Dylan Welchs Haiku:
choosing a haiku author to study in-depth, I was very selective.
Although I can find relevance and meaning in those of the
Japanese authors, at times I feel there is a cultural barrier
which prevents me from truly appreciating and understanding
haiku from a society different from mine. I also have more
difficulty relating to haiku that focus almost exclusively
on nature. Living in the suburbs for all my life, the wildest
nature experience I ever had was the migration of the cicadas
when I was a child. Therefore, I tend to gravitate towards
haiku that contain some seasonal reference but also delve
into the human world, which is where I spend most of my time.
Michael Dylan Welchs haiku provide the perfect blend
of human nature and mother nature in three simple lines.
was born in Watford, England, and has since lived in places
such as Ghana, Australia and Canada. After living in Foster
City, California (the San Francisco bay area) for several
years, he now resides in Sammamish, Washington where he works
as a technical editor for Microsoft Corporation. Welch was
named after the poet Dylan Thomas, and thus from birth his
life has been saturated with English and poetry. He first
became interested in haiku in tenth grade but found the 5-7-5
pattern restrictive and awkward. His impression of haiku has
since been influenced by such poets as Basho and Marlene Mountain,
who stressed the importance of imagistic content rather than
Welch has some definite opinions on the purpose and composition of haiku. For instance, in an essay entitled Becoming a Haiku Poet featured online at http://www.haikuworld.org/begin/mdwelch.apr2003.html Welch states:
In addition to his advocacy of sensory images to create descriptions, Welch also sees a link between photography and haiku. Both are objective, image-based, record an instant in time, and succeed not by subject matter, but by composition. In fact, Welch has an online haiku project, Open Window, on which he has paired some of his haiku with original photograph:
I chose to focus on in my reader's response essay on Welchs
work was the use of sensory images and the balance of human
and nature references within his haiku. My objective was to
see if Welch did present insight through his juxtaposition
of sensory descriptions like he called for in his essay. The
following haiku are examples of Michael Dylan Welchs
work that I analyzed for this purpose.
haiku of Welchs is remarkable mostly because of its
ordinary nature. Turning on the heat that first cold night
of winter and being blasted by a burst of hot, dusty air is
an occurrence that nearly everyone has experienced at some
time or another. It is so ordinary that one scarcely notices
it has happened, yet after reading the haiku one can feel
warm air seeping into the chill of a cold room. The reader
can even feel the dry, sneezy feeling in their nose that accompanies
inhaling hot, dusty air. This haiku is a prime example of
Welchs employment of rich sensory images within his
work to relate to the reader on a personal level. Without
the sensory appeal, the ordinary experience Welch depicts
would be just that, but with the addition of rich sensory
images Welch brings a common, everyday experience to vivid
Welch begins this haiku with a seasonal association, Christmas. By creating this setting Welch not only brings to mind the toll booth, blinking and twinkling beneath a sea of tangled lights, but also allows the reader to imagine frost-caked window panes, a blanket of snow upon the ground, and a sharp knife of cold wind piercing the car once the window is rolled down. I imagine the subject of the haiku is a man, driving alone on Christmas Eve. Perhaps he is going to visit family or friends, or perhaps he is merely driving home from work, but for the moment he is alone. This is a fact vividly accentuated by the bitter cold. The warm change is a reminder that humanity does exist, even on a frigid Christmas Eve. The warm change does enhance the fact that he is alone, but also gives a little glimmer of hope that he might not be alone for long. The simultaneous feelings of solitude and connectedness signified by the change is what spoke to me about this haiku. Welch melds the seasonal reference commonly included in haiku writing with insight into human nature to create a haiku that readers can truly relate to. This technique is particularly effective and can be found often in Welchs body of work.
most of Welchs haiku are built around content or scent
links, this particular haiku contains word links. With the
first line, night, Welch brings to mind an inky
black sky, scattered with stars, and a moon peeking out behind
hazy clouds. With the second line, falling, the
image instead turns to a sunset sky, filled with intense reds,
oranges, and pinks while a firey sun sinks below the horizon.
The final line, snow, turns the image back to
an inky sky, but this time the image is filled with gently
falling snow instead of stars. The structure of the haiku,
one vertical line, also mirrors the path of falling snow.
The combination of linking and structure work together in
this haiku to create striking visual images for the reader
while employing only a minimal number of words.
format of this haiku is similar to that of the toll booth
haiku in that Welch first creates a setting with a seasonal
reference, then continues to delve more into human nature.
The first line, spring breeze, brings to mind
a fresh, windy day early in the season, a slight chill from
winter still faintly lingering in the air. The following lines
continue to add to the story by way of a content link. What
I imagine is a young couple, perhaps newly engaged or married,
going to a pet store together. Shes excited not only
by the prospect of a new puppy or kitten, but also because
it is the first important thing that they will truly share
together. The freshness of their relationship and a new pet
echoes the freshness of the breezy spring day. The overall
tone is one of rebirth and hope, feelings that everyone can
relate to even if they cannot relate to the content of the
haiku. Welchs tendency to focus on insight into human
nature while still incorporating mother nature is particularly
noticeable and effective in this example.
reading this haiku, what I imagined was someone alone for
the night, camped out on the couch with a blanket and a bowl
of popcorn. The room is dark, and the only other life come
from the TV as it illuminates the watcher with light and sound.
The movie on TV is an old one, seen dozens of times before,
but there is nothing else to watch that night. The movie is
almost like a comforting old friend on a lonely night. When
the film is finally over, very late in the evening, the watcher
finally gets up and goes to bed, and the couch cushion reinflates
from being under the weight of their body the entire night.
The watcher then thinks, Wow, was I really sitting there
that long? It is a vibrant illustration of both the
time spent that night and also a reminder of the solitude
of a long evening alone. Like the spring breeze haiku, it
is not necessarily the visual image contained within, but
the feeling expressed by the description of that image that
readers can relate to. Nearly all of us have spent some time
alone in front of the TV at one point or another. For some
it may have been lonely; for others, a welcome retreat, but
nearly all have experienced this situation. It is in this
way that Welch creates the ah-ha moment commonly
found in excellent haiku.
From the examples found here, it is readily apparent that Michael Dylan Welch does indeed succeed in creating insight for the reader with his employment of sensory descriptions in careful juxtaposition. Welchs heavy reliance on objective images, along with his pairing of humans and nature, work together to give the reader a unique haiku experience that is deeply satisfying and thought-provoking. In his Open Window project, Welch likened haiku to a window into ourselves and into the world around us. His own haiku are clearly a shining example that haiku can bring insight to humans and nature alike.
©2003 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors