milky way

(Kumamoto Studies in English Language and Literature 61
March 2019, Japan: Kumamoto U., 1-27)                                    Download a PDF copy of the article. 

Between living and dreaming
there is a third thing.
          Guess it.                   — Antonio Machado (1983)


Hypothetical humanity

The space of haiku, sometimes termed “haiku cosmos” can be considered a “third thing,” as a place or zone of knowing, neither fictional nor non-fictional: a space “between living and dreaming,” as Machado indicates. What lies between realism and imagination, between living and dreaming is a particular form of sanctuary: a space of poiesis, of poetic dwelling. It seems most fragile and nuanced, insignificant and ephemeral—yet it calls or we call, in seeking deeper, more enriching, and increasingly multiple dimensions of knowing in psyche. Excellent haiku enhance the mysterious space between living and dreaming. As an illustrative appreciation, this present analysis represents one reader’s journey. In desiring the mystery of consciousness to be honored via the poem, “intelligence of the heart” is expressed by means of images which are a third possibility between mind and world, as psychologist James Hillman writes:

Philosophy enunciates the world in the images of words. It must arise in the heart in order to mediate the world truly, since, as Corbin says, it is that subtle organ which perceives the correspondences between the subtleties of consciousness and the levels of being. This intelligence takes place by means of images which are a third possibility between mind and world. Each image coordinates within itself qualities of consciousness and qualities of world, speaking in one and the same image of the interpenetration of consciousness and world, but always and only as image which is primary to what it coordinates. This imaginational intelligence resides in the heart: “Intelligence of the heart” connotes a simultaneous knowing and loving by means of imagining. (1992, 7; emphasis added)

A psychology of sanctuary represents one way of formally regarding this “third possibility between mind and world.” Conceptual architectures of the poem provide ways in to visibility and feeling—this “third” about which Machado writes teasingly: Guess it.

Hypothetical humanity1  is a coinage representing a “third” place or zone of knowing: a mythopoetic reality between chaos and cosmos. How to define this distance (the mysterious space between living and dreaming)? Perhaps as a process of psychological deepening, a discovering or intuiting of “the grain of things” (Snyder, 1996). Akin to the metaxic (daimonic) realm in depth psychology — as Hillman puts it, “this intelligence takes place by means of images.” Machado’s “third thing” lies at the heart of the poem, encompassing ideas of imaginal poetic space.

In the next section, the Western evolution of sanctuary will be briefly discussed, followed by haiku-examples of this “third,” seen from the perspective of a psychological poetics.

Sanctuary as a precinct of the sacred

The relationship of sanctuary with architectural, constructed spaces of the sacred plumbs the depths of human history. Mircea Eliade2 contends that sacred space (and its taboos) are proto-human. Sanctuary historically partakes of sanctity, as notion of place. Over the centuries, sanctuary has come to represent places of physical haven and safety. The Abrahamic religions each offer patterns of precincts (architectures) defining and bounding the sacred. For example, in Christian tradition, the church (or a part within) has long been considered a sanctuary allowing for at least limited stays of secular punishment. In the Qur’an (9:6) is the counsel, “If one among those [who are without knowledge of God] asks you for protection and assistance, grant it to him … escort him to where he can be secure.” And within Hebraic tradition, the Temple being a sanctuary of God, gaining access to the Temple gate was to gain access to the gate of sanctuary—six Levitical towns of refuge were established wherein one could claim the right of asylum.

Even in exile, on the road as it were, it is possible to create sanctuary:

And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, [construct it] after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.… Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things … that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. (Exodus 28-9; Hebrews 8:5, KJV)

The “shadow of heavenly things” indicates mimesis rather than imitation: an artwork or crafting of presentation that evokes, “mimes”—brings into being the “heavenly” or sacred. Importantly, here presentation and ritual performance to an extent subsume representation. This concept is found in the Greek temple, as in temple shrines and their precincts around the world.3 In Indian and East Asian traditions (i.e. pantheist traditions), the precincts of the sacred are local, animistic and natural. A deva or kami as a personified local deity, both is—and is of—that place: fountainhead, tree, or knoll. Sanctuary as bounded space becomes sacred or holy as an animate inhabitation of sacred space, and of divinity.

Theatre of the sacred

Regarding sanctuary in relation to poetic dwelling, historical transitions have occurred in which sacred space and sanctity, in evolving from religious into contemporary, secular contexts, have been reframed. In the early-modern era, Hölderlin’s passage, “Full of merit, yet poetically man dwells on this Earth” inspired Heidegger’s phenomenological idea, the “primordial poeticizing” of being as an aspect of the holy:

It is only because language as such is the primordial poetizing that poesy, which uses language as its medium, enjoys a primacy among other forms of art …. [P]oetic images are imaginings in a distinctive sense: not mere fancies and illusions but imaginings that are visible inclusions of the alien in the sight of the familiar….

