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Introduction to Postku: Atomistic and Contrapuntal Poetry

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  • Introduction to Postku: Atomistic and Contrapuntal Poetry

    What is postku? At the moment it is more potential energy than anything we can put our finger on. In its submission guidelines, the journal Bones posts the question "what is haiku in the 21st century and what can it become if it's not to fall in with the carpet and be a neat little thing you do with your left hand and read on get-well-cards? ... if it's not to repeat the already repeated stuff." They ask for "Contemporary haiku written from, within, for the 21st century and based in/sprung from the haijin's cultural, linguistic and historic reality. Haiku that takes the language seriously enough to be willing to blow it apart from the inside in order to show/discover/reveal new meanings and echoes."

    This is perhaps as good a starting place as any for tracing the contours of what potential trajectories postku may follow. Postku is a vector with indeterminate value and direction, to be fulfilled by this and future generations of poets. This section is dedicated to taking the essential DNA of the haiku lineage and extrapolating into the future, finding poetry that is from the haiku, but beyond what we may allow ourselves to truly call "haiku" in any conventional sense. Experimental forms that expand from haiku ideas, micropoetry with a haiku flavor, expansions on the haibun and linked verse, this is a place for poetry that has wandered so deep into the forest that it has become a wild, unrecognizable thing.

    Atomistic is a term first used to describe haiku by Richard Gilbert in Poetry as Consciousness. Atomistic poetry strips away all unessential elements to the rawest form: micro-poetry, poem-words, there is a tendency to break language down to the building blocks and to approach the range limit of brevity:


    Phil Rowland, 2011 ,Haiku in English


    Alexander B. Joy, Bones no 14


    David J. Kelly Bones no 12

    On one level the atomistic haiku is the atoms of words being smashed together, creating a nuclear fusion with tremendous meaning and energy released. Yet when atoms get extremely large, they become unstable, and haiku that grow complex and long with multiple cuts become fissile: wanting to break apart into varying poems within poems, exhibiting a type of atomism in their own way through unstable elements that always threaten to break apart :

    a teenage magician
    yellow-tomboyish became

    Yu Koyanagi, Bones no 12

    dancing figures in smoke from the city of dry leaves in my chest

    David Boyer, Bones 15

    myself seeing myselves seeing myselves who told me I was naked

    Michael Nickels-Wisdom, Bones no 15

    Finally, contrapuntal poetry is a word I chose to describe some of my own experiments with poetry that traveled several different threads, interweaving narratives and streams of thought. Contrapuntal poetry contains multiple voices and a sense of musical interplay. Whether this is alternating call and response, or interruptive harmonizations of several streams of thought, contrapuntal poetry takes many voices and blends them together in such a way that the original voices remain, and yet another layer of meaning, of all the voices taken as a whole, emerges.

    Parallel haiku is a popular form pioneered by Johannes S. H. Bjerg, and that definitely falls into the category of contrapuntal poetry, setting two separate haiku against each other in interplay or dialogue:

    Johannes S. H. Bjerg, Twitter

    Here we welcome all experimental poetry extending the haiku tradition, from uberminimalist and atomistic ku to the polyphonic interplay of parallel haiku and poetic fugues. Cherita, gembun, even mixtures of prose poem and ku. This is a space for poetry that pushes the envelop and creates new worlds and modes of expression.

    Share your best examples of postku in this gallery. Feel free to create a thread dedicated to showcasing your own work, or create or join a thread for posting examples of any particular form that belongs to this section, from parallel haiku to poem-words. There is a separate postku section in the workshopping area for experiments that need feedback, this is for finished work only.
    ghost cave i brush aside the dharma of a lobster god