Masters of Sabi

  burning cigarette i watch the whiteness of your breath



naked penny in cold air, am i really pedantic


  Shōnin, pen name for Orrin Prejean, was born in Port Arthur, TX in 1981. He came to English-Language haiku around 2006. In 2013 he began writing Tanka under the instruction of M. Kei and had two collections published in 2016 & 17. In the Fall of 2021 he turned his focus completely to the history and current practices of Senryu. In 2021 he published his first collection of senryu, titled “October’s Kid” followed by “Dewdrop World.” He also collaborated with poet BA France to publish another collection of senryu titled, “Retweets.” 


 Besides being one of the most passionate and well-versed aficionados in the advantages and strengths of the senryu, its enriching history in Japanese and English praxis, Shōnin (a.k.a. Orrin PréJean) is an outstanding exemplar at illustrating adroitly the transmission and epitomizing, through eloquent verbiage and affecting descriptors, of a moving, thrillingly fresh approach to the elusive art of sabi.  In his terrifically refined and hard-hitting recent collections from Moth Orchid and Cuttlefish the poet has demonstrated this variant sibling of the haiku’s unique qualifications for embodying this aesthetic (indeed, stretching from individual pieces collected to the titles – the latter also an allusion to a famous elegy of Kobayashi Issa’s, and Buddhist themes of prevailing transience energizing it – heading the volumes themselves) in potent customs. Professor David McMurray, acclaimed longtime editor of the Asahi Shimbun’s Haikuist Network column and poetry professor at Japan’s university of Kagoshima, in a seminal survey conducted in Charlotte Digregorio’s writer’s blog, characterizes the senryu as “city-mouse poetry”, in its dichotomy to rustic haiku’s nature and seasonal subject matter, instead implementing cosmopolitan and human oriented monographs and paradigms.  In the two pieces we share here this virtuoso channels the irrepressible zeitgeist of sabi both in the tangible objets d’art commemorated for posterity, and through the subjective responses and reflections paired with them. One would be hard pressed to submit more germane and fitting symbols of this tradition as it connects vividly to our dystopian age than the blazing cherry, oxidized coinage (specifically, in this instance of soul searching and personal appraisal, ‘honest Abe’s’ graven visage).  The evanescent character of every person’s words and impact, over the course of swift lives as we strut and fret our hours upon the stage, that fifteen minute window of recognition we each are allotted in the annals of history and human memory, and similarly our own sense of cumulative worth in self-assessment, yearnings to actualize, constant questioning and doubts as to those Erikson models which each of us confronts differently with unique results (industry vs. inferiority, generativity vs. stagnation)… All these hearty constituents make for a bubbling stew of provocative poetry, in which sabi provides a key ingredient zestily flavoring!

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