Short Songs: A Collection of English Tanka Poems by Amelia
Fielden. Ginninderra Press: 2003. Saddle-stapled, 6 x 8 inches, 48 pps., three
tanka per page, US10.00, including airmail postage, ordered from Amelia Fielden,
10 Delasala Drive, Macquarie Hills, NSW 2285,Australia.
Short Songs is an excellent title for a book of tanka because this is the
exact translation of the Japanese word "tanka." Now Amelia Fielden has
claimed it for her own with this, her third book with Ginninderra Press.
Fittingly enough, Short Songs begins with a short explanation of tanka. I
especially valued this of her paragraphs since it comes from an authority at
home in both languages:
"As tanka are intentionally fragmentary, they are unpunctuated in
Japanese, which has no upper-case/lower-case lettering. Again, following
accepted conventions, I do not begin my tanka poems with capital letter, nor end
them with full stops; and I use commas and dashes only where I feel they are
necessary for clarity and understanding."
If only more people could so clearly understand and follow her example.
The tanka, mostly three to a page have as Fielden writes, "No
over-arching theme to this collection; the tanka were simply drawn from the
endless stream of memories, feelings, thoughts, events and scenes I experience
in my daily life." As the reader progresses through the book, the
individual tanka began to become sequences such as "Meals on Wheels,"
"When All the Men she has Loved are Gone," and even "To Okinawa
for a Tanka Festival."
Fielden writes both, what she calls the "lyrical style" in which
the poet clearly states an emotional feeling and the "shasei" –
sketch from nature/life or word painting.
An example of the lyrical style would be:
shiny green quilt
billows over the bed,
desire seascaped –
if only you cared
we could have made love
The word-sketch style would be:
scratch under my feet
warm turquoise waves
off the hotel beach
As telling as these samples are, when Amelia Fielden begins to work in
sequences her abilities truly shine. I was greatly moved by this sequence simply
were allowed to visit
for one hour a week
on Sunday afternoons
the polio kids cried,
cried all night –
‘you see,’ the nurses said,
’visits only upset them’
the boy child lying
in the next bed
cried himself to death -
Santa came next morning
tangled hair: Selected Tanka from Midaregami by Akiko Yosano translated
by Sanford Goldstein and Seishi Shinoda. Perfect bound, 5 x 8 inches, 166 pps.,
romaji and kanji versions, copious notes. Available in bookstores and Amazon.com’s
So well-acquainted was I with my green and pink copy of this book, I had
forgotten how early its history. Only when reading the New Preface by Sanford
Goldstein in this lovely new edition published by Cheng & Tsui Company did I
realize that Goldstein and Shinoda had started their work on the Yosano poems in
1964. Nor did I realize there was an edition published by Purdue University
Press in 1971.
Again one is impressed with the early beginnings of tanka in English and the
vast importance of the work of Sanford Goldstein in this field. And since the
green and pink Tuttle edition is now selling at rare book prices, over $40.00 a
copy I found when I tried to get another copy, it is so good to have this
attractive book with larger pages. The cover art, with the soft-focus photo of
hair on a woman’s neck prepares the reader for the sexuality of Akiko’s love
poems, mostly written during her love affair with Tekkan Yosano, the Tokyo
editor of the tanka magazine, Venus at the very beginning of the last
At a time when the Japanese still held Victorian ideas of sex and womanhood,
Akiko Yosano’s frank and factual confessions, her appreciation for her body
and her sex, rocketed the book to instant and long-lasting fame. Three women
have had best-seller status for their books of tanka in the last century in
Japan. Akiko Yosano in 1901, Fumiko Nakajoo in 1954, and Machi Tawara in 1986.
The unifying factor in all their work was first and foremost their honesty about
themselves and their feelings, their ability to cast aside old conventions and
expressions, and to breath life and sexuality back into tanka.
Even though Goldstein and Shinoda translated all of the 399 poems in Yosano’s
1901 version of Midaregami (Tangled Hair), for all three of these
printings, it was decided to stay with the publishing of only 165 selected
poems. Part of the reason for this decision was, in the opinion of the
translators, that many of the poems were not as good as the others and they only
wanted to present her very best work. Looking over the rejected poems, though,
one wonders if unladylike behavior and sensuality also had a factor in the
The other factor was space. And this relates to the very best part of this
translation. For every poem in the book, Goldstein has written an extensive
footnote that explains either situations in Yosano’s life surrounding the
inspiration for the poem, or explanations of Japanese life and customs. This
part of the book alone, is worth getting it. Nowhere have I learned as much
about tanka and the Japanese as I did in these notes.