In bringing the Word to be, [poetry] places the thing in the dimension of greatest reality, where past and present and future meet, to transcend this man or that, this time or that—the dimension of the pure act of illumination itself, which in its total reality transcends the thing, the man, the epoch to become what is lasting— for that is what is “Holy.” (Heidegger 2001, “…Poetically Man Dwells…”) 4

There is a vast sense of distance implicit in “imaginings that are visible inclusions of the alien in the sight of the familiar.” “Imaginings” here being roughly equivalent to creative mind. Taking a more psychological approach, Gaston Bachelard, whose works on poetic imagination are of unique value, writes:

On the side of the dreamer, constituting the dreamer, we must then recognize a power of poetization which can well be designated as a psychological poetics; it is the poetics of the psyche where all the psychic forces fall into harmony. (The Poetics of Reverie, 1969)

Here, to “fall into harmony” is evocative of a precinct, a psychic space of sanctuary. In both Heidegger and Bachelard, ancient frameworks pertaining to “the word of God” and the “divine” (with their implicit sense of commandment) are transmuted; retained is a link to a primordial sense of sacred construction “in bringing the Word to be … the pure act of illumination itself … [which] transcends the thing, the man, the epoch.” This idea is echoed by Bachelard’s “all the psychic forces fall into harmony.” Depth of soul is invoked as a dimension of the sacred. For these authors, in dwelling (“poeticizing”) is retained a sense of awe. (By soul is here meant “that which deepens”; the definition given by archetypal psychology. Cf. Hillman, 2015.)

From altar, to book and stage—from divine presence to democratic polis, the lineage of the sacred as literary tradition persists in the practice and production of contemporary poems and plays. The poem creates an architecture: story becomes stage, as a theatre of dwelling. The poem creates its own center, a “linking back” (the etymological root-meaning of religio) to origins of presence as mimesis of the divine. The shift from oral-tradition poetry to plays appearing on the ancient Greek stage is outlined by Dudley Young,5 who in his links indigenous group-shamanic, ecstatic practices to later bardic oral-traditions (Hesiod and Homer), and consequently to the first western literatures of dramatic poetry. As he writes, the sanctified space of the Greek theatre belongs to the unhousable god Dionysus:

Housing the sacred? Very difficult when Dionysus comes on stage…. His insistence [is] on occupying the most difficult territory, the border country that separates and confuses cosmos and chaos, sanity and madness, love and hatred…. The one thing he most certainly does not do is “abide in his room” … the sacred cannot be housed [and] perhaps the human cannot be either, in which case the idea of tragedy is not far off.

He is the dramaturge … the indestructible spirit of life itself (zoē), and he issues a mask to each of the contestants [actors], whereby they represent the ... two times of himself, the waxing and the waning. Thus in the foreground, the lethal play of life against life (bios versus bios), and in the background the indestructible zoē, which both gathers and scatters the coming and going of individual existence and promises the reconciliation of the yin with yang. In this way … we should understand the double masks of Dionysus … a motif that reaches its conclusion in the two masks that preside over the drama that emerged in the Great Dionysia [theatre], one mask for comedy and one for tragedy. (1991)

In the poem we may dwell, yet inhabitations are provisional: one cannot house the unhousable—the Dionysian cannot be ‘managed.’ This ancient sensibility is echoed in Gary Snyder’s contention that “mind is fundamentally wild”—that is, mind is at root unmanageable, free: an unmanaged, ‘unhousable’ wilds, as zoē. Snyder (1980, 1992) hints that forms of order in the phenomenology of consciousness may be perceived as chaotic, yet enfolded within are “wild ecosystems—richly interconnected, interdependent, and incredibly complex . . . diverse, ancient, and full of information.” Snyder suggests that we not label incomprehensibility/disorder as “chaos”—particularly in opposition to “civilization.”

Snyder’s unique contribution is to regard the phenomenology of “wild mind” synthetically, as “the grain of things,” a conception resonant with Hillman’s definition of soul as “that which deepens”; both authors achieve a stance regarding being as an activity, psyche as poeticizing (metamorphically) autonomously, at (metaphoric) depth. Snyder and Hillman see the fundamental nature of mind as a mystery, yet also suggest a kind of ‘eco-sense’: Hillman (from Jung) discusses the holism of psyche as Anima Mundi, the world soul (indefinable if not intangible in its nature); Snyder employs the term “interconnectedness,” implying that wildness too is indefinable by nature: that is, by culture or language. It is worth noting that both authors argue against a predilection to anthropocentrism, evidenced in much humanistic philosophizing. Hillman (drawing on mindfulness practices developed by Jung), and Snyder (a Zen-Buddhist practitioner), both suggest a variety of anarchic means for attending to the depth of psyche—the unhousable Dionysian wildness of mind—as practices, rather than management. In nurturing the soul-egg of creativity, imagination is not to be constrained or corralled through acts of ego-centered will. Continued contemplative practice develops greater awareness, knowledge, and skill in the practice.

