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Michael McClure (1932-)
Haiku Edge
[a poem of 58 linked haiku]
For Ray Manzarek

OH ACCIDENT !
Oh,
per
fect
(( CRUSHED ))
snail
—LIKE
A
STAR

gone out
!

 

HEY, IT'S ALL CON
SCIOUSNESS
—thumps
of assault
rifles
and
the
stars

 

WHAT SOFT
brown eyes
the dog has
as
she
shits
on the deer's
hoof
print

 

THE DUSTY
blackberry
shakes
in
the
CHOP
PER
ROAR,
—AH

the
spider
web
!

 

DROPS
OF
RAIN
(( MIR
ROR ))
on the pink
petals
of
the
peyote
flower

 

THE BIG
YELLOW
LEAF
S
P
I
N
S
through
the silver
down
pour.
—Smacks
my

wind
shield

 

PINK BANDAID STUCK
to the asphalt
looks gray
in
moon
light

while
crick
ets
sing

 

MOLDY
BOARD
smell
!
(( AH ))
My
Grand
pa's
face
appears
in
the air

 

BRASS
and
turquoise

—and
smell
of
pine boards
in
the
rain

 

for Gustavo

SMELL
OF SMOKE
I
N
the
rain;
mem
o
ries
of snowflakes
and lightning

 

BIG
ROUND
rain
drop
sounds
plop
ping

in the
white
shimmer
of
wind

 

for Norma

NOTH
ING
NESS
of
intelligence;
silver
sunlight
through
closed
eyelids

 

OH,
SIL
VER
foam river,
carrying brown
oak
leaves,
what is chaos
?

 

OH,
HUM
MING
BIRD
SHAD
OW
on the black
plum
!

(( No summer lightning
though ))

 

LOOK THERE
'S A RAB
BIT

No,
it's
maple leaves
blowing
down
a
drive
way

 

THE
BLUE-BLACK
JAY
with
white
eyebrows,
hops
and squawks

hops
and squawks,

pecks
hard

 

freeway

FOUR DEER
and
a great
blue
heron
in
a field.
Brake
lights
up
a
head
!

 

MAROON
suitcase
by
a
garbage can.
My
white
breath
in
air

 

the mystery

IT'S SKINNY
like
a
cooper hawk
and flies
through
fog
and
car
roars

 

A NOVEMBER
BLACKBERRY
all
red and sour
in
the
long
rain

 

WHY ARE
RED-BLACK
ROSES
on the table,
there's
hail
outside
?

 

WIND blows WAWES
on brown
puddles
and
makes
black
clouds
like
breathing

 

Hey
DRIVER,
your
big,
soft,
steel,
rubber-smelling
car

owns you

 

A PINE TREE
CRASHES
in the storm
while
sparrows
cheep

(( loud ))

 

PLUM
petals
fall when
the
old
dog's
nails
click
on
the
asphalt

 

for James Broughton

THE DRY
fir needle
rolling
in
the wind

has
a
shad
ow

 

a pair

IN THE SIL
ENCE,
wild white
straw
berry
flowers
under doug
firs

!
!
!
!

THEN
a
voice
shouts
and a plane
P
A
S
S
E
S
over poison oak
buds

 

MONKEY
fingered,
PINE
BOUGH
TIPS
reach

up

in

silver
fog

 

THE FOX TURD
is a cliff
a
n
d
the
butterfly
is
a
condor

 

THE CAL
ICO
CAT
turns
her thick
neck
to
see
the cricket

 

SPARKLY FLIES
crawl through
the dead mole's
black fur
in sun
light

 

(( BIG ))
SMELL OF SUM
MER ROSES
and
truck exhaust
in

the

glen

 

THE HERON
flies quickly
o
ver
your head
as you speak
on the
phone

 

TWO CATS
in wet fog
see trees and houses
like these
at night

 

THE TINY GREEN-BLACK SNAKE
makes no dust cloud
as he speeds away

 

SNAIL ON THE BRANCH
CAT IN THE TREE
—as
it
ever
was

 

WITH A GENTLE
WIGGLE
the
mourning dove
shits
on the as
phalt

 

summer hummingbird

A
SCARLET HEAD
and long beak
float
in
mist
and
leaves.
THIS
NECTAR
HUNT
!

 

ORANGE
EARS
and tail
of a cat
slith
er
above
tall
green
grass

Snap
!

 

for Harry

THE
MILKY
WAY
IS
another
shiny
cricket
chirping
while leaves
fall

 

for Monika

THE
UVIVERSE

OF
STARS

is
just
another
BABY CRICKET
chirping

 

SEE,
THE DEER'S BED
is matted grass
beneath
the windy
oak
branches

 

TREES
MOVING IN THE WIND
WERE
ONCE
protons
or
imagination

 

THE BUTTERFLY
IN
SUNLIGHT
!
Ah,
light shows
at
the
Filmore

 

MMM,
TASTE
OF
DUST
on
the tongue
just
as
the crow
caws

 

THE ROAR
of the garbage
truck
almost
drowns
the three
owl
hoots

 

UNDER THE FUR
the skin's
like
butter,
the purr
is
a
roar

 

THE GREEN
APPLE
core
rolls
along
as the car
passes
it

 

ORION
through
the bare
branches;
are on
the
ROOF

 

SEE FALLING
SHADOWS
of
maple
leaves
on
the
freeway
wall

 

BEFORE DAWN
the train whistle
quivers
like
a
SAIL
made of stars

 

for Bruce Conner

BUTTERFLIES
swirling madly.
Ah,
light shows
at the Avalon!

