Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Rice fire and mushrooms

The Japanese word for autumn is – aki – which, according to this website, relates roughly to the idea of a rice fire – i.e. the burning of stubble – which was a practise associated with autumn. Pictorially this would be rather nice for the portfolio section of this course, but stubble burning is no longer common (it may even be illegal) in the UK.

However, haiku are full of such seasonal allusions – and are obviously finely tuned to a culture that understood (understands?) the nuances of such seasonal allusions such that the poem can be placed in early or late parts of the various seasons if you can understand the code.

Toadstool 2

fog rising –
mushrooms push aside
a bed of pine needles








Haiku courtesy of:
Curtis Dunlap,
The Tobacco Road Poet

This is a photograph which neatly fits with a haiku I particularly like. It was taken in late October on a rather misty, moisty afternoon, and at first sight that’s it. However – like the haiku (which is contemporary and not Japanese) it contains some elements of seasonal reference that add an extra dimension. Fog and, perhaps a little less obviously, mushrooms are a symbol of autumn, as are the fallen leaves – but falling pine needles can be taken as a spring/early summer reference and so by use of cultural symbolism we have a photo/haiku which bridges time as well as describing a simple picture. Once we have this concept there is a world for us to explore – is it about rebirth, with the spirit of the pine needles (the dead) re-emerging as new life? Japanese seasonal paintings sometimes allude to stages in life so perhaps it could be read as the experiences of our youth, which are fading rapidly, providing support and food for our middle/later years?

Perhaps I’m just being fanciful – but without that understanding of the passage of time in the image this is just a representation of a natural object caught at a single moment in time.

Finally - my thanks to Curtis Dunlap for allowing me to reproduce his delightful and thought-provoking poem.

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