Reflection 154: Haiga Consciousness

October 30, 2009

(Copyright © 2009)

Haiga are a Japanese form of haiku accompanied by a visual image. The image, however, is not to be taken as an illustration of the haiku, both poem and image adding to more than the expressive sum of the media involved. The image is meant to be free, extending and amplifying the inner life of the poem. There is a strong bias against using photographic images in such service, because too electro-optico-mechanical in nature, being untouched by human hands. After all, photography didn’t exist in Basho’s day. But it does exist in my day, so, since photography has been my lifelong medium, my “haiga” are based on digital photography. I say it is the mind shining through the medium that counts, not the medium itself. Poem and image resonate to form an outward and visible portrait of human consciousness. Here are a few examples.

New Year's Coffee

long nights  first coffee  of the new year


Red Year

red year  berries, maple leaves  blood of war


Shadow Anchor

old anchor  holds only its shadow  to the snow


Stop Light Full Moon

winter moon  at the stoplight  horns honk behind me


Summer Wheels

flowers and all  summer is rolled  in great wheels


Three Clouds

 the year starts  with three clouds  and two trees 


Transport Plane

autumn sunset  contrails of cargo planes  back from Iraq


Old Stump

 old stump  autumn shadows  cut short

Not just any old stump as the words imply, but this singular old stump in all its particular details. Moss, leaves, and pine needles aren’t even mentioned. Yet they fulfill the promise of “old stump” in a novel yet satisfying way. It is the jolt of fulfillment that makes the haiga, the going beyond what is given while, at the same time, being consistent with the verbal premise. Not just any morning clouds, but these three particular clouds sighted in the New Year’s sky on a walk at sunrise. Bodies of fallen soldiers aren’t even mentioned, yet they are in that high plane—or another just like it—giving my mind concrete shape. Seeing that particular moon, I switch lanes at the last minute to position it just there. The light is red—but turns green. I grab my camera and shoot through the windshield while other drivers in cars lined behind me grow impatient. You can’t hear the honking, but you can sense it in that image as a blaring accompaniment—given concrete form in the relationship between those three shapes suspended before my eyes. And so on: consciousness revealed in everyday objects and the tensions between them. Tensions not embodied in the objects themselves but laid upon them by my situated consciousness. Consciousness given concrete form so that I can see myself being conscious, reaching out to the world, claiming it as my own. Which it is—my little life in this place at this time.

chop 2 neg cyan hi contrast

3 Responses to “Reflection 154: Haiga Consciousness”

  1. What kind of camera do you use?

    • Pablo, I, too, am that I am. That makes two of us swirling in the intellectual assumption we like to nickname the world. As to the camera I use, it’s a Panasonic Lumix I use for photographing harbor seals, and everything else. But actually the Lumix is only some gadget I hold; I do all seeing with my eye. Thanks for stopping by. –Steve

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