Haiku: a short form of Japanese poetry in three phases, typically characterized by three qualities.
1.The essence of haiku is “cutting”- the juxtaposition of two ideas or images, with a cutting word or concept between them.
2.Traditional Haiku consist of 17 ‘on’, also known as ‘morae’, loosely translated to syllables, in three phases, respectively
3.Kigo, a seasonal reference to nature.
Modern Japanese haiku does not cohere to the 17 ‘morae’ rule, nor necessarily involve nature, but the juxtaposition of concepts must be directly observed everyday objects or occurrences.
The complexities of this form of art were lost to me the first time I learned about the Japanese haiku. I wanted to be an artist since the beginning of time. I wasn’t limited to a type or medium and I wanted to be a writer, poet, actor, director, comedian, painter, sculptor, shock and performance artist, dancer, the lists goes on but I knew I had stories to tell.
(I thought I wanted to be a doctor for a short time but I think I just wanted to see people naked, but that passed)
The first time I learned haiku I was in the first grade.
Yup. Imagine that, especially the haters out there. Six year old Jodi Bove, the weight of experience already corrupting my default expression of a girl with a dozen overweight monkeys sitting on her shoulders.
Angelic and sweet, aside from the pissed off expression I wore like a maliciously popped bubble of sticky sweet gum on my face.
My life irrevocably changed in the first weeks of grade school for me . One girl, a pretty but mean girl, the nemesis of my youth, Patrice D’Stefano, entered my life. She was the one who made not even art class a safe space, she had decided I was easy teasing and I was her main object of torture for years to come. As her campaign of hate to mark me a victim and a target of shame and bullying got speed, she made my life a living hell at school. She was the girl that I never got away from or over.
But I digress..
Before first grade, I was really getting the hang of it, this life and this social thing, in kindergarten. I was awkward, clinically OCD, but naturally empathetic and kind and the other kids followed my ideas, my games. And everyone thought I was funny. Then with confidence, the first days of the first grade were fun and exciting. I surprised myself into finding that I was quite smart and quicker than the other kids. And I just wanted to be liked and be helpful!
I let the kid next to me see my paper during my first “test” and I was thrilled I could be of help, the little bleeding heart that I was. We got caught and I got blamed for cheating from her! I don’t know how that got so twisted but I do remember when I was in the tub that night, my mom came in as she always did when I was most vulnerable.
She confronted and scolded and shamed me for cheating at school while I sat naked in my cooling tub of water.
This became a regular part of my life. Being shamed in the bath by my mom and the body shaming was just part of my mother’s mothering process.
For no one wrote a book for her to learn how to be a mother, so she would say later. But they had. And there were.
So there I was, fat and naked in clear water while I sat shivering and ashamed. It never even occurred to me to defend myself by saying that she cheated from me. That I just wanted to help because these lessons came easy to me and I wanted to help her so she would be my friend. Not to my mom, better to not encourage further interaction. Freeze, and let it pass, was my daughtering method.
Let me be clear, I let her think I didn’t know the answers to the test and I copied from the girl next to me in class. I was so ridiculously proud of that fact but did not care to share that fact with my mother. I just sat there.
Fat in clear water.
The next day Denise D’Stephano was not convinced I let that girl cheat off me, though how I tried to explain. And not only had she my fat self to jab at but I was not smart enough to pass a test without stealing answers from anyone and everyone in the room. And I was fat.
So, my self-image after this experience was altered by the juxtaposition of my truth and everyone else’s. And the cutting concept that it would always be that way.
In this uncomfortable new world, I slowly experienced the slow evaporation of my short-lived social reprieve I thought I would have when I finally got away from my moms world for a few hours a day, to find no solace nor friend to compare notes in this scary excuse for my young life…
I found myself looking out the window more moments than not, being moved, by the teacher, from my comfortable spot in the middle of the room, to the front left corner by the window. So I wouldn’t cheat.
This was not my first ostracized social rejection.
I got that at home and was good at taking it. Sadly though, I started to lose interest in what that teacher had to say. I stopped wanting to learn, know, nor make decisions. I just looked out the window at the birds in the trees, just outside the classroom beyond my fears and the corner of that classroom.
One day, we are learning haiku. I was energized and interested and was determined to get involved! I loved the simple concept, the simple template to create a poem! I was ready to write my own!
I loved the very idea, the counting of cadence, the compulsive nature of it’s rules.
We were finally handed our dittos, grab one and pass it back, thank you, and I sharpened my pencil. I paused for maybe a childhood second, and then wrote:
Oh little bird why?
Why do you sing? And on the
saddest of days, why?
I know what your thinking, this blog is going to be sad and self loathing. But nay, kind reader.
The joy I felt when I wrote that haiku, so easy, so pure, it was my first true expression of life. My first day as an artist.
I wanted to be what I already was!