Note: Takubok's work and his concept of "poems to eat" had inspired me to try my hand at tanka.
The following is an excerpt from my Simply Haiku interview with Robert D. Wilson, in which I explain my change from writing free verse poetry to tanka and briefly analyze his work.
RDW: A follow up question, what brought the change from writing free verse poetry to tanka?
CL: After almost a year of striving to write so-called free verse poetry without much success, I came across a book of tanka poetry, Sad Toy, written by Ishikawa Takuboku and translated by Sanford Goldstein and Seishi Shinoda. In the introduction, Takuboku emphasized that
“My mind, which was yearning after some indescribable thing from morning to night, could find an outlet to some extent only by making poems. And I had absolutely nothing except that mind… I want to say this: a very complicated process was needed to turn actual feelings into poetry… Poetry must not be what is usually called poetry. It must be an exact report, an honest diary, of the changes in a man’s emotional life. Accordingly, it must be fragmentary; it must not have organization… Each second is one which never comes back in our life. I hold it dear. I don’t want to let it pass without doing anything for it. To express that moment, tanka, which is short and takes not much time to compose, is most convenient…”
The emotional power, socio-political sensibilities and colloquial language of Takuboku’s tanka, a kind of poetry in the moment and for the moment, appealed to me, and I came to view tanka as a poetic diary that recorded the changes in the emotional life of the poet. I went on to read Carl Sesar’s Takuboku: Poems to Eat, and got a deeper understanding of Takuboku’s conception of a new kind of poetry, “poems to eat:”
“The name means poems made with both feet upon the ground. It means poems written without putting any distance from actual life. They are not delicacies, or dainty dishes, but food indispensable for us in our daily meal. To define poetry in this way may be to pull it down from its established position, but to me it means to make poetry, which has added nothing or detracted nothing from actual life, into something which cannot be dispensed with.”
In some aspects, Takuboku’s view on poetry is similar to that of Dionne Brand: “Poetry is here, just here. Something wrestling with how we live… something honest.” Since encountering Takuboku’s poetry, I started writing tanka as a diary and kept on reading books of or on tanka. Some of these books opened up a new world for me.
I console myself a little by turning the self at each moment into words and reading them. -- Ishikawa Takuboku
My book is now available through Lulu.This collection of short poems is filled with themes of immigration, learning English, racialized identity, and a poet’s life struggles.
Following the Moon to the Maple Land
My book (First Prize Winner of the Spring 2011 Haiku Pix Chapbook Contest) is now available through http://www.haikupix.com/ You are one of the most lyric haikuists in our worldwide haiku family. You have the gift of tugging at our hearts. I can see why so many of your haiku have won awards. -- Neal Whitman, renowned American poet
Ripples from a Splash
My book is now available through www.lulu.com [Liu's] haiku resonates the Asian spirit, and makes use of aesthetics in a continuum of time that is permanent and impermanent; the process more important than the subjective specificity of object bias found in most Anglo-Western haiku like poems. His poetry demand to be interpreted by the informed reader. They do not tell all, are not based on an “aha” moment, and have no definitive ending. More importantly they give meaning and voice to the unsaid, the magic inherent in Japanese poetry. -- Poetry Review by Robert D. Wilson, Editor-in-chief of Simply Haiku.
A New Resonance 7
A New Resonance 7: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku edited by Jim Kacian and Dee Evetts. I'm featured in this anthology and have 15 haiku included in it. This is the seventh volume in a series that has won the Haiku Society of America's Merit Book Award in each of its first six appearances.
Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Chen-ou Liu (劉鎮歐) was a college teacher, essayist, editor, and two-time winner of the national Best Book Review Radio Program Award. In 2002, he emigrated to Canada and settled in Ajax, a suburb of Toronto. There, he continues to struggle with a life in transition and translation. Featured in New Resonance 7: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku, and listed as one of the top ten haiku poets for 2011 (Simply Haiku, 9:3&4, Autumn/Winter 2011), Chen-ou Liu is the author of Ripples from a Splash: A Collection of Haiku Essays with Award-Winning Haiku, Following the Moon to the Maple Land (First Prize Winner of the 2011 Haiku Pix Chapbook Contest), and Broken/Breaking English: Selected Short Poems. His tanka and haiku have been honored with 49 awards, including Certificate of Merit by the Tankagendai Corp, 7th International Tanka Festival Competition, 2012, Tanka First and Third Places in the 2011 San Francisco International Competition, Grand Prix in the 2010 Klostar Ivanic Haiku Contest, and 特選 (Prize Winner) in the 2010 Haiku International Association Haiku Contest.