From the archives: Essays and literary criticism of haiku collections.

Adamfebruary2015

APHORISM:

seventeen random syllables

don’t always add up

to a haiku.

– Adam Donaldson Powell (from “Rapture: endings of space and time”).

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

Photo and painting by Adam Donaldson Powell

Adam Donaldson Powell’s preface to the haiku collection “Flying Pope”, by Ban’ya Natsuishi:

A MODERN MASTER OF HAIKU PAINTS THE COLLECTIVE CONSCIENCE.

A gong sounds somewhere in the distance, and in the silence that ensues the reverberations of the collective conscience precipitate a collage of impressions that are at once familiar, and yet far beyond the accepted structures of perception. In this impressive collection of contemporary haiku, Ban’ya Natsuishi expertly challenges and coaxes the reader to join him in a flight of fancy – in and out of reality and illusion – not so unlike the great surrealist Salvador Dali. Both the reader and the flying pope take to the air, suspended above the Earth like an out-of-body experience … observing from afar, and yet experiencing the dream-like state as if it were totally real – as a sort of déjà vu recollection of the fringes between zazen and newspaper headlines … or perhaps the CNN rolling news texts, floating across the bottom of the television screen. While it may be tempting to point out Natsuishi as l’Enfant terrible of contemporary haiku writing, his impudence is not intended to shock. It is, in fact, this sense of detachment in the author that binds together the childlike, the serious, the sarcastic, the humorous and the reflective – resulting in a splattering of surrealistic images that pose far more questions to the reader than give blatant commentary. Because of the masterly free flying construction, the reader is just as easily won over to the haiku of Ban’ya Natsuishi as he/she might be to adventuresome comic books and animated films.

True enough, there is much observation embedded in these pearls of writing: sparkling semi-precious jewels singing, dancing, and jabbering now and then about such themes as politics, haiku writing without seasonal references, the loneliness of papal responsibility, and the burden of conscience. However, the real artistry of this work is perhaps the succession of painterly haiku frescoes, all variations on the same theme: the illusion of consciousness.

Do read this book several times – forward and backwards, and even starting in the middle and proceeding in any direction … sometimes dancing back and forth. There are many hidden levels within the poems, the silent connections in between the poems and in the work as a whole.

– Adam Donaldson Powell, 2008 (based upon the English version of “Flying Pope”). “Flying Pope” is published by Cyberwit.net.

ESSAY ABOUT THE HAIKU OF BAN’YA NATSUISHI.

CONTEMPORARY HAIKU:

the renaissance and the transformation.

Literary criticism (2008) by Adam Donaldson Powell (based upon “Right Eye in Twilight”, published by Wasteland Press, USA, 2006, ISBN13: 978-1-60047-016-5 and ISBN10: 1-60047-016-5, 62 pages, paperback, US$12; and “Earth Pilgrimage” (Pellegrinaggio terrestre), published by Albalibri Editore, Italy, 2007, ISBN 88-89618-52-3 and ISBN 978-88-89618-52-3, 146 pages, paperback, €10).

As I sit before the screen of my laptop computer, the fat of my palms resting on the flat area of the keyboard and my fingers poised to attack – I close my eyes and begin to breathe rhythmically, as a concert pianist. I feel both certain of the notes that are about to flow through the tentacles of my body-mind-spirit machine, but immediately become encapsulated by the poetry of my own breathing. And in the cello-like dark mellow tones, underscoring the inevitability of one breath following another, I am at one with the driving impulse behind the art of Ban’ya Natsuishi. That impulse, that drive has many names but is perhaps best described as “satori” (meaning a state of spiritual enlightenment … but also quite simply ‘insight’).