Key to such practices are ways of opening to and allowing for passion, emotion: “There is no change from darkness to light or from inertia to movement without emotion . . . emotion is the moment when steel meets flint and a spark is struck forth, for emotion is the chief source of consciousness” (Jung, 1939).

In contrast to management or control, mindfulness—as phenomenological craftinvites, even invokes, passionate involvement. Theatrical potency in poetic language is an aspect of religio: a linking back to primordial notions of non-duality between chaos and cosmos—an aspect of this third thing, at a distance. Distance may likewise be seen as a process of psychological deepening, as depth implies distance (in Hillman); or of discovering and intuiting “the grain of things” in wild mind (Snyder’s idea).

This section began with notions of poeticizing as the “holy.” Connotations regarding mind, being, and poeticizing, on the part of Heidegger, Hillman and Snyder are in accord with Antonio Machado’s “third thing between living and dreaming” at the heart of the poem. Though the authors presented here arrive from different perspectives, they each articulate a paradoxical means of “housing the unhousable.” In divine notions of sanctuaries are spaces (once) inhabited by sacred presences: timeless precincts themselves echoing (miming) divine origins. Machado in his epigraph “between living and dreaming” indicates that “poetically man dwells”—that we dwell mythopoetically. Architectures of poetry link us back through theatres of story—this is thoughtspace as journey, and something more, a journey towards authenticity.

Sanctuary, temenos and risk

Inferior and average talent remains for the most part safe and faultless
because it avoids risk and does not aim at the heights
.                                         — Longinus (2012)

One aspect of sanctuary concerns protection, another is risk, the dangers and rewards of exploring “something that is unknown or that has an unknown outcome … knowledge about risk is knowledge about lack of knowledge.”6 The notion of temenos, a term from Jung’s lexicon,7 provides a relevant ground from which psychological risk can be explored within protected space:

A Greek word meaning a sacred, protected space; psychologically, descriptive of both a personal container and the sense of privacy [in] relationship. Jung believed that the need to establish or preserve a temenos is often indicated by drawings or dream images.... The symbol of the mandala has exactly this meaning of a holy place, a temenosto protect the centre is a means of protecting the centre of the personality from being drawn out and from being influenced from outside.

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious

… there is no coming to consciousness without pain. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable. It is therefore short-sighted to treat fantasy, on account of its risky or unacceptable nature, as a thing of little worth. (Jung; emphasis added)8

Temenos is a place in space: the establishment of a ritual architecture—a mandalic precinct as sacred ground in which to work. As Jung discusses, we may propitiously find our authentic selves within this protected space.

Landscapes of sanctuary can present themselves in a multitude of forms, which may be why haiku (and the short poem) act on consciousness with immediacy: they provide ephemeral, spontaneous scenes arising in the “specious present” (the temporal length of a breath, or as William James stated, “the short duration of which we are immediately and incessantly sensible”), as places of temenos. To enter and explore a temenos requires attendance upon psyche; “making the darkness conscious” is an attendance to mystery, a deepening of psychological distance (hypotheticality) between meaning and unknowing.

temenos may arise anywhere:

The multiplicity, or even the infinity, of centers of the world raises no difficulty.... For it is not a matter of geometrical space but of an existential and sacred space that has an entirely different structure, that admits of an infinite number of breaks and hence is capable of an infinite number of communications with the transcendent. (Eliade, 1959)

Eliade’s “transcendent,” taken psychologically, indicates a deepening of soul. Thomas Moore describes an “everyday” temenos:

When we choose a seat or standing area on a bus or train, when we arrange space in an office or workplace, when we decide where to put a garden, or chairs on a porch, where to sit on the riverbank to have lunch, where to play with the children—all of these decisions have to do with temenos, marking out a space appropriate for a certain spirit that breathes life into our activity.9

Temenos is that space of distance in which a “third thing” may arise. A world or landscape of depth and dimension which is mythopoetic, neither fact nor fiction, that remains hypothetical—and in which a poet’s failure is likewise possible—yet as well where new explorations portend. Temenos is a protected space of privacy within which dimensions of self-knowing are given permission to be. As with any birth, rawness and vulnerability exist, hence the need for protection; illumination being an internal experience of private imagination, with kinship to aesthetic arrest. This is the crucial turn, toward soul, regarding attendance:

From: This poem (author) is illumined.

To: Something akin to an experience of illumination occurs psychically (to me, through me) regarding this poem.

