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John Daleiden, US
 

 

 

 

Touchstone Perspectives

 

Forty haijin from fifteen countries contributed two hundred and sixteen poems to the "precious stones" Haiku Thread.

A gemstone or gem (also called a precious or semi-precious stone, a fine gem, or jewel) is a piece of mineral, which, in cut and polished form, is used to make jewelry or other adornments. However, certain rocks, (such as lapis lazuli) and organic materials (such as amber or jet) are not minerals, but are still used for jewelry, and are therefore often considered to be gemstones as well (Wikipedia).

While the valuation of "precious stones" has been thoroughly established in the global financial market place, the personal value poets have set on the gems in the haiku below is purely in the eye of each haijin. More often than not a specific gemstone is associated with a particular individual and event.

The haiku selected below for recognition have been chosen for their superior haiku qualities and their unique relationship to the theme "precious stones". Superior haiku will demonstrate many of these qualities:

  • contain syllable counts of no more than 575 but more frequently fewer syllables; in Japanese sound units were counted and clearly linguists have told us that sound units do not equal the longer sound of English syllables (between 17 - 12 English syllables).

  • constructed with 3 images arranged in a two line phrase and a one line fragment (see Jane Richold's fragment and phrase theory).

  • contain a kigo  and / or are written to express a commonly selected theme, ie. "precious stones".

  • constructed with an expressly stated kirejiemploying punctuation, and / or a clear break (written or unwritten) between the fragment and phrase.

  • utilizes common haiku techniques such as: comparison, contrast, association, word-plays, puns, riddle, sense-switching (synesthesia, narrowing focus,  juxtaposition (as an expression of metaphor and simile), Shiki's Shasei, double entendre, close linkage, leap linkage, sabi, wabi, Yūgen, paradox, humor, literary allusion, finding the Divine in the Common.  Reference: Lesson Ten Haiku Techniques: Bare Bones School of Haiku by Jane Reichhold.

  • are written in the present tense so the reader has the feeling that the observed event is happening right now.

  • uses verbs that carry an emotional impact; a minimal use of the gerund form.

  • contain some element of nature (the natural world elementsas opposed to an exclusive focus on the humanity element).

  • result in an aha moment for the reader.

This haiku, stated in simple and straight forward language, provides the reader with a significant aha moment about valuables and contemporary society:

grandma’s treasures
rubies and diamonds
in a bank locker

# 02. Sandra Martyres IN

The simple juxtaposition of "grandma's treasures--both "rubies and diamonds" with their location "in a bank locker" is a juxtaposition of images that results in an ironic realization that "wealth" requires lock and key protection to insure safety of valuables. The implication is that for safety reasons the treasures must be kept locked up in a bank instead of enjoyed at home; paradoxically, the natural world valuables, "rubies and diamonds", might have been more secure had they never been removed from the protection of the earth where they must have originally been discovered. Once humans have refined and processed the "precious stones" they become both a treasure and a liability. Although there is no written kireji, the use of a fragment for line 1 creates a natural pause separating it from the phrase expressed in lines 2-3.

The next minimally stated haiku also uses simple language to express the value of a natural object and a potential danger for a human choosing to openly display this gem.

black tourmaline...
his eyes
on my ankle

# 08. Vania Stefanova, BG

The lore, uses and value of this stone are fascinating. Tourmaline has been used as a gem for over 2,000 years; it is a borosilicate mineral of complex and variable composition...Another name for tourmaline is ‘schorl’. Tourmaline can be found in many countries such as the US, Brazil, Burma and Zimbabwe (What is Tourmaline?).

Black tourmaline is quite hard (7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale). It has a vitreous, slightly resinous, luster and takes a good polish. Since tourmaline has poor cleavage, it is a very durable gemstone as well. Black tourmaline is very inexpensive compared to other tourmaline colors and can often be found in much larger sizes. Some black tourmaline have been cut into gems over 70 carats. It is sold in spheres and cabochons as well as in faceted form, but the faceted pieces display the best brilliance for jewelry (Black Tourmaline).

The lore surrounding black tourmaline is that it repels negativity and protects the wearer. It is said to be a very good stone to wear when you're experiencing any kind of stress. Placing black tourmaline under your pillow is thought to protect you from nightmares. Placing a black tourmaline at the entrance to your house will protect you from jealous neighbors. Emotionally, black tourmaline is excellent for dispelling fears, obsessions, and neuroses, and bringing emotional stability. Physically, black tourmaline is alleged to strengthen the immune system and help with heart disease, arthritis, and gout (Black Tourmaline).

In Vania Stefanova's haiku, "black tourmaline...  /  his eyes  /  on my ankle", a naturally occurring gem is being worn as an ankle bracelet. But notice that the haijin uses the technique of sense switching to create an possibly frightful Aha situation.  The line 1 fragment focuses on the naturally occurring gemstone, black tourmaline, but the phrase in line 2-3 shifts to a sensual awareness of of the woman's ankle instead of the gem. The resulting juxtaposition of a valuable gem and the possible sensual focus on the wear's all to fleshy, human ankle results in a startling contrast. The skillful use of ellipsis kireji (...) at the end of line one offers the reader a short pause to contemplate the value of the gem before deliberately using sense switching to refocus on the sensual shape of the lady's ankle.

Harvey Jenkin's diamond haiku is expressed in a maximum of 17 syllables.

Earth’s immense pressure
the poor dig African mud
for flawless diamonds

# 11. Harvey Jenkins, CA

This fragment and phrase haiku begins with the line 1 fragment; no physically written kireji is usedthe fragment abruptly ends and is followed by the two line phrase. It can be argued that this structure emulates the generally acknowledged volcanic formation of the diamond gemstone (see the following discussion ). 

Most natural diamonds are formed at high-pressure high-temperature conditions existing at depths of 140 to 190 kilometers (87 to 120 mi) in the Earth mantle. Carbon-containing minerals provide the carbon source, and the growth occurs over periods from 1 billion to 3.3 billion years (25% to 75% of the age of the Earth) at a comparatively low temperature range between approximately 900–1300 °C. Diamonds are brought close to the Earth surface through deep volcanic eruptions by a magma, which cools into igneous rocks known as kimberlites and lamproites...   These conditions are met in two places on Earth; in the lithospheric mantle below relatively stable continental plates, and at the site of a meteorite strike. Thus, the formation of this gemstone is comparatively rare (Diamond: Wikipedia).

Diamonds are thought to have been first recognized and mined in India, where significant alluvial deposits of the stone could be found many centuries ago along the rivers Penner, Krishna and Godavari. Diamonds have been known in India for at least 3,000 years but most likely 6,000 years. The name diamond is derived from the ancient Greek αδάμας (adámas), "proper", "unalterable", "unbreakable", "untamed", from ἀ- (a-), "un-" + δαμάω (damáō), "I overpower", "I tame".

Diamond is the hardest known natural material on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, where hardness is defined as resistance to scratching and is graded between 1 (softest) and 10 (hardest). Diamond has a hardness of 10 (hardest) on this scale. Diamond's hardness has been known since antiquity, and is the source of its name.

In Harvey Jenkins' haiku the images of natural elements of "Earth's immense pressure" which produces "flawless diamonds" is juxtaposed with an image of humanity--"the poor dig African mud".  The resulting contrast in the juxtaposition produces an Aha moment where the gulf between "wealthy" owners and "poor" workers who labor to produce the wealth is empathically portrayed. The maximum length of `this haiku is a fitting emulation of both the process of natural diamond gemstone formation and the painstaking mining practices used to obtain these valuable and rare gems.

The imbalance of wealth distribution in world societies often leads to war and conflict.

conflict diamonds—
boy soldiers sharpen
machetes

# 187. Stella Pierides, DE / UK

Conflict diamonds (also called a converted diamond, blood diamond, hot diamond, or war diamond) refers to a diamond mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, invading army's war efforts, or a warlord's activity, usually in Africa where around two-thirds of the world's diamonds are extracted... The UN has recognized the role that diamonds played in funding the UNITA rebels and in 1998 passed United Nations Security Council Resolution 1173 and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1176, banning the purchase of conflict diamonds from Angola.  Additional sanctions have also been adopted... (Wikipedia).  The political significance of the relationships between diamonds and war hones the impact of Stella Pierides' minimally stated senryu. In this verse it is a paradox that a valuable, nearly indestructible commodity, "diamonds", leads to a social / political situation in which "boy soldiers sharpen" primitive and destructive weapons such as "machetes".

The following quotes from "Conflict Diamonds: Sanctions and War" demonstrate the political pitfalls and human dangers of conflict diamonds:

"It has been said that war is the price of peace… Angola and Sierra Leone have already paid too much. Let them live a better life."

Ambassador Juan Larrain, Chairman of the Monitoring Mechanism on sanctions against UNITA.

"Diamonds are forever" it is often said. But lives are not. We must spare people the ordeal of war, mutilations and death for the sake of conflict diamonds."

