Adam Donaldson Powell as literary critic

All about Adam.

 

the tunnel

REVIEWS OF ADAM’S LAST NOVEL: “THE TUNNEL AT THE END OF TIME”:

🔳 “LOOK INTO YOURSELF”
By Irene Brodsky on June 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
“The Tunnel At The End of Time” written in English/Russian by Adam Donaldson Powell and Rick Davis, with foreword by Adam Donaldson Powell and Azsacra Zarathustra.

It is an honor to review this most eye-opening, very well written and beautifully expressed book of poetry & drama that was written in two languages; and also includes a 14 Act Play! The book appears to be a serious look into one’s self, soul, being, spirit, surroundings, thoughts, reactions, and can be seen as philosophical, religious, mystical, spiritual, anger, reaching out for an answer, telling it like it is, no holds barred. I recommend this outstanding book for adults, age 18 & over because there is some strong language to express one’s deep feelings.

This book would be an excellent addition to the libraries and I am giving my own personal copy of this book to the landmark Brooklyn Public Library Grand Army Plaza Central Branch. It is my recommendation that the library catalog this book, and place it on their shelf where it can be shared by many readers. In this way, Mr. Powell’s magnificent book will be automatically added to The World Catalog of Books which is the greatest honor a writer can ever have.

It was my pleasure to review Mr. Powell’s book and recommend it very highly.

Sincerely, 
Irene Brodsky

Faculty Member Brooklyn College City University of New York
Teacher of Philosophy – adult education program
author of Poetry Unplugged
and The Adventures of Silly Kitty, Princess Jasmine and First Puppy

🔳 A New Way of Writing
By Isagani R. Cruz on March 5, 2010
Format: Paperback

The Tunnel at the End of Time is a masterful symphony of languages, religions, cultures, and literary techniques, all journeying to one inevitable destination: the individual wrestling with self. Covering our most human to our most divine urges and activities, the poetic, science fictional, experimental, even cinematic book leads us through words to what is beyond or behind words: the inscrutable mystery of our own being or, more precisely since the book revels in Emptiness, our non-being. In the process of stripping away the several skins that we use to protect our inner selves and to keep us from exercising our freedom to live a full life, the book also comments on writing itself, turning itself inside out, so to speak, so that we are forced as readers to become the writers themselves, merging our selves with theirs without meaning to and without remembering the meaning that we wanted to find, finding ourselves apparently in the future but actually in the present, or even more precisely, in the past, as time stops for us. In the end, the future humans, aliens, and angels turn out to be really us today, as we find ourselves aliens within ourselves, alienated not from the world as lesser writers would have put it, but from ourselves, as only the truly alive realize, perhaps as only angels really know. For those less inclined towards philosophy, the book offers gripping suspense, continuous action, and provocative scenes; the narrative scaffolding, however, is there only to lead readers to deeper levels of reading. I recommend this book to everyone honest enough to admit that we do not know ourselves or that we are not just nothing, but perhaps even Nothingness itself. Have fun, but be warned!

🔳 Powell’s great interest in spiritual alchemy and extra-sensory world inspired him to write THE TUNNEL AT THE END OF TIME
By Dr. Karunesh Kumar Agrawal on September 8, 2012
Format: Paperback

Powell’s great interest in spiritual alchemy and extra-sensory world inspired him to write THE TUNNEL AT THE END OF TIME (Feb 2010) in collaboration with Rick Davis, the follow-up novella to 2014 with a poetic introduction by both Powell and Azsacra Zarathustra a poetic dialogue with the Russian artist/author Azsacra Zarathustra, entitled: “Transforma und Vrebatima,” an English-Russian poetic follow-up to “2014: the life and adventures of an incarnated angel” TRANSFORMA UND VREBATIMA is an epic poem, written by Azsacra Zarathustra (Russia) and Adam Donaldson Powell (Norway), primarily in English and Russian.

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“Creating art and literature requires a creative imagination as well as the ability to get things done in a disciplined manner. Live in the moment, and plan for tomorrow.”
— Adam Donaldson Powell

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SHORT AUTHOR BIO:

ADAM DONALDSON POWELL (Norway) is a multilingual author, literary critic, and art photography critic; and a professional visual artist. He has published several literary books (including collections of poetry, short stories, and novellas, two science fiction novels, and essays) in the USA, Norway and India; as well as numerous works in international literary publications on several continents. He writes in English, Spanish, French and Norwegian. He has previously authored theatrical works performed onstage, and he has read his poetry at venues in New York City (USA), Oslo (Norway), Buenos Aires (Argentina), and Kathmandu (Nepal). His book “Gaytude” (co-authored with Albert Russo) won the 2009 National Indie Excellence Award in the category gay/lesbian non-fiction. Powell was also the winner of the Azsacra International Poetry Award in 2008, and the recipient of a Norwegian Foreign Ministry travel stipend for authors in 2005. Powell also took initiative to planning and organizing the “Words – one path to peace and understanding” international literary festival in Oslo, Norway in 2008. He has been an author under the Cyberwit label since 2005, and he has published 12 literary books since 1987.

 

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MY GOODREADS AUTHOR PAGE: HERE!

MY AMAZON.COM AUTHOR PAGE: HERE!

MY CYBERWIT.NET AUTHOR PAGE: HERE!

PERSONAL STATEMENT ABOUT EXTREME ART AND LITERATURE:

“Extreme literature” can be philosophical, political, religious, sexually-oriented, profane, or just downright ‘dangerous’ because it rocks others’ boat(s) personally. Not all literature is “pretty”, and even humour can be considered provocative. Many authors have works they (and others) consider to be “extreme”. All throughout the history of art and literature, artists and writers have pressed against and played with society’s tolerances – in both “liberal” epochs, “conservative” epochs and (as now) in states of “moral confusion”, where Western concepts of freedom of speech sometimes butt against national and local cultural mores and social politics; and where danger lurks and thrives on non-specific and situational social codes and fears.

The concept of ‘EXTREME ART AND LITERATURE’ changes all the time. What is actually ‘extreme’ today – in a mixture of globalised, regionalised, nationalised and localised perspectives? My own opinion is that ‘extreme art and literature’ today takes its starting point in the accepted banalities of everyday life, experiences and consciousness on the respective and combined levels (social, philosophical, political, economical, sexual and spiritual). Contemporary ‘extreme art / literature’ no longer attempts to shock in an obvious way, but rather entices the public to feel that he / she is a ‘member’ of the experiential understanding and consciousness, only to interject a “triggering” aspect that creates a sense of uncomfortableness caused by the realization that one has been busted by a banality. These “trigger mechanisms” are (in fact) integral parts of the art itself – often passing by in fleeting moments, sometimes blended in with an obsessive and “flat” (journalistic or photojournalistic) expression or a long tirade of banalities that do not even pretend to be surrealistic. These small “electrical shock” triggers will hopefully ignite an inner experience within the public so that the viewer / reader begins to investigate his / her own personal reality, his / her actual contributions to a collective reality and hopefully to re-evaluate his / her own concept of what one prefers to create as an individual and collective reality. The illusion of spiritual and emotion separation (the illusion that we are all separate, individual and self-sustaining entities that can determine our roles on Terra or in the Interlife totally without contact or influence with / from others) is a vital element here, and that common illusion is therefore “fertile ground” for artists. Here we artists and authors can play, provoke, prevaricate, entice, seduce and fool the audience to believe in us as a part of “themselves”, and then trigger the reader / viewer to consider the possibility that there might be (in fact) a miscommunication or misconception running loose … a sense of everyday reality that is inconsistent or which has consequences that one was never aware of.

Perhaps the most meaningful and interactive way to help another person to ‘wake up’ from their perceptual drowsiness is to enter into their everyday dreams and illusions (their banalities) and suddenly say “BOO !!!” Artists and authors who attempt to shock through their art with the blatantly obvious, often thus fail to explore and exploit the deeper, symbolic depths of the subconscious and the more mystical elements that make up our everyday and banal thoughts, activities, attitudes etc., and therefore are denied “personal access” by some viewers / readers who may consider the art to be too intellectual, too elitist, too directly confrontational, or too foreign. Sex and religion are often used today in art and literature as “shock elements”. It is not necessarily sex or religion which are provocative or interesting in themselves, but rather the unspoken and quietly accepted perceptions that we chain ourselves to unquestionably, and which can totally be set in chaos just by the artist and author changing or adding one simple element or context that we do not feel belongs in our reality-defining “picture”.

‘Extreme art and literature’ is thus not blatantly provocative in itself; it rather shows the audience the possible ramifications of acceptance, non-involvement, personal meanings and behaviour by confronting us with triggered or mixed in ‘extreme’ moments, and then lets the audience choose to begin its own personal creative life process of evalution and re-creation (if desired) … without commentary or guidance.

When I recently presented myself to Marina Abramovic as a “retired activist” she responded by asking me if an activist can ever be finished with activism. Of course, she is right. The process of rebellion is nothing more than one intermittent set of activities and actions in a constant redefining and assertion of the Self, both individually and collectively. Art is the ultimate expression of the process of rebellion. If an artist loses that quality, he/she “dies” in a certain way. My art and literature are not just extensions of me … they are my created persona: a sweet mixture of heaven and hell, with a pinch of mediocrity for flavoring.

Adam Donaldson Powell, Norway

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NEWS! EXCITING NEW BOOK NOW AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD ON AMAZON.COM AS PAPERBACK, AS WELL AS AN E-BOOK:

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“ENTRE NOUS ET EUX” is my latest book, and it is now available in print form at Amazon.com: ENTRE NOUS ET EUX – CONTES DE FÉES POUR ADULTES, 347 pages, Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-93-85945-48-9, © 2017, India (LGBT – Novellas and poetry, Fairytales for adults – in English, French, Spanish and Norwegian).

Purchase the e-book version online here  ⤵️
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this book is
dedicated
to my Rodo

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BOOK FOREWORD BY ALBERT RUSSO

If there is one poet who will mark this 21st century, I ask you, dear reader and lover of literature, to discover, or rediscover an artist named Adam Donaldson Powell. I use both words purposely: literature and art, because this “Esprit Universel” is a multi-talented man who excels in whatever discipline he tackles: poetry, fiction, essays, photography, painting, and goodness knows what else. He probably has other hidden secrets that will enchant the aesthete, once he pulls them out of his magic hat. By the way, he also writes in several languages. And proficiently, what’s more! 

It is much too restrictive to call Adam Donaldson Powell a gay poet, or gay whatever. And yet, he describes love, gay or not, with the most sensual, elegant, compassionate, but also at times crude, vengeful and downright poisonous words. He wears ‘no gloves’ as the French say, when it comes to telling a story – yes, his poems have themes too, which makes them reachable to the adult public, even to those who don’t care much for poetry – of abused children, scorned transvestites, sons and daughters of mixed blood, or prostitutes who are prey to the most despicable whoremongers, roaming the streets of every capital and city, large and small, of our planet. But, oh lovers of beauty and eroticism of the finest quality, delve into some of his romantic poems and you will dream that you are the hero or the heroine of these verses! It has often been my case. 

There are millions of scribblers on the Net who think they are poets. Some excellent poets do exist, but here I urge you to read these humble lines, for you will never regret having tasted the equal of our century’s Verlaine, Rimbaud or Baudelaire. Adam Donaldson Powell’s own FLEURS DU MAL are flowers to be treasured a lifetime. 

  • Albert Russo 2017

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➡️ ADAM DONALDSON POWELL’S AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE ⬅️

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MY PUBLICATION HISTORY:

I have published various literary works: poems, stories, novellas/short novels, literary criticism, essays, art photography criticism; and also work with painting and photography. I was born in the USA, and reside in Norway. I have been a professional visual artist (since 1995) and a writer (since 1987). I have published 12 books, in USA, Norway and India, as well as 4 e-books and several short works in literary publications. Among my many literary and artistic themes are multilingualism, the transcultural, spiritual development, societal development, LGBT issues, hiv/aids etc. I have written, performed and published works in English, Spanish, French and Norwegian. My poetry and essays have been translated into several languages, including: Spanish, French, Russian, Japanese and Bengali.

I have had one-man and group exhibitions at art galleries and public institutions in Norway and Sweden. My art serves as book cover art and internet art as well as fine art.

Adam’s profile at Saatchi Online Gallery

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MY TWO LATEST PRINT BOOK PUBLICATIONS:

“ENTRE NOUS ET EUX” is my latest book, and it is now available in print form at Amazon.com: ENTRE NOUS ET EUX – CONTES DE FÉES POUR ADULTES, 347 pages, Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-93-85945-48-9, © 2017, India (LGBT – Novellas and poetry, Fairytales for adults – in English, French, Spanish and Norwegian).

The e-book is already available at amazon.com:

Purchase the e-book version online now ⤵️
ebookcover

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SEE MY AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: AT AMAZON!

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My book “JISEI” is available for orders at CYBERWIT and AMAZON.COM

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Paperback: 245 pages
Publisher: Cyberwit.net (May 2, 2013)
Languages: English, French, Spanish, Norwegian, Japanese, Russian, Filipino
ISBN-10: 8182534038
ISBN-13: 978-8182534032

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COMMENTS ABOUT “JISEI” FROM AUTHORS AROUND THE WORLD:

J. Richard “Rick” Davis (USA):

This book of poetry, is more than just a collection of poems, on life, death, and AIDS. It is a guidebook for anyone struggling with the meaning of it all – whether it’s AIDS, or cancer or any travail that is causing one to question the meaning and purpose of why we’re on this planet.

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Albert Russo (FRANCE):

Qui est Adam Donaldson Powell? Ce poète rare qui parle de la beauté, de l’amour, de l’amitié, comme l’homme découvrant le monde à l’aube de l’humanité. Avec angélisme, direz-vous? Aucunement, il en parle avec la poésie du philosophe et du mystique. Il traite la maladie et la mort, non comme des ennemies, mais comme des connaissances, avec sérénité, presque avec sympathie, il va même jusqu’à causer avec elles comme l’on cause avec des passagers lors d’un voyage. Il se mets même à blaguer avec ces trublions, sachant qu’au bout du compte, il retrouvera la dernière.