This “turn” of psychological orientation is a shift away from a poetics of externals, and toward the possibility of shared private interiorities—conversations involving risk and exposure (which is why they are so rare). Historical models can serve as guides to soulful articulations: ideas of the Muse in relation to inspiration present interiority as process, with linkage to as a sanctuary of contemplation, a topic Denise Levertov addresses in her noted essay, “Some Notes on Organic Form” (1965):

To contemplate comes from “templum, temple, a place, a space for observation, marked out by the augur.” It means, not simply to observe, to regard, but to do these things in the presence of a god. And to meditate is “to keep the mind in a state of contemplation”; its synonym is “to muse,” and to muse comes from a word meaning “to stand with open mouth”—not so comical if we think of “inspiration”—to breathe in.

So—as the poet stands open-mouthed in the temple of life, contemplating his experience, there come to him the first words of the poem: the words which are to be his way in to the poem, if there is to be a poem. The pressure of demand and the meditation on its elements culminate in a moment of vision, of crystallization, in which some inkling of the correspondence between those elements occurs; and it occurs in words. If he forces a beginning before this point, it won’t work.

In the poetic process, attention is placed upon the phenomenology of self throughout moments of an illumined (numinous) sense of presence. And in such contemplations, a “keeping of the mind” occurs within the precincts of temenos.

temenos is a zone of the arising of the sacred, a protected space of sanctuary—precincts within which habitual identifications of self and language may be risked. The space of temenos allows for confusion and clarity, Dionysian wildness within stillness. Temenos may portend a process of psychological discovery in which “all the psychic forces fall into harmony,” as Bachelard writes, or as Levertov (in discussing inspiration’s muse) remarks: “a place, a space for observation, marked out . . . The meditation on [the poem’s] elements culminate[s] in a moment of vision, of crystallization, in which some inkling of the correspondence between those elements occurs,” autonomously. Vision, the poetics of imagination as a correspondence of elements, occurs serendipitously—autonomous to egoic will.

The crafting of the poem as dwelling is a hallmark of the unhousable western god of theatre. New language is animate, alive, risking edges and crossing borderlines. There are no “safe” poems or “pretty” haiku; authenticity requires more of us.


Becoming what you are presupposes that you do not have the slightest idea  what you are.
— Nietzsche (1888)

The mystery of living is a craft of being. The mystery of being—as an exploration of the space of thought. For the sensitively-engaged reader, the space of thought as a form of aesthetic arrest applies to poetry, as Emily Dickinson describes in her illimitable style:

If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. (Bloom, 1999)

Poems, readers (and consciousness) cannot be corralled via interpretation. The brief presentation of haiku to follow takes Susan Sontag’s perspective in Against Interpretation; “the true task, Sontag [1964] argues, is not to ask what the work means, but to appreciate what it is; or, as she puts it, ‘In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art’”:

 Sontag is strongly averse to what she considers to be contemporary interpretation, that is, an overabundance of importance placed upon the content or meaning of an artwork rather than being keenly alert to the sensuous aspects of a given work and developing a descriptive vocabulary for how it appears. (2009)10

There is a distinction to be made between analysis and interpretation. In the following exegesis, “sensuous aspects” of the works are associated with “qualities,” as appreciations. In “The Heresy of Paraphrase,” Cleanth Brooks (1947) reinforces the notion that poetry, being “an experience rather than any mere statement about experience or any mere abstraction from experience,” cannot properly be interpreted—as meaning is largely intuited. Nonetheless, while a poem’s savor—its completeness as experience—cannot be extracted, ideas can be posed and analyzed regarding the poem’s effect on consciousness; analysis against interpretation, so to speak.

In desiring the mystery of consciousness to be honored via the poem, “intelligence of the heart” is expressed “by means of images which are a third possibility between mind and world.” A poetic psychology of sanctuary may represent one way of formally regarding the hypotheticality that inheres within the conceptual architectures of excellent haiku—as ways in to visibility, to experiencing this “third thing.”

Haiku Presentation

  1. Distance

two ballerinas in one skin a newborn foal

how deer

night of small colour
a part of the underworld
becomes one heron

you whisper
    just your sometimes

pretty sure my red is your red

her going in her coming the rain before it falls

(Peter Yovu H16; Scott Mason HIE 2008; Alan Summers H15; Brendan Slater H14; John Stevenson DD 2009; Jim Kacian 2008).11

Invoking a “third” reality or poetic space occurs frequently in poetry—though as mythopoesis, is not overtly given in the text; under purview is the phenomenology of reader reception. Each of these examples points to a “third” realm of being in consciousness—at some distance. For instance, the “foal” envisaged by “two ballerinas in one skin” is an existence at some distance between fact and fiction, in Yovu. The space in which deer seem to materialize both and/or , in Mason; the mythopoesis evident in the semantic twist of “small colour” of night, a part of which “one heron,” in Summers; the whispered and distant “third” space of “just your ,” in Slater; the intermediate “third” space existing between meaning and unknowing, within intimate relationship, evoked by the idiomatic degree-adverbial “pretty sure” in Stevenson concerns the perceptual disfluency of “red” within the intimate relations of a couple. And in Kacian, the distance created by paradoxical spatial and temporal removals in “the rain before it falls” invokes a quiescence or pause, conceptually juxtaposed with “her coming and going”—an ‘as if’ hypotheticality: action merges with the prescience of rain.

