|TABLE OF CONTENTS
XX:2 June, 2005
A Journal for Linking Poets
Introduction to Twenty Years of Renga by Jane Reichhold
MY MEMORY THEATER by Terri Kelly
THE HIGHWAY HAIKU PROJECT IN SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA
by Carlos Colón
UKIAHAIKU FESTIVAL 2005 Speech by Jane Reichhold
REPORT ON KEVIN STARR by Werner Reichhold
DEUTSCHE HAIKUSZENE - GERMAN HAIKU SCENE (auf deutsch - in German) Werner Reichhold
MEMORIES OF KAZUO SATO by Jane Reichhold
In celebration of the 20th year of APA-Renga / Lynx, we are happy to announce that all the participation renga finished or discontinued since the beginning of the magazine are now available online as APA-Renga / Lynx Twenty Years of Renga. Here is the introduction with a hope that you will view the whole book!
Introduction to Twenty Years of Renga
The idea for Participation Renga came from Jim Wilson, known in 1986, as Tundra Wind, who was living in Monte Rio on the Russian River. As a Zen Master with Korean linage, and musician with admiration for John Cage, Jim learned of the Japanese poetry form of renga before learning of haiku, as almost everyone else had done. He was fascinated by the idea of non-linear writing and excited by the idea of how what one wrote was dependent upon the poetry of the previous lines that came from someone else.
Living in a rather remote, but scenic, part of northern California, Jim wished to practice this kind of writing with others – with strangers. Jim was already the member of several APAs, which stands for Amateur Press Association. These were large and small groups of persons who bonded together to share their writing on a non-selective basis. Each member paid a small fee, just to cover printing and mailing costs, and submitted work on a regular basis. The written submission, being it poetry, or in Jim’s case, science fiction and personal journals, was copied, collated and then mailed to each participant.
From this Jim got the idea of writing up several hokku, he had in the meantime done his reading on the form, copying them on colored papers and placing them in light cardboard folders. These he sent to any and everyone he could interest in the idea. Unknown to him, just miles down the road, were two women who were already writing renga together and separately.
Terri Lee Grell and I had already met after Terri by chance bought a copy of my long, little chapbook, Duet for One Mirror (22 pages: 1984) in a local bookstore. Each of us reached out pulling in our friends so that a unique group formed including Celeste Fannin, who later illustrated so many issues, Ken Leibman who went on to be the editor of Frogpond, the journal for the Haiku Society of America, Eric Folsom the editor of the influential Factsheet Five in Canada, Larry Gross the publisher of Whup! and educator known for his work with the Korean poetry form, the sijo, with the resulting magazine - Sijo West, done with Elizabeth St Jacques .
Jim’s distance from the current haiku scene was a certain advantage for him. Instead of following their methods and instructions, he was free to recreate a very new kind of renga – and he did from the very beginning. Gone were all the century-old Japanese rules, and subject matter. Jim gave each renga new rules. Some were to be only one-liners ("Redwood Shadows"), others were all three-liners and some had the traditional mix of two and three lines. For the first issue, Jim and his partner, Bob Jessup, responded to the initial hokku (along with some made up initials to swell the ranks). This policy of identifying the links only by initials stayed in place during all of Jim’s years of editorship.
Probably the greatest innovation that Jim brought to renga writing was his concept of the renga "blooming" or "withering." Each time someone wrote a link the renga was expanded. If two persons responded to the same link, that renga was then duplicated. Now there would be two versions of the renga running simultaneously with it possible for two or more participants to continue on these versions or expand them into as many branches as there were responses. The potential for a staggering number of renga going on all at once might have daunted or stopped a lesser person, but Jim believed in the righteousness of following one’s dream. He also had the idea that any link that got no response would eliminate that branch of the renga. Thus, as long as people were adding links, the renga would bloom and multiply. If no one was interested or inspired to respond to a link, that branch would be dropped. In some cases, renga that were fairly developed, would hit a point where no one responded to any of the branches and the renga was discontinued before it was finished.
It was only with the use of computers that all of this was made possible. The cut and paste feature permitted one to add the previous parts of the poem to the new links and to control (somewhat – errors did abound) the ordering of the poems.
In each packet, rubber-stamped with the logo "APA-Renga," Jim and Bob sent out the sheets containing the renga, instruction on how to participate, letters, and later, even short articles on renga writing. Publication was scheduled for every six weeks with the first deadline being August 11, 1986.
The way one joined APA-Renga was to open an account by paying in $5.00. Jim then kept track of how much it cost him for production, envelopes, and postage and subtracted this from the account. Contributors were charged for publication costs only. If a participant failed to contribute, but got the magazine, and extra $1.00 per issue was subtracted. In each issue was Jim’s hand-written note of the status of the account.
Contributors had several privileges. They could start a renga, set up any rules or goals, and write the beginning verse or hokku. They could add on to any or all of the renga in the issue. This rule was soon modified to allow only 12 adding links after Celeste Fannin overwhelmed the system by writing responses to every renga and every version. In addition, contributors could send in "two pages or less of comments, observations, gossip, tips, hints, prognostications, reviews, editorials, notices, advertisements, etc." Soon completed renga, either solo or in collaboration, were being added.
By the second issue, there were nine active renga. After issue six Terri and Jim had gotten together, and figured out a way to cut production costs (all those colored individual, full-paged sheets of paper were getting expensive to print and mail) and decided on the slender 4 x 14 inch format, which fit the width of the printed renga. Jim missed the colored papers, but the new format was intriguing and easier to read and use. At this time, the rule came up that one could not reply to one’s own links and has continued ever since.
