What could be more poetic than a blue iris by moonlight, the chatter of sparrows, and photography by Ray Rasmussen? As you'll see, however, these haiga are something of a departure from the stunning Canadian and Utah wilderness images we're accustomed to seeing from Ray. In this series, he has set his lens on the urban landscape—alienated teenagers, gang members, a panhandler, a pensioner on a park bench. Irritated, even fearful of making eye contact when we encounter these people, we tend to pass by trying not to see, sneak by hoping not to be seen, or grudgingly offer up a bit of "spare change". Their presence in our public spaces reminds us that not all is well in our affluent society.
Like English-language haiku and haibun, English-language haiga is emerging as a genre related to but different from its Japanese origins. Among those of us who practice it, a frequent subject of discussion is the relationship between image and text. Simplest and most obvious is that the image 'illustrates' the haiku, so that the haiku is thus enhanced by its association with an image. A more complex relationship is set up when the haiku mirrors the image but adds to or deepens its feeling or mood by offering an interpretation or a view of how the photographer-writer experienced the scene. The third approach is that the haiku offers juxtaposition without mirroring or repeating elements in the image. The meaning, thus, is in the link, and the viewer is affected by how haiku and image work together to create meaning.
"Street Scenes" includes a mix of the three. The task Ray has set himself is to invert our expectations, remaining within the haiga aesthetic while also testing its boundaries.
Ray lives in Edmonton, Canada. He was attracted to haiku when he visited the Kurimoto Japanese Garden near his home and went in search of Asian poetry to supplement his web site of photographs of the garden (http://raysweb.net/japanesegardens). He is the managing editor and webmaster of Contemporary Haibun Online and is a past haiga editor and webmaster of Simply Haiku. His haiku, haibun and haiga have appeared in Frogpond, Contemporary Haibun, Heron's Nest, Simply Haiku, Bottle Rockets, Haigaonline, tinywords, Haiku Harvest, the World Haiku Review, Contemporary Haibun Online, and other publications. His web page designs are currently used by Simply Haiku, Contemporary Haibun Online, and Roadrunner. Ray's own web site is at http://raysweb.net/haiku.