From the archives: literary criticism about haiku books by World Haiku Association, Geert Verbeke, Santosh Kumar and Yuko Tange.

ESSAY ABOUT THE HAIKU PUBLISHED BY THE WORLD HAIKU ASSOCIATION

World Haiku 2008, No. 4: a multilingual collection of contemporary haiku from around the world.

(Published by Schichigatsudo Publishing, Tokyo, Japan, ISBN 978-4-87944-117-1, $15, €13, 2008, 230 pages, softcover, edited by Ban’ya Natsuishi for the World Haiku Association)

This year’s edition of World Haiku (the fourth annual) does not disappoint. It is a first-rate collection of haiku from around the world, written in both Japanese, English, French, Portuguese and a myriad of other languages – all proudly representing contemporary haiku from diverse cultural perspectives. The contributors to this collection of short works and essays on haiku include such noted authors as: Casimiro de Brito (Portugal), Mohammed Bennis (Morocco), Ban’ya Natsuishi (Japan), Sayumi Kamkura (Japan), Leons Briedis (Latvia), Jim Kacian (USA), Grant Caldwell (Australia), Marius Chelaru (Romania), Santosh Kumar (India), R. Siqinchogt (Inner Mongolia) and Orlando Gonzalez Esteva (Cuba). However, in the true spirit of the editor Ban’ya Natsuishi and the World Haiku Association, many other lesser known haiku artists are also featured in this multilingual anthology – from Japan and the rest of the world, and of all ages (including a special section dedicated to haiku by children and young persons). The intention of this book is therefore to present the breadth of haiku writing from around the world, to both Japanese and non-Japanese poets and lovers of haiku in a multilingual publication, thus featuring some of the more esteemed contemporary haiku artists alongside aspiring haiku poets.

In addition, this book features several essays on haiku writing, most notably haiku literary critical essays by Ban’ya Natsuishi (Japan) and Orlando Gonzalez Esteva (Cuba), but also including fine essays written by Leons Briedis (Latvia) and Vasile Moldovan (Romania). In his remarkable essay entitled “Future of World Haiku”, Ban’ya Natsuishi not only puts haiku writing in an historical and intercultural perspective, but also explains to readers the difference between haiku and short poems as well as successful and less successful haiku. Like myself, Mr. Natsuishi questions the concept and practice of the so-called “haiku moment”. For Ban’ya Natsuishi and myself, true haiku is more poetic, more concerned with multiple meanings and dimensions, and intrinsically representative of the “essence” of all poetry. As I have written elsewhere, haiku is not so much about “limitations” as it is concerned with creating expressions of artistic, cognitive and experiential expansion within a format characterized (among other things) by reduced size.

A few of my own personal favorites include:

 

O lago não sabe

até que chegue o vento

quantas ondas tem

by David Rodrigues (Portugal)

 

and

 

Une colline de parfum

naît en face du lac

nuée jamais je ne peux l’atteindre

by Mohammed Bennis (Morocco)

 

and

 

O teu corpo nu

Ao lado do meu corpo nu:

Música ou silêncio?

by Casimiro de Brito (Portugal)

 

as well as

 

The blue sky—

horse dung

becomes a castle of ants

by Ban’ya Natsuishi (Japan)

 

and

 

The deep color of girlhood

remains

on a green mandarin orange

by Toshiko Kobayashi (Japan)

 

For more information about the World Haiku Association, its publication, or to schedule an interview, please contact Ban’ya Natsuishi at http://www.worldhaiku.net, e-mail: haikubanya@mub.biglobe.ne.jp

 

ABOUT THE EDITOR:

