded.
Blankets harbouring life - formed!

Title: Autumn Haiku.

Winter Haiku

Winter pierces,
Leaves are mourned.
Life wanes - life forlorned!

Title: Winter Haiku.

Spring Haiku

Spring sprouts,
Leaves are formed.
Life whooshes - crannies and voids transformed!

Title: Spring Haiku.

Summer Haiku

Summer sears,
Leaves are sapped.
Life seeks - shade and darkness lapped!

Title: Summer Haiku.

[1] D. Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture, Charles E. Tuttle Company Inc., Tokyo (1988).

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