The haiku of Natsuishi have many dimensions, and forms of expression. Perhaps the most common factors are the renaissance and transformation of duality, and the exposure of illusion caused by the folly of spiritual separation. Natsuishi has the uncanny talent of presenting perspectives from all angles – and yet, never contradictory in spite of individual or collective social experience. True insight, and effective artistic communication, is never exclusive or preaching … but rather expanding and questioning. It is exemplified by the ability to combine perspectives of the ‘external looking inward’ and the ‘internal looking outward’, the left side of the brain in tandem with the right side, the virtuosity of a well-trained and natural violinist on an equal footing with the exquisitely understated harmonies of a monk choir.

And still, Natsuishi does not cheat us of a glimpse into his own humanity – in fact, in “Right Eye in Twilight” he takes us along on his own personal journey, which both literally and poetically describes a search for vision (‘insight’). Here, the author invites the reader to accompany him in his rapturous process – ascending toward a state of satori that had nevertheless always existed in each of us from the very first times we opened (and closed) our eyes. It is this nakedness that reveals the childishness in us all – the fear, the frustration, the wantonness, the infatuation with the process itself – and that creates sublime poetry, in balance with our adult, intellectual and rational expression.

From “Right Eye in Twilight”:

 

A black horse

slowly getting white

in the wood

 

and

 

New York –

the terror of dust

toying with sundown

 

and

 

Water is a white nebula

within me

blown by winds

 

and the very beautiful

 

On a morning swamp

I see

the Palace of Versailles

 

For me, the very essence of the ‘satori’ of Ban’ya Natsuishi is exemplified in the most delicate and sensitive haiku found in the collection entitled “Earth Pilgrimage” (Pellegrinaggio terrestre). Each of these multi-faceted diamonds express both intimacy with oneself, one’s surroundings and with Spirit – free from separation. And yet they do not seek to deny the harshness of living on Terra, but rather allow the reader to see the effects of turning the face of the diamond – just slightly enough to get lost in the momentary light capturing us, our blindness giving true vision for an instant. A few priceless examples follow:

Shoved off the stairs –

falling I become

a rainbow

 

and

 

From the reed marsh

New York appears

like an old UFO

 

and

 

A new moon –

the sublimity of the orchid

not yet achieved

 

and

 

An almond in bloom

leaning against

cactuses

 

and finally

 

Even in the clouds

a mute and a deaf person

arguing with each other

 

Contemporary haiku art simply does not get any better than as expressed in “Earth Pilgrimage”. It is both a renaissance and a transformation – of the essence, and the ever expanding and contracting nature of the haiku.

And my breathing continues in empathetic harmony, at one with the insight and vision of Ban’ya Natsuishi.

— Adam Donaldson Powell, 2008

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).

Among his many awards can be mentioned:

in 1980 he was recommended as Poet of the Year by Haiku-hyôron

in 1981 he won First Prize in a competition sponsored by haiku monthly Haiku-kenkyû

in 1984 he was awarded the Shii-no-ki Prize

in 1991 he was awarded the Modern Haiku Association Prize

in 2002 he was the recipient of the Hekigodô Kawahigashi Prize of the 21st Century (Ehime Haiku Prize)

 

Main Japanese publications:

Poetics of Haiku, Seichi-sha, 1983.

Dictionary of Keywords for Contemporary Haiku, Rippu-shobô, 1990.

Poetic Spirit of Genius, Yûshorin, 1993.

Haiku: A Century’s Quest , Kôdansha, 1995 (edited).

Contemporary Haiku Manuel, Rippu-shobô, 1996.

Haiku Is Our Friend, Kyôiku-shuppan, 1997.

Haiku Troubadours 2000, Ginyu Press, 2000.

Collected Haiku Poems by Ban’ya Natsuishi: Crossing Borders, Chûseki-sha,2001.

Chibimaruko-chan’s Haiku Class Room, Shûei-sha, 2002.

A Guide to World Haiku, Chûseki-sha, 2003.

World Haiku 2005, Nishida-shoten, 2004.

World Haiku 2006, Shichigatsudo, 2005.

Right Eye in Twilight, Chûseki-sha, Japan, 2006.

World Haiku 2007, Shichigatsudo, 2007.