 

P
I
N
E
C
O
N
E
and candle
burn
at
opposite
ends
of zazen

 

for Robin and Richard

THE WILD
IRIS
TREM
bles

in
the

plane roar,
yellow violet.

 

for Jack and Adelle

RAIN MIRROR
for
the
sky
and an old
dog
stumbles by

 

HUGE WHITE
MAGNOLIS
BLOOMS
smell
like soap
in the ex
haust fumes

 

MOST
normal

most mystical

MOST
REAL

stars
and

FINGERS

 

Source: "Haiku Edge" in: RAIN MIRROR. New York: New Directions, 1999. pp. 1-31.
cf. RAIN HAIKU. Berkeley: Tangram, 1992. Folded card. 100 copies.

[An excerpt from the]
Preface
[to RAIN MIRROR, pp. vii-viii.]

1. Rain Mirror stands as my most bare and forthright book. It contains "Haiku Edge" and "Crisis Blossom," two intensely disparate and different long poems.

2. The lines of capital letters in Rain Mirror are not meant to be emphasized. Read "Haiku Edge" aloud, then the poems can be seen as energy constructs and the eccentricities of typography will disappear.

3. Classic haiku originate in Japan's seasons and special subjects. "Haiku Edge" comes from where I live in the hills near the San francisco Bay, where deer cross the street from a patch of forest to chew on fallen plums and great horned owls court in the darkness, and where there are bandaids stuck to the street and etched in moonlight.

4. This world of "Haiku Edge" has its own seasons: the rainy season when waterfalls gurgle, and the dry summer when chain saws screech. Helicopters fly over the glens and streets at any time.

5. Beat poet and the retired Buddhist abbot, Zenshin Ryufu Philip Whalen, explained to me, in the 1950s, how a haiku should be written in English. He showed me the ellipsis, the mirroring or the reflection of the two parts of the poem's action. (Much like what happens in the longer tanka.)

6. The haiku opens what Mahayana Buddhists call "realms." Everything dissolves into the perception that initiates the poem.

7. Some haiku are soft and make the originating perception snug. Wabi (countrified gnarliness), and the clear light of elegance may come together in haiku. There are also harsh haiku.

8. Samuel Butler said, in effect, that life is a violin solo but you are learning to play the violin in public as you go. Like a violin sonata, haiku must have many rules to give freedom to the imagination.

9. "Raphael found the rules and was freed." The rules became clear as I wrote "Haiku Edge." First I abandoned seventeen syllables, which is over-ample in English.

10. In public performances at music clubs and colleges Ray Manzarek accompanies my reading of haiku on piano. Manzarek says he's "playing the words." We make a scroll of voice and music to float the poems, like parchment or silk supporting sumi ink.

__________________________

 

Oh Accident
Oh perfect crushed snail
like a star gone out.

cf. Interview with Michael McClure: All Moments Are One

 

TWO SPEEDS
for Jane

1.

THE DEER
leaps
at
us
nearly
striking
the
moving
car
in
the
darkness.

 

SONG

I WORK WITH THE SHAPE
of spirit
moving the matter
in my hands;
I
mold
it from
the inner matrix.
Even a crow or fox
understands.


Accident & Eternity
MARY MACKEY

Copyright © 2000 Poetry Flash
http://www.poetryflash.org/archive.285.Macky.html

In the Preface to Rain Mirror [one of three books he published in 1999], McClure calls Rain Mirror "my most bare and forthright book." This is an understatement. Composed of two long and very different poems, "Haiku Edge" and "Crisis Blossom," the collection traces the impact of two extremely traumatic events in McClure's life: a near-fatal plane crash and a nervous collapse that put him into the hospital.

As its title suggests, "Haiku Edge" is a series of interlinked haikus which McClure often performs to a piano accompaniment by Ray Manzarek in order "to float the poems, like parchment or silk supporting sumi ink." McClure credits poet and retired Zen Buddhist abbot Philip Whalen for showing him how haiku should be written in English; and with Whalen's advice in mind he has abandoned the seventeen syllable rule (which he calls "over-ample" in English), to create fifty-eight stunning, deftly crafted haikus, all of which exist both simultaneously and separately in his mind, in the reader's mind, and in that mystical non-chronological space of the eternal present moment where chance becomes inevitability. McClure puts us on notice in the first haiku of the collection that in these poems accident and eternity will be united.

OH ACCIDENT!
Oh,
per
fect
((CRUSHED))
snail
---LIKE
A
STAR
gone out
!

Also glued together are technology and nature, their unity forming one of his main themes.

THE HERON
flies quickly
o
ver
your head
as you speak
on the
phone

 

Beat Haiku
Jack Foley

https://terebess.hu/english/haiku/foley.html

Although McClure usually renders these links between things with a painterly verbal precision, he can be playful in the haikus, even funny. In one, he toys with questions of scale and point of view in ways that are both comic and profound.

THE FOX TURD
is a cliff
a
n
d
the
butterfly
is
a
condor

A description of McClure's own haiku--like much of his work centered on the page, not limited to three lines, simultaneously playful and experimental--would require a paper as long as this one. Here are two examples, both from his book, Plum Stones: Cartoons of No Heaven:

THE HUMMINGBIRD
HOVERS
before
the chunky cat's
eyes

then
!GONE!

And this for the late Philip Whalen:


In the lion's eye
THE BLACK CUSHION
is
compassion.