NEAL and ELAINE WHITMAN, US
PUTTING THE "GA" AFTER THE "HAI"

Many of us who write haiku then discover haiga: "Oh, I see. Just as haiku is a juxtaposition of two things that are alike, but not alike, haiga combines the written word with a visual image that do not repeat, but together create a new experience." I like to think of what is read and what is seen in haiga as a marriage of two people. Some couples call themselves "soul mates." They share an intimacy based on shared values and beliefs, as well as mutual attraction. They are not twins (I hope not for the sake of genetic hygiene), but complement each other's strengths.

Late in his career, the great haiku master, Basho, practiced haiga, but perhaps his disciple, Buson, could be recognized as the godfather of haiga because he was first a painter and then a poet. His work and that of other Japanese artists who worked in the haiga tradition inspire the creative spark today. As I look at contemporary work, I get a sense that haiga newbie who has been writing haiku begins with a visual image and captions it with a poem. I admit that is what I have been doing. But, wait a sec! Look at the word, haiga. The "ga" means painting. It follows the "hai." "So," I asked myself, "why not begin with the haiku and then combine it with its visual mate?"

And, that is what I have done here. With my wife, Elaine, on September 21, 2009, I walked through the Farmers Market hosted by my small town of Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula along California's Central Coast. I went with my little haiku notebook, jotting down sights, sounds, smells. I picked up and touched fruit and vegetables. I took in the experience and invited myself to have an emotional experience of the autumn season. And, here is what I wrote when I returned home and sat in my poetry room.

appleful for home
swinging a tote in each hand
Fall Farmers Market

Though we had walked to and from the Farmers Market, if I had driven up and down Forest Avenue that afternoon, you would have sighted my little white hatchback with the personalized auto plate, PG POET, in a customized frame inscribed, "Poetic License." So, as you can see, I took poetic license and made up the word "appleful" to help convey the concrete experience that I hoped would create in the reader an emotional connection. It was then, and only then, that I turned to a visual image to mate my haiku. Here I turned to Elaine for help. She is my visual collaborator. She is an excellent photographer and together we looked for a picture that would vibrate with the written word.

Together we composed a still life on our dining room table, using apples from the Farmers Market. We were inspired by the 190th anniversary, two days earlier, of the walk taken by John Keats in Winchester, England, that led to his writing "To Autumn." When Keats sat down to write his ode on September 19, 1819, he performed a ritual that always prepared him to write: he bathed, dressed in his best clothes, and put out a tray of sliced apple with a glass of good red wine. Elaine and I had an image of a tabletop ready for anyone about to settle into a personal activity at home. Here is her photograph.

We hope with this haiga that a miracle happens. Here on Haigaonline, you were not there in the Farmers Market. But, might it be that the haiku and photograph put you into the experience and gave you your own feeling about coming home from marketing? We also hope that this essay encourages haiga-makers to begin with the written word and then look for a visual image. If you had been routinely finding a picture and captioning it with a haiku, perhaps we inspired you to break that pattern and put the "ga" after the "hai."

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Before retiring to Pacific Grove, CA, Neal and Elaine taught in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine. They continue to be professionally active with a consulting service for medical educators and administrators, while also following creative pursuits. Neal's interest in how the literary, visual, and performing arts can contribute to our understanding of how to teach patients, students, residents, and medical colleagues has led him to haiku and haiga. He is a member of the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, Haiku Poets of Northern California and the Haiku Society of America. His haiku publication credits include Blogging along Tobacco Road, Geppo, Ink Sweat & Tears and Simply Haiku. In addition to photography, Elaine plays Native American flute. Sometimes she accompanies Neal in his poetry recitations.

The haiku "appleful for home" was originally published in an online journal, Getting Something Read, to which Neal is a regular contributor.