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Allusion used in Haiku

An allusion is a reference to, or representation of, a place, event, literary work, myth, or work of art, either directly or by implication. M.H. Abrams defined allusion as "a brief reference, explicit or indirect, to a person, place or event, or to another literary work or passage". It is left to the reader or hearer to make the connection (Fowler); an overt allusion is a misnomer for what is simply a reference.

An allusion is a literary term, though the word also has come to encompass indirect references to any source, including allusions in film or the visual arts. In literature, allusions used to link concepts that the reader already has knowledge of, with concepts discussed in the story.

In discussing the richly allusive poetry of Virgil's Georgics, R.F. Thomas distinguished six categories of allusive reference, which are applicable to a wider cultural sphere.

These types are

Casual Reference, "the use of language which recalls a specific antecedent, but only in a general sense" that is relatively unimportant to the new context;
Single Reference, in which the hearer or reader is intended to "recall the context of the model and apply that context to the new situation"; such a specific single reference in Virgil, according to Thomas, is a means of "making connections or conveying ideas on a level of intense subtlety";
Self-Reference, where the locus is in the poet's own work;
Corrective Allusion, where the imitation is clearly in opposition to the original source's intentions;
Apparent Reference ""which seems clearly to recall a specific model but which on closer inspection frustrates that intention" and
Multiple Reference or Conflation, which refers in various ways simultaneously to several sources, fusing and transforming the cultural traditions.

Allusion differs from the similar term intertextuality in that it is an intentional effort on the author's part. The success of an allusion depends in part on at least some of its audience "getting" it. Allusions may be made increasingly obscure, until at last they are understood by the author alone, who thereby retreats into a private language.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !


Modes of allusion
Earl Miner

The modes include the following:

metaphoric allusion in which an echo of the previous work imports the tenor of the previous work to the new context;

imitative allusion in which a quotation of the exact language or representation of generic characteristics of the previous work creates an equivalence between the previous context of utterance and the new context;

parodic allusion in which a quotation of the language or representation of generic characteristics of the previous work suggests a discrepancy between the previous context of utterance and the new context; and

structural allusion in which repetition of structural elements (e.g., recognition and reversal) of a previous work gives form to the new work by analogy to the previous work. ("Allusion")
source : www.semo.edu



Cor van den Heuvel

“The writing of variations on certain subjects in haiku, sometimes using the same or similar phrases (or even changing a few words of a previous haiku), is one of the most interesting challenges the genre offers a poet and can result in refreshingly different ways of ‘seeing anew’ for the reader.
This is an aspect of traditional Japanese haiku which is hard for many Westerners, with their ideas of uniqueness and Romantic individualism, to accept. But some of the most original voices in haiku do not hesitate to dare seeming derivative if they see a way of reworking an “old” image.”

quote from
Make Haibun New through Chinese Poetic Past:
Basho’s Transformation of Haikai Prose
by Chen-ou Liu
Simply Haiku July 2010


In haiku, allusion could be seen as

cultural keywords, a kind of haiku topics.
The various regional saijiki of the WKD provide many samples of "cultural keywords".

"Poetry Pillow words" utamakura 歌枕

. Utamakura in Japanese poetry and haiku

. Placenames used in Haiku / a LIST
Japanese and worldwide


Allusion, Poetry about Poetry

The emphasis on the "haiku moment" in North American haiku has meant that most of the poetry does not have another major characteristic of Japanese haikai and haiku: its allusive charcter, the ability of the poem to speak to other literary or poetic texts. I believe that it was Shelley who said that poetry is ultimately about poetry. Great poets are constantly in dialogue with each other. This was particularly true of haikai, which began as a parodic form, by twisting the associations and conventions of classical literature and poetry.

One of Basho's innovations was that he went beyond parody and used literary and historical allusions as a means of elevating haikai, which had hitherto been considered a low form of amusement. Many of Basho and Buson's haikai in fact depend for their depth on reference or allusion to earlier poetry, from either the Japanese tradition or the Chinese tradition.

. Beyond the Haiku Moment : Haruo Shirane


Allusion in Haiku
Art Durkee

Allusions are references to literary works, to art, to cultural, historical, and political events. They can be explicit or indirect, evocative or direct. They are connections to a shared pool of cultural imagery and conception, and the reader is expected to understand the reference. Allusion in poetry is expected to deepen the meaning of a poem, for example by connecting a contemporary scene to one from ancient Greek mythology.

. Read more here


A Sampling of Cultural Haiku
First published in Hermitage 3:1–2, 2006 (Romania), pages 79–83.

Haiku in English—or at least in North America—is sometimes criticized for lacking the geographical, cultural, literary, or personal references that frequently enrich haiku in Japanese. However, a sampling of just one issue of a recent journal, the June 2004 issue of The Heron’s Nest (VI:5), calls this criticism into question. Indeed, the following sample poems all provide allusions and references that make for a richer reader experience.


Haiku Allusion - (1) On the Theme of Death
Susumu Takiguchi

after your death
a good epitaph, only for others
and autumn wind

[William Shakespeare, 1564-1616, Hamlet, II, ii, 553]

autumn ending . . .
I’d rather die once, and let others
in life die many times

[William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, I, i, 134]

winter night . . .
even the fair of unparallel’d beauty
in death’s possession

[William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, II, ii, 199]

source : simplyhaiku.com, Autumn 2005


Honka-dori is an action to write a new poem but alluding to a honka (original poem).
Unison (shoowa 唱和)
Déjà-ku ... coincidence
. 'honka-dori, honkadori ほんかどり【本歌取り】  


With allusion and with honkadori,
if the reader does not know the original you are referring to, he will think all the lines of a haiku are original from the poet.

So if you write a haiku with an allusion, better give a footnote with the quote you are referring to.
I tend to call this "Haiku in Context".

Japanese haiku poets were lucky to write in a rather closed society during the Edo period, educated poeple knew what they knew and could compose haiku with allusions to the Chinse classics and old waka without a problem. A translation for a European or American audience is usually not enough, it needs more information of the Japanese background.
Therefore when translating from Japanese, I can not expect the European reader to know all the cultural implications, so I give more background information and present the translation as a "Haiku in Context".

Haiku should be a "stand alone",
but only if the proper context is know to all readers.

This is hard to accomplish in a worldwide online haiku scene.
Therefore I propagate

Haiku in Context

also for haiku magazines and publications.


another thought

The poet uses an allusion/a rather not well known kigo

Now we can imagine three situations with readers of various kinds of understanding, educational background etc.

the reader does not get the allusion/kigo -
reading the haiku at face value

the reader gets the allusion/kigo -
reading at the same cultural level

the reader gets a different allusion -
reading at a different level, getting a different image than the poet intended (and in worst-case cenario: writes a comment about the haiku as he understood it ...)


***** Haiku Theory Archives




1 comment:

Rita Odeh said...

Lot's Wife-
standing in her
own shadow

Rita Odeh