Illiterati Monday: Fu Ming Haiku


Welcome to Illiterati Monday, an exciting new series bringing you unknown, often unloved work on a weekly basis.

My selection this week is that fascinating samurai-poet Fu Ming. Born in Brussels in 1665, Fu’s mother sold him to the Gypsies for not brushing his teeth. In this betrayal lay the roots of Fu’s rage. The Gypsy’s sold him to white slavery in Okinawa, where he escaped through an unlocked rice paper door.

As a poet, Fu Ming was never able to escape the betrayal of being sold as a child, and it affected his relationship and his Haiku throughout his life.

His pivotal work, The Fu-ku,or Fu’s-ex Cycle, explores these themes of betrayal and anger–directed towards Fu’s ex-wife Sum Xin. The Fuku Cycle does adhere to the standard 5-7-5 format, but rather than focusing on a central image or metaphor, it tends towards an overall story–a unique and startling device. Though there is no English equivalent for the flow of the piece (and it’s purposeful discord) we can roughly divide it into Five Stages, much like the Five Stages of Grief. The early section of the cycle, for example, shows Fu in denial over the demise of his relationship–

Web says to spider,

Have I not supported you?

Your legs cup my strands.

**

Spider replies

‘Yes’ All I have you gave, but– I

would rather bang him.

**

Soon Spider returns

They cry and have make up sex

And mend broken web

**

Obviously, Fu is looking for a reconciliation at this point, the Spider in this story being Sum, his ex-wife, Fu himself being the Web–however, the ‘him’ in this set is left distinctly vague. Is ‘him’ one man, or a succession of lovers taken by Sum? I believe the answer to this can be found in the following set, which shows Fu’s bargaining to hold on to his relationship.

**

Locus chirps in night

Alone he cries for a love

So pure-not a slut.

* *

If I have erred here,

I shall mend my ways for you

Take me back, baby, please.

**

I didn’t mean that

When I said you were a slut

That’s saki talking.

**

It is interesting to note here the thinly veiled metaphor of the locus, and how it degenerates into a plaintive wail of ‘It’s the saki talking’. This is what happens when poets drink However, if poets didn’t drink, there would be exactly six poems in the world. Obviously, the late nights and pining begin to take their toll of Fu, as Sum still refuses to return his calls, and the bargaining period turns to Anger.

**

You a damn skank ho,

Ain’t no sweet metaphors here,

Just a damn skank ho!

**

Fu Ming’s work is razor sharp here–purposefully abandoning metaphors like a snake stripping skin in order to directly vent his rage against Sum. But the attack does not last, and in the end, Fu is a broken man, grasping at straws, trying to recover balance in a world turned upside down for him. He laments woefully–

**

What the fuck, baby?

We were twin birds on tall tree

Now we are three birds?

**

No,No,No,No, No!

Not the Cable Guy, Oh Shit

Him? Why, baby, why?

**

Finally, Fu is exhausted, both physically and emotionally. He can rage no more. He is done with Sum, done with love, and done with despair. He is a healed man, and the last lines of the Fuku cycle reflect this.

**

Rage dries up inside

Like a river I am dam’d

Enema cleansed

**

Like a Pop Singer

Found the Greatest Love of all

Here, Inside of Me.

**

I release you Sum

Don’t let door hit you in ass

On the way out, bitch.

**

Thus ends the Fuku cycle–and ends Fu Ming’s work as well. He was killed just two short days later during the third battle against Mega-Sephiroth. It was his Final Fantasy. But the strong imagery he created, combined with a powerful narrative, has shaped the face of Haiku irrevocably.

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