One can read the poems alone, or flip back and forth between commentary and
poems or do as I did, read all the poems, read all the commentary and then read
the poems again with the new understanding and insights Goldstein had given me.
I am so glad that these notes are not lost in the all-too-quick remaindering and
rare book status so readers can continue to have access to this treasure.
Partings at Dawn: An Anthology of Japanese Gay Literature. Edited by
Stephen D. Miller. Gay Sunshine Press, San Francisco. Trade paperback, 6 x 9
inches, illustrated, 350 pps., $19.95. ISBN: 0-940567-18-0.
It is fascinating how we can only understand another culture through the
slits of translation. We may think we know something about these people, and
yet, as long as we are kept from the full-spectrum of their human experiences as
portrayed in literature, we can never form a complete or accurate picture of
them in our minds. Partings at Dawn brings the translations of 21 works
or excerpts from novels or correspondence of male homosexuals. What surprised
me, but it shouldn’t have, was to read the large amount of tanka in these
One book, Wild Azaleas by Kitamura Kigin in 1676, is a compilation of
homoerotic tanka sprinkled in sixteen classics as Kokinshuu, to The
Tale of Genji, with short prose sections setting up the story followed by
tanka. For persons looking for salacious homoerotic writing, this is not the
book. In the poems, due partly to the Japanese writing method which does not
declare gender in pronouns, the words are ambiguous enough to miss any same-sex
orientation. Still the prose sections make clear that many of these poems were
written as the result of priests and older men desiring young men and boys. The
book was seen as a model of behavior as townspeople took over the activities of
priests and samerai in these practices.
One must not think that tanka has been the form used for homoerotic poetry
only in Japan’s distant past. Ishii Tatsuhiko (born 1952), journalist for the Asahi
Shimbun, has several books of tanka on the subject, including Bathhouse,
from which Hiroaki Sato has translated about 100 poems which are given in romaji
and English. A sample:
Nikuyoku o nirekamitsu, koki kiri no naka e kieyuku junrei no, ato o ou
Ruminating on lust, a pilgrim disappears into a dense fog him,
it is that I run after
Persons seeking more exciting explicit material, will also find in Partings
at Dawn, graphic descriptions of "fist-fucking, " "glory
holes," and a host of other practices of the gay world – all of which
never made the leap into tanka. It was informative to see how different the
relationships of men in Japan are to that of males in other countries. The
problem of "who is the leader?" in a relationship is
"solved" in Japan by one person either being or taking the role of the
"elder" and the other being the "boy" or "youth"
even if the men are quite close in age. With this heritage, male homosexuality,
in Japan comes to close to the area of pedophilia, which in America, the gays
try to distance themselves from. All a long way from poetry, but still a part of
it, none the less.
Reeds: Contemporary Haiga No. 1, 2003 Editor Jeanne Emrich Jemrich@aol.com.
Lone Egret Press, Edina, Minnesota. Flat spine with full color jacket, 60 pps.,
5 x 8 inches, all illustrations in color, July 2003, $12.00. Lone Egret Press,
pob 390545, Edina MN 55435.
According to the words of Editor Jeanne Emrich on the back cover of Reeds:
"It is the purpose of this planned annual series is to preserve in one
volume, the ever wider output of haiga (haiku paintings) found in books,
journals, mail art, galleries and on the Internet." This first book, with a
beautiful color watercolor and haiku by Zolo as cover, includes
the work of Stephen Addiss, Kay Anderson, Lidia Rozmus, Stanford M. Forrester,
Jeanne Emrich, Zolo, Wilfred Croteau and Raffael de Gruttola, Jim Kacian, Gary
Lebel, Marlene Mountain and Pamela Miller Ness.
The book opens with Jeanne Emrich’s cogent introduction to haiga outside of
Japan and its resulting influence on the western world. Then the first
twenty-three pages offer ink and watercolor illustrations in Chinese and
Japanese styles, several of them by the very adept artists Susan Frame and
Jeanne Emrich. After
that the haiga become more modern with the abstract watercolors of Zolo and on
up to the work of Marlene Mountain in which she furthers her
"ransom-note" techniques of illustrating her opinions and witty
observations of the haiku scene. The work of Wilfred Croteau deserves special
mention because, as an expert at brushwork, instead of following Oriental
examples, makes completely modern and self-discovered ideas and techniques.
