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LEARNING: the heart of a haiku | the disjunction | part five

Updated: May 11

Written by Kala Ramesh

First published in Pune365, an online newspaper. May 11 , 2024

the heart of a haiku

 a space for a little poem

to weave its magic!


part 5

the disjunction




We now learn that the ‘cut’ – the kire – can be in more than one place!


All good haiku actually tells a story or part of a story, to a point where the reader steps in and

brings it to completion. Film jargon uses the term mise-en-scène.


I’m now quoting Prof Anil Zankar on Mise en scene:


Mise en scene (pronounced ‘meez-auhn-sen’) is a French term that literally means ‘to put into

scene’ or ‘staging an action’.


At its simplest it could be defined as the art of combining the animate (the actors) and the

inanimate (sets, costumes, properties, natural and other ambience) elements to produce a

cinematic scene. This usually includes set design, location, actors and their movements,

costumes, make-up, sound, shot compositions, lighting. All these elements blend in the

composition of a scene in a film. In other words, mise en scene is the capability of the director in making a harmonious whole out of the various parts.


This term has its origin in the art of theatre. In Europe, before the nineteenth century, plays were mostly static orations managed by the actors themselves. The players were called actor-managers.

There was no concept of a director. The nineteenth century saw the emergence of the new kind

of theatre with the rise of theatre directors like Edward Gordon Craig [UK] and Konstantin

Stanislavski [Russia] gave a completely new dimension to the art of staging plays. They paid

attention to details such as the sets, costumes, make-up, properties, and lighting. This created a well-defined space within which the actors could move. Thus, the concept of the actors’ movements about one another and the location and the properties began to be defined.

The theatre had become quite dynamic in creating its own space at the end of the nineteenth

century when cinema arrived. This theatrical practice became the legacy of cinema.


Cinema, in fact, took this practice of mise en scene further. In theatre, the spectator is physically limited to the same viewpoint throughout the performance. Cinema offers a very dynamic process of change in viewpoint at regular intervals to the spectators through editing and movement of the camera. Even a simple action of a human being walking a few steps in the room can be shown from multiple viewpoints and yet remain a continuous action. The close

proximity that the audience feels to actors and objects due to the use of close-ups gives them an aura and a larger-than-life appeal in cinema. Use of long and extreme long shots brought in spectacles filled with action and panoramas of the city, village, streets, nature etc. Cinema also had the additional facility of separating the actor and the action that theatre did not have. By being able to observe the actors very closely, cinema enhanced the presence of an actor.


Anil Zankar

Prof Screen Studies & Research

Film & Television Institute of India, Pune



Let’s study this haiku along the lines of Mise en scene:


summer storm

the windscreen wipers

slice our silence


— Jo McInerney


If we are speaking of mise-en-scène, then yes, in this haiku three shots are very carefully selected and placed before the reader.


summer storm: the reader is given a picture of a summer storm, which brings to mind the onset on a rainy season. I see myself out there in the open, viewing the sky.


the windscreen wipers: the second line actually puts me behind the steering wheel, or I might be a passenger. I hear the rapid movement of the windscreen wipers as they swish from left to right.


slice our silence: this is an amazing leap which takes us into the interior worlds of these two people – who could they be? A couple? A parent and a child? Perhaps people with some sharp difference of opinion? We are all familiar with such silences. The story is left unfinished for the reader to fill in the details. In haiku this technique is called the semi-circle of a haiku, where some space is left for the reader to step in.


This brings us to the concept of ‘montage,’ another bit of film-world jargon. The dictionary

defines ‘montage’ as ‘the technique of selecting, editing, and piecing together separate sections of film to form a continuous whole.’ This effective use of scissors to cut away all extraneous detail is what stopped me in my tracks when I first read this haiku. A technique used by master film directors for generations, it’s not a bad technique to emulate when writing haiku.


Richard Gilbert’s research into the practice of contemporary Japanese haiku has made him a

strong advocate of the disjunction that often explains how a haiku works … and how it works

wonders. If you understand the technique used by film directors to narrate a story, you’ll

understand the concept of ‘disjunction.’


Richard says: “More than trying to achieve a ‘cut’ go for the ‘disjunction’ to create that surprise

and that magical moment that brings so much joy to the reader.”


Some examples of ku with effective disjunction:


 a baby’s pee

 pulls roadside dust

 into rolling beads


— Ruth Yarrow


in the prison graveyard

just as he was in life —

convict 14302


— Johnny Baranski


deep in raga

     sudden applause

startles the singer


— Kala Ramesh


In Indian Classical Music, raaga means melody, and its root word in Sanskrit means 'passion.’