. Forms of Resistance

Here, resistance indicates the poet’s resistance to denials of hypothetical reality, and consequent resistance to soul-erasure. Concerning poiesis, everything leads to mythopoetic landscape, in psyche. These poems play with levity, cutting through habitual expectation and offering social commentary:

what’s left of us
on Mars

beheading over the edge of space

green light

cold rain –
my application
to become a crab

nothing rhymes with it Agent Orange

less and less nature is nature

(Deborah P Kolodji H16; Brent Goodman H15; Scott Metz H15; Fay Aoyagi H21 2002; Christina Nguyen H14; Marlene Mountain HIE 1986.)12

Implying a possible-future as a conditional mythopoetic space in which humanity might or might not have survived on our nearby exo-planet, in Kolodji—what lies in that Martian cave might be dust, or bones—in any case markings of lost dreams and survival-error. In Goodman are reflected terrorist images of barbaric horror (“beheading”), with a twist—as sociopolitical statement, the “third” space of “over the edge” resonates with contemporary social issues. Metz addresses a similar theme in his screaming one-word headline “BEHEADING,” with “green light” as a response to cut it off—or is it in consequence, to bomb? Aoyagi addresses the dark mythopoesis of the work-world, projecting the inevitability “to become a crab” via   acceptance   of   her   work   application.   Nguyen   poses   a   conceptual-blend   as   a   semantic puzzle-rhyme-challenge of bio-genocide—the reader is asked to envision its answer: does anything rhyme with “Agent Orange”? And in Mountain, iterative worldplay deepens a key contradiction of our era—what is meant by “less nature”? And how much “less” will suffice? Creating a remarkable space of hypothetical “between,” each of these haiku takes a critical stance of resistance regarding social violence, inhumane or ignorant destruction.

3. Inhabitation (Dwelling)

A sanctuary is a dwelling with borders, boundaries and a center—spaces, precincts and zones—walls, gates, cornices, portholes, and viewpoints. Yet inhabitation involves more than entering; more than just existing within a space. Inhabitation is a living, breathing, animate experiencing: dwelling in such spaces, through the medium of poiesis. In these haiku selections, inhabitation is evoked as a sanctity of absences:

stolen wombs —
the wind brings only dust to the
village well

Geiger counter
still singing to the radishes —
Fukushima Day

I see through
you to the rain
the rain to you

higgs boson …
deepening henna pattern —
on the first night

first poem —
not in a language
mother speaks

a crocodile waits
in a monkey shadow

(Sonam Choki H14; Brent Goodman H14; Bill Pauly DD 2012; Paresh Tiwari LHA 2013; Tzetzka Ilieva LHA 2012; Adjei Agyei-Baah LHA 2016.)13

Missing life as “stolen wombs,” a missing culture, missing village, and missing also, its ruined well—Sonam Choki envisions the inhabitation of absence in a living community as it had once been. The fruits of an anniversary of nuclear disaster are presenced in Goodman, who propels the reader into a mythopoetic landscape where no one must go; Pauly’s “see through” well-expresses psyche’s ‘seeing through’ literal form— as a mergence of inhabitation with the illusion or ethereality of form. Tiwari juxtaposes symbolic values of ancient lifeways with the ‘god particle’ of quantum physics on a marriage night, “deepening” mysteriously— the two worlds of ancient tradition and science—do they fruitfully merge, or collide? Evoked is the marriage bed on the first night; what is present, what is missing? In Ilieva is projected the inhabitation of a novel ‘otherness’ of culture through the poem itself, having been written in English—“not in a language mother speaks”—communication between mother and daughter is thus aborted. And in Agyei-Baah, the poet is present on the riverside near his Ghananian home, among the light and shadow of hidden (or absent) animal presences—inhabitations presencing a timeless metamorphic abiding.