Renku: A través do ar/Through the Air/A travers l’air, Shichigatsudo, 2007 (co-authored with Casimiro de Brito).

Tenbo Gendai no Shiika vol. 10, Meiji Shoin, 2007 (co-authored).

World Haiku 2008, Shichigatsudo, 2008.

 

Overseas publications:

Haiku: antichi e moderni, Garzanti Editore, Italy, 1996 (co-authored).

A Future Waterfall―100 Haiku from the Japanese, Red Monn Press, USA, 1999 & 2004.

Romanje po Zemlji, Društvo Apokalipsa, Slovenia, 2000.

Цветята на Вятьра, Matom, Bulgaria, 2001.

Poesia Sempre NÚMERO 17, Fundação Biblioteca Nacional, Brazil, 2002 (co-authored).

Haiku: Poetry Ancient & Modern, MQP, UK, 2002 (co-authored).

Haiku: the leaves are back on the tree, Greece, 2002 (co-authored).

Ombres et Lumières, LCR, Bulgaria, 2003 (co-authored).

Haiku: Poésie anciennes et Modernes, Édition Vega, France, 2003 (co-authored).

Странный Ветер, Иностранка, Russia, 2003 (co-authored).

The Road: world haiku, Ango Boy, Bulgaria, 2004 (co-authored).

Ribnik tišine: slovenska haiku antologija, Društvo Apokalipsa, Slovenia, 2005 (co-authored).

L’Anthologie du Poème Bref, Les Dossiers d’Aquitaine, France, 2005 (co-authored).

Right Eye in Twilight, Wasteland Press, USA, 2006.

ÎMBRĂŢIŞAREA PLANETELOR (THE EMBRACE OF PLANETS), Edidura Făt-Frumos, Romania, 2006.

Endless Helix: Haiku and Short Poems, Cyberwit.net, India, 2007.

Le bleu du martin pêcheur: Haïkus, L’iroli, Beauvais, France, 2007 (co-authored).

Madarak / Birds: 50 Haiku, Balassi Kiadó, Hungary, 2007.

Pellegrinaggio terrestre / Earth Pilgrimage, alba libri, Italy, 2007.

 

ESSAY ABOUT THE HAIKU OF SAYUMI KAMAKURA

SAYUMI KAMAKURA:

the timelessness of the veil behind the veil behind the veil.

Literary criticism based on “A Crown of Roses”, a haiku collection by Sayumi Kamakura, published by Cyberwit (India), 2007, 70 pages, ISBN 978-81-8253-090-4, and “A Singing Blue: 50 Selected Haiku”, published by Ginyu Press (Japan), 2000, 63 pages, ISBN 4-87944-032-9.

There is much positive to say about the haiku of Sayumi Kamakura. In her recent haiku collection “A Crown of Roses”, and in her haiku collection from 2000 entitled “A Singing Blue: 50 Selected Haiku”, Sayumi Kamakura presents several impressive haiku – all speaking with the ‘quiet authority’ of an artist who knows her impulses and skills so well that she can make herself heard without raising her poetic voice, without over-dramatizing and without overwriting. Kamakura understands quite well the seductive qualities of haiku that are simple … and simply well written, and which exhibit the grace and delicateness of artistic and contemporary international poetry, dancing – in and out of past, present and future; reaching out from Japanese tradition into the world … and again, from the external world, back into the womb of true Japanese intention in regards to haiku.

In the work of Sayumi Kamakura, the “haiku moment” becomes rather the “momentousness of the haiku”. She has the gift of transforming the all-too-common misunderstanding of reductionism to something that is – in fact – larger than life; like the mystery of the bonsai. Art is never about limitation, but rather about playing within structure(s) – and pressing, kneading, pushing against boundaries to give the appearance of being larger than a mathematician’s (or literary/art historian’s, or critic’s) measurements.

