re:Virals 93(Full article here:https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/2017/06/23/revirals-93/)
Welcome to re:Virals, The Haiku Foundation’s weekly poem commentary feature on some of the finest haiku ever written in English. This week’s poem was
the daisies you paint full of philosophy — Geraldine Clinton Little, Modern Haiku 19.3 (1988)
My take on this poem was the following:
“If there were not anxiety behind those apples, Cézanne would not interest me any more than Bouguereau.”The above is a quote by Picasso that has followed me around since I wrote my BA dissertation on music many years ago.
This quote resonated with me profoundly because I felt that good art should be more than academic or technical, and I was investigating the mystical origins of art, which seems to have been born out of a need to see the world through a filter, to give the world’s mysteries their myths, or philosophies.
This poem offers us a portrait of the still-life artist. It is an ambiguous portrait of the artist and his art because we don’t know exactly what “philosophy” is hidden behind those daisies.
All we know is that the painting offers more than a pictorial representation.
And yet we cannot see this representation, so it would seem that this poem is more like the micro-theatre that is senryu, and that we are sharing in a very human drama. True, one may imagine the very real daisies being painted and, therefore, could happily treat this as a haiku. But to me the physical daisies are absent in my mind’s eye: all I see is the poet looking at the painting, and possibly the painter too, who I imagine is in their studio. (I also imagine that the painter is someone the poet admires and has some kind of relationship with, a relationship I sense is affectionate. Of course, much of this is not explicitly in the poem and yet nevertheless these are the images the poem provokes in me.)
Perhaps a key question to ask would be this:
Is it right to use poetry — words — to describe another art form, in this case painting?
Frank Zappa once said that talking about music is like dancing about architecture.
So maybe it is equally futile to write about painting?
Whatever the case, here we have a series of words that describe a painting of daisies that are more than daisies, and yet we know not what.
What we do know is that we are “looking” at art — and by extension the artist — concerned with more than what’s on the surface, so to speak. And that, I hope, is something we can all relate to. Because painting daisies without some kind of philosophy would be futile. If you just want daisies, look at daisies! So, although Bashō said to learn of the pine we should go to the pine, this poem seems to be more concerned with humans than flowers. So we could maybe say that if you want to learn about us you should look at our paintings, our art, to see the world when it has undergone a transformation and become more than what is being represented. That is to say that, like Cézanne’s apples, there is philosophy behind those daisies.
I was asked to select next week's poem for discussion and chose this 'ku by Scott Metz.
the only sound that’s come out of me all day firefly
— Scott Metz, a sealed jar of mustard seeds (issue 9 of ant ant ant ant ant, 2009)