Pamela Miller-Ness makes her haiga with needle and thread in cross-stitch which
has to be a first.
Reeds, contains one tanka, or is this a tan renga?, written by Jeanne
Emrich and Michael D. Welch and illustrated with a full-color brushwork scene by
Jeanne Emrich, but all the rest of the poems are haiku. One small area that
needs work, is the picking of the haiku for the haiga and this fault lies with
the author/artists and not the editor. At times, the haiku come off as
"weak" or "repetitions" of better known work. It seems that
if one is going to the trouble of creating images for the haiku, one should pick
only the very best. It is too easy to shore up a weak haiku with good art.
According to the tradition of haiga, it should be exactly the opposite. As seen
in the examples done by Basho, the authority on haiga, the haiku should be
excellent and the artwork downplayed in either execution or impressiveness. One
can only surmise from this anthology of contemporary haiga, that the current
fashion is in direct opposition to Basho’s way.
Closing the book, the esteemed expert on haiku and art, Steven Addiss adds
his own short history of Japanese haiga. Reeds also contains a short
biography of each artist, a list of suggested reading and the rules for readers
to make their own submissions for the next in the series.
Book of Haikus by Jack Kerouac, and edited by Regina Weinreich. Penguin
Poets Series, New York: 2003. Paper back, 5 x 6 inches, 200 pps., Introduction
and Notes by Regina Weinreich, $13.00. ISBN:0-14-200264-X.
I almost did not buy this book because I was so appalled that anyone in this
day and age would still use the incorrect and out-dated plural for haiku. But
finally my admiration for Jack Kerouac’s haiku and the desire to have many of
them between the covers of one book won out. To my great relief I found in the
introduction that Weinreich had done her homework by consulting with Cor van den
Hevuel, to know that "haikus" was wrong usage, but she decided to
retain it in honor of Kerouac’s custom. In her introduction to Kerouac and
haiku, Weinreich has the rest of her facts straight about haiku. She admits that
she understands enough of haiku to realize that all the poems she picked to
include in this volume would not stand up to the scrutiny and judging of today’s
standard of the form, but has included them as what Kerouac understood the form
to be in the way he used it in the late 50s and 60s. Valid.
So you will probably not like every haiku in this book, (of what book could
you say that?) but the poems provide a peek into the way Kerouac perceived his
world, his every thought about many things, and his wide and various experiments
with the form.
Misurgirafical & plomlied
- ding dang
The Buddha’s gong
As with much of Kerouac’s other prose fiction, many of these haiku are the
result of highs on alcohol or a diet of other drugs, and therefore some can seem
silly or nonsensical, and yet, even these, when pondered alone and long have a
"Woo!" – bird of perfect
balance on the fir
Just moved his tail
As you can see, neither Weinreich nor Kerouac were consistent or
knowledgeable about whether to use caps and punctuation in an uniform way.
Weinreich found many of these haiku in Kerouac’s little spiral notebooks in
which he made notes (along with haiga-like drawings in pencil) but others were
published as part and parcel of his prose works. Also in Weinreich’s
compilation she includes notes Kerouac occasionally wrote about either the
genesis of the haiku or his opinion of it which I found very valuable.
I know it is useless to fantasize, but one cannot help wonder how the English
haiku scene would have developed if Kerouac had not died in 1969 at the age of
forty-seven. If the Haiku Society of America had begun where he already was in
these years of their beginning instead of starting with T.S Eliot’s lone,
haiku copied from Japanese tanka.
A note on Penguin’s book making arts. Treat the pages gently as they are so
poorly glued that the leaves are already falling out of my copy.
Year of the Horse: A Renga by Giselle Maya and Edward Baranosky.
EUB Publications, Toronto, Canada: 2003. Saddle-stapled, 5.5 x 8.5 inches, 48
pps., illustrated, full-color cover, and even comes with a bookmark with a tiny
pewter horse and ball on a leather thong. Check with Baranosky
for price and ordering details.