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Maria Cristina Azcona (ARGENTINA):

Adam es el esclavo líbero, el que rompió las cadenas y nos golpea con su martillo de oro las nuestras, incluso aquellas que volvemos a crear a cada momento, enfermos pero de la cabeza mientras él, enfermo del cuerpo está cada vez mejor de la lucidez mental, cada vez más cuerdo y descarnado. Su poesía es cada vez más aleteo y menos cuerpo, más alma y menos carne, más verdad y más arte hasta que llegará el momento ese sublime en que el hombre se hará poema, para siempre, en nuestra mente que ahora, tarde, podrá ver en el interior de su alma.

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Lisbet Norderhaug (NORWAY):

I disse vidunderlige, dype og mørke diktene kan vi synke inn i oss selv og la oss treffe av lyset som gjennomstråler mørket. Adam har satt ord på den gjenkjennelige fortvilelsen over å måtte forlate livet, men han beskriver også gløden som skinner til oss fra den andre siden. Han har hevet, ja, transformert, historien om ett menneskes dødsprosess til en sang for oss alle.

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EXCERPT FROM BOOK INTRODUCTION:

AIDS has changed the world in more ways than we may possibly know. We will never fully comprehend the impact of losing so many people taken by this disease. Their contributions could have altered the face of humanity, the world of art and literature, the rearing of future leaders, the impact on communities, and the hearts of countless individuals. And this is all looking at the impact of AIDS in a broad perspective. It is a disease that, regardless of our own personal admissions, affects us all. However, behind the public fray of communal loss, social change and medical advances, lies the experience of the individual who must still awaken each day with the acknowledgment that they carry inside of them an evident ticking time bomb. No different from the rest of us who live with our own mortality, but distinct in that their clock has a name. That name is AIDS.

— Christina Landles-Cobb (USA)

COMMENT BY THE AUTHOR:
My first public performance of my poetry in New York City was at a trendy art gallery in the SoHo district, back in 1986. The place was packed, wall-to-wall, and the audience was enthusiastic. I was reading from my soon-to-be-published first book of poems, entitled “Notes of a Madman” which was an illustrated collection of mystical poetry from Pagan and Sufi traditions. The gallery owner, an enigmatic young man, was particularly obsessed with the poems and spiritual messages in the slender volume of verse, and he read the book over and over again. Some months after the reading I again called the gallery to say “hello” and another young man answered the phone, saying in a somber voice: “Didn’t you know? He passed away shortly after your reading.” He had died of AIDS.

That beautiful young man hung onto my verse in a time of deep personal transformation. I have never forgotten the awe and sense of responsibility I felt after that telephone conversation. Since then, I have always written and painted with the intent of inspiring creativity and transformation in humanity. And now that I have — myself — lived with the AIDS virus for twenty years it feels appropriate to inspire once again through writing about one of the greatest transformations Mankind can ever know. It does not matter what we die of … every Soul and Life Expression is precious, and to be celebrated.

I die (and I am reborn) just a little bit each day of my life. Should any given moment be my last, then my epitaph will surely be the sum of all my thoughts, poems and tears of joy and sorrow … from day to day, over the course of eternity. Perhaps just one of these short daily poems will touch upon a few readers and lend a bit of realization of the magic that each of us creates in our personal and collective transformations.

– Adam Donaldson Powell

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The tunnel at the end of time (co-written with Rick Davis and Azsacra Zarathustra), Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-81-8253-160-4, © 2010, India (LGBT – gay characters, extreme sci-fi).

REVIEW BY DR. ISAGANI R. CRUZ, THE PHILIPPINES:

The Tunnel at the End of Time is a masterful symphony of languages, religions, cultures, and literary techniques, all journeying to one inevitable destination: the individual wrestling with self. Covering our most human to our most divine urges and activities, the poetic, science fictional, experimental, even cinematic book leads us through words to what is beyond or behind words: the inscrutable mystery of our own being or, more precisely since the book revels in Emptiness, our non-being. In the process of stripping away the several skins that we use to protect our inner selves and to keep us from exercising our freedom to live a full life, the book also comments on writing itself, turning itself inside out, so to speak, so that we are forced as readers to become the writers themselves, merging our selves with theirs without meaning to and without remembering the meaning that we wanted to find, finding ourselves apparently in the future but actually in the present, or even more precisely, in the past, as time stops for us. In the end, the future humans, aliens, and angels turn out to be really us today, as we find ourselves aliens within ourselves, alienated not from the world as lesser writers would have put it, but from ourselves, as only the truly alive realize, perhaps as only angels really know. For those less inclined towards philosophy, the book offers gripping suspense, continuous action, and provocative scenes; the narrative scaffolding, however, is there only to lead readers to deeper levels of reading. I recommend this book to everyone honest enough to admit that we do not know ourselves or that we are not just nothing, but perhaps even Nothingness itself. Have fun, but be warned!

MY RECENT AND PREVIOUS PRINT BOOK PUBLICATIONS:

ENTRE NOUS ET EUX – CONTES DE FÉES POUR ADULTES, 347 pages, Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-93-85945-48-9, © 2017, India (LGBT – Novellas and poetry, Fairytales for adults – in English, French, Spanish and Norwegian).

Jisei: death poems and daily reflections by a person with AIDS, 246 pages, Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-81-8253-403-2, © 2013, India (LGBT – HIV/AIDS).

The tunnel at the end of time, 233 pages, Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-81-8253-160-4, © 2010, India (LGBT – gay characters, extreme sci-fi).

Malerier og fotokunst, is a short 38-page retrospective overview of some of Adam Donaldson Powell’s best known oil paintings and photographic art works. Published by Cyberwit.net as a special limited and numbered full-color, soft cover edition (55 copies only), ISBN 978-81-8253-154-3, India, © 2009.

Gaytude: a poetic journey around the world, gay poetry in English and French by Albert Russo and Adam Donaldson Powell, 335 pages, published by Xlibris Corporation, © 2009, Library of Congress Control Number: 2008907964, ISBN: Hardcover 978-1-4363-6396-9, ISBN: Softcover 978-1-4363-6395-2, USA (LGBT).

KASSA’S REVIEW OF GAYTUDE:

Gaytude is a collection of poetry that appears in English in the first half and then translated into French for the second half of the book. There is also a collection of pictures depicting homoerotic images throughout history as well as personal images of Albert Russo. The timelessness of these pictures is repeated as a theme within the elegant and often poignant poetry collected. The authors are two very accomplished writers who tackle a wide variety of subjects and themes that affect gay men with surprising depth and meaning. These topics will hit home especially for like-minded individuals but anyone with compassion will understand the beauty and heartache these issues bring to mind.

The poetry is divided by region of the globe, from Africa to Americas to Europe and Asia. The variety of styles changes from short and simple to longer, and even haiku. The tone runs from sweet, sexy, and often humorous to intense and moving. Frequently the language of Russo’s poetry is simple and direct, taking away nothing from the intensity of the message and meaning, yet easy for even the most novice reader to connect and appreciate. Russo’s creativity is unquestionable as he spans numerous taboo subjects and makes no apologies for his desires or sensuality. These themes range from open sexuality to disease, hypocrisy and violence; including one nightstands to long-term relationships, breakups, makeups and admiration of the male form.

An example of Russo’s poignant writing is from Prayer:

“let him love that boy
without shame;
let him love him
in broad daylight
for his sentiments are
stronger than
your malicious gossip,
more generous than
your shrunken hearts”

Blending well is Powell’s poetry, which has elegance to the words and gives weight to each one, seeming as if nothing is wasted. Not a thought, an idea or a desire is anything more than necessary as he speaks of a love he yearns for. Yet Powell also delivers strongly worded poems regarding the hypocrisy of governments, penis enlargement spam emails, prostitutes, and casual violence. A great example is this excerpt from Let’s Get Something Straight:

And for God’s sake don’t you ever
Tell anyone about this…
(if you know what is best for you)
Agreed ? Good ! Now ‘manhandle’ me bitch…

There are few topics these authors feared to invite in for speculation ~ transsexuals, persecution, random sex, AIDS, family pressure, lies, promiscuity, marriage, children, oppression, prejudice, orgies. Taken together this is a look into the lives of any and every gay men and the issues they deal with that create an aura of “different” around them. This celebration of gay life spans globally and encompasses all aspects proudly and openly.

Gaytude is a wonderful collection by two powerful authors that have offered thoughts on timeless themes. Although I can’t claim to be an authority on poetry and perhaps the authors themselves will cringe at my amateur review, I hope to have captured the spirit of this collection.

DR. SANTOSH KUMAR’S CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF GAYTUDE:

A review of GAYTUDE: a poetic journey around the world / Tour du monde poetique, bilingual poetry by Albert Russo and Adam Donaldson Powell – Xlibris 2009, 335 pages.

Book orders – 888.795.4274 -Orders@xlibris.com

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4363-6395-2 – $22.99
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-4363-6396-9 – $32.99

Library of Congress Number: 2008907964

Albert Russo and Adam Donaldson Powells Gaytude, a poetic journey around the world, makes it evident that the gay poems always have a distinctive voice, because a gay poet suffers from a sense of ostracism, of being excluded by others due to difference. The tradition of celebrating Platonic friendship with a boy has always been there in world poetry. Gay poetry from Sappho to Michelangelo has always idealized the homoerotic world. Catullus (ca. 84-54) loved sex with young men.

Shakespeare’s sonnets have been described as gay sonnets by several critics. It is well known that Derek Jarmans film The Angelic Conversation (1985) shows gay elements in Shakespeares sonnets. Lord Alfred Douglass gay poems appeared in 1896 in English and French translations. In the twentieth century two great poets: W..H. Auden and Ginsberg wrote gay poems. The publication of The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse (1983) reveals its popularity and marketing needs. It is difficult to agree with the critics who condemn Whitmans gay poetry. The Boston Intelligencer declared that Whitman deserved no better reward than the lash for vulgarity and violation of decency. Both Whitmans Leaves and Emersons laudation had a common origin in temporary insanity (Bucke 201). Walt Whitman is as unacquainted with art as a hog with mathematics (Canby 327). One should never forget that according to several biographers Whitman did not engage in sexual relations with men.

It is true that a poets gay identity does not quite fit into the traditional morality of the world. This is the main reason behind vituperative hostility towards homoeroticism and gay-themed poems. But one may remember Nietzsches assertion that sexuality extends up to the very pinnacle of the soul. The queerness of Russo and Powell both to stand at a different angle to the universe, their desire for an outsider image, and a subversive quality enticing them to overthrow conventions makes Gaytude a classic. Taboo creates its own power and energy in a creative work like Gaytude. This is also true about other gay writers such as Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Bishop and James Merrill. Russo is a great poet with a passionate impulse, and he expresses it with a natural intensity devoid of any kind of laborious artistry:

I shall spoil you as no lover
Ever has or will

(SURPRISE PARTY, 35).

As we made love
Our bodies were on fire
You were insatiable
I was submissive

(ONE-NIGHT STAND, 102)

Russo does not hanker after limited joy but rather for the illimitable in the loveliness of the human body. Due to his ardor, he bursts with joy:

Our bodies commingle
In a Pacific splash of ecstasy

(UNDERCURRENTS, 42).

Russo tries to forget the stern realities of life, and his idealized love seems to be the only permanent reality for him on the altar of passion, he has chosen to fall off the cliff although there are several obstructions:

Theres his age, you see
And theres my career, too
Then theres that awesome responsibility
Towards my class
Towards society
And I am highly respected by my peers
Yet, my attraction to him is gravitational
One of these days,
I shall fall off the cliff

NO TRESPASSING, 51

The above lines are a testimony to the fact that Russo arrives at the complexity by accumulating a number of concrete images interfering with his fantasy, and this fantasy is intensified in the last line revealing the utmost limits of passion, not obliterated by the terrestrial impediments. Russos poems in Gaytude are marked by a tremendous burst of creativity.

Adam Donaldson Powells poems reveal that the poets mind and imagination are fused with the white heat of ardor. He is obsessed with two moths / Playing with fire (BLADE, 24). In his poem IDENTITY, Powell expresses his desire to be loved, and looked up to. He seems to be in the quest for the sumum bonum of life, that immortal instant and great moment which will unravel his identity. With quiet determination, Powell declares:

I want a real lover
Like Arthur Rimbaud or Jean Genet
And I want him now

PUNK, 61

Powell shows such a deep and lofty feeling as to be in love with love (STILL HORNY, 153). This is the state of the lover as Powell depicts it. Apart from love, nothing else in life is significant. Such is the consecrated passion of the poet that he is able to write with such ecstatic outbursts:

Creamy overcast skies,
Thick as yoghurt,
Remind me of
Youand me

CREAMY OVERCAST SKIES 154

Setting the real world at nought, Powell decides to thrive on the diet of surrealism by

the technique of transference:
Real briefly becomes surreal,
Through transference

INSTANT RECALL 88

In another poem, Powell expresses his inner heart in reacting against monstrous mechanization. The present climate is not in favour of rich heritage. Individual isolation in an / Out-of-control jungle (149) is the sordid gift of modern heritage marked by Wars, / Lies, /Plastic reality-show idols, Virus, / Global warming, /Uncertainty, /And all too easy access to drugs (HERITAGE? RIGHT! 149).

The poems by Russo and Powell are marked by outsiderhood, the sense of being different from a fashionable or straight mode of writing. Walter Pater aptly comments that in the poetry of Dante Gabriel Rossetti the dream-land with its phantoms of the body, deftly coming and going on loves service, is to him, in no mere fancy or figure of speech, a real country, a veritable expansion or addition to our waking life (Pater 223). This comment is fully applicable to the poems in Gaytude by Russo and Powell. Gaytude, bilingual poetry at its best, written, translated and adapted by Russo and Powell, also includes wonderful photographs by Russo. Several poems of Russo included in Gaytude were first published in the poets own French version in the collection Tour du monde de la poesie gay (2005). The poems in English, Italian and Spanish have been translated and adapted into French by Russo. The poems in French have been translated and adapted by both Russo and Powell.

Works Cited

Russo, Albert & Adam Donaldson Powell, Gaytude. Xlibris Corporation, 2009.
Pater, Walter. Appreciations. London: Macmillan, 1931.
Bucke, R. M. Walt Whitman, Philadelphia, McRay,1883.
Canby, H. S. Walt Whitman, N. Y. Literary Classics, 1943.

Santosh Kumar (b. 1946) is a poet, short-story writer and an editor from UP India; DPhil in English; Editor of Taj Mahal Review and Harvests of New Millennium Journals; several awards; member of World Poets Society (W.P.S.); member of World Haiku Association, Japan; presented papers in the seminar, interviews as special guest at international literary festival WORDS – one path to peace and understanding Oslo, Norway in September 2008; published poetry in Indian Verse by Young Poets (1980), World Poetry (1995 & 1996), The Fabric of A Vision (2001), The Still Horizon (2002), The Golden Wings (2002), Voyages (2003), Symphonies (2003), New Pegasus (2004), Explorers (2004), Dwan (USA), Promise (Purple Rose Publications, USA), Taj Mahal Review (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 & 2008). He has also edited sixteen World Poetry Anthologies, and four books of World’s Great Short Stories. He is also the author of a collection of poems entitled Helicon (Cyberwit , India , ISBN 81-901366-8-2), Haiku collection New Utopia (Rochak Publishing , India ISBN 978-81-903812-0-8), and Critical Essays in collaboration with Adam Donaldson Powell (Cyberwit , India , 978-81-8253-110-9).

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PREVIOUS BOOK PUBLICATIONS – continued:
GAYTUDE WAS THE 2009 NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCE AWARD WINNER FOR THE CATEGORY GAY/LESBIAN NONFICTION!

2014: the life and adventures of an incarnated angel, 135 pages, Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-81-8253-118-5, © 2008, India (LGBT – gay characters, extreme sci-fi).

Critical Essays, literary and photobook criticism by Adam Donaldson Powell and Dr. Santosh Kumar, 108 pages, Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-81-8253-110-9, © 2008, India.

Le Paradis (Paradise), 80 pages, Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-81-8253-103-1, © 2008, India. Includes a booklet with symbols from The Universal Language of Light, as seen by Laila Holand.

Rapture: endings of space and time (86 pages), Cyberwit,net, ISBN 978-81-8253-083-6, © 2007, India.

Three-legged Waltz, (80 pages), Cyberwit.net, ISBN 818253058X, © 2006, India.

Collected Poems and Stories, (175 pages), Cyberwit.net, ISBN 8182530288, © 2005, India.

Arcana and other archetypes, (special limited edition – hardback collection of poetry, 80 pages), AIM Chapbooks ANS, © 2001, Norway (now out-of-print).

Notes of a Madman, (hardback collection of poetry, 35 pages), Winston-Derek Publishers, Inc., © 1987, ISBN 1-55523-054-7, USA (now out-of-print).

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Other publication experience (selected):

Essays, literary criticism and photobook criticism by Adam Donaldson Powell have appeared in many literary magazines, literary websites, newspapers etc., including but not limited to: Small Press Review, Ginyu, Los Muestros, Inyathi, Lynx Online Literary Magazine, Skyline Review, Taj Mahal Review, Samora Magazine, Kritya: a journal of poetry, Writer’s Cramp, Portugal News, Skyline Magazine’s and Hudson View Poetry Digest’s literary criticism website etc. Adam has reviewed many talented authors and art photography book artists, including: Albert Russo, Pradip Choudhuri, Jan Oskar Hansen, Shirley Bolstok, Robert P. Craig, Mary Barnet, Literary House Review 2007, Orania Hamilton, AZsacra Zarathustra and Jgor Pyatinin, Geert Verbeke, Barbara Elizabeth Mercer, Alan D. Busch, Fernando Rodríguez, Victoria Valentine, Vijaiganga, Marie Mappley, Robert M. Wilson, Linda A. Peters, Ban’ya Natsuishi, Sayumi Kamakura, Moshé Liba, T. Wignesan etc.

Adam has written prefaces for books, and edited novels and books of poetry, as well as individual poems and short stories, written by several other authors.

Adam’s own literary works and artworks have appeared in several literary reviews and journals, anthologies, online magazines, literary websites etc. on several continents.

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Distinctions and memberships:

GAYTUDE WAS THE 2009 NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCE AWARD WINNER FOR THE CATEGORY GAY/LESBIAN NONFICTION!

Adam Donaldson Powell på Wikipedia Norge

Steering committee, WORDS: one path to peace and understanding, Oslo, 2008. Read the ONLINE REPORT.

Winner of the AZsacra International Poetry Award, 2008

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Recipient of Norwegian Foreign Ministry’s travel stipend for authors, 2005.

QUOTE:

“There is no doubt that Powell, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, and Delmore Schwartz are the most talented American poets of the modern age.” — Dr. Santosh Kumar, Allahabad University, 2010, from his book entitled: Adam Donaldson Powell: the making of a poet.

ABOVE QUOTE FROM A BOOK BY DR. SANTOSH KUMAR, INDIA:
“Adam Donaldson Powell: The Making of a Poet”, a critical analysis of the published works of Adam Donaldson Powell. Order the book from Cyberwit.net: NOW!

Read excerpts from this book HERE!

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MEMBER OF:
BONO
World Poets Society
Poetas del Mundo
Norwegian P.E.N.
Bilingual MCA
IFLAC-Argentina

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DEGREES AND EDUCATION:
New York University, Master of Public Administration, 1985.
Goddard College, Bachelor of Arts, 1974.
Language studies in Norwegian, Spanish and French in the USA and Norway.
Post-graduate studies in international business administration (BI School of Management).
Private piano studies with several renowned concert pianists, including: Jacob Lateiner, Arminda Canteros, Berenice Lipsen-Grüzen and John Ranck.

Adam Donaldson Powell and Cathy Craig

(Violin-Piano duo: Catherine Craig and Adam Donaldson Powell, NYC; photo courtesy of Catherine Craig.)

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POETRY PERFORMANCE:

Adam has performed his poetry in English, French, Spanish and Norwegian, and at various venues from New York City to Oslo to Buenos Aires to Kathmandu.

(above photo courtesy Blikk Magazine, Norway)

SLIDESHOW: ADAM IN PICTURES

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MY FIRST TWO POETRY BOOKS:

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Notes of a Madman
Winston-Derek Publishers, USA
ISBN 1-55523-054-7
1987

arcanabookcover

Arcana and other archetypes
AiM Chapbooks, Norway
2001

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MY LIFE AS AN ACTIVIST.

My own activist career began when I was a teenager, and – in spite of both my parents being careerists in the United States Air Force – I became an anti-war activist (Vietnam War) and conscientious objector. That activism had many expressions: from silent Quaker vigils to anti-war marches and rallies to getting thrown out of the courtroom of Judge Julius Hoffman (famous from the «Chicago Seven» trials) for civil disobedience while supporting a draft dodger. My activism has including working as an employee of organizations such as the American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker social service and peace education organization), the Partnership for the Homeless, Amnesty International Norway etc., working for the Norwegian government in support of the unemployed, immigrants, the disabled etc., establishing my own activist organizations in Norway in support of immigrants, artists/authors/dancers/actors/filmmakers, and also representing organizations that lobby for the rights of persons with HIV/AIDS. Being an activist has required me to constantly weigh whether my own convictions and interests are best served by working for or representing an existing organization, political parties, agency or institution OR working alone so that I may set my own specific agenda and choose my own methods of working. The latter has given me special satisfaction. In that regard I have used my talents as a speechwriter and public speaker, as a book author, as a musician, as a linguist, and as a visual artist to promote my ideas and my support for those who do not themselves have the possibility of getting their voices heard publicly. In 1994 I arranged Norway’s first World AIDS Day art exhibition (a tradition which I kept going until 2009), I have promoted the rights of immigrants and of performing, literary and visual artists, and debated with top politicians in Norway on television, radio and in the tabloids, I have represented persons with HIV/AIDS on behalf of the Norwegian government and otherwise at UNGASS (United Nations General Assembly Special Session – Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS) as well as at international conferences in Norway and in other countries, I have initiated one-man protest demonstrations against individuals and government agencies that I felt abused the dignity or rights of the disabled and persons with HIV/AIDS, etc.; and I have been critical of other individual activists, government institutions, politicians, and also of activist organizations in the media. At times I have also worked within the «system», and as an advisor and cooperative partner to the system, and publicly defended specific government policies, and I have held office in a major political party. All this after personal analysis of the best ways to bring my activist ideas into government and organizational policy frameworks.

All my formal education and life experience comes into play in my activism: including my master degree in international and developmental public administration, my years of working for the government in Norway and as a university administrator and corporate writer/editor in the United States, and even my college bachelor of arts thesis (on the legal rights of minors {young persons} to consent to acquisition of contraceptives and to psychological counseling) which resulted in my own draft legislation eventually becoming state law in Vermont, and then later in Ohio.

I have also served on the board of directors of several organizations in Norway and in the USA which work in the areas of LGBT rights, the rights and needs of persons living with HIV/AIDS, the arts, and religious expression. And finally, I have organized international conferences for persons working in support of persons living with HIV/AIDS, as well as international and bilingual authors. I have held many speeches and been a high-profile spokesperson at conferences and in the media, and my visual art exhibitions and my authored books often address themes related to my areas of activism.

My most current expression of activism involves supporting and informing others through social media and the internet, as well as in my visual art and in my work as an author and editor – herein encouraging the voices of contemporary activists through literature.

~ Adam Donaldson Powell

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2016-2017: selected book reviews by Adam Donaldson Powell.

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REVIEW OF “CLOUD COMPASS”, by Marta Knobloch, 58 pages, cyberwit.net, 2014.

This is a masterly work by a profound poet. It is perhaps one of the best poetry chapbooks that I have read. The book is in two sections; the first entitled “Shadow Painting”, with poems inspired by the life and work of Laurence Hope (Adela Florence Cory Nicolson, 1865-1904), and the second is entitled “Boxing the Compass”, with several poems grouped together as a poetic travelogue.

Knobloch is a seasoned professional with full command of her art form. Her descriptive images are strong but they never need to scream or shout, and her language flows as naturally as a mountain stream. The poet’s work demonstrates evenness in quality, imagination, artistic intent, good planning, execution and polish, and a good overall concept of the book as a complete work of art (and not just a potpourri of “homeless” poems). In addition, the poet’s writing has a wonderful sense of originality, excellent descriptive color and clarity — and without a feeling of being overworked or strained.

It is seldom that I have encountered so many treasures in such a small volume of poetry. This book is worth reading several times; perhaps twice as a regular read, and then a third time — reading aloud (or having someone read the poems to you). With each reading you will discover new layers and levels of beauty and insight. This is not a work to be analyzed to pieces, and no analysis of mine can speak better than this poet’s art. Therefore I will merely present a few of her poems — even though all the works in her book are excellent and inspirational.

From “Shadow Painting”:

Knell.

The cadence of the temple bells is random,
at the whim of an errant breeze.
A waterfall of notes, a cool music
trickles through the flimsy netting,
pools on her sodden pillow.

She can no longer hear them chime.

Death has unclenched her fists
grasping the rumpled sheets.
Now her uncurled fingers
reach for her husband’s hand.

Palette (“Painted with a poet’s eyes”).

Her poems have the focused brilliance
of Mughal paintings where lovers
tryst in mimosa bowers,
bolstered by silk cushion moons,
a peacock fan of stars.

They drift on lotus lakes,
float in a shimmering oasis,
loll on filigreed balconies,
oblivious
to turbaned princes’ elephant wars,
the formal slaughter of tiger and gazelle.

While far out at the vanishing point,
perilous edge of the heart’s rim,
the poet/dervish spins her fever dreams

of mythic India.

From “Boxing the Compass”:

Sketch.

white canvas
blue sky
yellow sun
red earth

white linen
blue dish
yellow omelet
red geranium

printemps
plein air
petit déjeuner

Provence

Thin Ice.

The cove froze overnight in opaque waves,
formal as a Japanese rock garden.
I tiptoed from crest to knobby crest.
Beyond the semaphore of the pines,
we heard the creaking tide rise,
a panorama with rusty gears.
A rifle crack of jagged water
Aimed a black thunderbolt at my feet.
He jerked me back to shore warning,
“That’s why I never skate on tidal ice.”
I thought, “This man has never been in love.”

And this, dear Reader, is truly what the art of contemporary prose poetry sounds like.

– Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2017.

DO VISIT THE AUTHOR’S WEBSITE!

High on the red pills (Oil on canvas).

High on the red pills (Oil on canvas).

High on the blue pills (Oil on canvas).

High on the blue pills (Oil on canvas).

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REVIEW OF “THE MEANING OF FYFE – the 70’s”, by John R. Fyfe, 633 pages, 2016, Cyberwit.net.

This novel is a very good read. The main story opens at a psychiatric institution in Canada in the 1970s, and includes many recognizable associations with the youth of “my generation” – i.e. the hippie generation – at its peak. At times humorous and inane, but always written with an underlying mindful sobriety (no, dear Reader – the story is not devoid of drugs, sex, rock ’n roll, alcohol and other fun and debauchery we well remember from those years), this book underscores the difficulty of separating one’s own “at once changing, and yet unchanging” identity from that of our environment — thus creating a perfect arena for understanding life itself as perhaps just another imitation of stories on a ferris wheel or merry-go-round … churning around and around. When is the moment to jump off and make a change, and how significant will those changes really be?

The author exhibits many first-rate qualities as a writer, including his superb attention to story construction and his meticulous literary craftsmanship. He does not stumble with his language, and the storyteller “voice” is both believable and engaging. In addition, the author includes introspective passages which shine like jewels – because of their truthful simplicity and their simple truths. Here is one example:

“I felt good vacationing from my life, which was becoming far too complicated and confining for my liking. I felt trapped in my environment, but was still attached to my friends and our lifestyle. It was one thing to be cool and get high, but I preferred meeting people I didn’t know, who were more open. What I wanted, without really knowing it, was to explore who I was by being with such people. I could be whoever I wanted, without being judged or put down by my gang of friends; criticism was their defence against a scene that made them inwardly fearful and uneasy. I liked being with my friends and partying with them, but ultimately I’d always felt the need to escape them.”

And here is another:

‘Who’s really crazy in this joint?’ I asked myself. ‘You have a staff member pissing in a batch of soup while others screw patients in the swill room. At the same time you have so-called insane people knowing irony when they hear it. And then you have Carol, who is completely blind but possesses a sixth sense, knowing precisely when your thoughts are somewhere else. We then have the Jack Steeles of the world, creeping up stairwells, hoping to catch fellow workers not working so they can write them up or suspend them, just waiting and hoping to catch you slacking in this loony bin, taking a minute off from wiping up other people’s shit and piss.’

