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Edited by LeRoy Gorman.

Comes with membership in Haiku Canada (details below).

Well, thing pile up while you’re distracted, as I have been for the past several months, with work (that brings in the wherewithal to keep going) doing one of the things I most enjoy, working with students and teachers to improve their writing and teaching of writing. Some details about that on Penny’s and my “Events” web site: http://www.2hweb.net/events/.

One of the things piling up is haikai periodicals, of which there are now more than a score to report on—that’s a score of different titles, a lot more than a score of individual issues. So, I’ll take up the most recent issue in a minireview, and create lists of additional issues, so that we can get—I can get—an overview of what’s happening as quickly as possible.

In this context, it’s a delight to report on one of the latest entries in the haiku magazine business, Haiku Canada Review. Not entirely new, HCR is a follow-on from the Haiku Canada Newsletter, which has been issued in pamphlet form for many years. However, last year (2007), editor LeRoy Gorman noted that the newsletter had been going in the direction of becoming a magazine, a “review” (that is, a magazine with not only literary content, i.e., poems, but includes reviews and articles on topics related to its literary content). He asked if he could not move it all the way over into the review style of publication it was becoming, and the Haiku Canada membership agreed at last May’s HC Weekend in Ottawa. At the same time, Marco Fraticelli became the editor of an e-mailed HC newsletter, which goes out to members as he accumulates things to report, which has turned out to be every few weeks. Marco’s done a great job with the newly dubbed Haiku Canada Newsflash, turning it into one of the best ways to stay abreast of developments in English- and French-language haiku worldwide. (Hint, hint, you might find it useful to be a member of Haiku Canada just for this e-mail newsletter! Check out the Haiku Canada web site, here: http://www.haikucanada.org/.)

So, to the matter at hand: Haiku Canada Review, 2:1, contains a great mix of poems, mainly haiku/senryu and tanka, haibun, and linked verse, along with a note from the editor on current developments in Haiku Canada, a couple of fine essays (more on them below), pithy book and magazine reviews, and other commentary. (E.g., here again is one of Tom Noyes’s essays on “Two Favorite Haiku”.)

The short poems in English, offered under the heading “Haiku Plus . . .”, include the following, almost at random (I usually strive to include authors’ whose names I’m less familiar with in these quick compilations):

city cab—
at each intersection
the full moon

izak bouwer (p. 3)

Li Po’s moon
I go to the window
to see for myself

Renée Luria Leopold (6)

back from Paris
at the suitcase rollers
leaves from the boulevard
retour de Paris
aux roulettes de la valise
feuilles du boulevard

Klaus-Dieter Wirth (10)

This last forms a neat segue into the section of haïku en français, under the heading Haïkus du fleuve, réunis par Micheline Beaudry. Some samples:

première neige
une mouette s’envole
dans le gris du ciel

Hélène Leclerc (14)

Tout chaud, enrobé
Les cristaux nous effleurant
Barbe à glaçons
Czeply, okryt
Krysztaly nas muskaja
Broda z lisieta

Robert Bilinski (17)

Soir d’Avril
derrière la haie
des rires d’enfants

Martine Hautot (18 )

The second poem above illustrates the fact that while English and French may be the dominant languages of global haiku, many other languages are also involved, and I salute HCR and its editors for sharing poems in several languages with its readers. (Another illustration of the fact that, for all its internal political difficulties, Canada may be more truly welcoming of cosmopolitan influences than some other countries we could name.)

Between the sections of short poems in English and French, we have three quite fine haibun, each with a light touch, though two of them deal with quite serious matters.

And, what makes this a “review” rather than just another haiku magazine: following the poems, a major article by Janick Belleau, translated into English by Dorothy Howard. (The article first appeared in the magazine Haïkaï, in French, December 2006.) In English the title reads “Canadian Haiku Women Pioneers from Sea to Sea (1928–1985)”. The article provides its own overview in the first paragraph, noting that it concludes its survey concurrently with the landmark book Haïku: Anthologie canadienne/Canadian Haiku Anthology, edited by Dorothy Howard and André Duhaime, published in 1985. (I’ll note here my gratitude to the editors for sharing proofs with me as I was putting the finishing touches on my Haiku Handbook, published the same year.) Belleau continues:

We shall see among these women, women who have devoted a good part of their creativity to the writing and publication of haiku, and women who spent great creative energy in haiku promotion through critical studies, journal publications, mentoring and leadership in haiku associations. (20)

The article goes on to feature:

  • a poet who published haiku in an award-winning poems in French, including haiku in 1928 (Simone Routier)
  • “the first author in English Canada to put out a collection of haiku”, in 1965, a book I remember well for its striking wood-engraving illustrations (Claire Pratt)
  • a “haiku theorist” who published The Haiku Form in 1974 (Joan Giroux)
  • three poets from Saskatchewan (Catherine M. Buckaway, Mildred A. Rose, and L. Pearl Schuck)
  • and poet, essayist, illustrator, and co-founder of the Haiku Society of Canada—now Haiku Canada (Betty Drevniok)

Toward the end of her article, Belleau mentions a number of women whose major activity and influence reach far beyond 1985, right up to a couple of living folks that I might liken to “national treasures” of Canadian haiku, Anna Vakar and Dorothy Howard. For each of these and others unnamed here, Belleau provides brief biographical info and a synopsis of their contributions to the haiku community, in many cases embellished with poems.

As elsewhere today, haiku in Canada is neither a women’s nor a men’s world, but a world richly intertwining the work of both. Perhaps someone else will undertake a similarly instructive survey of men’s contributions to the genre in Canada, but in the meantime, it is very good to be reminded of these leading ladies and their contributions.

But the feast of this issue of HCR does not end here. Next up is an article by Angela Leuck, part II of her essay “Approaching Beauty: Writing Haiku About Flowers”—begun in the previous issue. This piece, subtitled “The Human Connection”, includes examples of her poems making that connection, as here:

watering the daylilies
a woman like my mother—
summer dusk (31)

How gesture, form in motion, can bring us back to the memory-artifacts of our personal history. (Angela’s article is based on a talk she gave at the Haiku Canada Weekend, Ottawa, May 2007. You can read my review of that event here: http://haikai.home.att.net/haiku/haikucanada07/.)

The issue moves forward with three linked poems in a variety of forms, one a solo piece we might call “cut prose”, another classically moving kasen in 36 stanzas, and a rengay, the latter in an experimental format that I’ll leave for HCR readers to discover.

After H. F. Noyes’s brief “Two Favorite Haiku” the issue draws toward a close with book and magazine reviews. After one by yours truly (perhaps to appear here later), we have a review of Abigail Friedman’s The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan, written by Angela Leuck; she likes it. And, finally, a section titled “Books in Brief”, which actually covers as many magazines as books, and gives a good thumbnail sketch of its subjects. Each provides full physical descriptions and ordering info, then a very brief synopsis. Here’s what the editor—we must assume, these are unsigned—has to say about Roberta Beary’s The Unworn Necklace:

These are haiku of the heart that quietly catch and draw the reader in. It is no surprise, after reading the credits, to learn many of the poems are award winners.

Haiku Canada Review frequently comes with extras. With this issue we have a Haiku Canada Sheet (a simple trifold brochure) with poems by Naomi Beth Wakan, a long-time poet and advocate for haiku, plus a list of the organization’s 200 or so members. If you’re not one of them, click on the “Join Haiku Canada” link on Haiku Canada’s home page, and find out more of what’s going on in the world of haiku, northern perspective: http://www.haikucanada.org/.

Bill

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If you haven’t heard yet, note now that a haiku book, a small haiku book, all things considered, has been named one of two finalists for the extremely prestigious William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.

I won’t go into it all deeply here, except to say that I’ve just sent Roberta and Snapshot Press publisher John Barlow the following message:

Roberta, congrats, congrats, congrats! Obviously, you grabbed [Ron] Silliman’s attention not only with the well-crafted haiku, but with the carefully arranged sequence, their collective portrayal of a genuinely human reality that includes, but is obviously not limited to, what we might call “haiku stuff”. If all haiku books were so carefully crafted, we’d not have to ever make any apologies for our devotion to the genre.

This is obviously the way forward for haiku, in Japan and anywhere else, and your book becomes a guidepost along the way with this notice. Also, a bit of an answer to Paul Muldoon, Billy Collins, and others who would toy with haiku but not really enter what we might call haiku culture.

Brilliant. And brilliant, as Michael [Welch] says, that you took the initiative to enter the book in the PSA contest, for one of the most prestigious prizes in American poetry. Runner-up status here is akin to any ten awards in haiku-land combined, and more, a good deal more.

A low bow,
Bill

Here’s what this year’s PSA judge for the WCW Award has to say about Roberta’s book: http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com/search/label/Roberta Beary.

Glasses raised in a toast to Roberta, John, and Ron Silliman, from the Haikai Pub!

Bill

Full title:

World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era, 1600–1867.

New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976. Hardcover, 6.5×9.5″ (17×23.5 cm), 606 + xv pages.

Condition: In d.j. with three slight tears and slight creasing, text and binding mint condition, signed by the author.

Original price: $22.95; this copy: $15 + shipping. Click for ordering info.

This is the first book issued of what would become Donald Keene’s magnum opus, a brilliant 3–4 volume history of all Japanese literature (the number depends on whether you count the two-volume Dawn to the West as one or two “books”). With this volume and the volume of Dawn to the West mentioned in the previous post, one has a nearly complete history of what we call “haiku” as it grew and matured in Japan. (The only thing missing would be the pre-history of the genre, in the linked poetry—classical renga—of the 1300s–1500s, which features in Prof. Keene’s final volume in the series, Seeds in the Heart.)

The opening six chapters of World Within Walls give the history of haikai from the late 15th century, when a more playful style of courtly renga began to emerge, to the full-blown art of Bashô, whom we know today as “the father of haiku”, but who was actually a master of haikai no renga in his own time. Then, after seven chapters devoted to fiction (3), drama (3), and waka poetry, Keene takes up haikai again with chapters titled “Buson and the Haikai Revival” and “Haikai of the Late Tokugawa Period”; the latter mainly deals with Issa. Further excursions into fiction and drama intervene between these and the final three chapters, devoted to “Waka of the Late Tokugawa Period”; “Comic Poetry” dealing with kyoka, the “mad verses” related to waka; and “Poetry and Prose in Chinese”—written by Japanese authors.

Despite its large size and page-count, this book is set in very readable type, with good margins, and forms probably the best single-volume introduction in English to the writers and writings of the Tokugawa Era, the era that includes Bashô, Chiyo, Buson, Issa, and others of the time with whom we may be familiar from the writings of Blyth, Henderson, and others. Thus, it makes a good introduction not only to the haikai poets of this time, but but to contemporary writers and works with which they would have been familiar.

I picked up this copy at a used book store, mainly because of the fact that Donald Keene had signed it for someone (name withheld to protect the guilty!), and it seemed fun to get such a copy. But now, with my earlier copy of the same book all marked up, when I come to part with one, it’s the signed copy that must go.

To Order: If you are interested in purchasing this copy of World Within Walls, e-mail me with name, postal address, and phone number.

Bill

Full title:

Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era—Poetry, Drama, Criticism. (Note that there is another volume with the same title, only differing at the end, where “Fiction” replaces “Poetry, Drama, Criticism”; that other volume is over 1300 pages long, and is not for sale here.)

New York: Henry Holt, 1984. Paperback, 6×9.25″ (15.5×23.5 mm), 685+xiv pp.

Original price: $19.95; this copy: $10 + shipping. Click for ordering info.

Condition: Solid binding, cover good, faint (pale green) remainder mark on top edge near spine, a few pages dog-eared, a few marginal notes in ink. A good “reader’s copy”. (Note that the notes are mine, mainly in the section “Poetry in Traditional Forms”, and are not terribly intrusive.)

Here one can get a good overview of “haiku”—the word Shiki coined to separate the independent hokku from the linked poetry it originally belonged to. (The separation actually goes back to old renga masters such as Sôgi and Sôchô, and was reinforced by Bashô and many poets of his day in haikai.) Keene’s grasp of the overall situation of Japanese literature and his special affection for the haiku in all its guises inform his writing. He also translates many haiku and tanka by many poets, some well known in the West, others less so.

Keene includes comments on and translations of tanka by poets from Shigene Suzuki (1814–1898 ) to Takashi Okai (b. 1928), touching on many others including such figures as Akiko Yosano (1876–1942), Hakushû Kitahara (1885–1942), Takuboku Ishikawa (1886–1912), Shiki Masaoka (1867–1902), and Mokichi Saitô (1882–1953). He also sets out the major groups of tanka poets and their differing philosophies of tanka composition, including a number whose approach to tanka form was quite radical. (Note that I list the names here in Western order, which accords with the style sheet I’m following here on the Pub generally, but that Keene gives Japanese names in Japanese order, as do most scholars of Japanese literature writing in English.)

