Bernard's Essay on
A Comparison: Margaret Chula & Alexis Rotella
Margaret Chula and Alexis Rotella are both highly respected haiku writers in the haiku community. Their respective haiku poems are excellent in the sense that they are both very good writers at capturing a moment using the senses. This is the main reason I was drawn into Chulas and Rotellas poems. I loved how they did their best to make the readers use all five of the senses while reading the haiku poems.
While they are both very adept at writing for provoking the senses, each author also has her own characteristics in her writings. I noticed that Rotella was fonder of punctuation than Chula was. Almost all of Rotellas haiku end with a period. Rotella is also more prone to use commas and other forms of punctuation. Chula uses punctuation rather sparingly in her haiku poems, especially when compared to Rotella, Chulas spare use of punctuation is even more pronounced. I think Chula tends to focus more on nature in her poems, while many of Rotellas poems deal with heterosexual love and feelings.
However, I still found many pairs of haiku poems that I thought were good to pair together:
My favorite pair was the first pair. I thought this pair showed the authors differences and similarities perfectly. Here they are dealing with the same idea, yet they show their differences by the style that they used to express their moments. Both haiku create a picture of someone trying to sweep some area, perhaps the front porch, and the person realizing how pointless it is to try and go against the wind. Yet, in each haiku, the subject of the haiku takes a different tactic in dealing with the wind. In Rotellas haiku, the sweeper seems to have given up and has let nature do its thing. The sweeper simply says, "enough," and rests his or her chin on the tip of the broom and watches the wind at its best: spreading the petals of the nearby flowers all around the area. The sweeper realized no matter how much he or she tried to sweep the petals and other things that were flying around that the wind was going to have the ultimate say. Therefore, the sweeper decided to just relax and enjoy the show that the wind put on with the floating petals. In Chulas haiku, the sweeper does just the opposite. The sweeper is a stubborn, old woman who keeps up the motions: sweeping, sweeping, sweep. Even though her sweeping motions are not strong enough to fight the wind and she probably is starting to realize that, she keeps working at it, more determined than ever not to let the wind have its way. I also loved this pair because while Chula put this idea into typical three-line haiku verse, Rotella got the same idea across in a single line haiku poem. I thought it was really interesting to see the exact same idea in such different forms and styles.
My second comparison pair was:
The thing that these two haiku have in common is that they
both talk about gods, Shiva and Buddha. I thought it was really
interesting that both these haiku poems dealt with physical
aspects of the gods, rather than spiritual or emotional. Most
people usually think of gods in spiritual ways, not physical
forms. I think this was the main reason I liked these haiku.
The repetition in Rotellas haiku helps to create the
image of the statue of Shiva. The repetition also helped create
the idea of how many hands and pigeons there were. It seems
that the writer only became aware of the statue of Shiva because
of all the hands and all the pigeons. I felt this way true
in Chulas poem. It seems that the writer only became
away of the Buddha statue because it was bald. The writer
noticed the baldness of the statue when she became aware of
her own hair and the hair (the fronds) of the
fern plant. I loved how Chula called attention to the senses
in this haiku because she described the wind as being "cold."
So then we realize that the writer became aware of the wind
in her hair because the wind was cold. I thought this haiku
did a good job at capturing the moment of someone realizing
all of a sudden her hair and the fern fronds were moving because
of the cold wind. Then, right after this realization, this
person was all of a sudden aware of the baldness of the statue
My third pair was:
I really enjoyed this pair by these two authors. This haiku
by Rotella tells of an intimate moment between two lovers.
The woman brushes her lips against her lovers coat,
while doing this intimate act, she then notices the silence
of the snowflakes that surround her lover and her. It took
an intimate moment for her to realize the beauty and silence
of nature around her. Rotella seems to be saying that these
quiet moments between lovers help us appreciate the wonders
of nature. In Chulas haiku, Chula seems to be suggesting
that there are some moments that cause such shock that we
do not even become aware of what is going around us. In this
haiku, the writer is at a funeral of someone special. Because
it was someone significant to the writer, she is crying and
having problems dealing with the funeral. The writer then
wipes her runny nose on her coat, and she is so upset by the
funeral that she doesnt even realize that it hurts her
nose to wipe it on the rough wool of the coat. I loved how
Chula was making a statement about some moments being so impactive
that we dont realize the physical things around us.
Then on the flip side, Rotella was saying that some moments
are so profound that it is only in those moments that we become
truly aware of those physical things around us.
My fourth pair was:
This haiku by Chula was one of the few that I could locate
that I thought discussed some aspect of heterosexual love.
I pictured a woman looking through her lovers stuff
that he left at her place perhaps. She opens and closes his
fan, then she picks up his kimono and smells his smell on
the sleeve. I thought this haiku did a good job at calling
the senses up. The reader can feel the snap of the fan closing,
and then they can picture a woman smelling her mans
fragrance. All of these deal with physical senses: the sound,
the smell. Then in Rotellas haiku, we get a feel for
the emotional senses in her poem. The writer says she can
still feel him beating inside her. I took this in an emotional
sense. As in her time spent with him previous to the haiku
was so wonderful that he shook her entire being and she is
still so amazed at how wonderful he is, she can feel how he
affects her entire being. However, I did like how Rotella
also made sure to incorporate some physical sense in her haiku
because she helps set a place by telling the reader "lying
on wet grass." This haiku is like the previous haiku;
something had such a profound impact on the writer that she
doesnt even notice what is going on around her. It is
almost like the reader is still so thrilled with her lover
that she doesnt seem to notice she is lying on wet grass.
My final favorite pair from these two authors was:
I thought these two haiku were an interesting contrast on different good-byes. In Rotellas haiku, it seems like the goodbye is rushed and meaningless. It seems her co-workers are not too concerned with the fact that she is leaving, they are already looking for the positives in the situation, such as obtaining her stapler. Rotella is capturing the moment by making the claim that the goodbye should be more important than obtaining some dinky piece of office equipment, such as a stapler. I really enjoyed how Rotella captured the moment of a seemingly everyday goodbye. However, Chula seems to capture the emotional goodbye in her haiku. With Chulas haiku, I pictured two people standing out in front of the house, trying to say their good-byes. But, it is very difficult for them to say it. Instead of bringing themselves to say it, they are focusing on the things going on around them, such as the snow melting off the roof. I loved how Chula captured the sense of some things are so hard to do that it is in those moments that we turn to nature and notice nature.
Overall, I loved these two haiku writers, but for different reasons. I loved Rotella because she tended to speak of love more in her haiku. She has many poems that seem to reflect more of a modern lifestyle. However, while Chula also captures everyday life, she seems to connect it more with nature and natures aspects. Not too many of Rotellas haiku poems have a connection to nature.
I thought that both writers did an excellent job of invoking the senses of the readers. When writers can do that, their poems are more appealing to the readers. Readers get more involved in haiku that they feel their senses being stimulated by. Also, when invoking the senses of the readers, it lets the readers bring their own experiences and ideas to the haiku, thus making the haiku even more appealing and interesting. For example, when Rotella says "wet grass," I can remember one of my own memories of slipping on wet grass and feeling the water on my hands and fingers. The same thing happens when Chula says, "cold wind stirs my hair." I can remember a time when I was outside and I felt the cold wind whipping my hair around my face, leaving my neck exposed to the falling snow. I love writers that let the readers bring their own memories and ideas into the haiku, especially when it involves the senses. I think these two writers do an excellent job of that, and that was why it was so pleasurable to compare these two authors.
©2001 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors