14 December 2009

A can of snakes and haiku

The Zen master Dogen says we ought "to be actualized by myriad things." I take this to suggest sympathy with the haiku and its process of creating, a poetic form centered on paying attention to things, allowing something to become 'ensouled' or noticed, and thus actualized. The haiku form it itself, has as its purpose to actualize things. For haiku does not exist to tell you about the poet's experience, but to recreate the poet's experience in you. Simply, a haiku is a "canned" actualization, like those joke cans of snakes, where when the hapless victim opens the can, a fake snake jumps out. It is as if the poet saw a snake, then made the joke can and gave it to you as a way of experiencing the fright he felt upon first seeing the snake.

(Who was Dogen? He was a thirteenth-century Japanese Zen master, and the quote is from a well-known passage from Genjo-koan).