4. Place

It seems odd to write about place as hypothetical. But places often cease to exist, as these poems reveal. Sometimes “place” is a space in mind which only the poem provides—the external space represented has been denied existential presence. Ultimately, “place” is our map of being from which we navigate, towards (and from) which we journey through our days. It is also the environment of civilization (so-called)—or the wilds (so-called). It is this “so-called” that emblematizes the hypotheticality of language in embarking on navigations toward “the third.” Poems such as these allow the resurrection or reconstruction of what has been abandoned to obscurity:

a bag of them
without a country

nagasaki . . .
in her belly, the sound
of unopened mail

bleeding under my skin the American dream

in the prison graveyard
just as he was in life —
convict 14302

        television light
lies on the
             American lawn

dense fog
a bullock cart
rides into obscurity

(Johannes S. H. Bjerg H16; Don Baird H14; Eve Luckring DD 2010; Johnny Baranski HIE 2006; Joseph Massey HIE 2005; Mamta Madhavan LHA 2013.)14

In Bjerg, figs (i.e. people, refugees) “without a country”; in Baird, within the sanctity of the womb, the atomic destruction of all life at Nagasaki; in Luckring, the “third” space of (American) myth bleeds “under my skin”; in Baranski, the ironic humor of what is left of identity, from a death in prison—convict as number. In Massey, the double-entendre of “lies” (on the lawn, or as untruth) of “television light”; and in Madhavan, the present obscurely merges with the past as a “bullock cart rides into obscurity.”

Place  exists  at  the  heart  of  each  poem’s  mythopoetic  landscape.  Absences  and  erasures  are recapitulated, remarked upon, and reconstructed as presences.

5. Consciousness — Revisions of World and Self

To revise is to be remade. We are ourselves revising cell-by-cell with each breath. Cognitive science has shown that memory is often more hypothetical then we realize—even the most precious, memorialized images we conjure of the past as real (a past as true as the sense of ourselves). Memory has been found to concatenate into iconic gestalts—as a result, we remain somewhat mythopoetic, self-storied beings. In the following examples the ability of literature, as with memory itself, to revision consciousness is exemplified:

windfall apples
what I think about
what I think

fogged into the familiar dying peripheral

a drowning man
pulled into violet worlds
grasping hydrangea

vast blue sky –
the freedom that
never was

daydreaming how quickly my mind

afternoon rain
emptying a book
of its words

(Carolyn Hall HIE 2009; Susan Diridoni H14; Richard Gilbert HIE 2004; Kashinath Karmakar; LHA 2013; Don Baird LHA 2014; Peter Newton H15.)15

It may be that in windfall apples, “what I think about what I think” is one answer to how a moment becomes a mind, and how mind takes on gravitas—gravity as Newton’s apple measured in its fall—this is what I think about what I think, in Hall. “Fogged into the familiar”; a dying of peripheral vision, the loss of the known, perhaps of a loved one, and a coming to grips with wings that flew and are now memorialized—a resurrection hinted at, in Diridoni. Perhaps “a drowning man” can be saved, when pulled into an insolent color by hydrangea, even if maimed—a revision of consciousness devoutly wished for, in Gilbert. The vast blue sky—“the freedom that never was” represents a savage revision, in Karmakar. And in Baird, “daydreaming how quickly my mind” revises the world, and self, within the rapidity of ephemerally imaginal comings and goings. Finally, in Newton the afternoon rain empties “a book of words,” implying an emptying and revision of self.

Wallace Stevens discusses revisions of consciousness as a movement toward paradoxical hypotheticality in his idea of the “extension of the mind beyond the range of the mind, the projection of reality beyond reality”:

Poet and painter alike live and work in the midst of a generation that is experiencing essential poverty in spite of fortune. The extension of the mind beyond the range of the mind, the projection of reality beyond reality, the determination to cover the ground, whatever it may be, the determination not to be confined, the recapture of excitement and intensity of interest, the enlargement of the spirit at every time, in every way, these are the unities, the relations, to be summarized as paramount now. (1951)

Interestingly, Stevens prefers the term “enlargement” to alternatives such as expansion, development, construction. Enlargement (of the spirit) is not a quest for territory: there is no implicit staking of a claim upon the space of psyche attendant to discovery. Stevens’ sense of enlargement is more photographic, indicative of a deepening-into: perceiving or encountering a finer grain, finer resolution, complexity of nuance—values related to soul, as posed by depth psychology. To recapture the “enlargement of the spirit—at every time, in every way”—taking these “unities” as “paramount” to contemporary culture—as addressed to the reader is a call to arms: a challenge to practice.



Depending upon our sense of imagination, how we order the self (self-meaning) remains mutable, and evolves over a lifetime. Lacking interiority, the space of thought is unable to thrive. In relationship with sanctuary, imaginative space inspires free-thinking, deepening notions of self—a self-educative process of exploration.

Artists work in an imagistic space. A space that has no beginning, no end, no middle. When is an artwork finished? When is a dream finished? The image seems to want to go on. Cézanne said a painting is complete at every stage of the work even if it is never finished. (Mclean in Hillman & McLean, Permeability, 2011).

How we dwell has much to do with how we imagine we dwell—“in a space that has no beginning, no end, no middle.” We order the self daily, particularly through language-use—each sentence, however ephemeral, is formed as a truth of thought, as self-made story.16 With Hillman’s sense of image in mind, that “images don’t stand for anything … they are psyche itself in its imaginative visibility”—and as Simone Weil (1970) suggests, “we reconstruct for ourselves the order of the world in an image,” the development of personal philosophy as an “order of the world” occurs imaginatively, in ongoing philosophico-poetic reconstructions.