Martin Chungong Ayafor, Chairman of the Sierra Leone Panel of Experts

 

 

 

 

 

Another expression of the paradoxical view of diamonds is expressed in Sandra Martyres haiku. In this verse the "kohinoor diamond" is a beautiful "diamond" stone / gem that "sparkles brightly" in the setting of a "queen's tiara"; but, viewed historically, the reality of possession and ownership reveals a path of bloodshed and death.

queen's tiara
sparkles brightly
kohinoor diamond

# 38. Sandra Martyres, IN

To understand the elements of this paradox it is necessary to know some of the historical events surrounding this gemstone. The Kōh-i Nūr (Telugu: కోహినూరు, Hindi: कोहिनूर, Persian/Urdu: کوه نور ) which means "Mountain of Light" in Persian, also spelled Koh-i-noor, Koh-e Noor or Koh-i-Nur, is a 105 carat (21.6 g) diamond (in its most recent cut) that was once the largest known diamond in the world. The Kōh-i Nūr diamond, along with its double, the Darya-ye Noor (the "Sea of Light"), originated in India in the Kollur region of Guntur district in present day Andhra Pradesh, one of the world's earliest diamond producing regions, some time in the 1200s during the Kakatiya rule. It has belonged to various Hindu, Persian, Rajput, Mughal, Turkic, Afghan, Sikh and British rulers who fought bitterly over it at various points in history and seized it as a spoil of war time and time again. It was most recently seized by the East India Company and became part of the British Crown Jewels when Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India in 1877. After Queen Victoria's death it was set in Queen Alexandra's brand-new diamond crown, with which she was crowned at the coronation of her husband, King Edward VII. Queen Alexandra was the first Queen Consort to use the diamond in her crown, followed by Queen Mary and then Queen Elizabeth. At the end of the 20th century India claimed the diamond and have said that the Kohinoor was taken away illegally and it should be given back to India. When Elizabeth II made a state visit to India marking the 50th anniversary of Independence in 1997, many Indians in India and Britain including several Indian MPs demanded the return of the diamond. Sandra's haiku is a a fine example of ironic understatement; on the surface level the "diamond" is an object of beauty, but on the level of implication, the precious "kohinoor diamond" is also an object of war spoils. The diamond is alleged to be cursed:

It is believed that the Koh-i-Noor carries with it a curse which affects men who wear it, but not women. All the men who owned it have either lost their throne or had other misfortunes befall them. Queen Victoria is the only reigning monarch to have worn the gem. Since Victoria's reign, the stone has generally been worn by the British Queen Consort, never by a male ruler. The possibility of a curse pertaining to ownership of the diamond dates back to a Hindu text relating to the first authenticated appearance of the diamond in 1306: "He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity" (Wikipedia).

A similar negative view of "a diamond" is expressed in Neal Whitman's minimal haiku:

my life
a diamond in the rough
crushed under the weight

# 98. Neal Whitman, US

Through metaphor "life" is viewed as being "a diamond in the rough", an uncut gemstone with the potential to be shaped and faceted into an object of worthiness; yet, paradoxically, in line 3 the uncut gemstone is "crushed under the weight" of life.  The circular structure of this haiku is noteworthy because it suggests that the object of high potential worth also carries with it the possibility of a crushing destruction.

Diamonds have long been associated with human passion and the intimate affairs of the heart. Tracy Davidson echoes the sentiments of the previous writers who believe the diamond is a perverse objectthat though it "glitters", it also hides a dark side:

diamond ring
behind the sparkle
your flawed heart

# 193. Tracy Davidson, UK

In this minimal haiku line one is the fragment; no written kireji is provided, yet the structure of the following two line phrase provides a natural pause following the word "ring". The image of the "diamond ring" suggests the traditional and familiar notion of a gemstone as a object of financial value. The concept of financial value spills over into line two and is enhanced with the word "sparkle", however, the adverb qualifier, "behind" introduces a contrary image, an opposite cause or condition, a latent feature which is confirmed in line three, "your flawed heart". The word "sparkle" is a pivotal word in which the images of financial value in lines one and two, suddenly shift to a negative human trait, "your flawed heart".  Davidson is aptly applying the technique of image sense shifting to create a memorable if not frightening Aha moment.

On a decidedly different note a number of haijin take an opposite view of diamonds, preferring the notion that diamonds are worthy objects and that when they are compared with other nature images and human situations, the positive value of the diamond is transferred and in fact increases the value of the related images.