In 1989, Jim’s partner Bob Jessup became ill with AIDs, and Jim’s last issue was five months late. At this point he handed the magazine over to Terri, who had in the meantime moved to Washington to settle on the Toutle River, on the flank of Mt. St. Helens. There she worked for the local newspaper. Thus, when she took over APA-Renga she first changed the name to Lynx (as a pun on the linking in the participation renga). It was her idea to print the zine on newsprint and enlarge it. As a poet herself, Terri widened the audience by including all genres of poetry and writing. With her ability for marketing the subscriber list began to lengthen. Still, there was only a small group who maintained an interest in and continued to contribute to the participation renga. Many poets felt their personal voice was violated if they wrote with others and that their work might be compromised by exposing it with less talented authors. Others knew better and hung in there with the activity. At one point the participation got so slim, Terri polled the readers about whether to continue the participation renga in Lynx.
The participation renga were a lot of work. It was a huge job managing all the versions of a renga, figuring out to which one the new work was linking, and which ones were discontinued. And they took up a lot of paper space as the renga got longer and longer. It required a lot of work to be invested for only 5 – 8 persons.
In 1992, after seven issues, planned for three times a year, Terri quit her newspaper job and her last issue was printed on a copy machine on 11 x 17 inch sheets. Eight of the 24 pages were given to the participation renga. The next issue was scheduled for August but never appeared.
In the summer of 1993, Terri called me saying she had decided to go for her MA in psychology and asked if we would adopt Lynx. Feeling I could never make the zine as big and impressive as Terri had, Werner, my husband, and I agreed to at least keep the renga going. Part of the enormity of the job with Lynx, was the huge influx of stories, articles and free-verse poetry. Deciding that inclusion of these other genres was leading interest away from the participation renga, and since my interest in tanka had grown, we decided to steer the Lynx back toward the haiku scene. Since we already had a copy-printer for AHA Books, we bought a comb binder, and redesigned the magazine with lynx-brown covers and crème pages in a 4 x 11 inch format. Werner came up with the distinctive Lynx logo. That first issue was illustrated by Marlene Mountain, and had twenty pages of participation renga out the total sixty.
By drawing in the haiku and renga writers, Lynx became the primary outsource for renga. Most haiku magazines found they took up too much space on their square pages, but all renga fit right in Lynx and contributed new ideas and contributors to the participation renga. Still the interest in renga was so small, despite our having subscribers in 17 different countries, so it was good we also published tanka. It wasn’t long before we had, along with participation renga, collaborative tanka.
By the year 2000, our printing machine had given out and we were having Lynx printed in Fort Bragg, and now losing about $600 per issue. We decided to put Lynx completely on-line and cease paper printing. We did this among howls of protest and some boycotting, but in the end (at least today) it has turned out to be the right move. Even though, according the hit counters, Lynx is having eight to ten times more readers, the contributions to the participation renga have remained small - about eight to ten persons.
From the beginning, it was Jim’s dream to be able to somehow collect all the completed renga done as participation renga. And once, in 198, he made a booklet of the first renga we completed called, Old Pond, based on Basho’s famous verse
which had twelve links and twenty-four versions. For this effort, Jim included all the links, even the ones which withered and did not go on so that absolutely nothing was lost.
For the twentieth anniversary of APA-Renga/Lynx, I have compiled all the finished versions of the participation renga, but have had to drop the versions which did not survive. However, since putting Lynx online, all those versions, since June of 2000, can be viewed. Paper copies of all the renga are still floating around, and are in the American Haiku Archives in Sacramento, California, so they are not lost.
As you read over the completed renga you can see how names of persons you may recognize have come and gone, but in the end, the genre is done only by a very select group. Here is the list of the participants.
AB - Alice Benedict; BJ - Bob Jessup; CC - Carlos Colón; CF - Vikki Celeste Fannin; cg - Cindy Guntherman; CSK - Carol Stroh Kemp; dht - Doris H. Thurston; DPK -Deborah P. Kolidji, DR - David Rice; DWP - Darrel W. Parry; EF - Eric Folsom; ESJ - Elizabeth St Jacques; FA - Fay Aoyagi, FP - Francine Porad; FPA - Francis (Paul) Attard; GD - Gene Doty; GM - Giselle Maya; GR - George Ralph; GV - Geert Verbeke; JAJ - Jean Jorgensen; JJO - Joyce J. Owens; JC - Jeanne Cassler; JMB - John M. Bennett; JR - Jane Reichhold; JS - John Sheirer; JSJ - Joyce Sandeen Johnson; KCL - Kenneth C. Leibman; LCG - Larry C. Gross; LE - Lesley Einer; LJ - Lael Johnson; MHH - Madeline Hoffer; ML - Minna Lerman; MM - Marianne Marks; MWM - Mary Wittry-Mason; N - Nika; NA - Nasira Alma; PC - Penny Crosby; PGC - Pamela Connor; PJS - P.J. Sharpe; PS - Pat Shelley; R - Ronan; RF - Robert Flannery; SCH - Suzette Hains, SD - Simon Doubleday; SMc - Steve McComas; TB – Tom R. Bingham; TLG -Terri Lee Grell; TV - Teresa Volz; TW - Tundra (Jim Wilson) Wind; WEG - Elliot Greig; WR - Werner Reichhold; YH - Yvonne Hardenbrook; ZP - Zane Parks.
Bob Jessup, George Ralph, Kenneth C. Leibman, Nasira Alma, Pat Shelley, and Ronan are now deceased.
Before I let you get on to reading these renga, I would like to point out some of the ways in which these are a very special form of poetry.
