…to one may not be common language to all?
I am feeling a bit militant so this might be considered a rant.
Recently I re-joined an organization that I had chosen to avoid for the past six years. In my opinion it had become too elitist since newcomers were not exactly welcomed. In fact, I felt dissed more than once. I suspect I was not the only one. Having said that, I decided to re-join because I felt that those in the Midwest had Midwestern sensibilities and tastes. The last two coordinators were very welcoming and inclusive so when the newest one invited me to a closed Facebook group for the Ohio group, I jumped at the chance to share and have my haiku critiqued by the other members, even meeting with a few of them.
Like most haiku writers, I am a work-in-progress; like 87-year-old Michelangelo was attributed to have said, “Ancora imparo,” which means I am still learning. I am still learning and will probably never master the form; however, that doesn’t deter me from writing them, nor for desiring to improve.
The other day I received the quarterly journal called “Frogpond” and read many of the haiku, senryu, and the other haiku forms included within the pages. I also read some of the other articles, reviews, and essays written by fellow poets. Some I felt informative; some frankly pissed me off with the attitude presented.
In particular, one essay, “Haiku Diction: The Use of Words in Haiku,” I felt would help me considerably and there are sections that are helpful, but one particular section irritated me to no end (At this point, it should be stated that my husband told me to stop reading as this was just the reason he encouraged me, to quote Disney’s Elsa, “Let it go, let it go…” several years ago before I discontinued my membership[long before Elsa made her debut, but I digress]).
This section was labeled ‘High-falootin’ Talk’ about poets who use words that are not in common use or are more complicated than they need to be. He then illustrates this by noting two haiku that weren’t accepted for publication because of this. Okay, I will give him the first one as being difficult to understand with flowery, unfamiliar words, but the second one seemed pretty straightforward to me. Not only that, but I thought it be a decent haiku, but obviously, what do I know? Anyhow, it is as follows:
a cigarette butt
in the grackle’s nest
Nothing in it, to my way of thinking, is very difficult to understand. Granted, I am a pharmacist so I have dealt with smoking cessation (I presume that was the high-falootin’ language he was referring to since the other words are common) in my pharmacy practice. Pharmacy patients often ask questions about the subject of smoking cessation.
Yet, even going outside the pharmacy itself, the term, smoking cessation, is often used on television commercials for Nicorette, Nicoderm-CD, Chantix, and other products used to help a person quit smoking. While the term once may have been foreign to many people, I don’t think it is any more as the advertisers are making the assumption that people understand those words.
Which brings me back to virga…the same author of the essay used the term virga in one of his other contributions in the journal. In his haiku sequence of haiku poems, he included the words distant virga. I admit that I had never heard the word before; I didn’t understand the word even in the context of the individual haiku**, but figured it to be a particular land formation. It isn’t, by the way.
As I stated earlier, I am still learning, and I am the first to grab a dictionary to learn the meaning of new words, and more important, use them and make them mine*. That is one of the reasons I love reading on my Nook and Kindle: there is a built-in feature that allows the word to be highlighted and looked up, but I digress once again.
What is the difference? There isn’t in my opinion. One man’s smoking cessation is another man’s virga. To me, that using virga is just high-falootin’ talk.
For what it is worth, here is the definition of virga from the Random House Webster’s Dictionary (College Edition, 1996): noun (used with a singular or plural verb)–streaks of water drops or ice particles falling out of a cloud and evaporating before reaching the ground. I think that most people have seen a virga, but only a meteorologist might know the word as it is a meteorological term.
I should write this as a letter to the editor of “Frogpond” but I suspect that they would never publish any of my writing ever again; however, this is my attempt of getting it out. Fortunately, there are other haiku publications who have found my haiku to be worthy of publication, and it is gratifying when they do. I also appreciate the Midwest sensibilities of my fellow Ohioans who write and share their haiku with me, and help me improve as well. They really have spurred me on.
Exiting soapbox mode…
* My poem, Dictionary Elles, from my book, Three Breaths about making words mine.
*Lewd, lascivious, licentious, lustful, libertine…
Who found them?
Was it Christy?
Or, perhaps, another?
No matter, we learned them
Different words with subtle nuances
All with the same meaning
We knew them, used them
We were the Dictionary Girls
Dateless on Saturday nights.
We believed our teachers,
The ones who said,
“If you use a word ten times,
The word was yours forever.”
And we made them ours,
Lewd, lascivious, licentious, lustful, libertine.
It became our mantra; each having her favorite
I loved the sound, the feeling of it in my mouth
Feline, lithe, lean, and smoldering,
A svelte woman in a skinny black dress.
We’re grown now,
Having lived the lustful life of the mind
Still Dictionary Girls
…and have become, in turn,
Lewd, lascivious, licentious, lustful libertines
but mostly we are just
mattock in hand
alone on this rocky road