HOT THINGS: THE IMPORTANCE OF CONTEXT

I often emphasize the importance, in writing hokku, of seeing something in a new way.  It is not that we constantly have to look for quite new subjects; it is just that when we see an ordinary thing in a new way, we perceive it differently; we have what Blyth used to call a “little enlightenment.”  We suddenly realize that the experience is telling us something we already knew, but did not know that we knew, until it was shown to us in a different way.

The seasonal context of a thing changes it.  We experience the same thing differently in different seasons.  Here is a good example, a “little enlightenment” of Buson:

(Summer)

Spider webs
Are hot things!
The summer grove.

Ordinarily we think of such webs as light and airy, open to the wind.  But in the heat of summer, entering and walking through a dry and windless grove of trees, we feel spider webs sticking to our face and hands, and suddenly we realize

Spider webs
Are hot things!

Like the verses in the two preceding postings, the bothersomeness of the spider webs on our skin in the windless grove only magnifies the heat.  One uncomfortable thing added to another uncomfortable thing makes both worse, with each bringing out the nature of the other.  And in doing so, they help to give the verse unity; the parts all work together as one experience, which in hokku is very good.

Suddenly realizing that spider webs are “hot things” is seeing something ordinary in a new way.  That is an opportunity we should use in writing.  Of course without the context of summer and heat, it would not be so.  In a different season and context, the nature of the spider webs — how we experience them — would also be different.

 

David

 

 

 

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