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Anthropomorph-ism


How does anthropomorphism apply to writing haiku? Wait, what? I recently heard this topic mentioned during a favorite podcast (The Poetry Pea), and it started me wondering... First of all, this word comes from the Greek term anthropomorph which means "having human form" and is often used in literature, especially in children's stories such as Winnie the Pooh, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King. In using this literary device a writer gives characteristics to things so that they behave like humans. Things may include animals, household objects, trees , plants, and other life forms. 


Currently, though, scientists are exploring the way the animal kingdom as well as plant life do indeed display sentience. This word, often heard on various Star Trek sagas episodes, refers to having emotions and being capable of experiencing things like pain, joy, and fear. Animal protection societies and university research teams alike address this issue in real life. So, when I see a cat facing me and checking me out, so to speak, I can't help but engage. (Have you seen the film My Octopus Teacher, by the way?) 


Now, one thing is for certain (until proven otherwise), animals and plants don't talk using words and expressing deep, philosophical or humorous thoughts… contrary to many cartoons and memes. Yet, I see how my own experience with non-human life has brought me certain relationships. My two dogs and two cats know my voice and can interpret human activity. I also developed trust with an anolis living in my backyard in Texas. Yes, he's the one who is posing with the flower and serves as my poetreeseed logo. I watched him have a family, guard his territory, and come sit beside me while I watered flowers, read a book, or just relaxed in his space. He would sometimes peer through the sliding glass door and often caught my attention by looking intently at my face. These lizard-like creatures change form when they encounter unexpected threats, turning brown from bright green and pushing their necks into a hump which adds to their size. I believe this one got to know me as a friendly presence.


I wonder, then, if we can't accept using a kind of lyrical approach to animals and plant life in writing haiku? It would seem possible to make note of these encounters and relationships. For instance, if I address one of them using my language, what makes it so wrong to expect some kind of sign in return? I have read where emotion is the physical impact of an event, and feelings are the words we use to describe what we experienced (The Feeling of What Happens by Antonio Damasio. Perhaps we can simply allow emotion to be universal. A less clear area arises when we consider that all names are humanly made, so whenever we describe sentient life and also objects, the words reflect unmistakably our biases, perspectives, and historical understanding. Because language is a communal agreement for meaning according to form (i.e. letters and sounds), as we learn more about non-human life, we will necessarily develop better language usage. Hopefully.


My question to you is whether terms such as table legs or mouth of a cave are supposed to give those objects human qualities? What if the table legs danced? Or the mouth of the cave spoke?  


Of course, this topic is in no way exhausted by my brief comment here. Expect to see more on this in later blogs. Until the next time, happy writing! 


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