There is a pun on the word ‘raga' in this ku.


Unlike Western Classical Music, which is scored, Indian Classical is based on improvisation.

Here a musician creates on the concert platform; Jazz comes closest to this. When a musician

improvises, there is a natural need to go deep within herself.


The audience listening to Indian Classical Music may respond spontaneously with loud claps or appreciation at any time while the music is being created. This is not regarded as a disturbance but rather as an incentive to the artist to create better.


As expected, a musician, who is deep into the raga / melody, having lost touch with the outside world, is startled by the sudden appreciation from the listeners.


In this haiku, you see three different images with two disjunctions, coming together so naturally. . . creating that very effective ‘surprise’ at the end.


In a one-line haiku, the cuts are more easily visible. An example:


 into the night a cuckoo returns the call


— Kala Ramesh


Here is a simple way to see the cuts in haiku. Look at the many disjunctions that can be found in the meaning of this one-line ku:


into the night

into the night a cuckoo

a cuckoo returns

into the night a cuckoo returns

into the night a cuckoo returns the call


Finally, this one-line ku curls back on itself: returns the call into the night


Until we come to the last word ‘call’ we aren’t aware of the mate who is waiting.


Here are two more examples of effective disjunction taken from Richard Gilbert’s book: The

Disjunctive Dragonfly:


 as an and you and you and you alone in the sea


— Richard Gilbert


I understood this beautiful one-line ku after I separated the first ‘and’. Like the 'and' we are all

connected but alone in this world – this is what this ku means to me.


as an ‘and’ you and you and you alone in the sea


damp morning

cash for a journey

warm from the machine


— Dee Everts




not looking

road kill


— Christopher Herold


For more on this topic, read Richard Gilbert, “The Disjunctive Dragonfly: A Study of

Disjunctive Method and Definitions,” Modern Haiku 35.2, 2004 (


My special thanks to Jenny Angyal for editing and proofreading this column.


CitizenLit, founded by Jim Warner and Aubrie Cox has Kala Ramesh’s short film on HaikuWALL India which she presented at the Haiku North America 2015 Conference, at Union College, Albany, NY.

Passionate about taking haiku to everyday spaces, Kala has a 2-hour haiku workshop and an evening of her reading at the Pune International Literary Festival on 2nd September.


The copyright of the haiku rests with the authors.

Copyrights of the title and the page rest with Kala Ramesh.


Publishing Credits:

summer storm: Jack Stamm Award 2009

baby’s pee: Frogpond 5:1 (1982)

in the prison graveyard- Just a Stone’s Throw 2006

deep in raga: Triplopia VI:2. 2007

into the night: Kokako, annual print edition, September 2007

as an and: Roadrunner 11.2

damp morning: End-grain

looking: The Heron’s Nest XIII.1



Share your poems using disjunction in this thread.

Give two or three comments and constructive feedback on others' ku.



Kala Ramesh - Poet, editor, anthologist, and festival director, Kala’s initiatives culminated in founding INhaiku' in 2013 and in 2021 she founded the Triveni Haikai India to bring Indian haiku poets under one umbrella. A foremost practitioner and pioneer in the field of haikai literature in India, her book ‘Beyond the Horizon Beyond’ Haiku & Haibun, was awarded a Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize Certificate for ‘excellent contribution to literature’ in 2019. In July 2021, HarperCollins is publishing her book of tanka, tanka prose and tanka doha.

159 views38 comments

38 Kommentare

lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
3 days ago

#1, 24/5

sudden landslide

the mountain storms

into the sea

Lakshmi Iyer, India

Feedback welcome

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Kavitha Sreeraj
Kavitha Sreeraj
7 days ago

Thank you for these mini lessons. Each mini lesson is loaded but helps in focusing at one thing at a time. Thank you.

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not her favorite color upon pressing red blouse

Sankara Jayanth Sudanagunta, India

Feedback appreciated!

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last breath 

stories she narrated

live in me

Kala Ramesh #1

Corrected 'live' thanks to Jayanth!

Feedback most welcome.

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Kavitha Sreeraj
Kavitha Sreeraj
7 days ago
Antwort an

This is really beautiful. It evokes a mysterious feeling within. The line stories she narrated can give way to many possibilities. I love that.

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!st post

age 75 a country struggles to live

Dinah Power, Israel

feedback welcomed

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Antwort an


If I’m not wrong, I see three cuts in your work. It’s a poignant senryu, but seems to me a bit too direct…just a thought.

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