Permeability as shared, collaborative invention is “membranous, osmotic … seducible, seditious”—challenging the status quo via visionary incursion:

I am concerned, beyond art-making, with the psychology of the incoming… the invenio, [which] Catholicism calls the Annunciation—the descent of logos into physical matter, the all-too-solid flesh. I am concerned less with what comes in than with the incurring, the fact of human permeability, the ordinary, quotidian and ubiquitous  fact  of  visionary,  ideational,  auditory,  symptomatic,  and  personified  incursions.  Why  can fantasy-thinking not be shut out? The composer, the painter, the writer are not special human exceptions. They are the subtle more vulnerable examples—not of “weak ego,” but of the essential nature of the human mind, that it is membranous, osmotic, susceptible, suggestible, seducible, seditious, hysterical. (Hillman, Permeability, 2011)

Poetic engagement is  an  intimate and  generally private  affair,  often  requiring extensive periods of non-distraction (addressed here in part as contemplative practice). In constructing novel mythopoetic architectures, poems as philosophic enactments inspire psychological nuance and sophistication. From the perspective of the third,” as a potential flowering from hypothetical space, poetic imagination permeates and animates the intelligence of the heart.

Poetic Force and Imaginal Space at Liberty

Each poem forges novel permutations—the value of a poem is obviously the poem itself—yet there exists a different order of value in aggregate: poetry represents a collective livingness, an animating force of humanity invigorating and enriching landscapes of thought and feeling, through presences. One act of the poem is to memorialize; another is the evocation of philosophical depth. Awakening the sense of what is interior, body, mind and world are brought anew into being. Poetically, one’s dwelling alters with each new story as with each new breath.

Concerning the haiku genre, poems infer properties of thought, as spaces of thought. This notion— of distance from objective reality and objectively interpretable text—lends haiku a unique value, as these poems often invoke thoughtspace through a “third” sense of psycho-poetic imaginal spacemodes of ambiguous inference that lie “between living and dreaming.” This is a remarkable space to invoke, and artistically definitive.

Temporal compression into moments of brevity in the reception of a given haiku produce concentrated effects on consciousness that linger: this very-brief genre requires the reader to complete in imagination those partial psychic landscapes and hypothetical possible-worlds in the partial stories given. In this way, haiku encourage interior, soulful exploration.

When imagination as a value becomes fraught, lacks a precinct, a temenos within which to dwell, when the spaces (and places) of sanctity wherein psychological risks can be taken are fragmented and diminished, democratic liberty is in doubt. From this perspective, haiku provide for and promote an ethics of freedom.


Acronyms for haiku anthologies

The five sections of haiku-examples presented in this article are taken from Poetry As Consciousness (Gilbert, 2018) without alteration. The book contains 36 sections containing some 220 haiku from over 100 authors in some 40 countries.  Sources for the poetry are given below:

DDThe Disjunctive Dragonfly: A New Approach to English-Language Haiku, Richard Gilbert, Red Moon Press, 2013 (275 haiku illustrating 24 disjunctive techniques).

H21Haiku 21 (anthology), Lee Gurga & Scott Metz, eds., Modern Haiku Press, 2011 (over 600 haiku, 200 authors, covering 2000-2010).

H14Haiku 2014 (anthology), Gurga & Metz, ibid, 2014 (100 haiku, 100 authors, in 2013). H15Haiku 2015 (anthology), Gurga & Metz, ibid, 2015 (100 notable haiku, in 2014). H16Haiku 2016 (anthology), Gurga & Metz, ibid, 2016 (100 notable haiku, in 2015).

HIEHaiku in English: The First Hundred Years (anthology), Jim Kacian, et al., eds., Norton, 2013 (800 notable haiku from over 200 authors).

LHA—Living Haiku Anthology (online archive), Don Baird, et. al., eds. ( (thousands of international previously published haiku).

* Text partly adapted from: Poetry as Consciousness, Haiku Forests, Space of Mind, and an Ethics of Freedom (Gilbert, 2018) ( 

1 The concept of hypothetical humanity is congruent with the thesis presented in Gilbert (2009), “Plausible deniability: Nature as hypothesis in English-language haiku” (

“Plausible deniability in haiku has to do with how haiku articulate multiple possible worlds, each one hypothetical, plausible, and at the same time also deniable as to its existence or viability, in relation to the text…. The issues raised are relevant to a description of haiku and nature, in that they approach the difficulty of inscribing nature and consciousness within a single phenomenological field. Perhaps it is only via forms of psychological inexplicability as poesis that the reader is able to be led through a labyrinth of creative, hypothetical image-schema, away from the easy problems of consciousness toward the intimate wilderness of ‘what it is like to be something,’ apart from the functional utility of ‘modes of attention …” 