Sayumi Kamakura effectively exerts a feeling of timelessness in her haiku, and in the mind and experience of the reader. She accomplishes this by her adeptness in revealing the veil behind the veil behind the veil. The vibrations of the piano cords of her haiku give one a sense of the sublime, ranging from the romanticism of Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff or Johannes Brahms to Karol Szymanowski to that of more minimalist composers such as Erik Satie or even Philip Glass – all elements of passion for life, pressing forward and peeking out of a tranquil detachment and understated true emotion.

Avid readers of my literary criticism know that I make a point out of assessing the musicality of poetry – and that I stress that the inner rhythms and rhymes are equally, if not more, important as (than) the mechanical ones. Sayumi Kamakura understands and plays upon the natural music of her haiku. In short, the haiku lover cannot help but be moved by the artistry of Sayumi Kamakura, who complements her intrinsic understanding of the art of haiku writing and philosophy with a certain feminine touch that tickles the ivory keys of the piano with the very authority and grace I have referred to above.

A few of her haiku are phenomenal, some are excellent, and many are quite good. On the whole, these are two short collections that are well put together. A few examples of her haiku that I personally feel are phenomenal follow:

A cold circle

called God

or the sun

 

and

 

The end of summer –

water clings

to a sponge

 

and

 

Someday my knees

will be wrapped

in brilliant clouds

 

and

 

The moth’s dead body:

consider it as dust

sent from heaven

 

as well as

 

Having cried out her heart

the sunflower stands

erect

 

and

 

The swimsuit on,

my soles forget

absolutely everything

 

and of course

 

Unable to say

‘I love you’ …

my bare hands, bare feet

implore the mirror

 

Read Sayumi Kamakura’s haiku … and become acquainted with yourself. She is the quintessential “goddess” archetype of the contemporary haiku artist, lifting the veils of everything around her.

— Adam Donaldson Powell, 2008

SAYUMI KAMAKURA (JAPAN) was born in Kochi Prefecture, Japan, 1953. She began composing haiku while a student at Saitama University and studied haiku under the guidance of Toshiro Nomura and Sho Hayashi. In 1988, she won the Oki Sango Prize. The lyrical style of her haiku attracted attention, and in 1998 she established the haiku magazine “Ginyu” with Ban’ya Natsuishi, and has been its Editor since that time. She has attended international haiku or poetry festivals held in Japan, Slovenia, Portugal and Bulgaria. In 2001, she won the Modern Haiku Association Prize. Her published haiku collections include: Jun (Moisture, 1984), Mizu no Jujika (Water Cross, 1987), Tenmado kara (From the Skylight, 1992), Kamakura Sayumi Kushu (Haiku of Sayumi Kamakura, 1998). Hashireba haru(Run to Spring, 2001), She co-authored Gendai Haiku Panorama (1994), Gendai Haiku Handbook (1995), Gendai Haiku Shusei Zen 1 Kan (Contemporary Haiku Anthology in One Volume, 1996), etc. She also published, in both Japanese and English, A Singing Blue: 50 Selected Haiku (2000). Her haiku has been translated into English, Greek, Russian, Bulgarian, Portuguese and Korean. She is a member and Treasurer of the World Haiku Association.

 

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

 

Essays: WORLD HAIKU.

TWO ESSAYS ON BAN’YA NATSUISHI’S WORLD HAIKU.

EXPRESSION OF EMOTIONS IN THE INTERNATIONAL / MULTILINGUAL HAIKU OF BAN’YA NATSUISHI.

Some old-fashioned “experts” still insist that human emotions in haiku are only to be expressed in figurative ways through depictions of nature, while others are venturing into somewhat more obvious analogies. I – myself – am a bit wary of the pitfalls of falling prey to reading too much into the subtleties of haiku, or to limit the usage of such expressions of subtlety to Japanese culture and tradition.

