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2011 Haiku Year-in-Review

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Collaborators’ Q&A, Season by Season

Winter: Earthquake/Tsunami in Japan

Once you saw the art for your season, did it cause you to see your haiku in a different light?
Poet Peter Kline: I was moved by the dramatic simplicity of Kara Searcy’s design, which emphasized the individual human cost of the Japanese tsunami while also insisting on the impersonality of the destructive forces. I was surprised at how closely her vision of the tragedy matched the vision of my poem—both of our works simultaneously mythologize the wave and put it on a human scale.

Once you saw the haiku for your season, did it cause you to see your art in a different light?
Artist Kara Searcy: I was surprised that the haiku brought attention to the largest and smallest things in the drawing, the wave and the sun, and then brought them intimately close with an action. It definitely brought my eye to the upper right hand corner, and when I initially drew this piece my attention was focused on the wave and the person standing in the middle.

How do you think the four art/haiku combinations create a conversation about 2011?
Poet Peter Kline: How much control does humanity have over its destiny? What is the best response to overwhelming forces beyond human control? Is it better to protest, or to provisionally submit? Are we more likely to be saved by abandoning technology, or by developing technology that’s even more advanced? Making art is one way to address these questions—the art and haiku assembled here are instances of individual personal expression, but they are also collaborative, and not just in the ways they work together to create a vision of 2011. Like all works of art, they only achieve their fullest expression when they enter the mind and heart of another person.
Artist Kara Searcy: I think the thing I appreciate most about these art/haiku pieces is that they cover a large scope of the physical globe as well as covering a large scope of mediums for art. The two forms of expression (writing & art) parallel reality really effectively this year.

Why did this event inspire you?
Poet Peter Kline: Like many people, I followed the story of the Japanese tsunami very closely last year. I can think of few other natural disasters that were so effectively captured on video—panoramic helicopter footage of the awful black wave of sludge simply erasing everything in its path will stay with me for the rest of my life. That this tragedy should have been followed by the deadly and inexorable irradiation of the land made the events even more moving.
Artist Kara Searcy: The earthquake/tsunami in Japan inspired me because I studied Japanese in college—the culture and language are unlike any beauty I’ve experienced in the United States, and I wanted to capture that uniqueness in a drawing.

Spring: The French law banning the burqa and niqab comes into effect

Once you saw the art for your season, did it cause you to see your haiku in a different light?
Poet Steve Brightman: It did. It really honed the idea of the aggression of the burqa ban in a way that could have been misinterpreted by someone coming to the haiku without a context, visual or otherwise. Made the haiku more pointed than I originally thought it.

Once you saw the haiku for your season, did it cause you to see your art in a different light?
Artist Caleb Brown: I love the simplicity of the poem, and its bossiness. And I think seeing the haiku next to the art reinforced the simultaneity I wanted to talk about. The either/or structure of the poem was a good complement to the picture—which can be “right-side up” for only one of the women at a time. Unless the image is viewed sideways.

A blurry “bothness” (woman and Muslim) is also possible if a viewer were to switch the orientation of the illustration very quickly. The same is true in our three-dmensional multicultural life, where we locate liberation in symbols of clothing. Really, it’s the same woman, the same playing card all the time, just as a real woman can look different (IS different too?) at different moments, depending on what she wears. Time provides the context in which we form our reaction. The woman is hidden, or the woman is free.

How do you think the four art/haiku combinations create a conversation about 2011?
Poet Steve Brightman: Poignantly. All of the haiku finalists and the art—especially in tandem—really force you, as a human, to revisit the significance of the year. All of these things can really numb you when framed by the 24 hour news cycle. It’s a barrage. Making it to the next catastrophe always seems like an accomplishment and it’s easy to push all that pain further and further down. These pairings force you to look at these events outside of that barrage, for what they are.
Artist Caleb Brown: The four pieces together showed me an international flavor of human drama, disaster and power. I liked that there was no center—or the whole planet was in the center, in the crosshairs—and I appreciated the way the focus migrated up from individual freedoms to indifferent, crushing, burning, deadly natural forces.

In terms of conversation I feel like it’s a coherent flow back and forth, between each artist and haiku author, and among the group, round in a circle.

Why did this event inspire you?
Poet Steve Brightman: Treating people the way you want to be treated is a simple conceit that gets too frequently lost. Jingoism and fear outweigh restraint and common sense.
Artist Caleb Brown: There’s something absurd and random about banning clothing, especially clothing that has such strong and fluctuating connotations and functions. For me, it was a bit like that Magritte painting of the pipe entitled “This is not a Pipe”, or regulations outlawing “ragged” pants or beards in major league baseball, or what school uniforms are meant to achieve. As Magritte said about his painting, there is no emotional satisfaction because the seeming contradiction in the artwork is actually a true statement. It isn’t a pipe. But it IS a pipe. Saying the painting of the pipe isn’t a pipe is correct. Or it’s wrong. But not worth arguing about? Whatever pole one embraces, everyone has at least a shred of a good point. To me, canonizing one view of reality to enforce seems silly, dangerous even, especially when populations and preferences are changing and are always fluid anyway, particularly over the long haul. So I enjoyed some of the theatrics with the long-threatened French legislation, but was cowed by the rage on both sides.

It also felt right to use as a foundation the playing cards that became commonplace all across Europe, and to highlight a pair of royals. Here’s two Queens of Hearts (who else?) in conflict, possibly jealous, forced to reflect each other. (playing card info)

Summer: Texas wildfires

Once you saw the art for your season, did it cause you to see your haiku in a different light?
Poet Peter Kline: Jennifer Moses’ artwork, with its lush colors and abstract, smoky clouds and swirls, emphasized to me both the beauty of fire and its power to destroy and obscure. As with my poem, the artist’s gaze was fixed solely on the burning itself rather than on its context or consequences.

Once you saw the haiku for your season, did it cause you to see your art in a different light?
Artist Jennifer Moses: The haikus really reminded me of all the sensations of the wildfires. I was in Texas and New Mexico as the fires raged. They were quite biblical like in the first Haiku especially the aftermath of destruction as far as the eye could see and how they left a map of their destruction, one could see how the fire jumped and changed course creating a blackened pattern. The third Haiku:

Ice cream van crackles
It’s a Small World past my house;
the horizon burns

was the one that I related to most. It encapsulated the experience of living with the backdrop of fire. The light, smell, weather completely changes but the day to day things continue. I would have liked my piece to embody that aspect of the fires more but I would not have known that unless I had read the haikus first.

How do you think the four art/haiku combinations create a conversation about 2011?
Poet Peter Kline: Each season of the Haiku Year-in-Review seemed characterized by an interplay between human and inhuman forces. The natural disaster of the tsunami led to the man-made nuclear disaster in Japan. When France banned the burqa, the enlightened human capacity for lawmaking was used to enforce a primal fear of the unfamiliar. The Occupy protests insisted on the needs of individual people faced with rapacious and impersonal global systems. And even the Texas wildfires, perhaps the least human-oriented of the four (despite their real toll on life and property), were inflected by our ideas of man-made climate change, with its magnifying effect on destructive natural forces.
Artist Jennifer Moses: When I saw the combinations as a whole I began to wonder if they were an indication that catastrophe motivates change. Seeing all of the images and words together created a different thread of all the various events of 2011.

Why did this event inspire you?
Poet Peter Kline: Perhaps because of their lack of a single, culminating event, the Texas wildfires served as a disheartening backdrop for my summer, but never captured my full attention the way the Japanese tsunami did. My approach to the haiku was therefore more abstract and metaphorical, appropriating the Christian idea of the Pentecost for ecological purposes.
Artist Jennifer Moses: Before this summer I had only experienced fire through the news. Being in closer proximity really changed my perspective. I was mostly spellbound by the change in light, smell, and temperature that occurs even when the fires were relatively far away. I also witnessed the destruction and it was awe inspiring and so sad.

Fall: Occupy Wall Street movement

Once you saw the art for your season, did it cause you to see your haiku in a different light?
Poet Jen Jabaily-Blackburn: I wonder if my poem sounds more plaintive next to the artwork, and that wasn’t necessarily my intention. I was born right on the cusp between Generation X and the Millenials, and I think I inherited a Gen X sense of humor, and that’s what I hoped to get into the poem—that is to say, we’ve been handed a future that doesn’t come close to matching the photo of the future we were promised, but we’re not above cracking wise about it. I wonder if the people depicted in Morrow’s work are as cynical as all that—it doesn’t seem so. They look almost shockingly earnest, young, and exhausted.

Once you saw the haiku for your season, did it cause you to see your art in a different light?
Artist Kevin Morrow: Yes. It definitely caused me to re-evaluate the image, but more importantly it sent me back to Zucotti Park—(figuratively speaking) and made me look at the whole situation in a different light. It did not change my position on the subject which was and is completely neutral. However it made me look at the occupy movement more in a historical context rather than just a here and now event.

How do you think the four art/haiku combinations create a conversation about 2011?
Poet Jen Jabaily-Blackburn: Taken all together, 2011 looks like a year of major upheaval—political, religious, natural—but I’m not sure it’s so easy to find a year that’s not like that. A lot of what happened over the past year was difficult to comprehend, whether because of the scale of the event or the failure to translate across cultural or economic lines.
Artist Kevin Morrow: Like all events of news and culture our perspectives are our own. The addition of art and describing an event or events in poetry deepens this interpretation, and allows to think more with a more total consciousness than attempting to think with facts which are always blurred and biased, therefore making them truths not facts.

Why did this event inspire you?
Poet Jen Jabaily-Blackburn: My generation’s in a weird place. We don’t know what we want because we’ve basically been told that what we wanted isn’t possible anymore. We grew up thinking we were special—all of us with an unlimited supply of unique, exploitable talents, like team members in a heist movie. I don’t think we realized we were going to be the bank getting robbed, too.
Artist Kevin Morrow: Honestly, the occupy movement inspired me simply because it was in my backyard and happening. Like I stated before I was and am still neutral about the whole situation, but you cannot avoid the protest at your front door. And you cannot turn away from the opportunity to document history.

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