By James W. Gaynor
In the early 80s, I experienced a somewhat predictable, spiritually deracinated-Westerner, child-of-the-60s fascination with Zen Buddhism.
One of the things I came to love about entering the austere and beautiful world that embraces both Zen monks and their militaristic Samurai counterparts is that, yes, you’re supposed to be able to slice your opponent into 53 thin pieces with grace and a minimum of blood. But you should also be able to arrange flowers and write poetry. In the Yin and Yang of life, everybody is both an artist and a warrior. It’s up to you to create a coherent whole of your many dimensions.
My monk phase is long over. But for the past 30 years, I have maintained a daily habit of starting my writing day by creating a haiku based on the content of both a sentence and the article in which it appears in the New York Times. — giving the classic syllabic pattern of 5 / 7 / 5 a slant tailored to my secular careers as a journalist, corporate communications dude, and poet.
Until March of this year, I wrote my haiku in the margins of the newspaper and then threw it out when I had finished (practicing non-attachment but not sustainability). Then, I finally gave into the technological / ecological pressures of the digital world, and opted for an online subscription. Now, I not only preserve my idiosyncratic haiku but also, thanks to the miracle of hyperlinks, can connect them to their original articles and writers. (www.jameswgaynor.com)
The classic haiku contains a duality of message (such as joy in the moment coupled with sadness as its transient nature). The poem attempts to answer three questions:
- What? (the object, the action, e.g., falling leaf or petal, sound of water)
- Where? (geography, e.g., house, garden, mountain)
- When? (seasonal reference, e.g., spring, summer, winter, fall)
However, my idiosyncratic versions consider the medieval format as an anticipation of the tweet, and looks for a distillation of message into its most basic syllabic pattern.
My intention is to replace the traditional duality of emotion with a (hopefully) ironic twist conveyed by the narrator, challenging the innate seriousness of the ‘Times commentary.
In so doing, perhaps the poet becomes a warrior, the poem a weapon. Or the poem remains simply a flower in the poet’s ikebana construction, knowing no intention but its own.
Buy Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haikus (1,037 Syllables) here!
James W. Gaynor, author of Everything Becomes a Poem (Nemeton Press), is a poet, artist, editor, and writer. A graduate of Kenyon College, he lived for years in Paris, where he taught a course on Emily Dickinson at the University of Paris, studied the development of the psychological novel in 17th century France, and worked as a translator.
After returning to New York, Gaynor worked as an editor at Grosset & Dunlap, Cuisine magazine, Scriptwriter News and Forbes Publications. His articles, book reviews, poems and essays have appeared in The New York Observer, OTVmagazine.com, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, and Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine.
As #HaikuJim, Gaynor publishes a daily haiku drawn from current newspaper headlines and is the creator of Can You Haiku? — a corporate communications workshop based on using 17th-Century Japanese poetry techniques to improve effective use of today’s digital platforms. Gaynor recently retired as the Global Verbal Identity Leader for Ernst & Young LLP.
A silver medalist in the 1994 Gay Games (Racewalking), Gaynor’s found-object sculpture has been exhibited internationally. He is a member of the Advisory Board of New York’s The Creative Center at University Settlement, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing the creative arts to people with cancer and chronic illnesses.
Gaynor lives in New York City with his canine companion, Emily Dickinson Gaynor, and the cat who oversees their entwined lives, Gerard Manley Hopkins Gaynor.