There are many opinions circulating regarding the mechanics and functions of haiku-writing, as well as some individuals who would seem to maintain that the only good haiku-writers are those who follow strict Japanese tradition. As I have written elsewhere, contemporary haiku – and perhaps especially international haiku and haiku adaptations into other languages – must address many cultural and linguistic differences that may challenge traditional Japanese rules regarding classical haiku, including but not limited to meter, linguistic and culturally-associated rhythms and sounds of words employed, expansion of time beyond “the moment” etc.

I was impressed to read the following in Natsuishi’s essay entitled “Composing Haiku in a Foreign Country” (A Future Waterfall, 2004, Red Moon Press, ISBN 1-893959-46-5, USA):

“[Nevertheless,] not many Japanese Haiku poets have been open to foreign experiences … The main reason is their idée fixe about nature … This situation has effectively prevented Japanese haiku poets from looking at a foreign land from a non-Japanese perspective. Foreign landscapes remain largely alien and incomprehensible.

“A haiku poet in a foreign country has many occasions for inspiration. Many things provoke him to look at them from new and different angles — provide him with a new insight and a different sensibility. This is the way it should be. After all, one principal purpose of haiku is to discover something new in everything and to reveal it to the world …

“More than three hundred years after Bashô, I am trying to create in my haiku diverse, astonishing traditions and phenomena of the whole world.”

It occurs to me that the cultural associative expertise required in international haiku and haiku in translation is perhaps especially significant in regards to communication of emotion – both viscerally and figuratively. While classical Japanese haiku expresses emotions more figuratively than directly, modern forms of haiku and international / non-Japanese haiku forms would appear to be experimenting with and stretching the “old and the traditional” into more “liberal” expressions of emotion and usages of kigo.

Ban’ya Natsuishi is classically-schooled and does employ many traditional Japanese forms in his haiku-writing, but he is also constantly exploring the haiku in literary evolution. His work with World Haiku presents special challenges and many new possibilities in regards to the internationalization of contemporary haiku-writing.

Some outstanding examples of innovative contemporary haiku by Natsuishi follow:

from “A Future Waterfall”, 2004, Red Moon Press, ISBN 1-893959-46-5, USA:

 

page 13:

From the future

a wind arrives

that blows the waterfall apart

 

page 18:

Cherry blossoms fall:

newspapers

suck in a great deal of blood

 

In Tokyo

the angry flower is

a snow crystal

 

page 23

Into the Sea of Japan

lightning’s tail

is plunged

 

page 31

On my tongue

a temple appears

allegro

 

page 43

Above the sea

lightning violates

the Galaxy


Tunisian

blue lightens

the swindling

 

and from “Endless Helix”, 2007, Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-81-8253-072-0, India:

 

page 42

Perfection

is the symphony of the valley —

a stray sheep

 

Parfaite est la symphonie

de la vallée —

un mouton perdu

 

Sinfonía perfecta

en el valle

la oveja perdida

 

page 48

A cloud beyond any shape —

we have lost

our memory

 

Un nuage au-delà de toute forme —

nous avons perdu

notre mémoire

 

Una nube que tiene

más que todas las formas …

¿ perdimos nuestra memoria?

 

page 50

The sea of tears

always waiting

for our haiku

 

La mer de larmes

attend toujours

notre haiku

 

El mar de lágrimas

siempre espera por

nuestro haiku

 

page 53

Under the scorching sun

I have forgotten

how to love myself

 

Sous le soleil brûlant

j’ai oublié

comment je pourrais m’aimer

 

Bajo el abrasante sol

he olvidado

como amarme a mí mismo

 

Page 87, Dream no. 10

One after another our soldiers bleed to death.

We have lost any reason to press ahead.

We make up the blood pressure readings of our king,

the balance so to speak, of his rivers underneath.

Yet, we raise lances, dash forward,

And my voice is drowned out trying to hold us back.

 

Page Dream No. 12

Scratched.

Beaten.

Cut.

Ice sheds tears.

A beauty dances over this frozen swell.

She falls down by its caprice.

 

It is my premise that expression of emotions in art is not merely a question of perspective of nature, but concerns color, form, verb form, sound, meter and time as well.