This book is much more than a “feel-good” novel. It incites reflection and acceptance of the mores, traditions, behavioral values and mindsets across decades and generations, allowing us to relive the way “it was back then” and still remain convinced of our present “more sophisticated” perceptions. But was one era really any better than another? How is one’s changing individual personal identity – in fact – dependent upon our social and environmental identities, and their capacity for growth in complementary directions that match the new “I” and “we”, at any given point in time? Not all aspects of our individual and group realities are personally created or co-created with intent, as much also involves adapting and reacting to unforeseen circumstances that may have been out of our control. And finally, how much are our personal identities and behavior patterns founded upon and restricted by culture, social politics and mores of the era, and by our generational social DNA?

We are constantly making decisions regarding what parts of our identities we retain and build upon, and which aspects and persons we leave by the side of the road. These identities and their expressions are not always easy to change or to let go of — even though voices in our heads or perhaps other individuals or institutions in society may try to convince us that we should force a restart or an about-face. In many ways this novel is a “road trip” novel, but here the road is the path of life … and the vehicle (the Self) is not always in control.

Is “The Meaning of Fyfe” by John R. Fyfe, truly a novel, or is it perhaps really a fictionalized autobiography? While it may be tempting for the reader to speculate on which stories may be real life ones, as well as the possible or probable degrees of embellishment or fictionalization, that indeed would be a rather useless occupation. Let’s be honest. This novel is about you and me — for some of us it may perhaps be about what was or what could have been in our own lives, or in the lives of someone we have known or heard about; but it is more essentially about the vocation of being human … and of living and dying with the consequences of how we handle the deck of cards on the table.

It certainly took insight and courage to write this story. And it takes a good deal of both to read it, own it and to “relive it” through the author’s eyes.

– Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2016.

Do visit the author’s WEBSITE!

puppy at french cafe in oslo

REVIEW OF “GOSH, ZAPINETTE!” by Albert Russo, 768 pages, cyberwit.net, India, 2016.

This mammoth volume is billed as “The first ever series of global Jewish humor”. While I understand the marketing idea, I see this literary work as much more than that in both scope and content. In my view and experience this book is “a history-of-the-world-in-progress” told by a quirky but witty protagonist with a Jewish heritage. The humorous approach is a seductive mechanism (at times almost propagandistic and at others times almost embarrassingly true) more so than an end in itself. Seductive because it is endearing enough to entice the reader into following constant and endless paths of thinking perhaps not previously considered. Each of these paths is riddled and spiced with historical, geographical and religious references, anecdotes, allusions to current events, and political commentaries — all weaving a charming and sometimes “wicked” web of associations that are perhaps not always considered to be politically-correct in any one milieu. The author – through the protagonist and “ghost-writer” Zapinette – shoots from the hip in all directions and with aplomb. This book is witty, at times sacrilegious (if not blasphemous), educational and informative, and entertaining. Although almost all of these books have been previously published separately, in this new combined volume the individual books may be experienced and enjoyed as individual stories or chapters (or journal entries) in an ongoing larger sets of adventures. This book may be enjoyed as a personalized travel guide and political history “Nouveau Testament”, as well as a psychological study of two complementary personas and personalities of the author (Zapinette and her Uncle Berky) and that of the “Contemporary Common Man”.

Zapinette is – in my eyes – both a child and an adult. She is the “child in us all” that boldly inquires about and says those things that socially-adjusted and politically-savvy (read “politically-correct”) adults may be afraid to say, and/or which we hope will not be noticed or commented on … be it our appearances, our behavioral idiosyncracies or politics and events in the world. Her Uncle Berky is more cautious, and is often over-run (and over-ruled) by the more carefree (and perhaps more careless) adolescent who knows and says more than she should. And yet more often than not Zapinette is also representative of many values esteemed by representatives of the status quo. She decides herself how to piece together these sometimes competing values within her own illogical but yet logical perspectives on life, humans and world society. Zapinette is always loquacious (except when pouting or suddenly a bit insecure) and oftentimes overbearing and tiring, but she is always true to character: a bit of a true believer cum prophet, and at other times a creative and inquisitive child, and perhaps really just a bystander who is trying to find logical systems of thinking in order to define her own space in the disorderly web of an adult world full of inconsistencies.

The book is written in Albert Russo’s signature descriptive style, and although it is well-written and well-constructed the author allows for a degree of haphazardness, some hurried denouement, the occasional proof-reading laxness, and author-acknowledged repetitions. This lends further to the fun of reading as intentional play with words blend with a refreshing youthful and non-academic style, as well as it keeps the books connected more as stories in this large volume. I suspect that portions of this book are (veiled) autobiographical in personality, perspective and experience, thus giving the reader the added bonus of more insight into a well-known author who has not yet written his formal autobiography. While some readers who are new to the works of Albert Russo may primarily experience the humor in this book, those who are familiar with his African novels and his poetry will recognize both his tongue-in-cheek political commentaries and his occasional passion for ranting about the illogical, the unjust and the plain old “stupidity” he often experiences in our world — both now, and throughout history.

Albert Russo exhibits much courage in publishing this book — both because of its commentary, and also because of his inability not to express his own unadulterated personal truths. I salute and commend his courage and his achievement. I have but one question: when will we get to see “Zapinette – the film”? Anyone in the film industry reading this review?

by Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2016.

DO VISIT THE AUTHOR’S WEBSITE!

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REVIEW OF “MODERN JAPANESE HAIKU”, by Ban’ya Natsuishi and Sayumi Kamakura, 109 pages, cyberwit.net, 2012 (First edition).

“Modern Japanese Haiku” is yet another fine literary work by Haiku masters Ban’ya Natsuishi and Sayumi Kamakura.

I have previously had the privilege of writing a number of essays where I have commented on publications by both authors:

  • in 2008: “A modern master of haiku paints the collective conscience” – my foreword to the English version of “Flying Pope”, by Ban’ya Natsuishi, Cyberwit.net, India, 2008, pp. 139, paperback, ISBN: 978-81-8253-106-2.
  • in 2008: “CONTEMPORARY HAIKU: the renaissance and the transformation” – literary criticism 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; 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).
  • in 2008: “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).
  • in 2009: “TWO ESSAYS ON BAN’YA NATSUISHI’S WORLD HAIKU”, EXPRESSION OF EMOTIONS IN THE INTERNATIONAL / MULTILINGUAL HAIKU OF BAN’YA NATSUISHI” – based on “A Future Waterfall”, 2004, Red Moon Press, ISBN 1-893959-46-5, USA and “Endless Helix”, 2007, Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-81-8253-072-0, India.
  • “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).
  • “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”, (a review of “World Haiku 2008, No. 4”, published by Schichigatsudo Publishing, Tokyo, Japan, ISBN 978-4-87944-117-1, 2008, 230 pages, softcover, edited by Ban’ya Natsuishi for the World Haiku Association).
  • “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).

It is with great pleasure that I once again have the honor and privilege of reading (and re-reading) many of the works of these two contemporary haiku masters. I include “re-reading” because some of these gems I have indeed read before. “Modern Japanese Haiku” contains 100 haiku by Ban’ya Natsuishi (excerpted from “The Diary of Everyday Hunting” (1983), “Métropolitique” (1985), “Rhythm in the Vacuum” (1986), “The Fugue of Gods” (1990), “Opera in the Human Body” (1990), “Waves of Joy” (1992), “The Science of Megaliths and Big Trees” (1995), “Earth Pilgrimage” (1998), “Drifting” (2001), “Right Eye in Twilight” (2006), “Flying Pope: 161 Haiku” (2008), “Labyrinth of Vilnius” (2009),”Hybrid Paradise” (2010); and 100 haiku by Sayumi Kamakura (here it is not specified where these poems have been published previously but I recognize haiku from her wonderful book “A Crown of Roses” (2007)). These poems are in Japanese and in English, with English translations by Ban’ya Natsuishi, Jim Kacian, Stephen Henry Gill and James Shea.

These 100 plus 100 haiku are not billed as “The 100 best haiku of …”, but rather merely as 100 Haiku, by Ban’ya Natsuishi and 100 Haiku, by Sayumi Kamakura. I consider each of their books to contain precious haiku which function excellently as both individual poems and as coordinated cogs on a wheel; a wheel that is an expression of infinity, and at the same time one of equally valid intelligence (experience) from a bird’s eye perspective (“As above, so below”, “outside looking in and inside looking out”, etc.). All of the haiku books that I have read which have been written by these two authors, and also those edited by Ban’ya Natsuishi, are carefully envisioned, written and constructed so as to give a sense of open-ended completion, inter-connectedness, and harmony — as a whole. I do not look for “the haiku moment” in their poetry because each haiku and all of their haiku books represent (for me) “the moment”, of the breath of Life becoming breathing, in all its expressions. Not one haiku is greater or lesser than the one preceding (or following) the other. Like a great work of art, literature or music, each part flows as effortlessly as any other; and there cannot be music without silences, without rhythm, without contrasts. There cannot be any “100 Best” — merely “100 Haiku”.

This ability of these two haiku masters to create timelessness in a single moment is, indeed, one of my own definitions of mastery: “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.”

Another characteristic of a contemporary master (in any period of world history) is the ability to think outside of traditional parameters, to give new life to art forms, to explore old and new ideas from new perspectives, with variations on style, and even breaking standardized rules of technique and artistic expression. This is not so much about having a sense of rebelliousness as it is about having the courage to see with more than one’s eyes, to hear noise, silence or “music” with each and every cell of your body, and to feel contact with the essence of experience without ever having to use your sense of touch. A great haiku, like any other truly great work of art, literature or music, is not forced. It is perhaps merely inhaled, and released — in a breath, as a moment.

“Modern Japanese Haiku” is a book that every haiku-lover should consider having in his or her private library. It is also a book that should be available in school curricula and in public libraries. Most importantly, it is a book that should be carried around (on your cellphone, your iPad, or in your shoulder bag or backpack) for meditation and energizing — whenever you need “a moment”.

In conclusion I leave you with two haiku, each of which is, in itself, an entire book of “moments”:

Finally I’ve noticed

a flower of melancholy

in the core of the sun

  • Ban’ya Natsuishi, from “Rhythm in the Vacuum” (1986)

A cold circle

called God

or the sun

  • Sayumi Kamakura, from “A Crown of Roses” (2007)

by Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2016.

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ブラックカード  BALANCING THE YIN AGAINST THE YIN.

BALANCING THE YIN AGAINST THE YIN: an essay in response to Ban’ya Natuishi’s

“Black Card / Tarjeta negra”, 169 pages, cyberwit.net, 2013, with English translations by Ban’ya Natsuishi and Eric Selling, and Spanish translations by Emilio Masià.

In “Black Card / Tarjeta negra” Ban’ya Natsuishi allows the reader to be a silent companion in his protagonist’s sojourns through the the darkest side of the Yin-Yang cycle: dealing with death and loss, sorrow and disillusionment; perhaps occasionally with hints of anger or disgust, but never the less at times exhibiting an almost stoic sense of detachment, and at other times absence or resignation. And yet there is an accompanying knowledge that yin cycles are always followed by more positive and active yang cycles in the greater continuum of energy, matter, life force and Spirit.

These haiku are not so much “dark” as they are intentional explorations into the experiential darkness of brutal transformative experiences. Poets fight oppression and stalemates with their greatest sword: words. But Natsuishi – although highly-intelligent about the world and the occupation of living – is also human. He is also emotional. Words often fail to describe the depth of human emotion when spoken or written directly, without a degree of abstraction, without inculcation, and without involving or implicating our surroundings. We gain a greater sense of self-justification when we feel and can show that there is indeed chaos everywhere.

The poet’s protagonist may understand that death and destruction are a part of Life, but he still feels pain. He knows that the somber clouds of disillusionment will one day be replaced by the sun rays of the yang, but he chooses to investigate in detail how the negativity besets his world and his perception of it. By recognizing this yin energy in all its manifestations and describing its core force in words, then he can possibly eventually triumph over its overwhelming force. As with most people in personal crises, it is often at some point a question of balancing the Yin against the Yin — hoping to reach a milder greyness on the path back to Light and Hope.

This book is a powerful and relentless dirge — for his parents, for victims of natural disasters and nuclear accidents, and for himself. More importantly, it is a vivid documentation of a journey through Darkness. It is private, personal … and yet we are allowed to experience his humanness. It is not negativity but rather a beautiful account of passage through a mirror of darkness. But do not be deceived. This book was not only written for Natsuishi himself; it is written for you, me … all of us. Perhaps it is only by connecting with the rawness of poetic emotionality that we can stop and consider the lives we are creating and the world we are destroying.

Of course, it is only human for readers to want some finalization in the denouement. But Ban’ya Natsuishi has only offered a one-way ticket. This is his journey, and his continuation is truly a new book already in the making. For now, it is just to try on his spectacles and wonder at the magnificent transference he has achieved. Just be here now — right now, and right here — with Ban’ya Natsuishi as he ponders the futility of the Black Card.

And then take your own journey — into the deeper reaches of your own emotional world and perceptions. Balance the yin against the yin. The sunlight awaits beyond the dark cloud but we must first experience and accept the inevitability of the nature of clouds.

Consider these haiku poems from the book by Ban’ya Natsuishi:

Page 57

Cloudy sky —

my own fluttering

unheard

Cielo nublado

inaudible

mi aleteo

Page 61

Torrential rain pours on

a word pursuing

a word

Bajo esta lluvia torrencial,

persigue

una palabra a la otra

Page 69

Death is not the last answer

a bird singing

behind the mountains

La muerte

no tiene la última palabra

en la recóndita sierra gorjean los pájaros

Page 70

Absence is a womb

we are traveling

to the next absence

La ausencia es un seno

somos viajeros

de la ausencia

Page 71

Ground water silently

running to a spring

a pure night wind

Fluye hacia el manantial

un cauce subterráneo

silenciosa brisa nocturna

Page 73

I throw down

a dead word

to a dead fish

Lanzo

palabras muertas

a peces muertos

Page 124

Thunderstorm

on a giant dandelion —

the silent Japanese

Rayos y truenos

sobre el gigantesco diente de león

japoneses en silencio

Page 133

This sorrow:

a broken cloud

among clouds

Esta tristeza:

nubes rotas

dentro de otra nube

Page 151

Time filled with holes

appears

in clouds filled with holes

Aparece

un tiempo agujereado

entre nubes agujereadas

by Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2016.

ブラックカード    EQUILIBRANDO EL YIN CONTRA EL YIN.