While renga in English are going through several transformations as various
persons attempt to stamp their own individuality on the form by creating
"new" lengths, the Year of the Horse, is the first in another
of these possibilities. This renga of 108 links, seems to have been reached in a
completely organic way - the pair were simply enjoying linking to each other’s
work when they realized that they had this magic number. And as they state in
the Preface 2:
" One hundred eight is recognized as a special number in many cultures,
evenly divisible by threes and twos in several combinations and groupings,
resembling fractal formulations. It is the number of beads in a Tibetan Buddhist
rosary, each bead marking the recitation of a mantra, for the expulsion of
illusion and opening a door to enlightenment, the final count being three sets
This "36" brings us back to the number of links in a kasen renga as
devised by Basho. As one who finds the "new" shortened forms of renga
unable to adequately develop any theme or undercurrents between the authors, I
am especially glad to greet this longer form. It seems to have possibilities
that Giselle Maya and Edward Baranosky have only begun to explore.
The pair have given themselves the project of writing a renga on each of the
animals of the Oriental zodiac – twelve in all. All blessings on the endeavor!
The links of Year of the Horse are presented without capital letters
and punctuation which gives the pages a clean, quiet background for the reader.
The indications of the author are given with indentions so that even the fonts
are the same. The links are set, in Maya’s own person style, as if tan renga
so each exchange looks like a tanka of five lines written by two persons. This
makes finding the linkage between the stanzas easy to see and appreciate. Both
authors are excellent renga writers so the reader is given close links and far
leaps in a myriad of images.
For those who know the individual style of writing for each, it is very
interesting to study this renga to see how subtly they have influenced each
other. It seems that the cross-cultural exchange between Toronto, Canada and the
French Provence has greatly enriched not only the vocabulary of each, but has
sharpened each person’s skills. For any poet feeling they have written
themselves into a rut, this kind of renga work should act as inspiration and
Here is a sample of how the poem begins:
a gust of wind and salt
sea horses flow out of dust
on Sable Island
smooth and cool in my hand
shells gathered in mid-winter
a painted ship
come to live among
fresh hoof prints in wet sand
horse-shoe crabs and beach glass
Pictures of the Heart: The Hyakunin Isshu in Word and Image by Joshua S.
Mostow. University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu: 1996. Hardcover, 10.5 x 7, 524
pps., illustrated, notes. ISBN: 0-8248-1705-2.
I know this book is seven years old already, but I have just discovered it
and was so excited by it that I wanted to recommend it to others. One might sigh
and say, "What another translation of the famous One Hundred Poems by
One Hundred Poets as compiled by Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241)? Haven’t we
had enough already?" "No," I would answer, "we can never
have too many translations, because each one brings something new to our
understanding of the work and there is no one definitive translation of any
poem." Beyond this service, Pictures of the Heart adds some very
important aspects to our understanding of this work. Mostow is first and
foremost an authority on Japanese art as well as a professor in the Department
of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia.
In the beginning of this book, Joshua Mostow gives the first definition of
tanka and its history and importance in his Introduction with which I can
totally agree – bar none! His section on Japanese Poetry and its Techniques
(on page 12) goes on to explain the grammatical techniques where he makes the
bold and accurate statement: "Taking a cue from Mark Morris, we can think
of tanka as an "attempt [at] the transformation, or deformation, of a
single Japanese sentence. A good waka was the successful struggle with a virtual
line of prose."
This supports the argument that tanka are made of sentence fragments and
phrases and are not in the sentences as too many translations are strait-jacketed.
Continuing his techniques, he cogently discusses the various kinds of pivots,
and "figural" techniques such as mi-tate (elegant confusion)
and gijinka (personification or pathetic fallacy).
Secondly, Mostow uses his knowledge of Western poetry and of the Japanese
literature to explain how marvelously Teika arranged these one hundred poems.
Never have I read such a clear and scholarly way of investigating this process.
This chapter should be required reading for anyone attempting to understand how
to put the brevity of tanka into a larger poem or sequence.
Then Professor Mastow explores in great detail and with deep wisdom the
problems of translation. I love his statement: "Readability was not a
virtue in the tradition of Asian literature, especially not in Japan where
students were trained to read the incomprehensible Chinese classics in Japanese
and where it was not considered excessive to spend years to understand one page
of text. By contrast, readability is a fundamental requirement for modern
From the fourteen currently available English translations, he takes one poem
(#9) by Ono no Komachi and shows, by comparing how various translators have
treated the poem, not only in English but also in conveying the Japanese sense
and sidelights of the poem.