In the above examples Natsuishi plays with the “rules” most creatively, experimenting with time (“a future waterfall”), direct and less direct references to emotions, sometimes more liberal approaches to the usage of kigo, and purposeful liberation from 5-7-5 meter in favor of culturally-effective adaptations in English, Spanish and French (I cannot comment on other languages which I do not understand). Successful adaptation of haiku from Japanese (or another language) to other languages is not merely a question of cultural and linguisitic translation but perhaps also entails a oneness in expression in the original language that at times surpasses literary and cultural norms in the mother tongue in order to achieve a more universal expression.

The ability to successfully make creative decisions depends on the artist’s understanding of tradition (where artistic expression norms have hailed from) as well as the understanding of how to employ intentional techniques to achieve desired new forms of expression. Decisions regarding usage of meter, form, sound, suggestion, time, length etc. should be conscious and intentional, and yet give the appearance of evenness and technical ease and dexterity. A technically or emotionally difficult passage in a work of music, literature or art should appear as effortless in execution as a technically or emotionally easy one. Here Ban’ya Natsuishi unabashedly shows his mastery of artistic execution and suggestiveness and his intelligence in decisionmaking and planning — resulting in a natural feeling recognizable by readers from various cultures, traditions and in many languages.

Despite his intellectual and technical expertise, Natsuishi has loftier goals than merely to find new ways of expressing emotions. He says himself: “My concern is not expressing emotion in a new way, but something deeper than emotion is my target.”

— Adam Donaldson Powell, 2009.

 

A SHORT ESSAY ON PRESENTATION OF WORLD HAIKU.
An essay based upon the following multilingual haiku books by Ban’ya Natsuishi:
MADARAK / BIRDS, 50 HAIKU, including aquarelles by Éva Pápai, translations by
Ban’ya Natsuishi, Jack Galmitz and Judit Vihar, published in 2007, Balassi Kiadó,
Budapest, Hungary, ISBN 978-963-506-743-5; and VOICES FROM THE CLOUDS,
translations by Leons Briedis, Ban’ya Natsuishi, Jim Kacian and James Shea,
published in 2008, Minerva, Latvia, ISBN 978-9984-637-42-5.

World haiku books are generally characterized by bilingualism or multilingualism, i.e. haiku books published with translations or adaptations in one or more languages in addition to the mother tongue of the haiku writer. This is also true of the world haiku books of Ban’ya Natsuishi. Mr. Natuishi’s literary adeptness is well-established – both by fans and reviewers such as myself, and by the international and Japanese literary communities at large. What I would like to address in this essay is presentation — the function of haiku with translations / adaptations in the same book, and the function of haiku together with and in competition with art / photography. In other words: the aesthetic dimensions and considerations.

I have previously commented upon the now-popular combination of haiku with photography: “I have written elsewhere that I prefer photography books without captions and titles … this is often a sensitive and over-debated question. However, I do not believe that it is solely a question of aesthetics or subjective ‘likes and dislikes’ / personal preferences. There are also the questions of functionality, total artistic impression as well as technical questions such as ‘when is more actually too much?’ Are the haiku captions or poetry? Do they serve a complementary function or an interpretative function, and are they (in fact) essential to understanding the photographs? Is the placement of these haiku optimal, or would another approach to combining photography and haiku have a stronger effect? These are all questions that strike me in my own personal experience …” It is important to me as reader and reviewer that presentation of haiku in book form satisfies the underlying aesthetic values of simplicity, space for thought and reflection, and maximal visual interpretation by the reader himself / herself. Furthermore, it is important to me that the haiku and the artwork function both on their own as artistic expressions AND together as complements, but not as explanations or rationalizations of each other. They should not be in competition with one another, and not too interpretative of each other.