The New Zealand Bellbird (Anthornis melanura), also known by its Māori names Korimako or Makomako, is a passerine bird endemic to New Zealand...the explorer Captain Cook wrote of its song "it seemed to be like small bells most exquisitely tuned".  (Wikipedia).

bellbird song
each note
a flawless diamond

# 23. Margaret Beverland, AU

In this minimally constructed haiku, Margaret Beverland, compares the "note(s)" of the "bellbird song" with the qualities of a "flawless diamond"; here, the technique is a juxtaposition of the first line fragment which spills over into the two line phrase, and compares the images in a positive, quietly, understated and positive metaphor. The technique of associative image values and meanings creates a memorable Aha moment that is dramatically different than the previously discussed haiku.

Air, water, and the sun—the elemental building blocks of earth's nourishing environment. These positive image components of Duško's minimal haiku provide a simple Aha moment that is easily recognized, a common experience. The two line phrase in lines 2-3 providing the image of "dew" (water) and "a sunray" is directly equated with the phenomenon of light being reflected and passing through a diamond gemstone--the line one fragment. The beauty of these natural elements is powerful. A written kireji at the end of line one creates a long pause in which to glimpse the image that becomes a metaphor when combined with the ensuing phrase.

flashing diamond—
the drop of dew
in a sunray

#28. Duško Matas, CR

Mavis Gulliver captures a glimpse of  beauty in her haiku when she associates a unique landscape with diamonds:

Far from city lights
Island skies are bright with stars
Diamonds on velvet

# 175. Mavis Gulliver, Scotland

Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Alba ([ˈalˠ̪apə]), a country that is part of the United Kingdom, occupies the northern third of the island of Great Britain, sharing a border with England to the south and bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest. In addition to the mainland, Scotland constitutes over 790 islands including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides. The line 2-3 phrase captures and remarks on the unique geographical isolation that distinguishes this beautiful landscape from other locations. The line three metaphor, "Diamonds on velvet" favorably compares the night sky of stars with "diamonds" displayed on a "velvet" background. Who dares to say metaphor should not be used in haku? Using the maximum length for each haiku line is an appropriate visualization of scanning a starry night sky in a panoramic 180 degree arcfrom horizon to horizon. The unwritten kireji after stars causes the reader to pause and contemplate the image before reading the final metaphorical line.

Each of the next three haiku portray explore the effect of a diamond ring on a female recipient:

my engagement ring
Spring’s open cluster
of stars

# 133. Karin Anderson, AU

Karin Anderson compares "my engagement ring" to an "open cluster / of stars" in Spring. The vastness of the Spring sky suggests that for her, the "engagement ring", most certainly a diamond, is impressive. This use of hyperbole is an effective exaggeration.

In a similar way Chitra's haiku employs hyperbole to show that the recipient of the diamond ring is so impressed with the gem that "her radiant eyes / outshine her diamond ring. Here too, hyperboleexaggeration is effectively used to accomplish an Aha moment.

her radiant eyes
outshine her diamond ring:
first love

# 29. Chitra Rajappa, IN

In Stella's "diamonds" haiku the gemstones are so overwhelming that the girl's eyes are "glazed" over:

diamonds—
the glaze on this girl’s
eyes

# 189. Stella Pierides, DE / UK

In each of the three previous haikuNos. 133, 29, and 189"diamonds" are used in an associative manner to show an extreme effect on a person.

In closing the last three diamond haiku selected show a positive relationship to current English Royalty, to an annual religious celebration, and to moral rectitude.

The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II takes place in 2012, marking 60 years of The Queen’s reign. The Queen came to the throne on 6th February 1952 (her Coronation took place on 2nd June 1953).

diamond jubilee—
a girl practices
her curtsies

# 191. Stella Pierides, DE / UK

In this minimal haiku Stella celebrates the 60 year reign of Queen Elizabeth II. In the United Kingdom Commonwealth realms, (formerly the British Empire), there have been two Diamond Jubilees. Queen Victoria held hers on 20 June 1897, while Elizabeth II (Queen of several independent realms including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica and her others), will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee between 2 and 5 June 2012.

The "diamond jubilee" image in the first line fragment establishes the celebration as one of uniqueness and high value in its association with this gemstone. The celebration itself is a positive symbol of success and longevitya celebration which is an uncommon occasion in human life cycles. The em-dash kireji at the end of line one creates a full length pause appropriate to the momentous event; the image suggests the elevated status of the event, a Royal occasion.  The ensuring line two and three phrase introduces a contrasting image, that of a youthful, female who "practices / her curtsies". The phrase image offers a suitable contrasting image; read in juxtaposition we see Royalty and commoner relating to each other in a positive settingan interesting Aha moment.

