View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Chesterton and haiku

I don't know if G. K. Chesterton knew about haiku. Although haiku did not become well-known in the West until mid century, the west was beginning to learn about haiku in the first decades of the 20th century. Chesterton was an omnivorous reader, so it wouldn't surprise me if he knew something about it.

Perhaps a Chesterton scholar can provide an answer?

If he did know about haiku, I don't know if he ever tried writing one.

Again, any information Chesterton scholars?

Whatever the case, I suspect that Chesterton would have understood what haiku poetry is all about.

In haiku, the poet considers commonplace objects and experiences - a frog, a crow, snow, rain, a bowl of rice, peeing, whatever - and through that object or experience glimpses something deeper. For many haiku poets, that "something deeper" is spiritual in nature.

Chesterton certainly celebrated the commonplace - the objects in his pockets, cigars, beer, cheese, babies, a sprained foot - and used them not only as fodder for verse and essays, but as ways to glimpse the spiritual.

Chesterton, like the haiku poet, views the world with a sense of wonder.

He once wrote, "The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder."

Another part of haiku is a sense of humor about human nature. More properly, a haiku with a twist of humor is called a senryu.

Whatever you call it, the poet uses his poem to point to some element of human foolishness - pride, greed, jealousy, etc. - often with a dash of cynicism.

Chesterton is anything but cynical. But he certainly poked fun at his and others' foibles, and cherished a good chuckle.

"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly," he said.

And typical of Chesterton - and haiku poets - he sees a deeper meaning to laughter.

"I am in favor of laughter, it makes men forget themselves in the presence of something greater than themselves, something they can't resist."

So while he not have written haiku himself, it seems approriate for us to write haiku in his honor.

Maybe about cheese.

After all, as he noted, "Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese."


Blogger Athanasius contra mundo said...

G K was great
Apostle of Common Sense
Anglican convert

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