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Frogpond 44.1 • 2021

Museum of Haiku
Literature Award

Haiku & Senryu

Essay 1 - "Ekphrastic Haiku"

Essay 2 - "Basho on War"




Book Reviews

From the Editor

Haiku Society of America


Ekphrastic Haiku

by Charles Trumbull

"Ekphrastic Haiku" from A Field Guide to North American Haiku
(complete PDF version)

Here is a sample excerpt from the opening page of this essay:

This chapter of A Field Guide began with the working title “Allusion in Haiku” and was intended to be an analysis of haiku that I had tagged in my Haiku Database “Poetics: allusion: art.” That is to say, rather than a topic such as the traditional “Animals” or “Landscape,” these haiku have in common that they all refer in one way or another to a work of graphic or plastic art, to an artist, or to a style or technique. Strictly speaking, this is not “allusion” (“an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference,” according to the Google Dictionary) because by and large, the poets included here do explicitly mention a work of art.

Allusion is an essential element of haiku, both Japanese and Western. It is a basic means by which a poet can enhance the meaning of a poem. The most common varieties of allusion in haiku are, of course, kigo (seasonal words), a sine qua non of classical haiku, and utamakura,

using the name of a place or thing that possesses an aura of significance, presumed to be understood by a reader. The old masters used utamakura frequently to magnify the meaning of their haiku, as did Basho here:

Nara’s Buddhas,
one by one —
essence of asters.

Japanese readers would immediately conjure up the image of the huge bronze Daibutsu whose nostril was said to be a path to enlightenment.

The key caveat in using allusion in poetry, especially haiku, is that it only works if it conjures up a specific image in the mind of the beholder. Most metaphors and similes are not allusions because they make general, not specific, references.

[essay continues for several more pages] . . .

. . .

Trumbull, Charles. "Ekphrastic Haiku." Frogpond 44.1, Winter 2021, 101-130.

This excerpt inclues the first page of the essay: page 101. The complete essay includes pages 101-130. To read the complete essay, click on the link to the PDF version:

"Ekphrastic Haiku" from A Field Guide to North American Haiku
(complete PDF version)