BAN’YA NATSUISHI (JAPAN) which is the pen name of Masayuki Inui, was born in Aioi City, Hyôgo Prefecture, Japan. He studied at Tokyo University where he received a Masters of Arts in Comparative Literature and Culture in 1981. In 1992 he was appointed Professor at Meiji University where he continues to teach. In 1993, he gave lectures at Jilin University in China, and was invited to a haiku meeting in Germany in 1994, and also in Italy in 1995. From 1996 to 1998, he was a guest research fellow at Paris 7th University. In 1998, and together with Sayumi Kamakura, he founded the international haiku quarterly “Ginyu”, functioning as its publisher and editor-in-chief. In 2000, after attending the Global Haiku Festival in USA, he co-founded the World Haiku Association, based in Slovenia. He currently works as the association’s director. In 2001 Natsuishi attended the Vilenica Poetry Festival in Slovenia, in 2003 the Struga Poetry Evenings in Macedonia, and in the same year he worked as the Chairman of The Steering Committee for the 2nd World Haiku Association Conference, which was held in Japan. In 2004 he was invited to the poetry festival at Porto Santo in Portugal. In 2005 he attended the 3rd World Haiku Association Conference in Bulgaria, the 3rd Wellington International Poetry Festival, and presided over the international haiku session of Euro-Japan Poetry Festival in Tokyo. In 2006 he was invited to Poetry Spring in Vilnius, Lithuania and the Ohrid P.E.N. Conference in Macedonia. In 2007 he visited Inner Mongolia and promoted haiku writing there, and also in that year he held the 4th World Haiku Association Conference in Tokyo, functioning as its chairperson. In 2008 he will preside over the Tokyo Poetry Festival 2008 (functioning as the director of the festival).

 

 

ESSAY ABOUT THE HAIKU OF GEERT VERBEKE.

GEERT VERBEKE: An enigma, a modern master and a spellbinder.

Literary criticism of the poetry and prose of Geert Verbeke (Flanders-Belgium), based upon “Brother Buddha”, 2007, Cyberwit (India), ISBN: 978-81-8253-094-2; “Frogs Croak”, 2007, Cyberwit (India), ISBN: 978-81-8253-091-1; “Rain”, 2005, Cyberwit (India), ISBN: 81-8253-021-0; “Jokerman”, 2005, Cyberwit (India), ISBN: 81-8253-038-5; and “Sweeps of Rain”, 2006, Cyberwit (India), ISBN: 81-8253-068-7.

The poetic artistry of Geert Verbeke.

It is not an easy process to become reviewed by “yours truly”. I do make several demands that have to do with professionalism and publishing achievements, as well as my commitment to raise awareness regarding small press published books written by international, bilingual/multilingual, and/or trans-cultural authors of poetry, prose and photography. I aim to re-enact a “renaissance” of literary criticism especially, which is critical, analytical and a subjective (yet professional) assessment of literary achievement and room for further development/improvement.

I write this review of the works of Geert Verbeke both in homage .. and in protest. It is simply “unfair” to challenge a reviewer with five books of such literary and philosophical quality and professional craftsmanship as is here the case. To be blunt, it is maddening .. to be sucked into the world and thinking of Geert Verbeke so easily – even though I consider myself to be a good critic in my area(s) of specialization – and to suddenly take on the role of ‘The Fool’ (in the Tarot) .. spellbound by the ‘magic’ of a master, who is both adept in his craftsmanship with regard to tradition and the expert ‘blasting’ of ever-developing contemporary expressions of haiku, tanka, senyru and haibun. He managed to “rope me in” .. despite several readings to double-check .. and I must simply declare Verbeke as a contemporary master. Damn!

Did I find no faults in these five books? Certainly, there are small issues that have to do with the occasional caesura placement or alternative suggestions in regard to how bilingual and multilingual versions of his haiku are presented on each page (sometimes I would prefer to have more space – i.e. to have each poem and its bilingual or multilingual versions on a page by itself), and the occasional typographical error .. but these things are trivialities. The man is a genius .. or/and ‘mad’ (in terms of artistic genius the two often go together).

Firstly, his understanding of the history and traditions of the art forms he employs is quite evident; and this understanding affords him the ability and the ‘right’ to experiment and further develop the literary forms he specializes in (including further development of the English haiku derivatives).

Secondly, he masters not just the haiku, but in addition tanka, senyru and haibun. And as if that is not provocative enough for a literary critic, he dares to go so far as to combine several literary styles in several of his books. Most dramatically in “Sweeps of Rain”, where he combines haibun in a way that reads as a complete novel.

And finally, Verbeke is so cheeky and daring that he takes his readers and himself to the absolute maximal limit: he writes his masterpieces in several languages, including Flemish, English, French, German etc.

