Well-Versed: Exploring Modern Japanese Haiku

Well-Versed: Exploring Modern Japanese Haiku: Ozawa, Minoru: 9784866581798:  Amazon.com: Books

This is an exciting new publication. Well-Versed “includes poems from the end of the century through the beginning of the twenty-first century by the most important writers of modern haiku.” The poems are arranged seasonally and are wide-ranging and inclusive in approach and content. One of the things I love about this book is how personal it feels. The poems are lovingly selected by Ozawa Minoru and his explanations of each poem provide really interesting insights with regards to allusions and history. But what I especially appreciate are his insights into the poets’ use of language and sound, something that is usually conveniently ignored or forgotten altogether. It is a refreshing anthology with a lot of depth and history. In Ozawa’s preface this stood out to me: “. . . I came to think that the single vertical line of a haiku might well function as something similar to the ancient yorishiro, vertical natural forms believed to be sacred conduits channeling the power of the gods.” Indeed! Highly recommended! The haiku are translated by Janine Beichman, author of Masaoka Shiki: His Life and Works, and Embracing the Firebird: Yosano Akiko and the Rebirth of the Female Voice in Modern Japanese Poetry. Check out a recent interview with her on the podcast Books on Asia (“Janine Beichman on translating Japanese Haiku and Tanka”).

.

Jack Galmitz / Views

Views: Jack Galmitz: 9788182533141: Amazon.com: Books

If you haven’t already, please do take a look at Jack Galmitz’s book, Views. It contains a variety of terrific interviews (paul m., Peter Yovu, Chris Gordon, and John Martone), reviews (Ban’ya Natsuishi, Kaneko Tohta, and Tateo Fukutomi), and essays (Robert Boldman, Grant Hackett, Marlene Mountain, Richard Gilbert, Dimitar Anakiev, Mark Truscott, and Fay Aoyagi). My personal favorite is Galmitz’s essay on Marlene Mountain’s poetry.

.

now available: Haiku 2021

I’m very pleased to announce that Haiku 2021, edited by Lee Gurga and I, is now available from Modern Haiku Press. As usual, the book features 100 ku by 100 poets, all of which were published in 2020. This year, Philip Rowland wrote the Introduction. Philip is the editor of NOON: journal of the short poem, the author of Something Other Than Other, and before music, and is one of the editors of Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years. Philip is also the author of numerous insightful and inspiring essays about haiku in English and short poetry: “A Dialogue on the Experimental,” “From Haiku to the Short Poem: Bridging the Divide,” “Avant-Garde Haiku: A New Outlook,” and “Surrealism & Contemporary Haiku -Or- Surreal Haiku?” He also wrote the introduction for my own collection of poems, lakes & now wolves. From Philip’s Introduction:

Haiku 2021 unfolds as a series of flashes of insight
and facets of language, a remarkable range
of minimalist poetic possibilities.”

.

recommended / the introduction to…

The Penguin Book of Haiku by

I would like to specifically recommend the Introduction that Adam Kerns wrote for his book The Penguin Book of Haiku (2018). I’d guesstimate that not since reading Haruo Shirane’s essay “Beyond the Haiku Moment: Bashō, Buson and Modern Haiku Myths” (along with his book Traces of Dreams) has my understanding and appreciation of Japanese haiku (its composition and history) been tickled and expanded. If someone’s interested in the haiku that blossomed and was shat from the Japanese people up to 1900, this would be an ideal place to start. Can’t help but recall Philip Rowland’s usage of something W. H. Auden said in “From Haiku to the Short Poem: Bridging the Divide”: “In the history of literature it is extraordinary how profitable misunderstanding of poems in foreign languages has been.” I’ll interpret “profitable” in two ways though: monetarily, but also, especially, as sustenance for consciousness, imagination. One of so many provocative quotes from it: “That Buson also excelled at sound poetry brings into relief how traditionalist accounts of haiku frequently subordinate sound, and other sensory stimuli, to a modern regime of visuality in which images have all be displaced imagination (XLIII).”

.

recommended / HAIKU AS LIFE

Haiku as Life: A Kaneko Tohta Omnibus

-Essays, an Interview, Commentary and Selected Haiku in Translation-

translated by Richard Gilbert, Ito Yuki, David Ostman, Masahiro Hori, Koun Franz, Tracy Franz, Kanamitsu Takeyoshi

Red Moon Press, 2019 / $35

This omnibus contains Kaneko Tohta’s poems starting in 1937, when he was 18, up to his passing in 2018 at age 98. Born in 1919, it seems fair to say that his work in many ways reflects what haiku was in Japan in its first century as “haiku,” a stand alone poem (named and conceptualized by Masaoka Shiki in 1894).

Besides the lifetime of poems (many of which, at least in translation, display a range of confessional rawness, beauty, evocativeness, and surrealism), the book offers illuminating essays, an interview, and commentary.

