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.

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