Already, as you can well understand, I am livid as a literary critic .. With some extremely-talented authors I sometimes secretly wish that I had written this or that particular work of literature instead of him/her. However, in the case of this man Geert Verbeke I feel that he is so completely ‘superior’ – not only in regards to his understanding and craftsmanship, but also because he manages to access the inner reaches of philosophy, spirituality, humanity, social consciousness and frivolity .. all at once. AND he pumps these works out effortlessly; as if he is practicing zazen. Effortlessness is – of course – the mark of an ‘artistic master’ – the point where “simplicity” and “difficulty” become indistinguishable because the level of mastery makes the distance between point zero and the ‘unreachable dream’ as short as possible. And that is the essence of Geert Verbeke’s literary genius: not only to achieve the impossible but also to transform literary dexterity into a literary and visual masterpiece at its lowest common denominator.

Geert Verbeke is impressive .. and he is scary. He can take any topic (for example: frogs or playing cards .. nature .. or political/social issues) and ‘spin his magic’.

Okay. You have understood that the man is now highly-regarded by me. Let me illustrate just a few of the many fine examples of his craftsmanship and genius:

 

memorial day –

a lot of grasshoppers

on the stupa

 

between

gravel and duneland –

an oasis

 

along the river

a row of singing monks –

dew on their hats

(from “Brother Buddha”)

 

terraced rice fields –

the annual frog concert

and her hangover

 

in the evening

croaks are getting louder –

a downpour

(from “Frogs Croak”)

 

half-naked sadhus

at the ritual cremation

click-clack Kodak

 

sweet-and-sour

the taste of mango

on her lips

 

anti-terror

a flow of body bags

back to the USA

 

rising tide

the sky is the sea

outgoing tide

 

lasting for days

the singing of the rain

composing sad songs

(from “Rain”)

 

I am afraid that I must stop here … most publishers have a maximum word limit, and I have already surpassed the standard commercial literary review limitations. But this is also relevant to my experience of the literature of Geert Verbeke: he knows the traditions, he knows the standards .. and he possesses the genius and the integrity to know when to use the traditional .. and when (and how) to surpass it. And I have a strong intuition that it is “art” which guides him, rather than “commercialism”.

GEERT VERBEKE: Born in Kortrijk, Flanders (Europe). Geert began writing haiku in 1968. The decisive factor to study haiku was the discovery of the Himalayan singing bowls and the travels to Kathmandu, the Sinaï-desert, Istanbul, Tunisia, Djerba, France, Tanzania, Zanzibar and the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA. Geert has also written a few books about singing bowls. He has, in addition to have published several books on haiku, haibun, senyru and tanka and singing bowls, recorded 11 cd’s with singing bowls, gongs and percussion.

Copyright 2007, Adam Donaldson Powell.

 

 

ESSAY ABOUT THE HAIKU OF SANTOSH KUMAR.

NEW UTOPIA.

Foreward by Adam Donaldson Powell to the book:

NEW UTOPIA, a new contemporary haiku collection by Dr. Santosh Kumar, 2008, Rochak Publishing, India, ISBN 978-81-903812-0-8.

NEW UTOPIA .. MORE THAN A MERE “HAIKU MOMENT”.

Much has been written regarding the history, form, essence and literary regulations of haiku-writing. I would here present the premise that effective artistic communication has little to do with limitations, but rather everything to do with the author’s success in engaging the reader in a «pas de deux» which elicits subjective experience and endless co-creation. In common terms, I am referring to the dialogue between writer and audience .. more than a lone author’s soliloquy or performance, but rather an invitation to dance, an admonishment from author to reader to remember one’s own dreams, perceptions and experiences, and to use the author’s expressions as a “kick-off” for one’s own creative life process – thus, a secret shared between the author and each reader/co-creator; spiraling off in many directions, like the branches of a cherry tree: blossoming in symphonic echo; and at the same time expressing through the conscious employment of simplicity the most comprehensive yet rudimentary elements of universal truth and geometry, human experience and the wonders of nature (the most influential sensory building blocks affecting perception).

I would thus encourage writers and readers of modern haiku: firstly, to study the history, the critical literature regarding haiku-writing, and to acquaint themselves with both Japanese haiku and non-Japanese haiku in literary transition and transformation; and secondly, to step outside this understanding in order to freely create one’s own form of haiku expression and modern expression suitable to today’s psyche and literary needs. Why bother with acquainting oneself with the classical forms, only to redefine the parameters and forms of expression based upon contemporary interpretations of individual and collective consciousness? Because all purposeful new art expressions build conceptually, intrinsically and historically upon that which has been a defining set of perceptions and expressions, and then consciously choose to challenge and further develop perspective, tolerance and values.