Renga, due to its almost 1,000 year history in Japan and its many permutations with accompanying rules and roles, is a very fascinating poetry genre. Because all the action, and the poetry, occurs between the links, it is very demanding to read and understand. However, thanks to the "stream of consciousness" writing experiments of the early twentieth century, we are better prepared to not only understand how renga work, but to do them ourselves.
Already at this time there is a fairly large deposit of modern English-language renga as evidenced in Werner Reichhold’s book, Symbiotic Poetry. While most of these renga are written by a previously selected group of writers, the participation renga are written by an ever-shifting group. In addition, most renga written today are done by persons trained in, or at least greatly exposed to, haiku. By drawing from this wider audience, the participation renga written here are not so rule-bound and thus, are freer and more inventive. The subject matter encompasses all emotions and all levels of writing – as a poetry of the people should do.
Working with the many versions, it was easy to see how selective writers were in choosing the stanza to which they wanted to link. Simply in the act of deciding to answer to this link, and not that one, the writer has been selective. A decision has been made that this previous link is weak, doesn’t relate to me, or my experiences, or is taking the renga in a direction I do not approve of. By being able to write responses to only12 (and later 10) of the many, many versions of the poems, the writers themselves were determining the direction of the work. This is the direct opposite of the so-called renga master, who alone determined the worth of link and could decide if a stanza was to be included in the final version or not.
Some of the participation renga were discontinued before they reached the length the hokku writer had determined. Very often these verses included subject matter or such diverse writing methods that no one wanted to associate with this group of writers. I know I often could not respond to certain renga because I simply did not like them. Other persons did value them so they were able to write add-on links because the style fitted them. Democracy at work.
As you read through the renga, remember that all of these links, except the first or the last ones, are there because someone wrote a response to them. This means that each person sending in links, had many stanzas that got no response, and thus these branches were left out of future issues of the magazine. It was not always easy to discover that the marvelous stanza you had sent in last time failed to move one single person. I am fairly sure I am not the only person opening a fresh issue of Lynx, counted the number of my links that got a response and lived, and briefly mourned for the lost ones. At least the stanza was published in one issue and the others would continue to be repeated in future issues, even into this collection.
Some of our participation renga probably should not be named as renga at all. The ones started by Jean Jorgensen, which required no writing, but only the addition of a cliché or lines from a song, should more properly called symbiotic work. Still, they were fun and gave us good lessons in linking. Even persons who might not have felt capable of writing renga, could participate in these works, so they were excellent for beginners. The rhymed Burma Shave signs "renga" would also surely slide out of the territory of real renga.
Some of the rules the hokku writers dreamed up seemed almost bizarre. I think of one in the early years where the author made a complete framework of seasons and subjects for each link. Needless to say, it did not last very long.
Writers starting a new renga were encouraged to think of it as their renga and stay with it. By deciding, again that principle of choice, about which links they liked, and responding to them, the author was able to shape and continue the renga. Some people failed to follow this suggestion, but Carlos Colón, who is not only an excellent renga writer, but also a very conscientious person, scrupulously followed the rule. In his "Openedoor" renga there is one beautiful version he and Jeanne Cassler worked on nearly alone. It is like watching professionals dance. Surely influenced by the then-current fashion of writing haiku in a continuous line of overlapping words, he brought the craze into the renga domain – something that never would have happen in other renga-writing groups.
While many of the participation renga are short (the longer they are, the harder they are to manage while multiplying and typesetting), the one started by Jim Wilson in 1986, titled "Gently Wiping Dust," is still currently available for new links. At one time the renga had shrunk to one version, and I thought it would die. But it survived, bloomed and currently has ten versions and 17 options or verses it is possible to add a link to. By having the participation renga online, it is available now for anyone to follow even the discontinued links.
Still it seems very gratifying to have all the completed renga compiled together. Do not let your eyes glaze over by the repeated links, but read to notice how different endings change the whole character of such similar poems. There is much for modern poets in any genre to learn from renga writing. Just remember to keep your attention, not on the links, but on discovering what is happening between the links to discover the true poetry.
MY MEMORY THEATER
When I think of the beginnings of Lynx I think of the ocean. It was on the north coast of California where I first met Jane Reichhold and Tundra Wind in the mid-1980s and a new wave of the renga movement began. Was it fate that all three of us lived on the wild Sonoma coast within about 30 miles of each other? Maybe.
Renga first enlightened me by way of Jane's "solo renga" chapbook - Duet for One Mirror - which I had purchased at a gift shop in Jane's hometown, Gualala, about 20 miles from where I lived at Salt Point. I sent Jane fan mail (I remain her biggest fan). She told me about a local "Amateur Press Association" zine, APA-Renga, that had just begun to make the rounds to a handful of renga collaborators by way of Tundra Wind in Monte Rio. An issue of APA-Renga was sent to me. I loved it. I responded to all the renga there. The poetry in APA-Renga was bold and raw and wild, like the ocean that pulled on my feet.
Sometime later, Tundra Wind contacted me about eventually taking over the publishing of the zine. He needed to hand over the making of APA Renga to someone who could keep the renga going and perhaps expand on the original idea for the zine. He wanted to see if I should be the one to take over APA Renga. He lived close by in Monte Rio, so he came to my house and we sat at my kitchen table and got to know one another. I think the visit was mainly for him to see if he trusted me. I probably tried to impress him somehow, but Tundra Wind is such a wise soul that he probably overlooked my naiveté and just let his intuition tell him if I should be the one. Obviously, I passed the test.
The transition to Lynx wouldn't happen right away. It happened in 1989 after I moved to Washington state. I became the editor of the local newspaper there, which meant I had access to the tools needed to expand on Tundra Wind's idea for a renga zine, and turn it
into something that could be distributed far and wide. I changed the name of the zine to Lynx after consultation with Jane and Tundra Wind.
