We now learn that the ‘cut’ – the kire – can be in more than one place!

All good haiku actually tells a story or part of a story, to a point where the reader steps in and brings it to completion. Film jargon uses the term mise-en-scène.  According to Wikipedia:

Mise-en-scène (French pronunciation: [mizɑ̃sɛn] “placing on stage”) is an expression used to describe the design aspects of a theatre or a film production, which essentially means “visual theme” or “telling a story.” It is also commonly used to refer to multiple single scenes within the film to represent the film. Mise-en-scène has been called in film criticism as “the grand undefined term.”

summer storm
the windscreen wipers
slice our silence

— Jo McInerney

If we are speaking of mise-en-scène, then yes, in this haiku three shots are very carefully selected and placed before the reader.

summer storm: the reader is given a picture of a summer storm, which brings to mind the onset on a rainy season. I see myself out there in the open, viewing the sky.

the windscreen wipers: the second line actually puts me behind the steering wheel, or I might be a passenger. I hear the rapid movement of the windscreen wipers as they swish from left to right.

slice our silence: this is an amazing leap which takes us into the interior worlds of these two people – who could they be? A couple? A parent and a child? Perhaps people with some sharp difference of opinion? We are all familiar with such silences. The story is left unfinished for the reader to fill in the details. In haiku this technique is called the semi-circle of a haiku, where some space is left for the reader to step in.

This brings us to the concept of ‘montage,’ another bit of film-world jargon. The dictionary defines ‘montage’ as ‘the technique of selecting, editing, and piecing together separate sections of film to form a continuous whole.’ This effective use of scissors to cut away all extraneous detail is what stopped me in my tracks when I first read this haiku. A technique used by master film directors for generations, it’s not a bad technique to emulate when writing haiku.

Richard Gilbert’s research into the practice of contemporary Japanese haiku has made him a strong advocate of the disjunction that often explains how a haiku works … and how it works wonders. If you understand the technique used by film directors to narrate a story, you’ll understand the concept of ‘disjunction.’

Richard says: “More than trying to achieve a ‘cut’ go for the ‘disjunction’ to create that surprise and that magical moment that brings so much joy to the reader.”

Some examples of ku with effective disjunction:

a baby’s pee
pulls roadside dust
into rolling beads

— Ruth Yarrow

in the prison graveyard
just as he was in life —
convict 14302

— Johnny Baranski

deep in raga
a sudden applause
startles the singer

— Kala Ramesh

In Indian Classical Music, raaga means melody, and its root word in Sanskrit means ‘passion.’  There is a pun on the word ‘raga’ in this ku.

Unlike Western Classical Music, which is scored, Indian Classical is based on improvisation. Here a musician creates on the concert platform; Jazz comes closest to this. When a musician improvises, there is a natural need to go deep within herself.

The audience listening to Indian Classical Music may respond spontaneously with loud claps or appreciation at any time while the music is being created. This is not regarded as a disturbance but rather as an incentive to the artist to create better.

As expected, a musician, who is deep into the raga / melody, having lost touch with the outside world, is startled by the sudden appreciation from the listeners.

In this haiku, you see three different images with two disjunctions, coming together so naturally. . . creating that very effective ‘surprise’ at the end.

In a one-line haiku, the cuts are more easily visible. An example:

into the night a cuckoo returns the call

— Kala Ramesh

Here is a simple way to see the cuts in haiku. Look at the many disjunctions that can be found in the meaning of this one-line ku:

into the night
into the night a cuckoo
a cuckoo returns
into the night a cuckoo returns
into the night a cuckoo returns the call
Finally, this one-line ku curls back on itself: returns the call into the night

Until we come to the last word ‘call’ we aren’t aware of the mate who is waiting.

Here are two more examples of effective disjunction taken from Richard Gilbert’s book: The Disjunctive Dragonfly

as an and you and you and you alone in the sea

— Richard Gilbert

I understood this beautiful one-line ku after I separated the first ‘and’. Like the ‘and’ we are all connected but alone in this world – this is what this ku means to me.

as an ‘and’ you and you and you alone in the sea

damp morning
cash for a journey
warm from the machine

— Dee Everts

not looking
road kill

— Christopher Herold

For more on this topic, read Richard Gilbert, “The Disjunctive Dragonfly: A Study of Disjunctive Method and Definitions,” Modern Haiku 35.2, 2004 (http://bit.ly/291QMli)


Publishing Credits:
summer storm: Jack Stamm Award 2009
baby’s pee: Frogpond 5:1 (1982)
in the prison graveyard- Just a Stone’s Throw 2006
deep in raga: Triplopia VI:2. 2007
into the night: Kokako, annual print edition, September 2007
as an and: Roadrunner 11.2
damp morning: End-grain
looking: The Heron’s Nest XIII.1

Kala Ramesh

Kala Ramesh

Passionate about taking haiku to everyday spaces, Kala Ramesh initiated the ‘HaikuWALL India,’ where she gets graffiti artists to paint haiku on city walls. As an external faculty member of the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, she teaches undergrads haiku and other allied Japanese short forms of poetry. One can reach Kala Ramesh via editorial@pune365.com. The haiku feature appears every Monday on Pune365.
Kala Ramesh

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