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Information about Haikuintroduction

Published on November 28, 2008

Author: rockel

Source: slideshare.net

-1Introduction for My SoulJourney in 17 Syllables It is not easy to say what is happening in the field of American poetry, because any description ultimately proves to be inadequate. In our age of technological reproduction, poetry just grows. Indeed, the rapidity of growth might persuade some of us that the act of poetry counts for more than the art of poetry in the twenty-first century. To write or to speak is to resist the threat of dehumanizing silence. The voices of the uncanonized celebrate the consciousness of being human. Whether it is oral or written, poetry remains one of our best records of human presence. Acknowledging that Richard Wright’s Haiku: This Other World (1998) is one point of origin for My SoulJourney in 17 Syllables, S. Racquel places her work in a tradition of questing for the forms and languages that might give some specificity to racially marked experiences. Although black folk have no monopoly on the word “soul,” their specialized uses of the work signal the indivisibility of the sacred and the secular. Racquel indicates the nature of her persona’s journey by borrowing the sounds of spiritual agons from the Old Testament (King James Version) as well as the sight/sound connections available in the Japanese form of haiku. This blending is a clue about our choices in following the organization of 895 haiku --- some adhering to the combinatory features of the genre, and others using the rule of seventeen syllables to create innovative American adaptations. The importance of organization must be stressed, because the poet does want us to ride the subtle narrative ark in the psychological currents of an individual’s daily experiences. Racquel makes art of the commonplace, a daring enterprise that unmasks the artifice of poetry. The real poetry is constituted in our attentive responses to what is so familiar that it takes on the colors of strangeness, especially when the familiar is given to us by displacing

the aesthetic which is theoretically appropriate to haiku. The performance enacted by My SoulJourney in 17 Syllables has interesting roots in African American poetic tradition. It can be linked back to the poetry of Jupi er t Hammon (1711-1806?), particularly his use of biblical references to cast light on his consciousness of secular experiences. Racquel, however, does more than merely direct attention to carefully selected OldTestament complaints. She appropriates and refashions the language of the Old Testament as instances of “found” haiku; the result intensifies our awareness of religion’s pervasiveness in the daily operations of black folk psychology. Just as Melvin Tolson’s Harlem Gallery (1965) signifies on the modernism best represented by Ezra Pound, Racquel’s work conjures memory of Jack Kerouac’s freewheeling experiments with haiku in The Dharma Bums (1958) and other works. There is, one might claim, a shared American or multicultural rebelliousness in Kerouac’s and Racquel’s recontextualizing the ways haiku establishes connections between the human being and Nature. For Kerouac and Racquel seventeen syllables are opportunities to turn three lines into snapshots of attitudes. The traditional concerns with time and season, with the pleasure of beholding Nature are held in abeyance. Pictorial possibilities of image are revitalized. In contrast to using haiku to maximize discrete epiphanies, My SoulJourney in 17 Syllables is a contemporary instance of employing haiku to refresh the possibilities of post- modern poetic narrative. This book challenges readers of poetry to test how capable they are of navigating a river of contemporary uncertainty, of aesthetic engagement with an act of innovation. Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

Dillard University April 24, 2008

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