This applies as well to presentation of haiku translations and adaptations alongside one another. The number and placement of haiku in translation / adaptation must not create a sense of constriction in regards to space, or be too overwhelming in terms of text. There are many possible solutions to these challenges, including: separating haiku and photography / art into different sections in the book, limiting the number of translations / adaptations, utilizing artistic imagery that is less concrete (eg. abstract imagery, painted calligraphy which gives a simple visual presentation, etc.) or watercolors or another medium that mimics the lightness of haiku to name a few possibilities. Of course, another possibility entails combining haiku with imagery that does not attempt to comment directly upon the visual imagery created by the haiku artist but rather explores the underlying “feelings” in other visual expressions. These suggested solutions might allow the reader / viewer to experience the visual, intellectual and emotional openness of both artistic forms of expression — both independently, and in “indirect” comparison, without the one form competing with, overshadowing or directly leading / affecting the experiential and interpretative process of the reader / viewer.

The Hungarian book MADARAK / BIRDS, 50 HAIKU is a very attractive hardbound book (12 x 18,5 cm), with fine illustrations by visual artist Éva Pápai. The illustrations are aquarelles, sensitively executed and without too much direct interpretation of the contexts expressed in the accompanying haiku. The illustrations are consistently placed on the pages adjoining each haiku in English and in Hungarian, and the original Japanese haiku appear under each illustration. Although this attractive book is not of a standard coffee table book size, the excellent presentation enables it to function both as a work of art and as a small inspirational book that may be carried in a bag or in one’s pocket so as to be read on the bus, the metro, the train … or during a break at work or in between appointments.

One reason that the presentation achieved in this book is so successful is that the illustrations are more than mere illustrations — they are works of art which function both independently and together with the haiku, they are simple in execution and style — thus mimicking and accentuating the lightness and spontaneity and “space” of haiku as an art form, there are only two haiku translations / adaptations to the page — giving a feeling of time and space for personal reflection in a way that the language that is unimportant to the particular reader can (in fact) disappear on the page, and also because the Japanese original haiku are tastefully reproduced with calligraphy in red — thus giving a sense of writing as visual art, as well as writing and art balanced both on the illustration pages and also together with the haiku in English and in Hungarian (on the opposing pages).

In “Voices from the Clouds” (11 x 19 cm, softcover), there are no illustrations or works of art accompanying each haiku. There are however haiku in original Japanese, Latvian and English on each page. In my view, this small book works quite well in terms of presentation. This largely because of the excellent paper quality, the sequence and placement of haiku on each page (starting with the original haiku in Japanese in one line across the top of each page, followed by the Latvian translation / adaptation, and then with the English version on the bottom of each page), as well as the feeling of “airyness” and space created … all of which give the book a sense of completion.

There are many memorable haiku in these two books which are both beautiful and thought-provoking. I will mention a few from each book:

 

from MADARAK / BIRDS:

 

Old women, pigeons,

winds and gossip

gather in this square.

– page 16

 

A wild eagle

is invited to

the room of mirrors

– page 24

 

Every thing will disappear:

even the rice paddy,

over it a white heron dancing

– page 54

 

To the goldcrest

every water drop

smiles

– page 106

 

and from VOICES FROM THE CLOUDS:

 

In Tokyo

The angry flower is

A snow crystal

– page 23

 

Long, long ago

A fountain

At the bottom of the sea.

– page 39

 

Walking is philosophy’s

Best friend —

Voices from the clouds.

– page 80

 

Wisteria flowers

Suck in our

Sweet nothings.

– page 120

 

If I were to point out one thing that I would criticize with either of these books, it would be the consistent starting of each line with capital letters in the book VOICES FROM THE CLOUDS. Sometimes initial capital letters feel natural and at other times (as in these haiku) they can (in my opinion) tend to disrupt the flow and music of short literary works where lines are supposed to both function on their own and as a continuous flow. However, this is my own personal opinion and experience.

All in all, I would recommend lovers of world haiku to purchase these books, as they are quite worthy of inclusion in one’s permanent collection … for re-reading time and time again, at one’s leisure.

— Adam Donaldson Powell, 2009.

 

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 eleven 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

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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 )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: