Friday, April 24, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Twitter, as you know, is a social networking site. Others prefer to see it as a microblogging gateway. I've seen tweets in which people declare Twitter a haiku outlet practically "made in heaven." Certainly, the maximum of 140 digits, punctuation marks and tabs it allows per update does make it look that way. I myself saw the symbiosis early on, and have "updated" (as a blogger I would say "posted") a number of haikus of my own at my Twitter site, which find at: http://twitter.com/MauriYambo.
Tell me what you think: of the site, haikus (generically, mine, others'), Twitter, my (others') tweets, anything really.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Another useful link, "Haiku of Kobayashi Issa", is here >> http://haikuguy.com/issa/index.html
Haiku has been described/labelled as a "one-breath poem". It is decidedly Japanese in origin, its rich history there going back several centuries, through which it has evolved appreciably. The essence of a haiku, written in Japanese, is that it is a seventeen-syllable poem in a 5-7-5 format. Many a Japanese haiku translated into English frame those 5-7-5 syllables in a three-line sequence. And that is the image that we have, those of us non-Japanese who write haiku. The Japanese haiku was traditionally a one-line affair, but times have changed (and places too).
It is difficult, though, for Japanese translations into English to maintain the 17-syllable mien, as you can discern in the translations that appear in the second link provided above. The English translations almost invariably have fewer syllables; since, experts note, the Japanese language tends toward the monosyllabic, and English toward the polysyllabic. Conversely, then, Japanese translations of English-language originals, and plenty of those are appearing every passing day in all sorts of places and sites (including Twitter), will usually appear to be on the higher side of -- that is, to violate -- the 5-7-5 rule. But as long as they are acknowledged as translations, this should not be a worry. Purists worry, though; and I detect that they would rather release those who dabble in Haiku-in-English from the "tyranny" of the rule, than see any haiku in the Japanese language, translated or "original", committing this hara... this error.
As I see it, however, the delightfulness, and the challenge, of the 5-7-5 format should not be missed or avoided just because a poet cannot communicate in Japanese -- or just because a poet cannot but communicates in English, or another language. There is enough poetic licence to get one through any jam. Let haiku be! Let it be 5-7-5 in any language!
I see that there is a tendency in many poets to write haikus without titles. That is something I personally avoid. Every child has a right to a name, we are told. Every haiku and every poem likewise.
P.S. (Monday, April 27, 2009):
Here is a Haiku in Swahili (with a Tanzanian accent) that I have written since this particular post was originally published last week.
And here below is my English translation
of Poromoko, touched up using my poetic licence:
Found me on the skids.
The world's a marginal place.
I was not ass-u-aged!
[Alternatives to the last line: I was not satisfied
/I made no nothing / Day, be em-pow-ered]
ONE, a sense of guilt and embarrassment about its genesis: Let me share with you this particular conversation about why the West ("We" in what you are about to read) has not, even now, responded with "materiel" robustness to acts, increasing acts, of piracy off the Somali coast. The conversation represents Vers 01 of the explanation of the West's attitude towards the piracy. Click here to read
According to this version, the slide toward piracy all starts with the overthrow of Siad Barre bytwo Hawiye clan leaders, Ali Mahdi and General Mohamed Farah Aidid. The two Warlords had a falling out very soon after Barre's ouster, and this led to a prolonged civil war. To feed themselves, the Aidid troops resorted to "robbing aid trucks carrying food to the starving masses, and re-selling it to continue their war." Ali Mahdi's men, on the other hand, turned to the Indian Ocean, where Somali fishermen had already been complaining, to no avail, of "illegal vessels coming to Somali waters and stealing all the fish."
Coincidentally, as Ali Mahdi turned to the ocean, two European companies, one Swiss and one Italian, were just getting set to cut a sinister deal with any Somali Warlord who would, in the ensuing power vacuum, allow them to dump container-loads of Europe's toxic waste in Somali waters. Ali Mahdi was more than willing, for a miserly fee of $3 per ton (a gross saving to the Europeans of some $997 per ton). The deal went on for years, and complaints, even by UNEP, against the dumping fell on the world's deaf ears. According to a UNEP spokesman, the waste included "Uranium, radioactive waste, lead, Cadmium, Mecury and chemical waste."
