We have all experienced the ways in which the Covid-19 pandemic has shortened our attention spans, drained our energy, and made us fearful of the future. For Richard Wright and Masaoka Shiki, lying on their sickroom beds, writing haiku was an art of short spurts of insight followed by exhaustion. “I believe his haiku were self-developed antidotes against illness,” Julia Wright wrote of her father, “and that breaking down words into syllables matched the shortness of his breath.” On the morning before Shiki died, his sister held up a drawing board so that he could write his final poems. She said nothing as he paused after each line, choking on phlegm. When he had finished, according to Keene, “he let the brush drop, apparently exhausted by the effort.”Shallow fellow that I am, Covid-19 has had no effect on my attention span or my energy. As for the future, I’ll wait and see.
Friday, June 26, 2020
… Richard Wright, Masaoka Shiki, and the Haiku of Confinement | by Christopher Benfey | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)