In their original Japanese, which the book includes, all the haiku are written in a single line. In English, the translation group presents them with a deep knowledge and appreciation of 20th and 21st century poetry in English as well as the range with which haiku (or ku, or minimalist poems) have, and are, being written in English: one line (monoku), 2 lines, the traditional English-language 3 lines aligned-left, 4 and 5 lines—each, at times, also playfully, spatially experimented with. As Hiroaki Sato notes in a review of an earlier, partial version of this omnibus for Modern Haiku, Gilbert’s justification of “this variegated approach” is the West’s “history of short-form poetics (Imagism, Objectivism, Language Poetry, etc.).” Sato importantly points out that “Kaneko apparently has not followed any of them,” however, and “never stepped outside the monolinear form and used no interlinear space, no punctuation, before or since.” So the group’s approach to presenting the poems is novel and refreshing in a sense, but also entirely inaccurate in another. An interesting conundrum. Since the poems are there in their original, untouched forms, and Gilbert’s open and purposeful about their choices, the approach, to me, seems original and thought-provoking.

One of my favorite things about the book was how Tohta’s comments inspired me to reread (and therefore have a new appreciation and understanding of) the poetry of Issa—in particular Makoto Ueda’s book Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa, as well as David G. Lanoue’s extensive translations of Issa’s poems. This quote did it:

“. . . [Issa] possessed a raw perception of living beings. And it is in coming to recognize this perception that I have come to realize Issa’s sensitivity as something tremendous: the raw, living appearance of a genuine human being.”

And also this, following it:

“There are those who accumulate desires, who seize markets and even wage wars—I would like to force them to read Issa’s haiku. If they could understand this gentleness, this world of sensitivity in which living beings feel as living beings, then perhaps their lust for power might diminish, might be made to decrease. This is my small wish.”

If you are at all interested in Japanese haiku, I would think this book is a must have.

.

blue-bear—

in the chilled ocean

a human song

—Kaneko Tohta (1971)

.

Two Wings The Butterfly

Along the river

Following a path in the snow:

Marked by a cane.

—Gerald Vizenor (1962)

The Haiku Foundation recently added to it’s already voluminous and ever-expanding online library an important addition: Gerald Vizenor’s 1962 haiku collection, Two Wings The Butterfly. This was Vizenor’s first of seven haiku collections (the last, Cranes Arise: Haiku Scenes, from 1999, until his most recent 2014 collected haiku volume, favor of crows: new and collected haiku). Two Wings The Butterfly shows us that Vizenor was discovering, exploring, and writing haiku during the same time as Jack Kerouac, Paul Reps, Richard Wright, Cor van den Heuvel, J. W. Hackett, and Nick Virgilio (just to name a few of the poets whose haiku have gained notoriety and weight over the years). Vizenor is a citizen of the White Earth Nation of the Anishinaabeg in Minnesota, and Pressor Emeritus of American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He discovered haiku when he was eighteen while in the military in Japan and notes that “My first literary creations were haiku scenes, and since then, that imagistic sense of nature has always been present in my writing” (favor of crows XV). Elsewhere, he writes that “Haiku was my first sense of totemic survivance in poetry, the visual and imagistic associations of nature, and of perception and experience” (X); “Haiku, in a sense, inspired me on the road as a soldier in another culture and gently turned me back to the seasons, back to the traces of nature and the tease of native season and memories” (XI). It’s especially interesting and profound that he notes the following: “Haiku scenes are similar, in a sense, to the original dream songs and visionary images of the anishinaabe, the Chippewa or Ojibwe, on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. . . . Once, words and worlds apart in time and place, these poetic images of haiku and dream songs came together more by chance than fate, and later by intuition and consideration” (XI). For more reading on dream songs, check out Songs of the Chippewa and “Stories, Dreams, and Ceremonies: Anishinaabe ways of learning” by Leanne Simpson.

.

recommended: light packing

Elmedin Kadric, a regular contributor to is/let, has a fine new haiku collection: light packing. You can get your copy for $15 (plus shipping) through his website or from the publisher, Red Moon Press. I’ll second what Lee Gurga wrote about Kadric on the back cover: “One of the most interesting minds writing haiku today.” Here are a couple that stood for me that I hadn’t seen before:

all the seasons

sitting

by her deathbed

.

hard rain

the old butcher shop

open again

.

Haiku 2020

Haiku 2014 cover

I’m very pleased to announce that Haiku 2020 in now available from Modern Haiku Press for $10 + shipping. The book features 100 notable haiku (by 100 poets) from 2019 that Lee Gurga and I selected together. The introductory essay is by Richard Gilbert, author of The Disjunctive Dragonfly, Poems of Consciousness, and coeditor of numerous books devoted to the life, philosophy and poetry of Kaneko Tohta. The cover photograph is by my wife, Masako, and the two of us designed it together.

.

Rattlecast #6 Richard Gilbert”

Between living and dreaming

there is a third thing.

Guess it.

—Antonio Machado (1983)

Poetry as Consciousness: Haiku Forests, Space of Mind, and an Ethics of Freedom by Richard Gilbert (Keibunsha Press, 2018). Order in English.

Also, check out Richard Gilbert’s other conversation with Tim Green from 2015 in Rattle #47

.