Lynx mimicked the size and shape of APA Renga, but was published on newsprint. This was before widespread access to desktop publishing, so Lynx was put together in the old "cut and paste" method, which I had learned from putting the newspaper together the same way. Lynx went out to 1000 addresses worldwide (that's the minimum you can send out for a bulk mail permit), though only a handful were subscribers. I do remember that I submitted information about Lynx to many literary directories, and then I began to sign up for giving workshops and presentations of renga at literary conferences, schools, and wherever else I could in the Pacific Northwest. The Lynx family grew. The original renga blossomed and new renga began.
Then a wonderful thing happened. A friend sent composer John Cage a copy of Lynx. John Cage contacted me and said he was sending me a grant to publish Lynx. Yippee! He sent grants each year for three years and was a big fan of our avant garde approach to renga. There was much unsolicited publicity about Lynx on account of John Cage's notoriety. Lynx was featured in a traveling exhibit of zines sponsored by the Hemingway Western Studies Center. We owe much to John Cage for spreading the word about Lynx. He would tell people how a handful of poets were reviving renga in the original spirit that Basho intended. I received letters of support from friends of Cage, including Gary Snyder, William Stafford, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Lynx was put on the shelves of specialty book shops far and wide, including City Lights in San Francisco, Powells in Portland, and Gotham Bookmart in NYC. It was high time for the new school of renga.
I published Lynx as long as I could. When I lost access to the printing tools at the newspaper office, and the transition to desktop publishing began, a friend of mine, Nicky Benjamin, who had a few drafting tables, a desktop PC and a laser printer in her garage, helped me put together Lynx. In 1993, I turned it over to Jane Reichhold when I moved to Portland to finish college. Now my masters degree allows me to teach at the college level, and often I teach English, literature, and composition courses at local colleges.
I engage my students in renga because it is such a wonderful teaching tool, naturally awakening the muse for those who didn't know they had it in them.
One special memory I have is the renga William Stafford started and shared after he heard my daughter and I recite a renga at one of his book parties. It's one of the last things he wrote before passing in 1993. It hasn't been widely published, despite the
notables participating. It's the way I remember him – trying new things even to the end of his days. You can read the renga.
Jane originally sparked my interest in renga, and now Jane is the Lynx-keeper. It's fate. Thanks Jane. We owe so much to your steadfast nurturing of the only renga movement that matters. I have fond memories of Lynx and have kept in touch with a few participants over the years. Hiroaki Sato and I have collaborated on a few pieces that were published in Japan.
When the World Wide Web came along it was clear to me that hypertext had something in common with the structure of renga. Renga and hypertext demonstrate the natural way that humans think, by grouping related thoughts and emotions into an infinite string of memory theaters. Renga is mnemonics for the soul. When I re-read the renga that Jane and I shared, I can smell and taste and feel the ocean.
Note: You can visit Terri via her web site.
THE HIGHWAY HAIKU PROJECT IN SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA
by Carlos Colon
Photo: Nadine A. Charity
The "Highway Haiku" project, which began in fall 2002, is a
collaborative venture between the Shreveport Regional Arts Council (SRAC)
and Lamar Outdoor Advertising. Fifteen poems and 10 visual art (non-poetry)
billboards were selected in 2002 from over 300 entries. The plans had been
to run the haiku/haiku-like poems on highway reader boards; however, once
the first poem appeared and ran about a week, the reader boards began having
a surge in interest from paid advertisers and became booked solid and
unavailable for poetry.
In late summer 2003 a new reader board was built adjacent to the Common
Street bridge, and before the first poem could go up a children's theater
bought advertising space on it. At the end of August, the second poem of
the project finally appeared, followed by another by the same poet 12 days
later. A paid advertisement came next for a week, then the fourth poem of
the project ran for an extra two weeks or more until paid advertisement
again monopolized the reader board.
Also, in fall 2003, there was a second "Highway Haiku" call, for which
29 artists submitted 136 works. Eight haiku were selected for 1-2 week
appearances on the reader boards, and 10 visual artists were selected for
billboards that would circulate throughout the region for a period between 6
and 18 months.
Throughout 2004, no poems were displayed as part of the project,
although each of the many visual art billboards were identified as "Another
Highway Haiku," taking Eric Amman's idea of haiku as a "wordless poem" a bit
At the urging of the SRAC Literary Panel, the "Highway Haiku" project
restarted on February 2005 when Lamar Advertising built a new reader board
near one of the busiest intersections in Shreveport (Youree Drive at Kings
Highway). SRAC paid Lamar to finish out the 11 poems from the 2002 call and
to include the eight additional poems selected in 2003. The contract called
for each poem to run seven days, changing out each Friday. So far, the
poems have been keeping on schedule.
Photo credit: Fred Dozier
Nan Dozier with her haiku in 2002
Poets selected in October 2002:
Nadine A. Charity (1 poem)
Nan Dozier, former Haiku Society of America member (6 poems)
Ashley Mace Havird (3 poems)
Lakisha Hamilton (1 poem)
Marian M. Poe, Haiku Society of America member (2 poems)
Lisa Yarbrough (2 poems)
Poets selected in October 2003:
Carlos Colon, Haiku Society of America member (4 poems)
Theresa L. Mormino, Haiku Society of America member (4 poems)
UKIAHAIKU FESTIVAL 2005
Ukiah is a Pomo Indian word as well as the county seat of Mendocino county, which you may have noticed is haiku spelled backwards. Since Mendocino county seems filled with artists and poets, it is not surprising that Ukiah has a very active poetry program. The many poets, they even have a local poet laureate, got together about three years ago and decided to have a ukiaHaiku Festival. They sponsored a contest in the schools, and got lots of entries. So they did it again and last at the awards ceremony they invited Harumi Blyth, Robert Blyth’s daughter as speaker. That was so successful that they held the festival again in April, poetry month in the States, and this time they invited me to judge the contemporary entries and then to give the keynote speech. And so I did.