2 Mircea Eliade, Myth of the Eternal Return, Princeton UP, 2005. Publisher’s synopsis:

This founding work of the history of religions (1954) secured the North American reputation of the Romanian émigré-scholar Mircea Eliade (1907-1986). Making reference to an astonishing number of cultures and drawing on scholarship published in no less than half a dozen European languages, Eliade’s The Myth of the Eternal Return makes both intelligible and compelling the religious expressions and activities of a wide variety of archaic and “primitive” religious cultures…. Eliade passionately insists on the value of understanding this view in order to enrich our contemporary imagination of what it is to be human. (

 Cf. Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, PUP, 1968. “In many ancient cultures, the inviolability of deities was considered to extend to their religious sanctuaries and all that resided within, whether criminals, debtors, escaped slaves, priests, ordinary people, or, in some cases, passing cattle; biblical scholars suspect that Israelite culture was originally no different.” (

4 William Richardson, Heidegger: Through Phenomenology to Thought, 2nd ed., Martinus Nijhoff, 1967, 410; Thomas Langan, The Meaning of Heidegger: A Critical Existentialist Phenomenology, CUP, 1971, 118. 

5 Dudley Young (Ret.), Professor of Literature, University of Essex, taught Athenian Drama.

6 Risk. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2007, 2011. (

7 Jung Lexicon. New York Association for Analytical Psychology. (

8 C. G. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, p. 99; Contributions to Analytical Psychology, 193; Psychological Types (Chap. 1), 82.

9  Qtd. in C. Forrest McDowell (26 May 2011). Sanctuary & Temenos—Sacred Boundary for the Soul. (Blog;

10  Susan Sontag. (23 Sept 2009). Qtd. in Against Interpretation, By Susan Sontag (book review). Independent (; cfAgainst Interpretation, 1964, 1966, FSG, 10 (concluding sentence); cf. “Against Interpretation, Summary,” Wiki. (

11 “two ballerinas” Peter Yovu FP 38:1 2015; “how deer” Scott Mason HIE 2008; “night of small” Alan Summers MH 45:2 2014; “you whisper” Brendan Slater Notes from the Gean 17 2013; “pretty sure” John Stevenson RR 9:1 2009; “her going” Jim Kacian H21 2008.

12 “what’s left” Deborah P Kolodji MH 46:3 2015; “beheading over” Brent Goodman Bones 5 2014; “BEHEADING” Scott Metz IS (September 11) 2014; “cold rain” Fay Aoyagi H21 2002; “nothing rhymes” Christina Nguyen FP 36:1 2013; “less and less” Marlene Mountain HIE 1986.

13 “stolen wombs” Sonam Choki Haiku News 2:8 2013; “Geiger counter” Brent Goodman FP 36:3 2013; “I see through” Bill Pauly RR 12:1 2012; “higgs boson” Paresh Tiwari Bones 3 (December) 2013; “first poem” Tzetzka Ilieva Asahi Shimbun (2 November) 2012; “riverside” Adjei Agyei-Baah Asahi Shimbun (1 January) 2016.

14 Johannes S. H. Bjerg moongarlic 4 2015; “Nagasaki” Don Baird THF HaikuNow! Award 2013; “bleeding under” Eve Luckring RR 10:1 2010; “in the prison” Johnny Baranski HIE 2006; “television” Joseph Massey HIE 2005; “dense fog” Mamta Madhavan Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts (August) 2013.

15 “windfall” Carolyn Hall HIE 2009; “fogged into” Susan Diridoni Bones 1 2013; “a drowning” Richard Gilbert HIE 2004; “vast blue” Kashinath Karmakar International Kukai 14 (“elephant” photo) May, 2013; “day-dreaming” Don Baird Haiku—the Interior and Exterior of Being (Little Buddha Press) 2014; “afternoon rain” Peter Newton FP 37:3 2014.

16 “Individuals form an identity by integrating their life experiences into an internalized, evolving story of the self that provides the individual with a sense of unity and purpose in life.” McAdams, D. (2001). The psychology of life stories. Review of General Psychology 5:2, 100–122.

17 James Hillman (2004) in the section “Image and Soul: The Poetic Basis of Mind,” writes:

…nor does “image” mean a mental construct that represents in symbolic form certain ideas and feelings which it expresses. In fact, the image has no referents beyond itself, neither proprioceptive, external, nor semantic: “images don’t stand for anything.” They are psyche itself in its imaginative visibility; as primary datum, image is irreducible. Visibility, however, does not mean that an image must be visually seen. It does not have to have hallucinatory properties which confuse the act of perceiving images with imagining them. (18)


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_______. (2013). The Disjunctive Dragonfly: A New Approach to English-Language Haiku. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press.

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