Too much information?

Did my reading at the Malady Poetry Night at Tauranga Art Gallery last week – hard to know how the haiku went over in amongst all the other wordy poetry that was flying about. Image piling up upon image, countless adjectives and adverbs … and some haiku, stripped back and simple. Glittering ornaments and sea glass.

Did the audience know how to listen to haiku? I did a wee intro but didn’t want to seem like the demanding madam – pin your ears back! – when everyone else had just got up and spouted their wordy poetry, sometimes with wordy introductions. I did consider introducing each haiku, but that seemed like a hiding to nothing, given that most of the introductions would be longer than the poem!

Maybe, by way of introduction, I should have read Introduction to Poetry by the fabulous Billy Collins, but I would have avoided his hilarious The Introduction as it would have been so much better than anything I might have uttered.

I did however, heed the advice of Michelle of the Resistance and read the haiku only once. I came across this, to me, bold move at Haiku North America last year – it makes the listeners, well, listen. Better than twice? Not sure.

Dave Robertson, who was on before me, read some haiku too, sprinkling them in among his lovely poems, one dedicated to each of his three daughters. He read his twice each “as is the tradition”. Huh, I’m not often a non-conformist, but hey!

I tried to read them as slowly as I could and asking for critical feedback from Haiku Husband later, got the comment that maybe I could have paused more between each one. Fair comment and something I will try and remember.

I gave this one a big pause between the end of the second line and the third line and got a murmur from the audience. Yes!

spring morning –
my face breaks into
a cobweb

– Sandra Simpson, Kokako 16, 2012

2 thoughts on “Too much information?

  1. Hello Sandra

    I was interested to hear how the reading went. Promoting the form to a live audience certainly has its challenges. My first and most disheartening experience of reading haiku for others was at a poetry group meeting where the only comment from the stony faced people present was that they supposed haiku weren’t so bad when you linked them all together!

    I dragged myself away and have been living in a cave ever since.

    You will no doubt have seen Robert Hass (online) reading to large groups who were receptive, appreciative and just plain ready to hear haiku – I think that is the key. Sadly I suspect most are so conditioned to hearing wordy poems that the humble haiku simply struggles to catch and hold attention.


  2. Hello Steven,

    I’ve long thought that readers need to know *how* to read a haiku, that if they were educated a little bit it would increase their enjoyment … and the same goes for listening to a haiku. Attention must be paid!

    What you say about ready to hear haiku is true, I think. The audience at HNA were ready and knew how to listen. Jim Kacian chose Ron Moss and I to read because he wanted people thrown off-balance by our accents!

    I hope your cave is nice.

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