EQUILIBRANDO EL YIN CONTRA EL YIN: un ensayo en respuesta a Ban’ya Natuishi’s “Black Card / Tarjeta negra”, 169 páginas, cyberwit.net, 2013, con traducciones en inglés de Ban’ya Natsuishi y Eric Selling, y traducciones en español de Emilio Masià.

En “Black Card / Tarjeta negra” Ban’ya Natsuishi permite al lector ser un compañero silencioso en las estancias de su protagonista a través del lado más oscuro del ciclo Yin-Yang: lidiar con la muerte y la pérdida, el dolor y la desilusión; quizás ocasionalmente con indicios de enojo o disgusto, pero nunca menos exhibe a veces una sensación casi estoica de desapego, y otras veces ausencia o resignación. Y sin embargo, hay un conocimiento acompañante de que los ciclos yin siempre son seguidos por ciclos yang positivos y activos en el continuo mayor de energía, materia, fuerza vital y Espíritu.

Estos haiku no son tan “oscuros” como son exploraciones intencionales en la oscuridad experiencial de experiencias transformadoras y brutales. Los poetas combaten la opresión y los estancamientos con su mayor espada: las palabras. Pero Natsuishi – aunque altamente inteligente sobre el mundo y la ocupación de la vida – también es humano. También es emocional. Las palabras a menudo no describen la profundidad de la emoción humana cuando se habla o escribe directamente, sin un grado de abstracción, sin inculcación, y sin involucrar o implicar a nuestro entorno. Obtenemos un mayor sentido de autojustificación cuando sentimos y podemos demostrar que realmente hay caos en todas partes.

El protagonista del poeta puede entender que la muerte y la destrucción son una parte de la vida, pero él todavía siente dolor. Sabe que las sombrías nubes de desilusión serán un día reemplazadas por los rayos del sol del yang, pero él decide investigar en detalle cómo la negatividad asedia su mundo y su percepción de él. Al reconocer esta energía yin en todas sus manifestaciones y describir su fuerza central en palabras, entonces él puede eventualmente triunfar sobre su fuerza abrumadora. Como ocurre con la mayoría de las personas en crisis personales, a menudo es en algún momento una cuestión de equilibrar el Yin contra el Yin – con la esperanza de alcanzar una grisura más suave en el camino de regreso a la Luz y la Esperanza.

Este libro es un fiel poderoso e implacable – para sus padres, para las víctimas de desastres naturales y accidentes nucleares, y para sí mismo. Más importante aún, es una documentación vívida de un viaje a través de la Oscuridad. Es privado, personal … y sin embargo se nos permite experimentar su humanidad. No es negatividad, sino más bien un hermoso relato del paso a través de un espejo de oscuridad. Pero no se deje engañar. Este libro no sólo fue escrito para Natsuishi mismo; está escrito para ti, para mí … para todos nosotros. Tal vez sea sólo conectando con la crudeza de la emotividad poética que podemos detenernos y considerar las vidas que estamos creando y el mundo que estamos destruyendo.

Por supuesto, es sólo humano para los lectores que quieren alguna finalización en el desenlace. Pero Ban’ya Natsuishi sólo ha ofrecido un billete de ida. Este es su viaje, y su continuación es verdaderamente un nuevo libro ya en construcción. Por ahora, es sólo para probar sus gafas y maravillarse de la magnífica transferencia que ha logrado. Sólo estar aquí ahora – ahora mismo, y aquí mismo – con Ban’ya Natsuishi mientras reflexiona sobre la futilidad de la Black Card.

Y luego tomar su propio viaje – en los tramos más profundos de su propio mundo emocional y las percepciones. Equilibrar el yin contra el yin. La luz del sol espera más allá de la nube oscura, pero primero debemos experimentar y aceptar la inevitabilidad de la naturaleza de las nubes.

Considere estos poemas de haiku del libro de Ban’ya Natsuishi:

Pagina 57

Cloudy sky —

my own fluttering

unheard

Cielo nublado

inaudible

mi aleteo

Pagina 61

Torrential rain pours on

a word pursuing

a word

Bajo esta lluvia torrencial,

persigue

una palabra a la otra

Pagina 69

Death is not the last answer

a bird singing

behind the mountains

La muerte

no tiene la última palabra

en la recóndita sierra gorjean los pájaros

Pagina 70

Absence is a womb

we are traveling

to the next absence

La ausencia es un seno

somos viajeros

de la ausencia

Pagina 71

Ground water silently

running to a spring

a pure night wind

Fluye hacia el manantial

un cauce subterráneo

silenciosa brisa nocturna

Pagina 73

I throw down

a dead word

to a dead fish

Lanzo

palabras muertas

a peces muertos

Pagina 124

Thunderstorm

on a giant dandelion —

the silent Japanese

Rayos y truenos

sobre el gigantesco diente de león

japoneses en silencio

Pagina 133

This sorrow:

a broken cloud

among clouds

Esta tristeza:

nubes rotas

dentro de otra nube

Pagina 151

Time filled with holes

appears

in clouds filled with holes

Aparece

un tiempo agujereado

entre nubes agujereadas

por Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2016.

Equilibrium, oil on canvas, 50x50 cm., 2016.

Equilibrium, oil on canvas, 50×50 cm., 2016.

Reflection, oil on canvas, 50x50 cm., 2016.

Reflection, oil on canvas, 50×50 cm., 2016.

COMMENTS ON “100 HAIKU” by Ban’ya Natsuishi & Sayumi Kamakura, in Japanese and English, 55 pages, paperback, 5.5 x 8.5, cyberwit.net, 2016.

This small volume presents selected haiku by Ban’ya Natsuishi and Sayumi Kamakura, with excerpts from:

  • Ban’ya Natsuishi’s “Collected Early Haiku: Roaring River (2001), “The Diary of Everyday Hunting” (1983), “Métropolitique” (1985), “Rhythm in the Vacuum” (1986), “The Fugue of Gods” (1990), “Opera in the Human Body” (1990), “Waves of Joy” (1992), “The Science of Megaliths and Big Trees” (1995), “Earth Pilgrimage” (1998), “Drifting” (2001), “Right Eye in Twilight” (2006), “Flying Pope: 161 Haiku” (2008), “Labyrinth in Vilnius” (2009), “Hybrid Paradise” (2010) and “Black Card/Tarjeta negra” (2013); and
  • Sayumi Kamakura’s “A Singing Blue” (2000), “A Crown of Roses” (2007) and “Seven Sunsets” (2013).

The book highlights individual poems in small groupings, and is perhaps more light-hearted than some of Ban’ya Natsuishi’s previous books. Nonetheless, these haiku poems all have levels of profundity as can be found in much of Natsuishi’s work. Imagine leafing through one’s memory bank of images and feelings connected with past experience — much like a photo album. Those memories and sensations that are now most subjectively vivid are not always those that we may have considered to be the most dramatic, significant or transformational at the time, but perhaps fleeting ones that we have later (now) associated with feelings, happenings and discoveries experienced recently. It is at those precious moments of protracted timeline associations that past (and sometimes seemingly forgotten) memories again come to life. They were – in fact – never really forgotten, and they may now shine anew — in a different context, sequence and perspective. In such a process — of looking back and finding new associations — we are able to see life’s chain of events in a broader and more elongated line which is at once integrated and interactive. This is the calm of mature reflection, and of being able to momentarily put aside the urgency of finding permanent solutions and assessments. We must find periods of “completion” again and again before any final summation. Haiku lends itself very well to this kind of reflection, as stillness and movement often happen concurrently in the life of the haiku. Natsuishi’s imagery is well-complemented by that of Kamakura. Hers is equally strong, but perhaps at times more feminine and quiet — full of harmonious color, but still emphatic.

The book is beautifully illustrated with calligraphy created by the poets themselves. The poetry and art are aesthetically presented, and in such a way so as not to compete with or cancel out one another. It is possible to reflect upon either the haiku or the illustrations, without the one being dependent upon the other. In that sense, this book qualifies as well as an art book or a coffee table book — an edition that needs space, accessibility and the “freedom” to be picked up and admired, rather than to be hidden between dozens of other books in a bookcase. It is also a book that is very conducive to reflection; one page at a sitting. As a single blade of grass holds the secrets of an entire universe, each haiku and illustration in this book can provide limitless insight into the science of living. These haiku and illustrations are alive.

This book contains no foreword, and no explanation stating the intentions of the authors. None is needed as the book speaks quite well for itself. The reader is quickly plunged into the minds, senses and sensibilities of the two haiku masters, without preparation or expectation. It is at once both zazen and walking meditation. There is no need to follow our breathing or rid ourselves of competing thoughts, as the authors’ “music” synchronizes our sensibilities, rhythms and sensations with that of their own.

– Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2016.

Trinity

Comments about “Màs alla Del Esfuerzo – Memorias de un Cónsul Honorario (Spanish Edition)”, 

by James G. Skinner, 136 pages, cyberwit.net, 2015.

This peculiar book is an entertaining and engaging book by an interesting personality who has created a fascinating life for himself. The book is short (136 pages) but it is packed with amusing and informative anecdotes from his years as a British consul in northern Spain. These anecdotes are – in reality – abbreviated short stories told in lively detail, but usually ending rather abruptly. Thus the reader may feel almost as if he or she is invited to a long dinner with a fantastic spread of exciting tapas dishes — only to have the table suddenly cleared and loaded up again with new exotic delights. There are so many of these anecdotes that the reader still has a full literary stomach when the stories quite suddenly come to an end. The experience can perhaps also be likened to “bar stories” exchanged by reminiscing ex-adventurers. They are captivating and well-written, in a simple, refreshing and matter-of-fact literary style: “this is how it was”, and with no attempts at being“academic” or “poetic”.

The final portion of the book is a mini-autobiography of sorts, disguised as a personal timeline. Here Skinner remembers and recounts the many major events, travels and jobs in his life — spanning from 1938 until 2007, and on several continents.

As noted above, the author has had a most interesting life, and he is a good conversationalist and writer. His writing makes the mouth water for more, and longer stories — and although I have yet to read any of his novels, I am now curious to do so.

It would seem that James G. Skinner has perhaps always “walked the extra mile”. In spite of some disappointments along the way I believe that the rich rewards that he has reaped in the total context of his fabulous life should inspire many to approach their own lives with the same enthusiasm for life and for doing the right thing — even if it means sometimes bending some rules. And hopefully, to share those learnings and experiences wide and far, as James G. Skinner does.

– Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2016.

Commentarios sobre “Màs alla Del Esfuerzo – Memorias de un Cónsul Honorario (Spanish Edition)”, 

por James G. Skinner, 136 paginas, cyberwit.net, 2015.

Este libro peculiar es un libro entretenido y atractivo, escrito por una personalidad interesante que ha creado una vida fascinante para sí mismo. El libro es corto (136 páginas), pero está lleno de anécdotas divertidas e informativas de sus años como consul británico en el norte de España. Estas anécdotas son – en realidad – abreviadas historias cortas contadas en detalle vivo, pero terminan generalmente algo abruptamente. Así, el lector puede sentirse casi como si el o ella es invitado a una larga cena con una fantástica variedad platos de tapas emocionantes – sólo para tener la mesa de repente despejada y cargada de nuevo con nuevas delicias exóticas. Hay tantas de estas anécdotas que el lector todavía tiene un estómago literario completo cuando las historias de repente llegan a su fin. La experiencia también puede ser comparado con “historias de bar” — intercambiadas por la reminiscencia de ex aventureros. Son cautivantes y bien escritas, en un estilo literario simple, refrescante y práctico: “así es como fue”, y sin intentos de ser “académico” o “poético”.

La parte final del libro es una mini-autobiografía, disfrazada como una línea de tiempo personal. Aquí Skinner recuerda y relata los muchos acontecimientos importantes, viajes y trabajos en su vida – que abarcan desde 1938 hasta 2007, y en varios continentes.

Como se mencionó anteriormente, el autor ha tenido una vida muy interesante, y es un buen conversador y escritor. Su escritura hace que la boca haga agua para más, y más historias – y aunque todavía tengo que leer cualquiera de sus novelas, ahora tengo curiosidad por hacerlo.

Parece que James G. Skinner quizás siempre “caminó la milla extra”. A pesar de algunas decepciones en el camino creo que las ricas recompensas que ha cosechado en el contexto total de su fabulosa vida debe inspirar a muchos a acercarse a sus propias vidas con el mismo entusiasmo para la vida y para hacer lo correcto – incluso si significa a veces doblar algunas reglas. Y con suerte, para compartir esos aprendizajes y experiencias de manera amplia y lejana, como hace James G. Skinner.

por Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2016.

Flora, erotica no. 1

REVIEW OF “THAT EROTIC SILENCE”, by Dr. Anuj, 259 pages, Cyberwit.net, 2016.

This book represents a creative and courageous approach to writing by the author: Dr. Anuj.

For me, the boldness has both to do with the subject matter, i.e. the nascence and development of sexuality from childhood onward and the accompanying Freudian explanations, as well as the unusual style of writing: 259 pages of mostly third person narrative and devoid of dialogue! The possible pitfalls to avoid in such an endeavor are many,including snubbing the literary police who religiously warn against “telling rather than showing” the reader, risks of alienating reader participation by distancing him or her from the characters’ speech, interactions and multi-dimensional personalities, and the possible tediousness of almost unbroken narrative prose over so many pages.

Here there were no great concerns, it would seem. The author managed to maintain my attention and interest throughout the book, largely due to the fact that the author has a good command of English vocabulary, a passion for the story, a good storytelling ability, a sense of detail, and the successful usage of descriptive imagery and social and culture dynamics — all of which blossom with leaps and bounds, as the book progresses.

Despite the lack of direct dialogue and traditional in-depth character development, the author manages to create an almost cinematic quality in the storytelling. The author obviously enjoyed writing this tale, and that engagement has brought life to a rather difficult exercise.

While sexual development in the young protagonist “Z” is the primary problem examined, the underlying main theme is rather about learning to understand love — perhaps mostly from the perspective and experience of women. It is an endearing story, which is well-communicated.

Dr. Rosa Maria DelVecchio provides a very good foreword to the book, but with spoilers. Do read it, but consider reading the story first.

This book would make an interesting study for creative writing students today.

by Adam Donaldson Powell, 2016, Norway.

REVIEW OF “THE IMPOSSIBLE GIRL”, 198 pages, by Jyothirllata Girija, Cyberwit.net, 2016.