"Thank you for inviting me to participate in this event today. It has been so inspiring to hear all of these excellent haiku and to meet their authors.
Before I begin I would like to say a few words on the importance of haiku. Ever since Western Poetry, that is poetry written by persons in Europe and America, abandoned the form of the sonnet, and then the ballad, to develop "free verse" or a poem that has no form shared by others, there has been a huge blossoming of poetry. By not having any set form, people who never would have thought of themselves as poets, suddenly had the freedom to write what they call "a poem."
I believe this was a good thing for poetry and for the people. Look at the abundance of poetry readings and especially of web sites for poetry and just be thankful. However, as more free verse poetry pours out around us, its very freedom makes some of us want to also have a form, a fence, a plan for our poetry. Here comes haiku.
But with it came several problems. The largest one was its smallness. Poets who admired the book-length poems of the Europeans, decided you could not get poetry into just three short lines and declared haiku as a non-poetry form. This happened about 100 years ago and a lot of people have still not yet gotten this idea out of their heads.
Even as late as the 1980s "authorities" declared that haiku were NOT poetry, and many poets believed them and still do.
So I warn you, if you become a haiku writer, many poets will find you not fit to invite you to read for them, be in their anthologies, or even sit at the same table with them. Be prepared to be ostracized, shut out, laughed at, and to become invisible as poet. Not only will you be treated as if you are the member of a minority group, you will also be in the minority. But this is good.
This is good because you are already on the spot where the other, and much better known poets, will have to go. This is because, by learning how to write haiku you are learning about the very heart of poetry. The paradox is how easy it is to write a haiku and yet how very hard it can be to write a very good one.
I know, sometimes they seem to drift down with the ease of snowflakes falling on your tongue and other times you can struggle with the wording of one for haiku years. I know because I still have not properly written about the very first time I felt a haiku.
At the time, 1967, I was living in the Sierra foothills and had gone to SF to pick up a load of clay. It was too late to drive back that night so I found a bookstore and hung out there until it closed. In order not to appear to be free-loading I bought the cheapest book off of a close-out counter, more for its small price than its small poems. Yes, it was a book of haiku – translations of the Japanese masters: Basho, Busom and Issa. And yes I was instantly charmed by them. But at the time I was studying the poetry of Robinson Jeffers and William Everson and I thought that only this was real poetry – the kind of poetry I wanted to write.
Then one day, as I was sitting at my newest kick wheel, still outdoors under a big pine tree, just as I was pulling up the clay, you know that magical moment when the clay takes on a life of its own and begins to grow upward under your fingers, tickling your palms, just at that moment, a mocking bird began trilling a clear and incredible song (as they do in the spring when announcing their territory). It was if the sound of the song entered my ears, traveled down my neck, dropped through my arms and flowed out my fingers so that it was the bird’s song that made the pot rise up and take on a form.
About ten years later I learned that one called such experiences a "haiku moment." I also learned that some people felt that having such an experience would be the basis for the very best haiku. Unfortunately, all the many, many haiku I have written about my first haiku moment have failed to be good haiku. There are many reasons for this.
First of all, I did not think that I, as a non-Japanese could write a haiku. I know I wrote down words in three lines in my notebook and I definitely knew that what I had experienced was the exact kind of inspiration that occurred in haiku, but I refused to think of it as haiku. It was like stealing someone else’s candy bar and making it mine by eating it. I was thrilled with the idea that by reading of the haiku of other people I could come to a new way of experiencing my own life, but I truly thought I had no right to imitate someone else’s poetry.
This feeling is one that is shared by almost every poet who comes into contact with haiku. Poets will read the translations of the Japanese masters, but refuse to write haiku. They may imitate parts of the form, as by putting their own free verse into three lines, or by writing about nature, but they do not study the form enough to write a "proper" haiku.
Therefore you have taken steps that 90% of the poets now writing have been unable to take – to study and to WRITE haiku.
Again there is another paradox with haiku. It needs a lot of rules. A lot more rules than such a short form should even need. Many of you are still working with the 5,7,5 rule and if I had more time I would love to help you get over that threshold. But if I did that I would load you up with even more rules. And I encourage you, since you have made such prize-winning beginnings with haiku, that you stick with the form and learn all you can about it. Good luck. I started writing forty years ago and I am still learning, still revising my work, still trying to make it better.
Because there are so many rules, luckily no one can follow them all, so we are forced to pick the ones we do follow. Having read the haiku for the section I judged, it was clear to me, who had adopted which rules to follow. Rules are not a bad thing, especially when you get to pick them. And I do encourage you study all the rules (they are in my book and on my web site) and pick a set for you to try to follow. The good thing is that when you really good at following any rule, you will become bored with the poems that result and will pick another one and the form will be fresh and new to you.
Because we are all following a different set of rules, haiku can be very different. You have experienced that here today. And the form can be even more elastic, expanding to contain the silliest jokes to the deepest almost religious enlightenment. You see, haiku are truly the heart of poetry and therefore they can be the seed of any poem.
This is a reason haiku is taught in the schools. And haiku should be studied as the first introduction to poetry. But what I would like to impress upon you is the idea that you need not outgrow haiku. As you grow up, haiku will grow up with you, become complicated enough to entertain you until your hair turns white.