It is the Indian-Ocean Rim tsunami of 2004 -- which brought on shore some leaking containers, with severe health repercussions on the Somali coast -- that triggered consequential Somali action against European ships plying the Eastern African coast, which brought rise to the wave of piracy that the world has to contend with nowadays.
"It was months after those initial reports that local fishermen mobilized themselves, along with street militias, to go into the waters and deter the Westerners from having a free pass at completely destroying Somalia’s aquatic life. Now years later, the deterring has become less noble, and the ex-fishermen with their militias have begun to develop a taste for ransom at sea. This form of piracy is now a major contributor to the Somali economy, especially in the very region that private toxic waste companies first began to burry [sic] our nation’s death trap."
Will an active effort to stop the pirates bring uncomfortably back to the surface, and perhaps headlines, the truth about Europe's toxic waste agenda, which even the Somali pirates have lost sight of?
TWO, a certain kind of romantic and folkloric attitude toward piracy: There is Vers 02, which is not totally unrelated to Vers 01: Click here to read. Titled, "Top-Earning Pirates", the business-minded article to which the link leads is written by Matt Woolsey, and published in the online version of Forbes, no less. Here, we read that high seas piracy, initiated by "government-hired pillagers like Hernando Cortes" in 1503, became:
"colonial [America's] version of investment banking. Through good positioning, aggressive go-getters could make millions from global trade and commerce in diverse sectors. They were frequently chased off shore to the Caribbean by angry governments. And in the end, they were sometimes sunk without a trace. "
But, history tells us, these government hirelings themselves becam targets of pirates from other lands, waiting for them in the high seas:
"Those riches couldn't be sent using wire transfers. So when Cortes wanted to send a bounty of Aztec gold to Charles V, he had to load it onto ships and sail it across the sea, where men like Jean Fleury were waiting. In 1523, the French privateer fell upon a Spanish treasure fleet--a score that helped him net $31.5 million in present-value dollars over his career, making him the sixth highest-earning pirate of all time."
If Jean Fleury was the sixth, whi was the "highest-earning pirate"? It was was Samuel "Black Sam" Bellamy, an Englishman. He made a total of some $120 million (present-value) in the 18th century. At $115 million in total "earnings", Sir Francis Drake, an English sailor-pirate, was second. He was knighted by none other than QEI.
"Sir Francis Drake, a 16th century British privateer who saved England from the Spanish Armada and went on to a profitable life of plunder at the behest of Her Majesty's Government. Fellow Englishman Thomas Tew places third with earnings of $102 million. His biggest score came in 1693, when he pilfered a ship full of gold en route to the Ottoman Empire from India."
Sir Francis Drake holds a place of high honour in British history. It has been suggested that his exploits, and Spain's "blind-rage" attempts to punish him and his kind at all cost, and to defeat an England that harboured them and benefited from their loot, led to Spain's own decline as an imperial power. I recently posed this questions in one of my tweets: Is there a 21st century Francis Drake out of Somalia waiting to be "discovered"? In another tweet, I speculated that, at present-prices, the list of Top-Earning pirates is likely to be topped by a Somali.
THREE, indecisiveness in the face of a creeping threat perpetrated by starving "minnows": There is considerable lack of clarity of thought in the world community about how best to respond to a piracy that is portrayed in the media as a major and growing threat to world commerce -- indeed, to globalization. A muted body of opinion suggests that the shipping companies should simply continue to pay the ransom demanded by the pirates. Moreover, since piracy is a criminal act, not a military or terrorist one, the world's leading navies have no reason to intervene. However, another body of opinion holds that NATO is the only force with the infrastructure to deal effectively with the piracy.
But there is also the unresolved issue of how to deal with captured pirates. Much of the West's opinion seems to be that captured pirates should simply be offloaded in Kenya, which should try them in its own courts and incarcerate the guilty; after all, Kenya has been the destination of the cargo in a good number of the captured ships. Kenya appears attractive because America continues to suffer from the "Black Hawk Down" syndrome of the Clinton years, and is hesitant to re-engage in Somalia; and Europe seems to want to remain at arms-length. In my view, trying and jailing captured pirates in Kenya would be just too toxic for our polity, and too destabilizing, overall. Kenya would be, pure and simple, the world's dumping ground. We would not accept that.
Links to a Selection of More Recent Sources:
1. Somali Pirates Hone Their Tactics: Click
2. Piracy Money Piles Up in Kenya: Click