There are many examples of this in all art forms, from literature to visual art to dance to theater to film to music. You cannot fully communicate why you are going where you are headed without having some sense of where artistic expression, your culture, and you as a personality have been. At the same time, the artist must on some level find an appropriate mixture of planning, purpose and craftsmanship together with spontaneity, multi-dimensionality and “plasticity”. By plasticity I refer to the artist’s ability to elicit multiple understandings in the individual readers; enabling each reader to relate to the work of art in perspective to his/her own experience, expression and life creative process.

Contemporary literature often mirrors other artistic styles and forms of expression that are popular today: in particular those that are free in form, economical in format, diverse and multi-dimensional/”plastic” in breadth and outreach. I would challenge modern haiku-writers to more consciously explore expansion of classical form and format beyond a constrictive and mathematical process of syllable-counting, but still echoing the more traditional references and inferences to nature, season, and sensory imagery. The mechanical process of establishing the quintessential «haiku moment» in each poem thus becomes transformed to a state of consciousness where the «haiku-moment» is expanded to expose the basic spiritual essence and aesthetic wholeness of the artistic work in its entirety; if you will, a slice of living perception .. vibrating and pulsating in syncopation with the higher Creative Self of the reader at any given moment in time and space. The “moment” is empty without a clear understanding of the “essence”, and of the relationship between the “moment and the whole”.

Such writing requires substance: both in terms of artistic maturity, and openness regarding understanding of human experience and the «natural» course of Life. It therefore requires a mastery which is both learned through study and experience, and also understood through innate artistic genius. The master haiku-artist is not a «translator», but rather a sieve through which all life essence flows incessantly; changing like the sands in response to the tides, and yet as “mystically stable and predictable” as the effects of the tides upon the Moon. This is the closest man can approach “truth”; an otherwise elusive concept which is both an abstraction and a personal understanding in the context of perception of the ever changing human condition and process.

Dr. Santosh Kumar has successfully shown that he has both a good understanding of the classical form and literary history of the haiku as an art form, and more importantly possesses the literary experience, expertise, sensitivity and dexterity required to update and further develop this classical art form in his own way – thus both ensnaring and enticing the reader to join him in his own contemporary pas de deux, expressive of the wonders and dilemmas of today’s social, spiritual and psychological experience. This resonance in the reader/audience, together with the «magic» of boundless possibilities, is essential to the success and the survival of the artist’s expression as a «living, and ever changing» organism.

I would encourage readers of this gem of a book to put away their musical scores and mathematical-literary formulas, to momentarily forget their guardianship of the more restrictive regulations regarding classical haiku-writing .. and even to attempt to avoid the perils of getting “stuck” in the search for the perfect «haiku moment», as that could possibly inhibit one’s ability to recognize (and co-create) the essence of the poem. Furthermore, I would encourage the reader to try to see all poems in this book as being integral and connected parts of the entire artistic work. Although these individual works function quite well on their own, there is even greater “music” to be heard in discovering the silent transitions from haiku to haiku .. and experiencing the work in its totality: a comprehensive mural which rivals the frescoes of the greatest known and un-named painters from several centuries ago: yes, a haunting image dating from the earliest cave-dweller paintings on record to the Renaissance and Classical periods to Post Modern expressionism.

— Adam Donaldson Powell

 

 

REACHING TOWARDS INFINITY.

Literary criticism (2009) by Adam Donaldson Powell (based upon “World Haiku 2009, No. 5, The World Haiku Association, published by Shichigatsudo, Japan, 2009, ISBN 978-4-87944-135-5, 198 pages, paperback, US$15).

This year’s annual World Haiku (2009, No. 5) does not disappoint. Ban’ya Natsuishi and his translation staff have – once again – succeeded in compiling a quality presentation of world haiku featuring some 192 haiku artists from around the world in addition to junior haiku artists and essayists of haiku criticism.

Many of the works are in translation or adaptation. Of course, the book also contains a Japanese version which reads from the opposite direction.