This is a delightful and fast-paced play – in three acts – which is set in India. Girija has done a wonderful job with her storytelling and, even though I was convinced that I had guessed the final outcome already one-third of the way through the script, the author managed to throw out a few surprising fireballs all the way to the final page. There are many themes and agendas presented for thought and discussion in this short play, and they are all handled quite well. Girija has excellent writing skills, and a keen understanding of reader psychology. 
 
 
by Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2016.
We the People - Democracy by gun, 100x81 cm, oil on canvas, 2016.

We the People – Democracy by gun, 100×81 cm, oil on canvas, 2016.

Review of “…the smell of piss an’ shit in his pants – The vicarious memoir of a Vietnam War veteran -“, by T. Wignesan, 120 pages, Cyberwit.net, 2015, paperback.

From the author’s Preface:

“This is the story of a Vietnam War veteran. It would hardly be appropriate to use the word veteran for one so young, for when Ulixes was de-mobbed he was only twenty-two. He was born in the borough of Queens and grew up mainly there and in Brooklyn, New York, before being conscripted at twenty. In all he had spent a year and 67 days in Vietnam during which time he saw action as a foot-soldier. On three occasions, he and his patrol were ambushed by the Viet-Cong and North Vietnamese regular army personnel. There were seven other skirmishes as well. The first time a month after his arrival on October 1st, 1968, he went through the shock of seeing and handling mashed-up and dismembered bodies of his buddies while staving off an attack from the Viet Cong. The second took place two months later during the Mini Tet Offensive at Long Ogygia Base on the Cambodian border and lasted some twelve hours. He killed two North Vietnamese Army personnel; one with his M16 and another with his Ka-Bar knife. He sustained no great injuries himself; that is, not visibly on his person, but the scars of shock and fear were scorched deep under his fatigues and skin and rose with time to render his life a vacant yet furies-filled passage between the embattled three-room quarters he occupies and the Veterans’ Hospital. On the psychologist and psychiatrists’ cards he remains tagged as a post-traumatic stress (PTS) case.”

And with the following additional sentences from the cyberwit.net description of the book:

“Is he a hero? Or an anti-hero? Or just a victim of circumstances? A pawn on the chess-board moved by invisible hands? Judge for yourself.”

T. Wignesan is a literary provocateur, and reading his books always presents the reader with challenges and tests. These are not so much tests of academic or literary intelligence; they rather “allow the reader to understand” that not all in life (or literature) is as expected, or as presented. Wignesan is adept at creating constructions that ensnare, release, and then change again. He is clearly interested in how persons think, and how they are conditioned. In this book he boldly states that the story to be presented is purposely not written in a linear fashion, and he explains why — blaming the interview subject, communications difficulties, occasional apathy on the parts of both the author and the interview subject, and other issues. While much information is presented in the book, it is highly-deconstructed. Some sections are highly-detailed and engaging, and others read more like journal entries — recording disconnected, but yet connected conversations and narratives. The reader who does not hold out might well conclude that this book is merely poorly-written. But alas, Wignesan is far ahead of us. For those who are paying attention there are many “coincidental” revelations throughout the book — and a bit of reflection while reading successive chapters and passages is enough to leave you both cursing the author and praising his weird genius by the time you reach the last page. You see, this story is really not about any big or important story, and it is truly not about the protagonists (the “author” and the interview subject). In fact, the only protagonist in this “novel” is the Reader.

Already from the beginning we are drawn into a series of puddles which become concentric circles — of both small and meaningless, and greater and more significant proportions. We will not find our way through the labyrinth by linear thinking. It does not matter where this “story” begins. It begins and ends in the mind of the Reader. It is up to you to let the process mix up and possibly explode your mind, or to give up — blaming the author for not being a coherent, traditional, non-academic … or good writer.

Wignesan has fun throughout the book — with repetitions (and comments signifying that he knows that he repeats himself), with references to earlier books (and what I assume has been criticism for their academic style), and more. When Wignesan finally gets to the promised “story” over half-way through the book, he does give us exactly what we wanted from the beginning: a fluid, descriptive, engaging, and well-told story that only requires that we follow the words. But by then it is too late, dear Reader. Wignesan has already penetrated your mindset with literary guerrilla warfare. You have already been disabled, and had your literary ego neutralized and violated.

And finally — in the last few pages — Wignesan cleverly manages to extricate himself of responsibility by revealing his mere advisory role in the whole vicarious mess of piss an’ shit.

What do you expect, dear Reader? He has a doctoral degree in aesthetics, for chrissake! Hahaha …

I have previously written three essays based on books by T. Wignesan:

– Literary criticism by Adam Donaldson Powell (based upon “Poïetics : Disquisitions on the Art of Creation”, published by Cyberwit.net, India, 2008, ISBN 978-81-8253-104-8, 214 pages, paperback.

– Literary criticism by Adam Donaldson Powell – based upon “Victorian (pen-in-cheek) Vignettes” and “The Night Soil Man”, both published by Cyberwit.net, India, 2008, respectively : ISBN 978-81-8253-107-9, 207 pages, paperback; and ISBN 978-81-8253-124-6, 193 pages, paperback.

– Literary criticism (2009) by Adam Donaldson Powell (based upon “Mere deaths and the mostly dead : a collection of six long and four short stories”, published by Cyberwit.net, India, 2008, ISBN 978-81-8253-122-2, 275 pages, paperback).

These essays can be read here: https://adamangel.me/2011/07/10/adam-donaldson-powell-reviews-literary-works-by-t-wignesan/

– Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2017.

Deconstructed pond, oil on canvas, 40x40 cm. (An exploration of the zone in between Minimalism and Abstract Expressionism.)

Deconstructed pond, oil on canvas, 40×40 cm. (An exploration of the zone in between Minimalism and Abstract Expressionism.)

REVIEW OF “FLOTSAM OF THE MIND”, 92 pages, Malini, Cyberwit.net, 2016.

“Flotsam of the Mind” is a good attempt for a first book of poetry. The author demonstrates a good understanding of poetry styles, and has many thoughts to communicate. With maturity, experience and practice her writing will improve even more so.

– Adam Donaldson Powell, 2016, Norway.

(photography and paintings by Adam Donaldson Powell)

Essays on literary criticism and on multilingual literature.

image

SHORT AUTHOR BIO:

ADAM DONALDSON POWELL (Norway) is a multilingual author, literary critic, and art photography critic; and a professional visual artist. He has published several literary books (including collections of poetry, short stories, and novellas, two science fiction novels, and essays) in the USA, Norway and India; as well as numerous works in international literary publications on several continents. He writes in English, Spanish, French and Norwegian. He has previously authored theatrical works performed onstage, and he has read his poetry at venues in New York City (USA), Oslo (Norway), Buenos Aires (Argentina), and Kathmandu (Nepal). His book “Gaytude” (co-authored with Albert Russo) won the 2009 National Indie Excellence Award in the category gay/lesbian non-fiction. Powell was also the winner of the Azsacra International Poetry Award in 2008, and the recipient of a Norwegian Foreign Ministry travel stipend for authors in 2005. Powell also took initiative to planning and organizing the “Words – one path to peace and understanding” international literary festival in Oslo, Norway in 2008. He has been an author under the Cyberwit label since 2005, and he has published 12 literary books since 1987.

img_1977

ESSAYS ON LITERARY CRITICISM
by Adam Donaldson Powell
2017

I am an author of novels, novellas, short stories, poetry and essays. I also have reviewed dozens of books for various small publishing companies, including cyberwit.net. Cyberwit is extraordinary for many reasons, but the publishing company’s emphasis on being an alternative publishing arena, a place where first-time authors and those who have published less than three books can grow as authors, and a community that promotes new ideas and experimentations in literature by more experienced published authors — that is what I believe makes Cyberwit unique and important for new developments in contemporary literature.

Cyberwit represents “an opportunity” for authors, and it is important to use that opportunity well.

Most authors want serious literary criticism of their books. There are not many professional literary critics, or places for their reviews, at present. There have been many changes in the publishing market and the few high-status literary journals that remain often prioritize celebrity authors or books published by the most respected mainstream publishing companies. Peer reviews and reader reviews on Amazon and other such internet publishing companies are usually short and non-technical.

And then there is Adam. My reviews tend to be essays which are inspired by my experience of reading innovative and well-crafted works of literature. And that is what I feel that works of art should do: to inspire others to be creative in their lives — in whatever expressions that may involve for him or her concerned. Books that do not warrant a review by me simply do not get reviewed by me. Mediocre or unconvincing books, or books that do not stand out in the literary community at large may get reviewed, but perhaps only with a few sentences of encouragement to the author to keep working and improving.

I am very critical of poetry books. Many beginning poets do not realize that writing poetry is one of the most difficult literary forms to do well. It is easier to start writing bigger works (novellas and short stories) and then learn to create “big” with short verse. I do not critique individual books or stories — I critique complete published books; evaluated as complete works of art. Almost all published non-fiction books will have a few typographical or grammatical errors in them, and that is okay. However, a book that is riddled with these problems is not reviewable by me because the distractions make me more into a proofreader than a literary critic. If I reject a book or have advice to the author regarding specific literary problems and technical skills that need improvement then the author should ask the publisher why the book could not be reviewed. It is highly probable that I will have informed the publisher about my reasons for not reviewing the work. This is how we learn and improve. I do not reject reviewing books outright due to theme, form, style or the author’s viewpoints (even though I may not agree with them), but even a provocative or experimental book must be written with literary quality. And the more experimental or provocative the book is the more I will look for literary redemption. Book forewords that are essentially book reviews and which include a technical analysis and defense of the book that I am expected to review are very annoying. I will not review such books. So make up your minds: do you want to have your review in your book foreword by someone you know will write what you want to hear, or do you want an independent review of the total content of your book (including the foreword, preface, epilogue etc.)? In my opinion a book foreword should be short, non-analytical and inspirational. It is your own writing as the author that should stand up for itself.

I have written some thoughts about literary criticism which some authors may find relevant and helpful:

1)

BETWEEN US POETS …

I am adamant about the importance of understanding literary styles in historical, cultural and social contexts, and not merely repeating mathematical formulas and styles when writing – especially poetry. One reason I pretty much abhor most modern rhyming poetry is that few seem to comprehend why their rhyming verse is not as successful as that of famous poets from previous centuries. It is not only about rigidly-formed rhyme and meter, but also about what happens within that overall framework: the consonance and dissonance of rhyme and rhythm that occurs on an experiential level through choice of words, length of words, sequence of words, sequence of images, sounds evoked in the words and patterns of words chosen, the loudness and softness of words and their images – alone and in sequence, the beginnings and endings and overlapping of words, images and sounds in lines, the functions of periods, commas, hyphens, spaces; not to mention the color and psychology of words and sequences of words, and choosing the appropriate level of language. eg. I never use archaic forms such as “Thou” or “O, ….” OR words that most need to consult a Thesaurus to understand — unless I wish to show a change of status, wisdom, character of higher regard or of supposed superiority.

In this way poetry (and prose) takes on a cinematic, theatrical and multi-dimensional expression which more easily engages the reader to relate to his/her own experiences, memories, thoughts and feelings. Similarly, I have written much about the western “haiku moment”. F**k the damned haiku moment, and f**k the 5-7-5 prison if it does not work with your language. The entire haiku should reflect a haiku moment – a state of existentialism, where one breath is not distinguishable from another.

In literature and art and music we are always working to expose the “veil behind the veil BEHIND the veil”. Peeling an onion does not really result in nothingness, but rather a state of being that embraces a confluence of negations and perceptions that have burned their way into the eye-sockets of non-reality of any particular moment in non-space/time. The center of the onion is, if you will: the rhyme inside of / and in spite of / the rhyme.

2)

A LITERARY CRITIC’S LAMENT … for fellow book reviewers, authors and publishers

While many authors of books of poetry, short stories, novellas and essays are concerned with the problems with getting such books sold I would point out that:

1) people are reading such works today, but many are just not spending money on literature unless the author in question is a celebrity or a newly-discovered “sensation”; and

2) many authors underestimate or forget about libraries as important institutions, and of the inevitability of electronic publication taking an increasingly larger place in book publishing.

To make one’s living solely from book publication is not something many of the world’s authors can boast of. Most modern libraries are now digitalizing their collections so that they are available to multitudes. Try to get your books into local and national library collections. Libraries and national archives will have your books in their collections longer than private individuals, and they can be potentially read by several persons long after you have left this world.

Many small press and independent publishers find their authors on the internet. My publisher in India – Cyberwit – found me on the internet, and extended an invitation which I accepted. The rest is history, including many book publications with Cyberwit.net to date. Use the internet wisely … and you will be noticed.

Another thing: I note that many new authors-to-be seem to be offended when asked to share a tiny bit of the initial production costs for their books, when asked to help with marketing efforts, when offered an electronic publication first – in order to test out the market before eventual print publication … GET REAL PEOPLE! It is not ALL about YOU! Writing is an art form; but being an author is a career and a business. Put in the work, prove yourself, pay your dues, build up interest for your work, cultivate a clientele for your writing. That royalty contract you dream of can be yours if you approach the business of being an author in a professional way, and exercise patience. There are small press and independent publishers out there who are looking for the right authors “to work with” (not just to publish once); and there are still some freelance reviewers (like myself) that are working to present your books to the world.

That being said, publishers and reviewers of books of poetry, short stories, novellas and essays seem to be fewer in number than previously, and because production and marketing costs are often higher than possible sales profits in the short run, the author must expect to do more than merely write “a good book”. He/she should actively participate in the marketing process and use all possible venues (of which there are now many in this world of internet, eg. Facebook, Twitter, networking sites, blogs, etc.) to market their works. If mainstream publishers are to prioritize these genres then sales must go up. If small press and independent publishers are to survive and compete with mainstream publishers for readers then they need the help of both authors and reviewers.

Now, serious reviewers of books of poetry, short stories, novellas and essays do have their own issues … some of which are important for authors to be aware of:

1) The fast-paced world of today demands perhaps a new discussion regarding kinds of literary reviews that are produced, and their function. In my opinion, for most literary journals there has to be a happy medium between the overly-academic reviews of the past decades and the one paragraph summations that tell you nothing about why the reviewer feels the book has or has not literary quality – a type of review which is popular today also because of limited space in magazines, periodicals, journals etc.

2) I feel that it would be quite interesting with a discussion amongst literary reviewers about the subject and the art and the occupation of reviewing. What standards, ethics, guidelines are in place today? Is reviewing a thankless job or a useless occupation? What are the important elements of review-writing today as opposed to before?

