WHChaikumultimedia                                                                                                       exercise #3
     7/16/03 -                                                                                                                          commentary

           Our guest poet Michael Dylan Welch has distinguished himself as one of the
         best known haiku poets today. I am delighted to have used his 'tulip festival' poem
         for our current 'illustration of a haiku' exercise. Michael will be critiquing all the
         images submitted and I am pleased to present his commentary about combining
         images and haiku, a subject of great interest to the multimedia members as we
         continue in our quest to create the 'perfect marriage' of image and haiku.


           tulip festivaló
the colours of all the cars
                                                                                              in the parking lot
                                                                                                              by Michael D. Welch


                                             Objective and Subjective Assessments of Modern Haiga

When I lived in California, I served as a judge for many years for the Northern California Council of Camera Clubs. It was my privilege to visit many of the San Francisco-area photography clubs to judge their frequent competitions in the categories of travel, journalism, creative, nature, and pictorial photographs. There are obviously many ways a photograph can succeed, and they lie mostly beyond the presumed mastery of craft. Most matters of craft can be objectively judged, but of course judging the success of what lies beyond craft is typically a subjective concern. Painting, too, may typically be judged objectively on craft, and then subjectively on overall impact, including emotional effect. Combining the arts of photography and computer-aided painting is, to me, simply another medium for visual expression where many of the same objective and subjective guidelines apply. Adding a poem, such as a haiku, introduces another element that harkens back to the long-established practice of haiga creation in Japan. The photograph or painting or graphic design should naturally rise to the highest level possible in terms of craft, and failings in this realm can doom a modern haiga creation before it gets off the ground. But assuming the visual medium is mastered reasonably well, the nature of combining poem with image remains vital. As with traditional haiga, the best combinations create something new by the combination -- a synergy that is greater than the sum of its elements. If either the image or the poem is redundant, then what is accomplished? A good modern haiga should rise above mere "illustration" of the poem. Furthermore, the relationship of the poem to image often relies on renku-like linking and shifting techniques. If the relationship of the image to the poem and vice versa does not shift adequately or fails to contain a sufficiently obvious link, then the creation as a whole fails. For me, in assessing modern haiga, I wish to judge them in terms of 1) basic craft, 2) the relationship of poem to image and the effectiveness of linking/shifting techniques, and 3) overall emotional and aesthetic impression. The creativity of the image-maker infuses each of these three criteria. And while paying attention to more objective assessments, I never want to forget what literature critics call the "precognitive response" -- how something makes you feel when you see it. Like? Dislike? Unsure? It's important to pay attention to this gut response first, then figure out, if you wish, WHY you have that response. These are thus my general thoughts in approaching the images created here and in assessing their relationship to the poem they so enthusiastically and kindly honour.

  --Michael Dylan Welch

NOTE: For more information on the history, development, and aesthetics of haiga in Japan and North America, I'd like to recommend *Berries and Cream: Contemporary Haiga in North America*. This book is an interview I did with Jeanne Emrich, who originally ran the "Haiga Online" Web site, and currently edits the new haiga journal, *Reeds*. For more
information on the book, please visit http://hometown.aol.com/haiga/berriesandcream.html or, to order other Press Here books, visit http://www.haikuworld.org/books/presshere.html. For more information on *Reeds*, please visit Reeds: Contemporary Haiga http://members.aol.com/haiga/Reedsindex.html. Finally, to see "Open Window," a selection of my own haiku and photographs, please visit  http://www.family-net.net/~brooksbooks/welch/index.html.

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