In this Haiku Thread the haijin have used the "diamond" image to honor many different themes associated with human life; the religious aspect of life is one theme among many. Marion Clarke's haiku commemorates the Madonna and the life of Christ in this haiku:

holy week procession—
the Madonna's tears
are real diamonds

# 188. Marion Clarke, IE

Holy Week is the week which precedes the great festival of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, and which consequently is used to commemorate the Passion of Christ, and the events which immediately led up to it. In Latin is it called hebdomada major, or, less commonly, hebdo inmada sancta, styling it he hagia kai megale ebdomas. Similarly, in most modern languages (except for the German word Charwoche, which seems to mean "the week of lamentation") the interval between Palm Sunday and Easter Day is known par excellence as Holy Week (New Advent). In a note sent on March 25, 2012, Marion Clarke relates that "the incident was real and happened during 'Semana Santa' in Estepona, Southern Spain. An old man involved in the procession told me that the Madonna's tears were real diamonds".

In this nearly maximum length haiku Marion introduces the topic with the fragment "holy week procession";  she ends the fragment with an em-dash creating a full stop which results in a suitable contemplation of the religious image. The following two line phrase introduces two associated images"the Madonna's tears" which are said to be "real diamonds"; the assertion of line three can be read as a metaphor, or perhaps Marion is referring to a local celebration where the procession does include a statue of the Madonna with real diamond tears. Either way, the reference to "diamonds" indicates the high worth of this religious event.

Having been raised in a large family who practiced Catholicism I would like to close this discussion of my Choice Haiku with my own offering:

diamonds, rubies
and pearls pale in beauty—
Your glittering soul

# 216. John Daleiden

In reviewing these "diamond" precious stone haiku it is obvious that the value of "diamonds" is clearly in the eye of the beholder. The various views offered are often conflicting but they are none-the-less interesting, therefore, I have arranged these haiku into the following sequence entitled "Perspectives":

 

Perspectives: A Haiku Sequence

 

grandma’s treasures
rubies and diamonds
in a bank locker

# 02. Sandra Martyres IN

 

flashing diamond—
the drop of dew
in a sunray

#28. Duško Matas, CR

 

black tourmaline...
his eyes
on my ankle

# 08. Vania Stefanova, BG

 

Far from city lights
Island skies are bright with stars
Diamonds on velvet

# 175. Mavis Gulliver, Scotland

 

Earth’s immense pressure
the poor dig African mud
for flawless diamonds

# 11. Harvey Jenkins, CA

 

my engagement ring
Spring’s open cluster
of stars

# 133. Karin Anderson, AU

 

conflict diamonds—
boy soldiers sharpen
machetes

# 187. Stella Pierides, DE / UK

 

her radiant eyes
outshine her diamond ring:
first love

# 29. Chitra Rajappa, IN

 

queen's tiara
sparkles brightly
kohinoor diamond

# 38. Sandra Martyres, IN

 

diamonds—
the glaze on this girl’s
eyes

# 189. Stella Pierides, DE / UK

 

my life
a diamond in the rough
crushed under the weight

# 98. Neal Whitman, US

 

diamond jubilee—
a girl practices
her curtsies

# 191. Stella Pierides, DE / UK

 

diamond ring
behind the sparkle
your flawed heart

# 193. Tracy Davidson, UK

 

holy week procession—
the Madonna's tears
are real diamonds

# 188. Marion Clarke, IE

 

bellbird song
each note
a flawless diamond

# 23. Margaret Beverland, AU

 

diamonds, rubies
and pearls pale in beauty—
Your glittering soul

# 216. John Daleiden

 

The above discussion has only been concerned with "diamond" haiku in the thread. I would also like to note these fine haiku celebrating additional gemstones:

Nos.: 24. Emily Romano, US; 30. John Daleiden, US; 45. Marija Pogorilić, CR; 48. Sandra Martyres, IN; 50.Karen O'Leary, US; 52. & 54. Chen-ou Liu, CA; 84.  Máire Morrissey-Cummins, IE; 97. Karin Anderson, AU; 101.  Margaret Beverland, AU; 147. Cara Holman, US; 164. Cristina-Monica Moldoveanu, RO; 182. John Byrne, IE; 194 and 200. Maria Tirenescu, RO; 201. Tracy Davidson, UK; 203. Alegria Imperial, CA.

I thank all forty haijin who participated in this Haiku Thread; I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your "precious stones" haiku and I am looking forward to reading your submissions to the next Thread, "pond life".

may each of you
acquire the haijin's touchstones—
the power of words

John Daleiden, US

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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