3) How do reviewers today feel about and tackle the difficulties: in placing reviews, in being honest vs. taking care of the author’s or publishers feelings and needs: communicating the importance for the author of having balanced reviews and not just raves, the stupidity of authors flooding the internet with half-assed reviews of their books so that good ones are not interesting for publication, the problems involved with getting too close to the authors or publishers who wish to influence reviews or publish / quote only the most positive commentaries in order to increase sales etc.

4) How do reviewers feel about communicating to authors and publishers the importance of choosing the “right” reviewer – especially for the first review of the book? Serious literary journals rarely publish reviews of a book that has already been reviewed by several other persons and published all over the internet, or books that are more than one year old (yesterday’s news). Difficulties in getting reviews placed in serious literary journals has an effect upon serious reviewers as well. Reviewers are also interested in “discovering” a unique work of literature or a new exciting author, and being the first man/woman out with a review. I always “google” authors that ask me to review their books to see how many other reviews are already on the internet. And I sometimes decline to review a book if there is little chance of getting yet another review published. There are exceptions: new genres of literature, new voices that are so special or avant garde that they deserve a multitude of critical perspectives, and simultaneous multiple reviews from reviewers in different countries and in different languages upon worldwide book launching etc. Each reviewer must (himself/herself) judge the marketability of a review of a particular book vs. the importance of doing a review anyway either for the sake of supporting a particular work of importance or presenting one’s own literary skills in an essay about a particular work.

5) Is it appropriate for a reviewer to ask an author to tell about his/her marketing plans? I do pose such questions, as it tells me much about the kind of review to write, about the necessity of eventually writing a review that can be tailored by the publisher to be shorter if necessary – while still respecting the context of the criticism, and also much about the longterm motivation and investment the author has. I often review interesting authors more than once in their literary careers, addressing changes and growth and development in their styles from book to book. If the author or publisher is “clueless” about marketing strategies and how a review will be used, then writing a smashing or well-written review can be a waste of time, as most reviewers are constantly looking for more places and more prestigious places to publish their reviews, and the competition is very stiff. Often we compete with ourselves between the various reviews that we write and submit.

Nowadays, many good authors have also been reviewers. Why is it that many reviewers get burned out so quickly? It is perhaps in part due to some of the issues that i have cited above? The job of the critic is to write literary criticism; and selling the book and holding the authors’ hands etc. is really not our problem. It is – however – our desire to get our work published, and in good/appropriate literary journals, newspapers, magazines etc. Usually this is a cooperative effort between the publisher and the reviewer, but authors with “connections” to newspapers, literary journals and blogs that are interested in promoting their work should also actively engage in this marketing work — together with their publisher.

And what about the ethics of charging for book reviews? Many housewives make extra cash by writing short summations of books for large corporations in the USA, and make 50-75 bucks a shot. Good literary reviewers of small press literature usually work for free (unless commissioned to write a scholarly essay). Should reviewers get paid? If so, then by whom – the publisher, the author, the marketing company? And what are the possible ethical conflicts involved in that?

Some authors are highly sensitive to negative criticism, but yet authors crave assessment and “validation” … another interesting topic: the psychology of reviewing and desiring to get reviewed. Are some authors simply not “mature” enough for constructive criticism? And are some reviewers too closed-minded and old-fashioned in their likes/dislikes? I encourage all reviewers to publish their philosophy of reviewing, what they look for etc. from time to time. This will help authors not only in their choice of a reviewer, but also give many authors some helpful insight in their approaches to their own future writing.

How relevant is contemporary literature in non-English language countries for today’s global young people? Should all contemporary literature of quality only be in English? To be honest, in today’s international market publishing in English gives the greatest possible world public … albeit entails much competition. However, the reason that I employ multilingualism in most of my works is to reflect how today’s world is and also to drive up interest in other languages and cultures instead of the standardized/Americanized supermarket culture that is replacing everything all over the world. This is – however – hard work for everyone … but especially for you — the author. Do not expect that a small press or independent publisher has the staff, the resources or the knowledge of several languages. This is a genre that most mainstream publishers will not even touch. Be willing to work long and hard with special publications, and be patient with and courteous to your publisher. Small press and independent publishers are more often than not only 1-3 persons dedicated to keeping new literature “alive”.

If you as a reader or reviewer do not understand or know a word (in your own language or another) in a book … then look it up and learn something damnit! People are sometimes lazy and impatient in today’s fast-paced world society. And authors need to remember that every word is precious. Published writing should not solely be an act of self-gratification or literary masturbation. People do not have the patience for it. Choose your words carefully, and economically. Novelists can learn much from good poets and short, short story authors.

Another thing: let’s bring back the novellas. In today’s society they must be perfect for the on-the-go reader. The problem is that most publishers will not publish collections of novellas, nor will they publish prose that is less than 50,000 words because the book binding should be a certain width to be visible on bookstore bookshelves etc.

I am initiating this discussion because I feel that authors and publishers need to understand what reviewing is like in today’s world: what makes reviewers tick and continue to review etc.

– Adam Donaldson Powell

3)

THOUGHTS ON LITERARY CRITICISM.
LITERARY CRITICISM:
A FEW INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS
BY ADAM DONALDSON POWELL.

Much has been written regarding the history and development of literary criticism, the present “crisis” precipitated by trends and practices in the areas of publishing, marketing and distribution, as well as challenges posed for literary criticism by electronic publishing … including a renaissance of the age-old questions regarding which persons are qualified to write literary criticism, and the purposes and goals of good literary criticism.

All of these topics, themes and discussions are actual and important today. My main concern is to provide authors of literary works (poetry, short stories, novellas, essays, novels etc.) and independent presses and facilitators of self-published books of quality with a new form of literary criticism: which is informative, which incites debate, which challenges author and reader, and which provides entertainment, but which at the same time functions as a marketing tool and an opportunity for authors to consider their own development and accomplishments from the perspective of another literature enthusiast. I review both first-time authors and authors who have written dozens of books, assess individual books as well as compare several books by the same author, and sometimes follow a specific author’s development from book to book.

All literary criticism is subjective by definition. However, it can be helpful for both author and readers of literary criticism to discover new ways of perceiving their own writing, and writing in general. I am not an English professor, or even an English major. I am an author, and yet another who constantly struggles with the same questions, choices and challenges that all authors confront. It is my experience that reviewing others’ writing gives me greater insight into my own. This is (for me) an ever-going process of personal and artistic development.

I am often asked what I look for in poetry books that I review, or consider reviewing. There are many poetic forms being used today, with many hybridizations. There exists both a sense that there are “no rules” anymore and, at the same time, there are some unspoken literary guidelines that determine the probability for successful literary communication – beyond the subjective, and questions of personal taste. I believe that it is important for me as a reviewer to restate what I look for from time to time.

As I have written elsewhere, I look for many qualities including: evenness in quality, diversity in content and form, artistic intent, planning, execution and polish (the degree of polish being both intentional and commensurate with the desired expression), and an overall concept of the book as a complete work of art – beyond an arbitrary “stew” of individual poems. In addition, I pay attention to the author’s sense of originality, political and social awareness, mastery of storytelling, and visual, musical and philosophical expressions indicative of the author’s experiential personal history. I further look for: balance of intellectual rationalism and emotional presence, a solid command of the full palette of language(s) used, descriptive colour, clarity, intentional usage of abstractions, entertainment and theatrical/performance value, humour and occasional irony, and an overall sense of when to use poetic economy versus poetic rapture. And finally I am concerned that the author has an understanding of how to arouse within the reader a sense of personal identification, emotion and engagement – enabling the reader’s ‘inner artist’ to enter into a creative cognitive dialogue with the author, and hopefully even to inspire the reader to embark upon his/her own creative process.

I believe that art is both an intentional and an intuitive process, with many pitfalls: eg. overwriting, non-attention to levels of language used ($5 words can sometimes be more appropriate than $5000 words), stylistic and punctuation liberties that sometimes work and sometimes not, mimicking famous (and usually deceased) writers without sufficiently developing one’s own signature style, and getting all too caught up in – or ignoring – traditions of literature without having thought through why one has consciously chosen this or that style, or a divergence … just to name a few. At the same time, I believe that artists must always keep experimenting in order to grow and to develop further. That means taking risks … and sometimes even falling flat on one’s face. That is okay. We eventually learn from both our own … and others’ mistakes.

So writing is not a static process … and neither is literary criticism. While much criticism for first-time authors can be similar, it must be kept in mind that 1) there is no definitive “correct way” of writing, 2) criticism is personal and subjective to a large degree, and 3) there has never been a “perfect” book (and never will). I do not personally believe that writing a perfect book is an all important goal. Constant experimentation with technique, style, form and language is the real key to self-development and literary development. A not so well received book can be preceded by one or more very well received ones – who is to judge what is “good or not”? And the perhaps “not-as-good” book could teach author and reader much more than the “good” ones.

That being said, I do believe that literary criticism should be balanced – pointing both to that which functions well for the reviewer, and to that which the author might consider developing further or experimenting with in another way in future writing. Every now and then an author gets a complete rave of a review from me, but that is often because the author has managed to impress me in any of many ways that demonstrate overwhelming strength, courage, openness, visual imagery, musicality, movement, theatricality and/or originality … perhaps because I happen to resonate with the author at that particular point in time in regards to a certain form of expression or quality. There is no formula, there is no real checklist or form … it is an objective/subjective process.

Getting reviewed is exciting – for the author, the publisher … but it is also exciting for me as a reviewer to experience the reactions of author, publisher and reader, and to see if my comments help to incite further enthusiasm and growth in the author, and to encourage potential readers and new publishers to consider the author and his/her book(s). And yes, I am always curious as to whether (or not) the author and others share or understand my experience of the work in question. A work of art is – after all – a vehicle for mental, emotional and soulful transport, taking each of us to our own self-designed destinations. Reading a work of literature is – at its best – a dialogue between author and reader.

Lastly, I would like to say that I consider literary criticism to be an art form in itself – a form for expression that is constantly stretching and yawning, recollecting older traditions and recognizing the contemporary and the visionary in authors, and sometimes making associations between diverse forms of artistic expression and artistic disciplines. However, reading a book review or a piece of literary criticism is no substitute for reading the book, and is not a prerequisite either. Literary criticism is only a personal guide and commentary … a short essay containing the reviewer’s thoughts and reactions to having read a work (or works) of literature by another author.

— Adam Donaldson Powell

4)

Cyberwit is a multilingual and multinational community,
and cyberwit.net publishes in many languages. Here are a
few comments on:

PLAYING WITH THE MULTILINGUAL.

From “Le Paradis”, a tri-lingual novella with bilingual poetry by Adam Donaldson Powell:

“Il fait chaud aujourd’hui. Tu n’as pas soif?” asked Erik.

“Afaitu is in one of his serious moods today. He has been trying to get in touch with his spiritual ancestors, and is therefore staying away from the Devil’s brew (you know: pia). But I am certain that he would like some cold water and a joint,” said Eperona with a playful snicker.

“Pakalolo? Sorry man, I wish I did have some marijuana. But I do have some bottled water with me and (of course) a pack of Marlboro cigarettes. Will that do?”

Afaitu graciously thanked his Swedish friend for the water and a cigarette, while suggesting: “Hey, why don’t we take my boat out to a motu and spend the afternoon just chilling out? We can pick up some sandwiches and fruit, and perhaps even some mahi mahi on the way.”

“Mahi mahi sounds good to me,” said Eperona in his slightly post-adolescent manner … grinning, while adding: “and some more beers too!”

Afaitu shot his two-year younger friend a pretend-stern look, and then broke out into laughter.

“What? What did I say that is so funny?” asked Eperona, himself unable to keep from smiling. Erik thought he had been left out of a personal joke, and his eyes quizzically darted from Afaitu to Eperona, finally resting on Afaitu.

“It is nothing, my friend. You have been exactly the same since you were sixteen years old: the joys of your life are so simple. As long as you have fish, women and beer, ‘tu es au paradis’!” replied Afaitu, smiling and throwing a pebble at Eperona.

“Hey, cut it out!” retorted Eperona, as he playfully wrestled Afaitu onto his back, pinning him down with his muscular arms and shoulders. “And speaking of women … should we invite some to join us? What do you think, Erik? I know this hot …”

“Merde! What a fucking braggart. Don’t listen to his crap talk, Erik,” said Afaitu while pushing Eperona off of himself. “You would think that Eperona is the biggest stud and womaniser in the whole of French Polynesia.”

“Et alors!” joked Eperona, now standing over his two friends and thrusting his hips and groin forward in repeated erotic movements – half dance and half sex simulation.

“Damn, Eperona! You look like a raerae or a mahu impersonating an amateur Polynesian dancer for tourists,” shouted Afaitu … causing Erik to laugh and Eperona to pounce on Afaitu again.

“Amateur? Raerae? My uncle is a raerae, so I take that as a compliment. In fact, you should BE so lucky! Here … I will show you how a ‘raerae’ fucks a titoi (a wanker). Roll over … I’ve got something for you!” cried Eperona out as they tussled; and all three men laughed uncontrollably.

– – – – – –

From “2014”, a multilingual and intergalactic novella by Adam Donaldson Powell:

“Ha konwe ilucó Zeta, saj juhe la” (”Greetings our Zetan friends in Spirit, we wish contact”) repeated Eonurai telepathically in Vegan (the language used by the Greys), directing her energies toward the constellation that was home to the Zeta Reticulians. “Ha konwe ilucó Zeta, saj juhe la” … ”If you can hear this message, then please respond. This is Eonurai from Terra, with an important message to you from the Intergalactic Higher Command.”

“Ha konwe Eonurai-at. Saj miile ennwo. Len em Cuezpå. Ken ta sommo ?” (”Greetings she who is Eonurai. We are listening. This is Cuezpå. What is your message ?”) replied the Zetan on the receiving end of the telepathic communication directed at the Zetan Central Command Headquarters.

He then added: “Not to be disrespectful, but we speak English quite well here at the headquarters. Perhaps we should continue in English, as it would be more convenient for us. Your accent is a bit difficult to decipher telepathically.”

