17 August 2006

Parataxis history

Concerning Jessica Smith’s assertion that In a Station at the Metro is "not ‘actually’ a haiku," the essential component of a haiku is not syllable constraints but the juxtaposition, and Pound in this poem brought parataxis to Western Literature from Japan where it had been used for many years.

The word haiku came from the phrase "playful linked verse" and the Japanese consider the 5-7-5 to be a traditional form of what can have unlimited syllabic variants.

Pound called it a "hokku-like sentence" which is "meaningless unless someone has drifted into a certain vein of thought. In a poem of this sort one is trying to record the precise moment when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts into a thing inward and subjective.

"This particular sort of consciousness has not been identified with impressionist art. I think it is worthy of attention."


Jessica Smith said...

i think the scare quotes around "actually" indicate that it was hardly an "assertion." i have no stake in preserving any classic form of anything, you're certainly welcome to call Pound's poem a haiku. Since PK didn't recognize it as a haiku, that's why I said "actually."

I actually have a theory/reading about/of this poem but I'm not going to post it.

But this is quite interesting in terms of quoting from lb. about the poem. Thanks.

Anonymous said...
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shanna said...

ack, ian. turn on your word verification setting. you've been full-frontal spammed!

Ian Keenan said...

ok, turned it on, but I thought for a second that was one of my old profs.

wv: spoidd

david raphael israel said...


I only turned on word-verif. at my blog after being very seriously spammed: meaning, there were many hundreds of bot-generated spam items appended to comments, all within course of a day. (Back when I'd merely have 3 or 4, post-post, I'd hand-delete 'em happily enough.)

Nice to get this re-intro to Pound's fine haiku-not-a-haiku. Which now reminds of a Chinese poem (not a haiku):

O flower not a flower [hua fei hua]
O mist not a mist
at mid of night you appear
at bright of day you vanish
you come like a dream of spring not for an ample while
you go resembling a cloud of morn with no place to be sought

(I forget now who wrote it. A bit off-topic.)

About Pound's
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

-- one may call to mind the presumedly then-pervasive style of wearing dark overcoats, in considering the petals (faces) amid the black bough of the crowd. But what, really, was the metro of Pound's day? Now I'm confused, my sense of public-transportation history suddenly too sketchy to conjure a sure imagination. Was the metro a train station? subway station? theatre? Was this Paris? New York? Ah, 1926 is the date -- really not so remote as I'm implying. 80 years.

Ian Keenan said...

I like that Chinese poem, because as Pound said it’s really a state of mind that’s being pinpointed rather than what the poem actually describes, which is intentionally fuzzy.

Most of the urban lines were completed by 1920, which must have made a strong impression at the time, especially with most of the entrances then designed by Guimard.