This 24-page section begins with Frederick Victor Dickin’s version (London,
1866) in which the tanka are set in four lines. Clay MacCauley (1899) was the
first to set the poems into five lines in his book Hyakunin-Isshu (Single
Songs of a Hundred Poets), Literal Translations into English with Renderings
According to the Original Metre. Since this same poem was also in the Kokinshuu,
translated by Helen McCullough, her version and comments are included along with
those of William N. Porter, Arthur Waley, Curtis Hidden Page, H.H. Honda’s
work on the Kokinshuu, Donald Keene, Yasuda, Rexroth, Burton Watson and
Hiroaki Sato, (on which Kostow comments: "Sato seems to confuse the prosody
of poetry with its graphic lineation. Many scholars have rebutted his thesis,
but he remains unconvinced . . . I can second William LaFleur’s assertion that
"a one-line poem – at least in Western languages is willy nilly at the
same time a no-line poem"." Steven Carter’s versions also receive
the criticism leveled at the Watson-Sato translations, that the works contain no
Japanese text with which to compare the work, no bibliographic source listed.
As if all of this was not enough, Mostow’s expertise in art finally comes
forward to shine. Since the Hyakunin Isshu have been used as the playing
cards for the game still used to usher in the new year, the set has been
illustrated numerous times over the last 800 years. In addition, the poems have
been the basis for designs for kimono and books for customers’ ordering
[catalogues in the Sears and Roebuck tradition] as far back as 1661 and 1663.
While acquainted with many of the card pack illustrations, the robe designs were
entirely new to me and I was very impressed with their modern aspect as well as
the care with which those artists took to find more than just a descriptive
picture of the poem but to transpose its images into symbols. The cards often
showed "little scenes" or settings for the poems, but the robe
designs, while made of realistic images were handled in an abstract manner.
It is only on page 141 that Mostow begins the regular work of presenting the
first of the hundred poems and the one hundred poets. To being with, as it
should be, is a romaji rendering of the poem across the page from Mostow’s
translation. Underneath is the author’s name and what is known about the
person. Under the commentary are the credits where the poem was previously
published and poems which may have inspired this work. Then Mostow discusses the
pictures, noting what features the various artists emphasize or ignore, and when
available, shows a design for a robe.
The appendixes and notes are so full of information that in my book, the
margins are filled with stars and notations. The wealth of information in this
book simply blew me away and filled me with admiration for the work of Joshua M.
Bird Song More and More by L.A. Davidson, edited by Vincent Tripi. Swamp
Press: printed in 2003. As it says in the colophon: "All printing and
binding took place during the downpours of June while the country slid into
further depravity." Hand-tied, printed with envelope fold and die-cut
window for the wood engraving by Tony Kulik, 5 x 7 inches,18 pps., $6.00 plus
$2.00 for postage, ISBN:0-934714-31-2. Order from Ed at Swamp Press, 15 Warwick
Road, Northfield, MA 01360.
The first book in a planned project named Haiku Masters Mini Series, to be
edited by the well-know haiku writer, Vincent Tripi, has made a beautiful
beginning. This book is gorgeous as are very few books of any genre. Ed at Swamp
Press, who has for so long made all of Vincent Tripi’s exceptional books, has
reached a new height with this quintessential example of old-fashioned art of
the printing press.
While the title of Tripi’s project implies it will be a series of books by
well-published authors, his intent is to find excellent writers who have not yet
had the books for which their work is deserving. The goal is a worthy one. And
the work of L.A. Davidson, until this year and her latest book, Jamaica
Moments, was and remains deserving of the marvelous treatment Vincent and Ed
Rayher have given her work.
This selection of twelve haiku shows some of Davidson’s most hermetic works
even as it trembles
no longer a bud
Dreaming Sunlight: Haiku by Margarita Engle. Published by Feather
pob 438, Shrewsbury, England SY3 0WN . 2003.
Saddle-stapled, 24 pps, four haiku per page, 6 x 8.25 inches, $8.00, ISBN:
1-84175-14-5. Order a signed copy from Margarita Engle, 9433 N. Fowler Ave.,
Clovis California 93611.
