Saturday, 7 June 2014

In The Cherry Blossom's Shade, There's No Such Thing As A Stranger....From The Zen Art Of Haiku To The Beat Counterculture, Influences On Psychedelic Rock & Poetics-Jim Morrison

In The Cherry Blossom's Shade,
There's No Such Thing
As A Stranger

                  - Issa

Im troubled immeasurably by your eyes
Struck by the feather of your soft reply
The sound of glass speaks quick disdain
And conceals what your eyes fight to explain.
                                           -Jim Morrison


A form of Japanese short poetry, known as Hokku, was later renamed Haiku by the 19 th century stalwart Zen poet Masaoka Shiki. Traditionally Haiku consists of 17 syllables known as on or morae usually divided into three phrases of 5, 7 and 5 written in a vertical single line in Japanese whereas when translated in English it is written in three parallel lines to facilitate its division into the three subsequent phrases.
Haiku is known for a Kireji or its cutting word which acts as a medium to conjoin the two juxtaposed imageries. The word acts as the connective link differentiating between the two distinct impressions. Generally choosing the beauty of nature as a subject to project its simple naturalness juxtaposed with imageries of daily life brings forth a poignant experience or a moment of awakening.

A Haiku also consists of kigo or seasonal references, metaphors and allusions usually derived from saijiki an account of extensively researched array of such referential words.

In summation, a Zen Haiku as i call it, reflects a moment of naturalness or an Epiphany depicted through simple lines.

Following is the world's most well known haiku
Basho's Old Pond

Old Pond
A frog leaps in
Water's sound.

The four stalwarts of Zen poetry and Haiku as the impressionistic subjective artform.

Another year is gone
A traveler's shade on my head
Straw sandals at my feet- Basho

The greatest Haiku poet of all times, Matsuo Basho is known for his simple lyricism, his journey onto the northern wilderness, reflection of his extensive travels, excellence in the art of linking Haikai verses and his lucid depictions of the surrounding outer world and its impressions in his inner mind. The West's fascination with Haiku and its subjective simplicity projected Basho as an archetypal Zen poet and Haiku as the ideal form of Japanese poetry.

Outliving them
Outliving them all
Ah the cold.....-Issa

Struck by life's experience, poverty and hard times made Kobiyashi Issa, the Buddhist priest of Jodu Sinshu or Pure Land Buddhism (also known as Shin Buddhism) the most humane Zen Poet with his Haikus reflecting irony juxtaposed with time and nature.

This dewdrop world
Is a dewdrop world
And yet and yet...

Trusting the Buddha (Amida), good and bad
I bid farewell
To the departing year- Issa
Idolizing Matsuo Basho came Yosa Buson the third stalwart painter poet of the Edo period . Learning the art of poesy under the tutelage of the Haikai master Hayano Haijin, Buson travelled and wrote extensively. Inspired by Basho's travelogue Oku no Hisomichi or The Narrow Road To The Interior, Buson travelled to Northern Honshu and resumed poetry

In nooks and corners
Cold remains
Flowers of the plum-Buson

In the 19 th century, Masaoka Shiki embarked the reformation of the traditional Haiku and its waning popularity in the modern Meiji period. As a literary critic, Shiki helped in cutting a niche for Haiku in the literary circa considering it as a pivotal form of Japanese heritage and literature. His high regards for Haiku helped in its revival in the modern period with much ardent love and interest along with few cultural reforms in accordance with the changing times. As the influence of Western literature, inspired Shiki to incorporate realism in his Haiku's deviating from the traditional parameters of Haiku writing.

Following the Mahayana path, Zen Buddhism arrived in Japan via China spreading eastwards to Korea and southwards to Vietnam. Initiated by Boddhidharma of India it spread as Chan in China during the 6 th century. Hence, Zen Buddhism carried influences of Chinese Taoism and Confucianism. Emphasising Dhyana or Zazen (Meditative state) and discourses with a zen master as the methods of self-attainment, understanding the principle of 'suchness'-observing reality as it is, 'sunyata' -nothingness, along with the Boddhisattva ideals of insight and 'karuna' compassion.

Practiced at three different schools of Soto, Rinzai and Obaku, the doctrine of Zen preaches the prime ideal of self realisation, introspection, and a direct subjective experience of enlightenment or Sartori, de-mystifying the ardent chanting of sutras and ritual texts.

Japanese Zen became the most popular counterculture conversion during the beat generation in 1950s with post war American youths leading the zen way of life. Zen attracted its many followers due to its minimalistic nature, lack of stringent religious dogmas, along with a lot of importance to liberty, free-mind-space and the importance of subjective self realisation helping in alternate creative exploration of the time.

"One day i will find the right words, and they will be simple......"

Post world war II began a journey...a journey of American youth of the coming new generation renamed as the beat generation. Coined by Jack Kerouac in 1948 during his conversations with John Clellon Holmes, the term 'beat' meant beaten down by society on one hand along with beatific vision and beatitude of music on the other.The movement started as a opposition to authority, social conformity expressing liberty as its ideal along with freedom of speech, literature, poetry. With Buddhism at its helm, zen art and Haiku poetry became important sources of inspiration. As Kerouac writes

"I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and i could do anything i wanted........"


In the mid 1950s, the beats conjoined to form the avant garde alternate poetic movement in San Francisco owing to the growing alternate literary scene. Founded by Kenneth Rexroth, a second generation modernist and literary critic highly inspired by Japanese Haiku, along with the beats formed the nucleus of the West Coast wing of the movement. The infamous Six gallery reading of Ginsberg's Howl and other performances by the likes of Gary Synder, Philip Whalen, Michael McClure and was also fictionalized in the second chapter of Kerouac's The Dharma Bums.


The beatniks meant living life on your own terms and the people who envisaged this dream envisioned life beyond cross cultural barriers, beyond societal norms, beyond familiar ties, beyond an ordinary life.....The Ones embodying this spirit included Jack kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William. S. Burroughs, Michael McClure, Neal Cassidy and Gary Synder. The beatnik life style along with the most influential and inspiring Beat Literature includes Jack Kerouac's On The Road, The Subterraneans, The Visions of Cody, Big Sur, Sartori in Paris, The Dharma Bums, etc.. Allen Ginsberg's Howl, Kaddish and other poems.


Apart from the Beatles, early Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan . The beat culture extensively influenced The Doors music as well . Jim's favourite being Kerouac's writings made him exclusively read, contemplate and write his own poetic compositions.


A barn
A cabin attic
Your own face mirrored in
The stationary window

White wings of rabbits
Grey velvet deer
The Canyon
The car, a craft wretched in

Sudden movements
& your past to warm you
In the Spiritless night

The lonely HWY
Cold hiker
Afraid of the wolves and his own shadow.

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