That the World Haiku Association and Ban’ya Natsuishi have produced yet another fine publication featuring world haiku is no surprise in itself. However, the presentation of quality haiku originating from several continents and especially the phenomenal junior haiku (this time from Japan and New Zealand) make this edition noteworthy and distinctive. Some time ago, I was struck by the thought:

The novice struggles to make pretty feet dance in the wind, while the haiku of the master yawn and stretch toward infinity … like a century-old bonsai.

— Adam Donaldson Powell

 

However, in World Haiku 2009 No. 5 many of the featured haiku by artists from countries where haiku-writing is an “adopted” art form, and many of the “junior” haiku artists, write with a spontaneous dexterity usually exemplified by masters of this age-old tradition. I will cite a few of my personal favorites as examples:

 

I am as old as rain

And as young as rye:

Golden medium

 

Once in eternity

Even the mountain rises to the clouds

Like a bird of passage

 

Don’t torture your memory,

Insistently asking,

When did you meet last time?

Leons Briedis, Latvia

 

adding its voice to the ocean’s rain

sundown a momentary ache and gone

paddling out changing the shape of the sea

Jim Kacian, USA

 

Red dragonfly,

settle on my hand

that has worked hard

 

I trust a wintry tree

with my soul

for a while

 

Affirming it

will hurt someone –

holly blossoms

Tomie Yamamoto (Japan)

 

and from the juniors:

 

Summer ocean:

noisily a wave

gulps down sand grains

Ayane Inden, Japan, age 12

 

Trees, forests

cut down

are crying

Chihiro Niinou, Japan, age 8

 

The spirit of the sky

Lives in mother earth

Tears flow through rivers.

Te Arani Huia, New Zealand, age 10

 

Ancestors’ treasure

At the end of a river

Waterfall blessings.

Kairau Stirling, New Zealand, age 10

 

The book also contains thought-provoking essays by Toshio Kimura (The Missing Link: From Classic to Modern – Modern Japanese Haiku Observed from Overseas), Aleksandar Prokopiev (A Journey to The Quintessence), Karunesh Kumar Agrawal (Haiku in India) and Jim Kacian (State of the Art: Haiku in North America 2007).

— Adam Donaldson Powell, Norway, 2009.

 

 

YUKO TANGE: INJURED ROSES.

Injured Roses … the Yuko Tange Haiku Collection.

English translation by Anthony P. Newell

(Published by Cyberwit.net, Allahabad, India, 2009, 79 pages, paperback, US$15)

Injured Roses is a first-time haiku collection by Japanese haiku artist and visual artist Yuko Tange. This short collection of haiku in Japanese and English (in translation) is divided into seven sections. As with most first books, the author has included here a variety of approaches, subjects and subtle style variations. Some of the poems are – in my opinion – of a very high caliber, while others are rather less striking.

I find that the poems that are the most precious to me are those that reveal the mature reflective attributes of the author, and which are less analytical and active. The author has a talent for expressing passive irony in a classical literary sense, which is timeless. I would have preferred to see this book focus upon that particular style of haiku, one on a page with an accompanying work of art by Yuko Tange on the facing page. This because her original cover art reveals the same qualities that I find so endearing in the haiku that I am referring to. Some good examples of this style follow:

on page 14:

The Acropolis

is patient

facing the sun

 

on page 19:

I punctuate

with a sigh

the end of summer

 

on page 23:

It snows furiously

on the dilemma

of an impossibility

 

on page 30:

Red roses

invite bewitchment

and a misunderstanding, too

 

on page 48:

In the setting sun

the sand and the sea

rest in silence

 

and on page 70:

The vessel of pathos

moves to the time

of a miracle

 

I am impressed that the author has written her first book at an advanced stage in her life. When I read and re-read the poems I have cited above I understand that it has perhaps taken a lifetime to be able to express oneself so artistically, and with such quiet and mature reflection. I hope that Yuko Tange publishes more books in the style and spirit of the poems I have applauded, and that she considers perhaps making a lovely coffee table book including her artwork, and her haiku in calligraphy and in translation.

— Adam Donaldson Powell, 2009.

ADAM DONALDSON POWELL (Norway) is a literary critic and a multilingual author, writing in English, Spanish, French and Norwegian; and a professional visual artist. He has published several books (including collections of poetry, short stories, novellas and literary criticism) in the USA, Norway and India, as well as several short and longer works in international publications on several continents. His poetry and essays have been translated into several languages, including: Spanish, French, Russian, Japanese and Bengali.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s