Margarita Engle is a botanist and the author of two novels: Singing to
Cuba and Skywriting. Her haiku have appeared in many international
journals and anthologies. Her literary awards include a San Diego Book award, a
Cintas Fellowship as well as haiku and poetry awards from the Haiku Society of
America, National PEN women, Tanka Splendor, High/Coo Press and the
American Poetry Association.
watching wild birds
instead of news
Except perhaps in spring. . . love poems by Robert Gibson. Holly
House Publications, Seattle, WA: 2003. Saddle-stapled, 36 pps., artwork by
Karen Klein, ISBN: 1-57726-155-0, $10.50 ppd. from Bob Gibson, 929 H Street,
Centralia, WA 98531.
This touching collection of mostly haiku with some tanka, which have been
published over the years in various magazines, has been gathered to show a
deeper, richer picture of the relationship Gibson had with a woman known as
Echo. As Gibson states: "The poems that follow are recognition of an
emotional relationship that is real and has not diminished, nor will it.
Appropriately enough the work, printed on soft pink paper, is dedicated to
Leatrice Lifshitz, who died March 10th, 2003.
a glimpse of bright water
through the pines
Christmas Gifts in South Japan and other Haiku Essays by Thomas
Carroll Heffernan. Saint Andrews Press,
Laurinburg, North Carolina: 2003. Flat-spine paper, 5.5 x 8.5, 60 pp., $11.00.
The facts from the back of the book: "For haiku in English Heffernan
received Japan Air Lines / Manichi Culture Seminar and Itoen awards and in 2000
an international collegiate essay award from the Atlantic Monthly. Since
1985 he has been named nine times in the Mainichi annual selection awards for
English-language haiku. Heffernan teaches at Kagoshima Prefectual College on
Kyushu, South Japan."
Heffernan, as author of eight other books of poems and narrative, offers in Christmas
Gifts in South Japan a series of what he calls "haiku essays" but
what others would call "haibun." An excellent writer, Heffernan pulls
the reader in with his stories or observations, and the when one least expects
it, there is a haiku. Very engaging. Great reading for learning of how a
Westerner lives and views Japan.
Feeling it would be wrong to quote just a haiku out of the matrix of the
prose in Christmas Gifts in South Japan, here is one haiku from Heffernan’s
book of individual haiku, White Edge, Curling Wave:
rows of glassy eyes
the Friday fishseller asks
the crowd to line up
Inside Out: Haiku and Dreams by Joseph Kirschner. Deep North Press,
Evanston, Illinois:2003. Perfect bound, 5.5 x 8.5, 88 pp., ISBN: 1-929116-10-1,
$20.00. Order from Joseph Kirschner, 2157 Ridge Ave., 2 D, Evanston, IL 60201.
For the first third of the book, Joseph Kirschner writes about dreams and how
he connects them to the topic of haiku using the poems of Japanese masters. This
connection between haiku and the rest of our lives is explored in a quite
scholarly and yet perfectly accessible manner. In the rest of the book,
Kirschner has collected comments and haiku from thirty-eight writers, a virtual
who’s who of English-language haiku, into which Kirschner weaves his comments
and observations to make a united and cogent presentation. At the end of the
book each contributor is given a paragraph for a biography to be introduced to
Charles Trumbull’s Deep North Press has done a beautiful job on the book
along with the cover design and artwork by Lidia Rozmus. The Foreword, by Daniel
Lindley of the Jung Institute of Chicago adds credibility to Kirschner’s
thesis of the similarity of haiku and dreams.
Here, a sample of the way the poet’s words and haiku combine, using the
section by Joseph Kirschner:
"I walk to the bus stop with a haiku master. He
disappears. I join a young guy on a lawn to wait for a haiku gathering to
assemble. Suddenly, I am impelled to tell him this is only a dream. I know it
is! How unusual. I must record this.
to capture the dream
I reach for a tape recorder. . .
and wake up"
Komagane Poems by David Mayer, SVD. Divine
Word Missionaries, P.O. Box 6099, Techny, IL 60082. Hard cover with dust
jacket, 5 x 7.5 inches, 94 pp. $12.00.
From the information on the jacket fold: "David Mayer, SVD, teaches
American literature and language at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan. Born in
Columbia Missouri in 1938, he became a member of Divine Word Missionaries in
1958 and was ordained priest in 1966. . . These poems were completed in August,
1998, the 25th anniversary of his arrival in Japan."
