2.  Less is More main workshop page 2.  Less is More


Greece is full of feral cats. They're smaller than American alley cats, and unless they hang around a restaurant, thinner and more agile. They dart from shadow to shadow, here then not here. Last summer in Athens, I saw a cat near the Acropolis and this came to me:

as if
it could slip through walls—
Greek cat

True, it's not a stellar haiku. It has one image, uses syntactical inversion to disguise that there's no cut, and the two-syllable first and last lines may mean that it wants to be a cinquain.

Still, it stuck with me and later when I found this picture my son Alex had taken of his cousin's cat in Greece, I thought about putting them together. There's not much shift between the image and the poem, though they work as haiga, at least on a simple level. Is this because we're so used to seeing captional haiku in haiga that we've become inured?


Thinking long and hard about this question, I decided to push on beyond my original idea by writing to the image in different linking modes and comparing the results, much as we'd done in HAI+GA Part I.

First, the "iterative" mode (references: Kacian). Captioning or illustrating is often regarded as wrong. A haiku with nothing in it that is not also in the image would be this one, which has kigo, cut and even a 5/7/5 line count (!):

long summer shadows—
a tabby kitten peeks out
of the potted plants

Captioning, however, is hard to do well, especially in photo haiga. Mine has little lift as a haiku, and no interest when set to an image that says the same thing more vividly.

My original text, "as if" may be too close to the image for depth or nuance; but it and the photo are not truly iterative. It employs a simile that opens us to the possibility that this small gray wraith may be able to pass through solid objects such as walls and flowerpots. Introducing sensory or mood-deepening imagery not in the photo, it moves into what Ray Rasmussen has called "mirroring" mode (references: HAI+GA Part 1). Another mirroring haiku might be

summer heat—
the tabby kitten
pregnant again

Now, for renku style scent linking: As it is commonly explained for haiga, the image and the poem would each on the surface be about different subjects, but juxtaposed they would speak and open to each other in a more glancing or tangential fashion. All well and good, isn't this a little like throwing mud at a wall and watching to see what sticks? Here renku theory is helpful. Last year on The Renku Group, Moi Richards conducted an exercise in which participants tried to write In renku in the various scent linking modes: historical or literary reference, person, place, season, time of day, climate, timelessness, compassion, empathy or nostalgia (http://renkugroup.proboards.com; references: Jonsson; Kondo and Higginson).

I tried a similar exercise with haiga, writing to Alex's photo. Some of my efforts worked well; others didn't. What I've included here is a selection: my original "as if" haiga as an example of mirroring, and three using person, place and empathy (I think) from the categories of scent linking. See how the relationship between the image and the text changes when the poem is no longer about the cat.

Click on the
thumbnail to begin