Now comes the courage part. To stay with haiku is to earn you the disrespect of poets and the poetry mainstream. To them haiku is too simple (because they have not studied it enough to even write a good one), too child-like, and yet as poets we need to become like children, still filled with the wonder of the universe.
Western poetry is too often a teaching of one’s philosophy of life or built around the poets’ feelings. And that is the most fun stuff to work with. We love our feelings, we delight in letting others know how we feel, and we find our feelings very, very important. The problem with building poetry completely on feelings, is that they are our very own. Perhaps a poem may touch someone who has had similar experiences, but no one can duplicate the description of another’s feelings.
Haiku bypasses this pitfall. By putting into the poem mostly images of things, without description, the reader is given the material to evoke a feeling but is not bound to follow the author’s feelings. Do not go to sleep on me at this point, because here is the crux and secret of Japanese poetry.
By using the names of things, and especially the images of nature (and this includes human nature as well as nature-nature), you are aligning your poem with the eternal the everlasting, the world of nature. Our feelings are fleeting. In fact you cannot hold on to any emotion very long, even if you write a poem about it. So the poetry that will last is the poetry built on everlasting images. Notice the popularity of Basho’s poems, now over 400 years old and teaching us new things with every translation. How much 400 year old Western Poetry are you studying or even reading? If you do read Shakespeare’s sonnets you will notice that the poems that survived are the ones filled with the images of things.
Writing poetry is the art of being exact. And nothing teaches you this faster than haiku. When you have so less words to work with, you must make every effort to make each word count and therefore poetry IS the choosing of the best words for the deepest feelings.
Maybe this is the best place to end this speech. And it has been a lot harder to make a short one. Three hours would have allowed me to make a proper beginning. Saving you that on such a lovely day, I do want to encourage you to stick with haiku. You have proven you have a talent for it. Do not throw away this gift because it may have seemed to be easy for you. I would wish that you would delve deeper into the form. Study its beginnings, read how it has developed, listen to what people are doing with it. You can make a difference! The form is still evolving in English, and all the non-Japanese languages, and you can make a difference in what it becomes by sticking with the form. As you continue to write haiku, continue to evolve yourself, you will, in this process, change the form. Haiku is just beginning to be recognized as a valid poetry form, and you are here on the ground floor. Whatever the genre becomes it will become what those of us today are writing. Each haiku, like a drop of water, becomes the sea of haiku literature. Through our eyes and ears, come the images of our world. They pass through the nets of our hearts and are offered up on the plates of pages of ink or monitor screens for others. I wish you well and many haiku in your lives! Blessed be!
[Because I could not get permission to quote the winning poems, here are some I wrote on that day.]
rolling on Hwy One
going by the rez
climbing the pass
greeting a friend
(for Dennis Dutton)
in new robes
the whole festival blessed
by his presence
the ride home
the sun finally sets
The next day we found out we made the front page of the Ukiah daily newspaper. You can see their story here.
REPORT ON KEVIN STARR
In the most influential daily German News paper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, (6 pages alone of Fuilleton - referring to events in the arts) from November 22, 2004, we found a long article about Kevin Starr. In there, the report gives the German readers a detailed description of all the books professor Starr wrote about the California history, titled Americans and the Californian Dream, of which six volumes are already published. Right now, his book of essays, titled Coast of Dreams, California on the Edge 1990-2003, appeared in the market, and is a great seller. Beside this, the article mentions Kevin Starr's position as a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and his accomplishments as the State Librarian of the State Library, Sacramento, California. During his reign, he helped founding the 'Haiku Archives', a constantly growing collection of works written by the best American writers concerned with the Japanese genres of Haiku, tanka, renga and haibun.
DEUTSCHE HAIKUSZENE - GERMAN HAIKU SCENE
Since more and more German writers are reading the web page of Ahapoetry.com, we concluded that articles about new developments reported also in German would be helpful. So here follows the first one of a planed series.
Deutlicher als zuvor haben in den letzten drei Jahren Verlage in Deutschland daran gearbeitet, sich der Weiterentwicklung des deutschsprachigen Haiku anzunehmen. Die unter ‘Book Reviews’ an anderer Stelle erwähnten Publikationen deuten auf neue Ansätze, und es wird sich bald erweisen, dass die unterschiedlichen Wege, die deutsche Autoren anstreben, ihre Wirkung auch im Ausland nicht verfehlen.Vor allem aus dem Blickwinkel der zahlreichen, im englischen Sprachbereich erscheinenden Bücher und Magazine darf man sagen, dass eine Anzahl von Schriftstellern in Deutschland einen durchaus eigenen Ansatz zum Haiku erarbeitet haben.
Innerhalb der größeren Literaturszene hofft man darauf, dass die anhaltende, sehr viel Papier verschwendende historische Rückbeziehung auf japanische Vorbilder ein Ende, zumindest aber eine Einschränkung erfährt. Die Wiederholung von längst Bekanntem und Verarbeitetem wirkt nicht nur ermüdend, sondern schürt unaufhörlich den berechtigten Verdacht, dass ohne diese Korsettfunktion japanischer Vorbilder anderssprachige Haiku nicht vertretbar wären. Und das, um es deutlich zu sagen, ist mit der Kreativität deutscher Schriftsteller unvereinbar.Vielmehr gilt es der Erörterung und Ausleuchtung dessen, was jetzt in Deutschland an Haiku geschrieben worden ist, weitesten Raum zu geben. Das würde denjenigen, die der engen Szene vorwerfen in Nachahmung zu verbleiben, den Wind aus den Segeln nehmen. Ziel ist, der Verbreitung von heute entstandenen Haiku weite Beachtung in anderen literarisch interssierten Kreisen zu ermöglichen. Wir sprechen von dreissig Jahren Haiku-Erfahrung. Wenn wir nicht konzentriert vertreten, uns in dieser Zeit mit der Arbeit am Haiku freigeschwommen zu haben, sehen wir alt aus, und die hinter uns liegenden Entwicklungen könnten nur als ein auslaufender Trend abgetan werden. Es soll Leute geben, die darauf lauern.
Machen wir uns nichts vor: Was erwarten die Käufer, die gerne Übertragungen japanischer Dichtung gelesen haben? Sie suchen sicher keinen Verkaufsknüller, keinen steilen Hasen im Felde der Kurzpoesie. Was erhoffen sie zu finden, wenn sie englische oder deutsche Haiku in der Buchhandlung oder am Netz durchstöbern? Alles noch mal wie gelesen oder so ähnlich? Nein, das genau kaufen sie nicht, können sie auch nicht brauchen. Potenzielle Leser suchen, wenn sie denn suchen, nach wirklich neuen Haiku, die vom Stoff her und ihrer Gestaltung nach neue deutsche Dichtung repräsentieren, entwickelt aus unserer eigenen Sprachkultur. Wie, fragt der Interessierte, hilft das Haiku weiter zur geistigen Orientierung, was ist überraschend kurz und genial eindringlich zur Sprache gebracht? Was beurkundet darin einen neuen Menschen. Finden die Leser das, dann greifen sie auch in die Tasche und bezahlen. Ansonsten hängen sie still weiter am Glücksgefühl der hochgeschätzten Übertragungen japanischer Haiku.
Wenn es denn so ist, dass die zu enge Kopplung dichterischer Inspiration an fremde, schon erprobteVorbilder einen Energie mindernden Schatten auf dem Produkt hinterläßt, sollte sich die Frage stellen, worauf das beruhen könnte. In dieser Hinsicht erscheint es interessant, sich erneut die Arbeitsweise anerkannter Schriftsteller ins Gedächtnis zu rufen. Diese nämlich leben im Wachzustand ähnlich wie alle übrigen Menschen offen zu allen Eindrücken ihrer umgebenden Natur. Dann aber kommt die Nacht, der Schlaf. In diesem Zustand - und das wissen wir nicht erst seit Freud werden die am Tage aufgenommenen Eindrücke neu geordnet, eingeodrnet in schon seit Urzeiten angelegten organischen Substanzen. Wissenschftler wollen belegen, dass wir während der Schlafperiode im Unterbewußtsein Arbeit leisten, oder besser, dass eine Art Verarbeitung alles schon angelegten Materials mit dem neu hinzugekommenen Stoff stattfindet. Eine aber ganz seltsame Fügung scheint es möglich zu machen, dass sich die Methode der Verarbeitung bei einigen Personen deutlich unterscheidet von derjenigen anderer. Es wird umschrieben als ein im Unterbewußtsein entstehender Sprung, so als ob Materie die Fähigkeit hätte, in Selbstorganisation eine Mutation auszulösen.
Die schwer zu beantwortende Frage bleibt, wie der Einzelne dieser in ihm stattfindenden Mutation später im Wachzustand eine künstlerische Gestaltung geben kann. Wir fragen, wie kann aus der Sprache der Nacht, der Traumwelt, eine Sprache des Tages und eine Schrift werden? Es geschieht und viele Menschen haben diese Erfahrung gemacht - dass wir, durch welchen Anlaß auch immer, schon während der Schlafperiode oder am sehr frühen Morgen erwachen und, noch nicht bei vollem Bewußtsein, plötzlich ein Bild sehen oder einen Text klar vor Augen haben. Diese oft ganz kurze Botschaft enthält sehr wahrscheinlich die einer Person absolut einmalig zugehörende Prägung. Diese Botschaft ist „das Haiku der Nacht, am Tage registriert". Wegen der zeitlichen Flüchtigkeit dieser Erscheinung gilt, sie unmittelbar zu notieren. Meine Emphehlung läuft darauf hinaus, diesem hier beschriebenen Phänomen Raum zu gewähren, ihm eine Chance einzuräumen, und ihm eine von allen erlernten fremden Inhalten und Schreibmethoden befreite eigene Form und Aussage zu verleihen.
Natürlich kann alles das im Tagtraum sich ähnlich vollziehen. Mitten durch ein Sonnenbad gellt ein AHHH über Algen und Muscheln am sonst fast leeren Strand. Vom Ohr zum Bleistift sollte es ein blitzschneller Griff sein. Den Moment gibt es nicht, zwischen Flut und Ebbe ist alles Geschehen ein Fließen, ein vor oder nach dem Rauschen. Bis das unsere Registriermaschinerie erreicht, müssen unzählbare Operationen fein sauber ineinander greifen. Der Verlauf des eigendlichen Schreibvorgangs ist dann das letzte Glied in einer komplizierten Kette von Schaltungen, die wir nur teilweise durchschauen.
Alle Ehre dem Haiku, es ist als Form Ursache alles dessen, was Generationen schon für diesen Vers an gestalterischen Möglichkeiten bereit gehalten haben. Er, der so sehr kurze Vers, öffnet zum Beispiel den Blick auf ein Gebilde mit anlockender erster Fallenstellung, gefolgt von einer geplanten Irreführung, und mit der dritten Zeile fält der Vorhang: Hervor tritt der Hase im Mond, der neue Zahn in Kindesmund; eine Verknüpfung von zuvor noch nicht aufeinander bezogenen Phänomenen. Es ist genau dieser gleichzeitig sattfindende polyfokale Blick auf die Natur draussen und seine Refexion aus unserem Innern, die zusammen die Produktion in bildender Kunst und Literatur seit dem letzten Jahrhundert vorangebracht haben. Dem Haiku, der Haiku-Sequenz und besonders dem gemeinsamen Schreiben steht in dieser Hinsicht noch sehr viel Raum zur Verfügung.
Das "Märchen von den 17 Silben die auszogen andere Sprachen anzuziehen" ist unsentimental beigesetzt. Die Runde macht, es sei ein Schelm, wer sich noch leistet zu diesem Thema Krokodilstränen fließen zu lassen. Die Anzahl der im Haiku verwendeten Silben ist das Resultat größter sprachlicher Verdichtung, beruht aber längst nicht mehr auf der Innehaltung eines mißinterpretierten Zählsystems.
Wenn wir davon ausgehen, dass die kleine oder mittlere Gruppe aufgehen wird in einer einzigen, schnell miteinander korrespondierenden Gemeinschaft der Schreibenden am Netz, dann verstehen wir, welche Formen zu erwartende Kritik in Zukunft annehmen wird. Unsere Arbeiten werden ohne an Personen gebundene Rücksichten miteinander verglichen und beurteilt. Wie ein jeder von uns nur nach dem wirklich inspirierenden Neuen Ausschau hält, so unterliegt die eigenen Arbeit eben diesen Kriterien genau so unbarmherzig.
Den mutigen Verlegern ist sehr zu danken, denn ohne ihren langen Atem ist die Vertretung der japanischen Genres im großen Literaturbetieb kaum zu bewältigen. Die deutschen Autoren des Haiku herauszustellen ist mehr denn je von Bedeutung, weil sie ohne Frage mit ihren besten Arbeiten die allgemeine Literaturszene beeinflussen können. Man möchte vermuten und wünschen, dass es nicht lange dauern wird, dann kann so etwas wie ein Ruck durch die Medien gehen, die, beeinflußt durch Neuerscheinungen auf dem Markt, dieser lyrische Kurzform endlich die ihrem Wert entsprechend Beachtung schenkt. Eine in den U.S.A. mit viel Überlegung und ausgefeilter Strategie bevorzugte Methode der Verbreitung des Haiku besteht darin, diese Form den Verantwortlichen für die Lehrerausbildung näher zu bringen. Im Haiku schlummert ein kaum zu überschätzendes poetisches Potenzial, das, wenn in geschulten Händen angeboten, Lehrern wie Studierenden einsichtig macht, welche geheimnisvollen Bereiche eines allgemeinen künstlerischen Erwachens hierdurch angeregt werden können.
Wie gesagt, die deutsche Haikuszene verschafft sich aus ganz eigenen Energien heraus zunehmende Beachtung. Um den einzelnen deutschen Autoren Gelegenheit zu bieten, ihren Arbeiten, und damit ihren Namen ein vielgelesenes Forum zu eröffnen, gibt es das amerikanische Magazin LYNX, am Netz unter Ahapoetry.com, als erstes Kapitel dort leicht aufzufinden. Ahapoetry.com, begleitetet und unterstützt internationale Entwicklungen seit 1988. Am Netz seit 1998, deutet die Leserzahl von 670.000 Einschaltungen auf weitgestreutes internationales Interesse. Sowohl auf dem Postwege (Ahapoetry, P.O.Box 767, Gualala, CA 95445, U.S.A.) als auch bevorzugt über e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) nehmen wir Haiku, Tanka, Haibun und renga/renku, sowie weiterführende Versuche über diese Formen hinaus zur Publikation an. Ahapoetry.com ist bekannt für weitgehende Offenheit gegenüber Autoren, die Neuland hinter den japanischen Genre zu erforschen trachten. Einsendungen bitte zweisprachig, in deutsch und English, und, wenn gewünscht, auch als Übertragung in weitere Sprachen. Die Veröffentlichung erfolgt dann ebenfalls mehrsprachig.
Stellungnahmen zum dargelegten Stoff sehen wir entgegen und werden darüber im Magazin LYNX berichten.
MEMORIES OF KAZUO SATO
In the summer of 1989, Kazuo Sato offered to make the four-hour drive up from Berkeley to visit us at the barn, where we lived then. Jane (I’ve forgotten her last name), a young Japanese-American girl, and two Japanese young men accompanied him on the trip. After getting acquainted over tea and tidbits our guests were eager to see the rest of the property. As soon as we got outdoors, our cat Tuxedo came running up to Kazuo as if greeting an old friend. The cat simply would not let Kazuo walk. He twined himself so completely around his ankles, the only way we could proceed was for Kazuo to carry Tuxedo, which he gladly did as he explained that he and his wife had twelve cats at home. This explained why he had written the book, And the Cat, Too with all those cat haiku.
As we wandered among the huckleberry bushes under the pines, Kazuo asked to excuse himself to go to the bathroom. Being that we were already outdoors, I asked if he wished to use the "outdoor one." Suddenly he was as joyful and excited as a child. So I led all of us down the path to the big sequoia tree under which was our "throne."
The year before I had commissioned a carpenter to build a huge redwood throne for Werner’s Christmas present. It was basically a box with a back and arms added to it. The hole in it had a heart-shaped lid and underneath was a hole in the ground over the roots of the tree. Because we had so little water there on top of the ridge, it was very helpful to save a few flushes by using this throne. Also we thought it was a marvelous experience to sit there in the quiet of the woods with only an inquisitive blue jay to watch as we "took care of business."
When our group arrived in the clearing where the throne sat, Kazuo took one look at it, turned around and ran. To my horror, I thought I had insulted him or so embarrassed him that he had run away. Imagine my relief when he quickly returned with his camera. He wanted one of the guys to take a photograph of him on the throne!
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