March 7, 2010

Jacques Roubaud on haiku


Whatever the case may have been, he told me something about haiku that exerted a decisive influence on my Project, and on the dream of my novel:

- that a haiku was always (something I knew) open, implicitly extendable into a long linked poem, a renku, but that perhaps, even more so than at the start of a renga, a hokku, it was virtually infinite in the direction of the future; that is to say:

- that each haiku was the beginning of an infinite poem, in both senses of the word: a fresh start extending all preceding haiku,

- but above all, potentially and in imagination infinite as to its actual composition;

- that renku imitated this, through the conditions of change imposed by its traditional rules, just as in the potentially infinite realm of time (infinite for all practical purposes), the seasons, flowers, rainfalls, and phases of the moon change into infinity;

- that the voices of poets who share in the composition of the strophe-links of a renku are like the generations;

- And that's why (but at this point enters in my own interpretation) at least three people are necessary to have a renku, for the deepest resemblances among human beings are not always with their parents but often at times with grandparents, or farther back still;

- five is the maximum, for voice-transmissible memory never extends over more than five generations;

- the end of a haiku, a renku in short, is merely a halt in the perpetual form, a kind of death.

- Jacques Roubaud, The Great Fire of London


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