First of all, haikai spirit implied the interaction of diverse languages and subcultures, particularly between the new popular culture and the poetic tradition, and the humor and interest resulting from the sociolinguistic incongruity or difference between the two.

The web entangles all spirits passing through it. The web is fragile; the wind snaps pieces away from it and carries them off. Old webs are thick and covered in dust, but may still have the dried bodies of spiders in them. This is called loneliness. New webs may be built near the old ones. Do not feed on the dead spiders’ bodies, but stalk the insects they stalked.

The young spiders must laugh at the dead spiders.

Second, haikai spirit meant taking pleasure in recontextualization: defamiliarization, dislocating habitual, conventionalized perceptions, and their refamiliarization, recasting established poetic topics into contemporary language and culture.

Of the female jumping spiders, the better fighter keeps her legs.

Of the male jumping spiders, the better dancer keeps the female. One cannot do jazz hands without arms. Always care for your limbs.

The haikai spirit was also marked by a constant search for novelty and new perspectives.

The spider has eight eyes, but only uses six.

Finally, the haikai imagination implied the ability to interact in a playful, lively dialogue that produced communal art.

To catch another spider, one must first learn the ways of the web. The spider excites the web with his feet. If he plucks the wrong rhythm, the other spider will not care. If the other spider comes, the first spider must jump immediately. This is a matter of great importance. If the spider does not act right away, he may lose his life. Once the spider has found a rhythm that works, he must remember always the web. The spider must let the image of the web fill his body, and match the to the rhythm that brought food. The same rhythm cannot be used on other webs.

A more evolved spider, recently discovered, prefers a vegetarian diet.

Quoted text was lifted from page 180 of Early Modern Japanese Literature. ed. Hareo Shirane. Columbia University Press, 2002.

Image composed from two photos: “Anterior Median and Lateral Eyes of a Female Jumping Spider – (Maevia inclemens)” by Thomas Shahan, and “Wide Wet Web” by David McDermott.

Both images (as well as my derivation) are released under Creative Commons Attribution License.

CC Attribution

About abi nighthill

Abi has a BA in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago.
This entry was posted in Nonfiction, Poetry and Nonfiction. Bookmark the permalink.

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