This charming book serves as an introduction to insect life of Komagane City,
a part of Nagoya. One haiku is presented on a page. Under a title is a haiku
Oval orange surprise
Bulging black-rimmed dark-blue eyes
Blink flit-flat, filt-flat.
This is followed by a short paragraph of mild explanation of the bug or
butterfly. On the opposite page are delightfully simple pencil drawings. I
couldn’t find any mention of the artist or a name, so I am assuming that David
Mayer, with his interest in the observation in these denizens of the grasses, is
also the creator of the drawings – which are, in my estimation, the best part
of the book.
Mount Gassan’s Slope: by Ann Newell. Translated into Japanese by
Kenichi Sato. Red Moon Press: 2002. Perfect bound, 8 x 8 inches, unnumbered
pages, sumi-e by Ann Newell, $14.95 Order from Nancy
Whitham, 3375 N. Baldwin, Portland, OR 97217
The title of this book came from a chance statement in a postcard from
Kenichi Sato to Ann Newell about a day of skiing. Even though this phrase caused
endless problems in translation, it stuck. On this association to Basho’s trip
to the Far North, Newell connects her forty-one haiku and her spare shapes of
sumi. The haiku are arranged according to seasons, and on these division
pages have brief statements that I found very engaging. For example:
If I believe
when they tell me
my ink is made
of soot and glue
and the hair of my brush
I believe also
that you see
in strokes from my brush.
Every word, every poem, preface and afterword has been faithfully reproduced
in kanji for the Japanese reader. Red Moon Press has done an impressive job of
making a beautiful book out of the art of Ann Newell.
Upstate Dim Sum: Route 9 Haiku Group with guest poet, Michael Dylan
Welch. Saddle-stapled, 5.5 x 8.5 inches, 34 pp. This chapbook is the latest in a
series, published twice a year by the Route 9 Group of Haiku Writers. Contact
John Stevenson. P.O. Box 122, Nassau, NY 12123 to subscribe ($8.00 a year) or
order back issues ($5.00 each).
"The Route 9 Haiku Group meets once a month at the Tai Pan restaurant
(hence the Dim Sum) on Route 9 in Halfmoon, NY. At the end of each meal favorite
poems are selected for inclusion in an ongoing pool which are then collected by
John Stevenson for these books. Members are John Stevenson, Yu Chang, Hilary
Tann and Tom Clausen. The guest poet, Michael Dylan Welch was given the
centerfold for his six haiku. Here is one:
after the haiku conference
my new friend’s name badge
in the trash
The rest of the members’ haiku, on beautiful papers has the authorship
indicated by initials in red ink almost suggestive of a chop. In honor of the
newest member, Tom Clausen, here is one of his poems.
a coffee can of pennies
hold the door open
Returning in Time by Slavica Savli. Translated into English by Adreja
Grad. Published by Haiku Balkan, Ljublijana, Slovenia: 2003. Flat-spined
paperback, 5 x 8 inches, 60 pps., tri-lingual, ISBN: 961-236-436-2, Introduction
by Edin Saracevic. Contact author
Slavica Savli, is the revered teacher of countless students of poetry and
haiku. Solvenia has probably garnered more haiku awards per poet that any other
country in the last decade. Thus, Returning in Time is a marvelous
opportunity to visit Savli’s haiku.
Prihaja iz sole,
s kolesom v roki
in sonce z njim.
Coming from school,
bicycle in his hand
and the sun for company.
As you can see, in the original the poem has a much better formal shape, but
we have to be glad for being able to follow the thinking process. The book is
nicely made, all in blue ink with a sensitive photo as cover and back page.
small town by vincent tripi. Tribe Press, Greenfield, Massachusetts:
2003. Hand-tied, jacketed in transparent vellum, 4.75 x 6 inches, 24
mica-sprinkled pages., printing and typesetting by Swamp Press, $7.00 ppd. Order
from Vincent Tripi, 42 Franklin Street, Greenfield MA, 01301.
From the Preface by Tripi: "these are my small observations of a small
town in a brief time in a brief live. a town I’ve come to cherish because of
the fact that it always is exactly what it is. a lesson for us all."
A few years ago Vincent Tripi, a well-known and greatly admired haiku poet,
moved from the Bay Area back to his roots on the East Coast. As a message,
"all is well" comes this collection of his haiku in his new hometown.
Like the work of all saints, Tripi’s work is at once vastly reverent, human,
and funny, too. A sample:
small town market -
larger than mine