And now for something completely different. Someone shared this image on Twitter last night, and for some reason I was transfixed and saved it to my hard drive. It turns out to be the central panel from a 15th-century triptych by Hans Memling, Christ with Singing and Music-Making Angels. (Click through and check out all the cool Renaissance instruments!)
Sure, this is a photoblog, but my recent dabbling in haiga makes me want to branch out a little. This morning I opened the image on my laptop in GIMP (which has lots of fonts but a pretty awkward text-editing tool), tilted my head back, and gazed up at the corner of the ceiling. Good thing I’m not big on housecleaning.
Purple stripes on property-line trees in Pennsylvania mean “private property – keep out.” An earlier version of this haiga shared on Instagram had the line “stripes on the trees,” but I thought it really doesn’t need the definitive article.
In making haiga, as in videopoetry, there’s a struggle to avoid merely illustrative images and create a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Here’s one attempt to do that with a photo and haiku that arrived nearly simultaneously. Too clever? Possibly, but haiku is supposed to be light. Obviously there’s a great deal of disagreement on what lightness means, but all the masters wrote funny haiku at one time or another. And of course science has shown that neighboring trees do in fact communicate, so while cartoonish it’s not completely outlandish.
As with yesterday’s post, the image and words arrived in quick succession, but this time without any punniness. This is an example of the kind of haiku I really aspire to write: open rather than closed down with over-cleverness. (That said, when a clever haiku occurs to me I’m not going to not share it. Life is too short to take oneself so seriously, and I refuse to completely turn my back on the origins of the haikai spirit in parlor games. The more Zen approach that Basho encouraged is not incompatible with the spirit of play.)
I notice that this is the third haiga in a row where the haiku pivots on a pun (here, junco/junk). This is a departure for me though in placing the text in the dead center, foregrounding it primarily to knit together an otherwise not terribly impressive image. But is the match of text to image too literal?
This came out of a haiku-gathering walk yesterday in which I was seeing photos and hearing words almost simultaneously, deep in the participatory magic of original making. So I’m putting my misgivings about literalism aside and trusting in the process.
I should add that I don’t know for sure that these junco feathers are the result of gray fox predation—it could’ve been a red fox, coyote, barred owl, etc. I have seen small fox tracks in the vicinity and our neighbor’s game camera recently captured a gray fox so we know at least one is around. So I think this is easily covered by poetic license.
With the change in the calendar comes a major change in photohaiku presentation here. After years of resisting the urge to make haiga (or postal poems, as a short-lived journal I used to edit called photos incorporating text), I’ve finally given in, prompted by the discovery that the Snapseed app, which I’ve had on my phone for years, makes it really easy. (In my defense, the text option is hidden near the bottom of the tools menu.) I’ve long been bothered by the unimaginative text-image pairings and poor font choices in a lot of online photo haiga, so this is my chance to try and do a little better (while still failing frequently, I’m sure).
I’ll still split the text between title and post, for accessibility’s sake and to maintain consistency with the archive. I may still post photos without text in them. And I’ll continue to cross-post to Instagram (@neotoma_magister) and auto-post to Twitter (@morningporch), so you can follow me there as well if you’re a masochist.