HOW TO GINKO
HOW TO GINKO:
THE TECHNIQUE OF THE OPPOSITES
by Tad Wojnicki
Showing things by contrast is an effective technique of haiku writing. Hanging around a park, a botanical garden, an arboretum, or even one's own neighborhood, we get attracted to opposite states of being: young/old, live/dead, fire/water, etc.
The dichotomies hold an irresistible attraction to us. Our mind uses them as a tool in its attempt to contain life's bewildering variety. It doesn't take long to realize that, in fact, our whole reality is bipolar.
The world around is the showroom of dichotomies. As a result, our ginko jotbook quickly turns into a log of contrasts – an endless list.
In the haiku that follows Jane Reichhold demonstrates what she calls the Technique of Contrast by exposing the hard/soft contrast between the rain and the leaves:
long hard rain
hanging in the willows
tender new leaves
Here the rain is not just “hard,” but also “long,” just as the leaves are not just “tender, but also “new,” meaning short. The haiku really is
a report of a showdown between the strong and the weak, where the weak wins. The same contrast between the ugly strength and weak beauty can be seen in many haiku by Issa. Here is one:
soon they conquer all …
A similar disparity between two opposite forces of nature is reported in the following haiku by my pen:
not a single daisy
Some of the most common opposites we notice are those of young/old, new/aged, or unused/used.
of old age
We easily detect contrasts in the data of the senses – visual, audio, tactile, olfactory, and gastric. The juxtaposition of visual contrasts is all too common, but it can become multi-layered in the hands of a master. In the following example from Issa, the visual contrast between the redness of a chicken's blood and the greenness of the willow is deepened by the colors' associations with death and life:
killing a chicken –
the willow at the gate
Maybe the hardest extremes to record are those of sound and
no-sound. Here are two examples:
mountain temple –
deep under snow
Taking a waterfront ginko, on the other hand, you may swing by
a wharf cafe and, depending on your mood, notice the various opposites present there:
to fill in
the warm touch
of the cup
In the first haiku, being “full” is pitted against needing to “fill in,” to show an expat's sense of alienation. The second haiku tries to express the same feeling using the hot/cold contrast. An eatery offers plenty of opportunity to explore senses-based dichotomies. The following haiku show the disparities between the tastes and smells experienced at an open air seaside cafe.
a sprinkling of shaved ice
on baked squid
If you are in an Oriental city as I am right now, you may soon end up at a street market, a location teaming with mind-boggling opposites. But wherever your ginko takes you, keep juxtaposing fire with water:
and watercress canapés
curbside barbeque –
a drizzle drowns
street vendor scraping
Issa [haiku]. Transl. by David G. Lanoue. Used with permission.
Lansky, Bruce: “How to Write a 'Haiku' Poem,” at:
Reichhold, Jane: Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-on Guide. Tokyo, Kodansha, 2003.
Excerpt from How to Ginko: Writing Techniques for Haiku Walks
by Tad Wojnicki due from Haiku Pix Productions in 2012.
THE TECHNIQUE OF THE UNITY OF OPPOSITES (ONENESS)
THE ZOOM-LENS TECHNIQUE
One of the most useful haiku writing techniques is that of juxtaposing what is far away with what is up close (or the other way around) in a rapid shift.
No surprise this technique is compared to the photographic technique of zooming-in and zooming-out and the cinematic montage technique of cutting from one image to another. The technique has been variously called “zoom-lens effect” (William J. Higginson), “montage technique” (Allan Burns), or “telescoping” (Jack Kerouac).
A ginko, or a haiku walk, provides plenty of opportunity to use this technique – seemingly every street corner, vista point, or fork in the road brings a new perspective. A new perspective means a juxtaposition between the “far-away” and the “in-front-of-one's-own-nose.” This simple pairing of the foreground and the background has a potential for an “Aha!” moment.
Look at these pairs of images. They are word-pictures of the far-away and the up-close juxtaposed. Notice a rapid shift of focus, time and distance” caused by the “zooming in” of an imaginary camera.
the doe's running
You notice that the first member of each pair – the first line – sets the scene for the close-up that follows right after. The function of the first line is strikingly similar to that of the establishing shot in a film. It pin-points the location, tells the time, and intimates the mood.
a virgin stretch
an oyster nibbles
The zooming-in movement of the camera may be reversed to a great effect. The effect is one of “zooming-out.” As an example, W.J. Higginson offers a haiku by Nun Chiyo, (1703-1775):
things picked up
all start to move
Higginson explains that the first two lines are an extreme close-up of a handful of sea creatures. We are startled as they wriggle. Looking up, we see the beach enlarged by low tide and find ourselves to be the wriggling creatures. (The Art of Haiku, p.117)
foot by foot
over rough shells
The first of the above haiku, also written on a low-tide beach, documents a painful ginko experience mirrored coloristically by the sunset. The concluding haiku juxtaposes the rough sound of a scraped bagel with the rough sound of the foghorn.
Alan Burns, "Haiku and Cinematic Technique," in: Dust of Summers, 2008.
William J. Higginson (with Penny Harter), The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku, New York : McGraw-Hill Book, 1989.
Chen-ou Liu, “Haiku as Ideogrammatic Montage: A Linguistic-Cinematic Perspective” [an unpublished manuscript]
Bruce Ross, How to Haiku: A Writer's Guide to Haiku and Related Forms. Tokyo, 2002.
Excerpt from How to Ginko: Writing Techniques for Haiku Walks by Tad Wojnicki, due from Haiku Pix Productions in summer 2011.