Keene then takes up haiku; poets from Eiki Hozumi (1823–1904) to Kin’ichi Sawaki and Tohta Kaneko (both born 1919) are covered, including those well known to us such as Shiki, Santôka Taneda (1882–1940), Hôsai Ozaki (1885–1926), Shûôshi Mizuhara (1892–1981), and Seishi Yamaguchi (b. 1901). Among these poets, he also writes of many others, less well known to the West, such as Raboku Ohashi (1890–1933), citing one of his oft-quoted minimalist haiku, hi e yamu (“I am sick with the sun.”—Keene’s tr., in which “I am” expresses ideas included in the original, but not its words), the essentially deaf poet Kijô Murakami (1865–1938), Sekitei Hara (1886–1951), and Hisajo Sugita (1890–1946), who led many women and men away from Shiki’s dominant and arch-conservative disciple Kyoshi Takahama (1874–1959), and the “Humanist” haiku poets Kusatao Nakamura (1901–1983) and Shûson Katô (b. 1905). The whole passage on haiku is a fine expansion and continuation of the similar treatment given of fewer of these poets in R. H. Blyth’s History of Haiku, volume 2 (1964) and Makoto Ueda’s Modern Japanese Haiku (1976).

As the title of the book suggests, there are also substantial sections given over to poetry in new forms (i.e., “modern poetry”), modern drama, and modern criticism—all reflecting the opening of Japan to Western influence in the late 19th century through well past the middle of the 20th.

To Order: If you are interested in purchasing this copy of Dawn to the West, e-mail me with name, postal address, and phone number.

Aurora Antonovič, Editor-in-Chief.

With thanks to the editors/publishers.

This first issue of what promises to be a semiannual journal contains an interview with recent-past U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky (held office 1997–2000); a brief review of Pinsky’s most recent poetry collection by Antonovič; six pages of poems headed “Free Verse and Form” (22 poems); ten pages of short stories, including a “Special Feature” (5 stories); two pages of haiku and senryu (15) and three of tanka (18); a brief essay on writing; and four pages of contributors’ bios. A table of contents at the front is followed by a brief letter from Antonovič that speaks of the magazine’s beginnings and its related web site, and submission guidelines take up the final page.

The covers, outside and inside, feature the same single photograph, a striking snowscape from Mont Blanc, and the 8.5×11″ format allows for ample room on the pages for the content. One could wish that the designer understood how to number pages—the first numbered page, called “1”, is actually page 2, making for confusion as odd numbers appear on left-hand pages—but that is a small gaff for the first issue of a seriously intended journal that begins as the child of a web site, an environment where one doesn’t have to worry about page numbers.

A few poems, more or less at random:

Mission to Schleswig-Holstein

by Taylor Graham

“The Schleswig-Holstein question is so complicated only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad. I am the third, and I have forgotten all about it.” Lord Palmerston.

Politics is always local. These two duchies—stuck
between Germany and Denmark, North Sea and Baltic—
share a history that could drive anyone crazy.

It’s 1850, after two years of uprising, border skirmishes,
unsatisfactory truces, and beyond, real powers
with their arguable legitimacies, positioned to take

sides. And you, Mr. Burritt, delegate from the
World Peace Congress, think to make reason of it all?
Show the Danish Minister tha[t] an American can grasp

the intentions of Bismarck and even more distant Austria?
Slow-train diplomacy, Copenhagen to Kiel, and back
again, then on to Hamburg. After months of this,

at night in your hotel room, does Schleswig-Holstein
slip into an easy sleep? Or do you dream battle cries
in dialects you can’t quite understand?

In a deadened night, do you wake to quick boots
marching below your window? By the glare of dawn
on helmets, do you see that all your diplomacy

is as lost as Lord Palmerston’s memory
and the good professor’s mind?

I selected this from among a number of contenders, not because it is typical—I’d be hard pressed to identify a “typical” poetic mode in this issue’s non-Japanese-related poems—but both this poem’s subject and treatment interest me. (I’m a bit of a history buff, though European history is far from my strong suit.) The short stories, also, provide a range of approach to what makes a story.

snow in the city
nobody home
in the cardboard box

Bill Kenney

from the top
of the Space Needle
he phones me
the connection
still clear, after years

Janet Lynn Davis

These two, a haiku and a tanka, respectively, are by writers new to me, but among many names very recognizable in the English-language haiku and tanka communities, such as An’ya, Curtis Dunlap, Peggy Willis Lyles, John Barlow, Cathy Drinkwater Better, Sanford Goldstein, etc.

The intent to produce a cleanly designed magazine of quality writing clearly emerges from these 32 (not 31) pages, and as the magazine progresses I’m sure we’ll see improvements in detail, like losing the unneeded word “by” in front of an author’s name—a carryover from journalistic style that’s not needed in a lit. mag. (I wonder why they didn’t treat all poems the same, with authorship indicated at the ends of poems, as they did with haiku/senryu and tanka. And I hope they’ll study up on the proper presentation of dashes, etc.) The relative freedom of the large page-size and modest type (10 point) has been put to good use, allowing for two columns or more on the poetry pages and accommodating long-line poems as well as those with more typical short lines as above, while still allowing for enough white space to make reading pleasant.

So, an interesting and well-conceived debut. See their web site, http://www.magnapoets.com, for more information on the magazine as well as the many other activities of the Magnapoets, essentially a poetry publishing cooperative.

Bill

Subtitle: Contemporary Japanese & English-Language Haiku in Cross-Cultural Perspective.

Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2008. More details coming later . . .

With thanks to the author and publisher.

I’m really pressed for time, just now, so I’ll offer here the blurb I wrote on this as it was in press:

In Poems of Consciousness, Richard Gilbert investigates Japanese haiku in the flesh. He not only reports on what he has gleaned from books about haiku, but includes interviews with and writings by living Japanese haiku masters. Here you will meet some of today’s most widely respected poets. Kiyoko Uda has been at the forefront of haiku’s growing popularity among younger poets for the past several decades. She recently became president of the Modern Haiku Association–the most avant-garde of Japan’s major haiku organizations. Hasegawa Kai leads the contemporary reexamination of all our assumptions about the haiku of the past and points the way ahead for this new century. These and others provide striking poems–in Gilbert’s insightful translations–that will, along with his own provocative essays, make anyone familiar with the haiku genre rethink their understanding of this brand new poetry.

You’ll see a more fulsome review here in a few weeks. This is not a fast-food book, but one that requires careful attention, as one moves through its stages. One of these is a DVD-ROM containing extensive materials in the book and from his Gendai Haiku web site. The DVD is worth the price of admission, but there’s plenty more in the book, too.

See the publisher’s web page here.

Bill

Subtitle: A bilingual anthology of Haiku by 105 Poets from India.

Chandigarh, India: privately printed, 2008; 70+5 pp., 4.5×7″ (115×177 mm), US$2.5 + s&h from the editor, 1224, Sector 42-B, Chandigarh, 160 036 India.

With thanks to the editor.

With this modest collection, the initial attempts of Indian poets to grasp Japanese haiku and make something of their own from that understanding appear outside the realm of single-sheet newsletters and the like. The majority of these poems originally appeared in Hindi, and have been presented here in two-page spreads with an English translation on the left and Hindi on the right, with each opening showing three poems in the two languages. (And, confusingly, both pages bearing the same number, though one’s in what we call “Arabic” and the other in Hindi.) Toward the end of the book, some haiku written originally in English are included, along with Hindi translations. As I have no competence in Hindi, I cannot vouch for the translations, but knowing Angelee, I imagine that they are fairly accurate to their originals, going either way.

Here are some selected from random openings:

thundering, again
it breaks the burden of silence
—the downpour

Dr. Satyapal Chugh (3)

This strikes me as interesting on a couple of levels. The “burden of silence” may seem a little hyperbolic, but brings across the notion of human relationship and the ways nature can be found as T. S. Eliot’s objective correlative for the “thunder” of human feelings. And, we might suppose, the “downpour” may also refigure some crying that preceded or went along with that silence. A poem more interesting than I thought at first glance.

mountains weep
a thousand tears
a stream flows

—Dr. Manoj Sonkar (14)

This seems just a rather trite metaphor. Unfortunately, several of the poems in this collection exhibit similar triteness and failures of imagination, or, perhaps more accurately, failure to find fresh language for their perceptions.

The next poem has the virtue of genuine simplicity, as do a number of the poems in Indian Haiku:

waves came
and went back again
with the sand

—Ajay Charmam (21)

These are three of the poems apparently translated from Hindi. Indian Haiku also contains a representative of Gujarati and one from Marathi. As India has many native languages, we may hope for more haiku from these and other languages in the near future.

The next two I believe are English originals:

moonbeams—
on the veena strings
her fingers

—Dr. Vidur Jyoti (34)

The veena is a stringed musical instrument featuring a round sound box or bowl and fretted neck, usually four feet or more long. In this poem the moonbeams and playing of the veena echo each other in a not-uncommon haiku manner, effectively becoming mutually metaphorical while, of course, also carrying their literal meanings as primary. A similar technique occurs in the following, last poem, by the book’s editor:

stars adrift
in the chill of night
the last diary entry

—Angelee Deodhar (35)

While it seems to me that the last dozen or more poems—those apparently written originally in English—do the best job of fulfilling my personal sense of the haiku genre, the overall effect of the collection will hopefully encourage existing and new Indian poets to take up the haiku and make it their own. As we’ve noted here before, Angelee Deodhar will undoubtedly be one of the main reasons this happens.

Bill