Thursday, 30 September 2010
The Delicate Attachments of a Bulgarian Poet
Safety Pins by Petar Tchouhov
Published by Ciela
Safety pins are objects that can sometimes be of vital importance, holding together two items - usually of clothing - that would spell disaster for us should they remain separated. [Think of when you're about to give a performance when your zip breaks or a button falls off, or you are travelling and your shirt or trousers split.] They form necessary but fragile attachments [for we know that sometime in the future, a more permanent attachment is advisable, if we want to feel secure in our clothes.] The poems in this collection combine that feeling of intense delight with an acknowledgement of the transitory or fragile nature of the two objects ideas or images which are linked together. These attachments or relationships may be delicate and ephemeral, but how glad we are in the present moment, that they have formed their unusual combinations.
As well as having published several books of poetry and prose, Petar Tchouhov is an experienced writer of haiku. I have only ever written about half a dozen haiku in my life but when he talks about haiku I immediately realise that what I wrote probably were not true haiku at all. At the same time, he says that in the west we should not be too strict about the number of syllables because the Japanese alphabet is such that a whole syllable or even word can be displayed by one letter, so to put too much emphasis on the number of syllables can be to miss the main point of a haiku.
He explained this as being [and this is where I realised that my so-called haiku were nothing of the kind] to find two images which would not normally be linked together and to create or discover a connection with them which gives us a feeling of insight or surprised recognition. I make a link in my mind with the surrealists, and their ideas of bringing together objects that have no obvious relationship with each other [such as an umbrella and a sewing machine on a dissecting table ] but a difference is that the surrealists were looking at the absurdity of life or its paradoxical nature or seeking to create a semblance of dream connections or associations, without necessarily working on these images to create a surprising relationship.
But Petar's haiku often create surprising links and there is a sense of recognition particularly as the objects or images described are often homely and everyday and so create a sense of intimacy as well as, so I feel, an enhanced appreciation of these objects, as we glimpse an inherent strangeness and even mystery in what we thought were humdrum or ordinary, at least nothing special. But here they are, suddenly special and glowing with the extraordinary.
an orange from the bowl
to the cobbler's shop
Of course that is the sign of all good poetry, that it should breathe life into what we skim over in our daily life, only half-noticing what is around us, and certainly not imbuing it with any particular significance. It's the poet's job you could say, to haul our attention out of its somnolent or distracted state, and make us see the familiar with new eyes. But to do it with so few words, with just a couple of carefully crafted images, is an ability I find admirable. It reminds me of Chinese painting, a few carefully placed brush strokes creating a whole image, for the space or spaces in between the lines as if linked by sympathetic strings, vibrate with their own communication.
In these haiku it is the relationship between the images that, though not directly stated, comes alive and resonates in our minds, through the juxtaposition.
in her hair
There can sometimes be the slightest touch of nostalgia, never over worked, merely hinted at -
the falling leaf
All Souls' Day
I open my father's
but mostly, there is the sense of cherishing the small details of life, with a mixture of whimsy, affection and a clear and honed perception.
I love even
my neighbour's dog
one more ball
for the snowman
Many of these haiku have been published in haiku magazines and several of them have won prizes in international competitions. They are poems to delight, and to go back to, always refreshing, with their mixture of solidarity for the human condition, and a slightly wry smile at the oddness, often endearing, of life.