– – – – – –

Authors who write bilingually or multilingually usually employ one or more of the following alternatives:

1) to write and publish a work in one language, and then to adapt the work into another language and then publish it again in the new language;
2) to write sections of a work (usually poems) in one language, and repeat all of them into one or several other languages within the same book;
3) to write sections of a book in different languages, sometimes repeating the same small works and sometimes combining adapted and other works in the different book portions;
and 4) combining several of the above-mentioned techniques in the same book, and/or over a progression of books.

I employ all four approaches in my literary publications, and public readings – usually writing in English, Spanish, Norwegian and French, but also occasionally using bits of text in Greek, Arabic, Latin and other languages where appropriate.

Why do I find this fascinating ? First of all, we live in a globalized greater society today where many persons speak and understand multiple languages to various degrees, where few speak “the Queen’s English” anymore but rather national and local adaptations of English, French, Spanish and other major languages, where several individuals and groups of expatriates, immigrants and persons who have lived in many countries and cultures quite naturally employ several languages in the course of a simple conversation – you can hear it on the streets and busses in major cities all over Europe: persons in dialogue with another, in person, or on the cell phone, switching over from Urdu, West African dialect, French or Spanish to perhaps Norwegian, Swedish or Danish, and then to English, and back again. I enjoy matching this phenomenon together with the adjoining mixtures of culture – both as experienced by natives, by immigrants in their new countries of residence, by tourists who are experiencing and learning about other cultures … and also in culturally-hybridized forms, just as hybridized language today.

Secondly, by presenting the reader with this new globalized multilingual and multicultural reality, I hope that several persons will find interest in learning new languages (other than British and North American English) and that many will also begin to challenge their local and national perspectives on world culture today … and tomorrow.
This is not a “new” genre; as many authors throughout history have played with using different languages in dialogues within the same work; and bilingual and multilingual adaptations in all possible forms is as popular today as ever before (especially in the international haiku network). However, the intent to use this literary form to reflect a modern globalized and mixed up cultural and linguistic world is a fairly new concept. We are moving from national literature in translation to multicultural/multilingual literature and “global literature”.

The challenges for writing and publication are immense. Writing generally requires much decisionmaking, and when the question of merely choosing one’s target audience is suddenly opened up to something greater than primarily the English-speaking, French-speaking or Spanish-speaking world, the writing challenges increase proportionally. No longer is it good enough to find the right translation of Hindu ritual texts in the local dialect as practiced in Kathmandu (as I discovered in my book “Rapture”), but I needed to find a dialect that would be understood and accepted by all Hindus in Asia. In the end I opted to translate some of the special texts back to English, both out of global linguistic and religious-cultural considerations. There are many decisions that have to do with level of language used, grammatical and punctuation rules used (for example, which language’s rules should be followed in a manuscript that should show consistency ?), and the complexity of the text and story/poetry, decisions that have to do with whether one wishes to present a culture as a native might or as the outside world peering in (complete with stereotypes that are both promoted and challenged), decisions that have to do with political, religious and cultural values mirrored on all levels and in all perspectives (locally, nationally, internationally, and globally) and the accompanying perceptual differentiations therein, problems with getting language and cultural consultants, editors and colleagues to agree upon the “best” or “most correct” way to translate or adapt a text into another language … and then to arrive at the best possible compromise for presentation in the final book, finding a publisher who will take a chance on publishing a book where he or she does not understand all of the languages used and does not have staff or finances to check every detail in several foreign languages used … and the added responsibility this places on the author. There is much research, much reliance upon others, much insecurity and a lot of adrenalin that flows with expectation until the book has been on the market for at least a half year without a major international scandal or crisis having occurred. Words are not merely “words”, you see. Words have incredible power.

However, the thrills of doing this kind of global writing are also enormous. One gets the feeling that one is truly both “reaching across the world”, and “binding the world together” – contributing meaningfully and intentionally to global communication and understanding through literature. And the mental calisthenics can only be compared to successfully completing a long distance race with hurdles all along the way. It does get confusing sometimes. You need to have a solid base line – as in music – to hold it all together, but the “dance” itself is mesmerizing and offers countless possibilities to both fall on one’s face … and to get up again, and (at times) to soar through space like an eagle – with a view of the world rarely acknowledged in the hub bub of day-to-day situations.

It is my hope that more “global literature” will be written and published in the near future – including the employment of international cyberpunk and international urban dialects as language forms. Language is changing daily, and authors need to keep up … and stay ahead artistically. This is just the beginning of a whole new world of literature.

– Adam Donaldson Powell

5)

LA CRÉATION DE L’ART ET LA LITTÉRATURE EXIGENT UN ENGAGEMENT CONSTANT.
MES RÉACTIONS AU TEXTE … DE LA PERSPECTIVE D’UN AUTEUR.

De la part d’un auteur qui utilise activement le multilinguisme comme technique … et également de la part de quelqu’un qui a vécu dans trois pays différents avec trois langues maternelles … je trouve le multilinguisme très intéressant. Bien sûr, je reconnais qu’il y a des problèmes inhérent à chaque langue employée et qu’il faut les surmonter en raison des différences culturelles, afin de ne pas mélanger les mots et les définitions. Parfois j’estime que je n’ai aucune “langue” du tout, entre l’anglais, le norvégien, l’espagnol et le français.

Ce serait plus facile pour moi de vivre quelques années en France et ensuite peut-être un été dans un pays hispanophone au lieu de continuer à résider en Norvège en tant qu’expatrié.

Cependant, je ne suis pas tellement intéressé par l’anglais parfait, le norvégien parfait, l’espagnol parfait ou le français parfait dans mon écriture. D’ailleurs, la perfection existe-t-elle, même chez les monolingues? Je suis plus concerné par l’utilisation des langues dans leurs formes intrinsèques, voire expérimentales. Cela exige souvent plus de connaissance que je ne possède, donc je dois souvent chercher l’aide d’autres personnes et d’autres sources. Il y a beaucoup de recherche impliquée dans mon écriture. Ceci est aussi valable pour l’écriture dans ma propre langue maternelle : l’anglais. Quand je fais une analyse critique de jeunes auteurs je leur dis souvent de penser au niveau de la langue qu’ils utilisent parce que le niveau de la langue conditionne la performance et l’exécution théâtrale, à partir des émotions. Les mots rares ou précieux (des mots compliqués, obscurs et intellectuels) ont leur place et les mots plus populaires ou du language parlé, également. Ecrire – tout comme l’art – implique un engagement.. TOUT LE TEMPS! Quel niveau du langage, de la narration est approprié, et quels effets cela aura-t-il sur le lecteur ?

La création de l’art et la littérature exigent un engagement constant, ainsi que des rajustements, dès lors que la création commence à prendre vie et doit se définir vis-à-vis du lecteur.

Mes lecteurs me demandent souvent pourquoi je suis “contre la rime poétique. Je ne suis pas – en soi – contre la bonne rime pour autant que l’on sache ce qui est considéré comme bonne rime. Je crois que c’est la voix de poésie elle-même qui doit définir la forme … la rime féminine, la rime masculine, des variations sur des styles, pas de rime, le mètre externe, ce que je désigne comme “le mètre interne” (que l’on ne repère pas nécessairement en lisant rapidement la poésie, mais qui est bien là dans sa forme), le niveau de langue utilisé (des mots de 5 € contre des mots de 5000 €) est important car ils donnent le ton, la voix, ainsi que le degré de difficulté de la création. La question est alors celle-ci: quelle langue utiliser et quand (l’anglais uniquement, comme langue principale?) l’utiliser avec les autres langues afin de créer un environnement multiculturel et multilingue ou une culture dite mondiale, en imitant la vie quotidienne dans toutes les sphères d’une culture donnée, en employant de surcroît des dialectes, ou peut-être le mot français ou espagnol au lieu du mot anglais ou norvégien, afin d’obtenir la plus juste expression – exemple: lorsque l’on dit ‘ciao’ en se quittant, dans plusieurs pays -, etc. Les poètes majeurs jusqu’au 21e siècle avaient un appui plus solide dans l’art de la rime. Rimer est beaucoup plus que la découverte de mots qui paraissent semblables musicalement et où le nombre des syllabes comptent. Le Haiku par exemple est beaucoup plus que le nombre de syllabes strict, car en procédant de la sorte on peut arriver à des résultats ridicules. Non, c’est l’esprit du Haiku qu’il faut respecter et non l’exactitude de son mètre. D’autre part, chaque mot possède sa force et son pouvoir de suggestion; particulièrement dans la poésie et les formes littéraires plus courtes – rien ne doit être perdu des intentions et de la force de l’auteur – parfois nous voulons raccourcir ou allonger des textes pour affecter le lecteur ou prêterau texte une certaine identité … cela vaut également pour l’utilisation des mots difficiles que la plupart des personnes doivent constamment consulter un dictionnaire.

La rime qui ne prend pas en compte les effets la musique du mot originel peut inconsciemment ennuyer le lecteur ou transformer une voix pleine d’humour en poésie plate … ainsi, les mots perdent leur signification première, ce qui par la même occasion, neutralise l’essence poétique elle-même.

Quand dois-je me décider quelles langues utiliser et comment ? C’est surtout dicté par la nature et le thème du texte, mais aussi par la culture … ou mieux, par “ma propre perception de la culture concernée”. Dans mon livre “Paradis”, qui est écrit en anglais, en français et en dialecte Tahitien, j’ai essayé de rester le plus simple possible, en m’approchant le plus possible du Tahitien parlé, le français dominant dans ce cas précis, tout en maintenant une certaine distance vis-à-vis des deux autres langues, la poésie anglaise dans le livre est la langue fonctionnelle et descriptive … elle est souvent le fait d’une impatience suggérée et du tumulte interne. Dans le même travail, j’alterne entre poésie et prose afin de créer le sens de la perte du temps et le ‘climat’ du Pacifique. Toutes ces décisions … et d’autres non mentionnées ici … sont consciemment et inconsciemment au travail par le truchement de créations littéraires et artistiques. Plus vous êtes mûr comme artiste, plus vous aspirez à “cette symphonie incroyable”. J’estime être un novice perpétuel … pourtant, je vise toujours très haut en espérant atteindre le paroxysme de la langue que j’utilise, quelle qu’elle soit, allant jusqu’à consulter divers méthodes linguistiques sur Internet, mais là il faut être prudent, car il y a à boire et à manger, et la qualité n’est pas souvent au rendez-vous.

D’autres décisions impliquent le rythme, le cadre, la quantité de détails, la vitesse à laquelle le lecteur entend lire le texte qui lui est soumis : Prenons l’exemple du Candide de Voltaire, ou mon roman “2014 : la vie et les aventures d’un ange incarné” – Il s’agit d’abord d’introduire le lecteur , pour ensuite le laisser voguer dans son imagination en lui donnant l’impression qu’il a écrit l’histoire lui/elle-même.

Beaucoup a été écrit sur règles de l’écriture, particulièrement quant à l’utilisation de la première, la troisième et la deuxième personne. Le défi est grand, car on ne raconte pas la même histoire à la 1ere, 2ème ou 3ème personne, et l’impact sur le lecteur peut être faussé. Un exemple illustre ce que je veux dire: les concertos de piano pour la main gauche seule, comme “le Quartet pour la fin des temps” qui avait été à l’origine écrit pour un violoncelliste ayant seulement trois cordes à son instrument, etc.

Je peux continuer jusqu’à l’infini…, mais il y a une cour de récréation énorme là-bas pour tous les auteurs. Et non seulement pour les auteurs, mais également pour les musiciens, les peintres et les artistes de la scène. Les règles servent à nous donne un contexte et une formation.

Nous devons décider, selon nos propres émotions, comment les utiliser (ou ne pas les utiliser), la palette de styles, de formats, des genres étant très vaste, elle permet à certains même de créer de nouveaux genres qui transcendent le seul roman ou la seule poésie.

AMUSEZ-VOUS DONC ! Et si par accident ou si vous n’écoutez que votre intuition en ignorant le plan original, vous découvrez peut-être un nouveau chemin, allez-y, le voyage risque d’être passionnant.

— Adam Donaldson Powell

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Essays: examples of my photo book criticism.

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(Adam Donaldson Powell, selfie)

EXAMPLES OF MY PHOTO BOOK CRITICISM:

ALBERT RUSSO: A professional photographer finds his «inner tourist».

Review of «Norway to Spitzberg», photography by Albert Russo; published by Blurb Inc., 580 California Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, CA 94104, USA, http://www.blurb.com. Price: US$31.95, published in 2007, hardbound, glossy paper, 144 pages (also available as softcover, glossy paper, price: US$24.95).

Albert Russo’s photographic essay illustrating a cruise ship voyage with the Costa Atlantica («La città ideale») along the coast of Norway, from the city of Bergen (birthplace of composer Edvard Grieg) to the top of the globe (Spitzberg) is fascinating not only because of his realizing the full circle of «post-post-realism» in modern photography, but also because Mr. Russo transforms the tourist «photo-stalker» experience into the creation of a professional visual compendium – combining dramatic and magnificent seascapes, fjordscapes and landscapes with the intimacy of still lifes, the humanity of people at work and play and in their quiet, alone moments, as well as the extremities of fauna, and indigenous peoples and their cultural expressions and living environments.

It is not difficult to understand that Mr. Russo is also an accomplished poet and a master of prose-writing. The stories he tells in this photographic essay are not a mere show of proficiency as regards each individual work of art, but rather a dance of images as vivid as an operatic performance – full of passion, drama, silences, humour and music.

Mr. Russo has employed a Canon digital Ixus 55 – 5.0 megapixels camera, with 3x optical zoom. His «eye» for discerning, and his talent for capturing the «photographic moment», the mastery of light and clarity vs. slight distortion etc. is a testament to his delicious sense of artistry as well as his empathy for the experience of being human.

Review by Adam Donaldson Powell, 2007, Oslo, Norway. Adam Donaldson Powell is a professional reviewer, visual artist and the author of five collections of poetry, short stories, essays, literary criticism, and photography. He has performed his poetry all over the world – from New York City to Buenos Aires to Oslo to Kathmandu. His reviews have been published in several countries.

ALBERT RUSSO – Poet as photographer / Photographer as poet.

Albert Russo – novelist, essayist, short story writer, poet ….. photographer.

Of some fifty-five book publications to-date, eighteen of Russo’s books are photographic essays. These titles include impressions from travels around the world, quirkiness and humour in human experience, studies of sculptures, autobiographical essays with photography as the medium, and more. Had Russo not had such a passion for art and literature, he would surely have had a fine career as a photojournalist for commercial publishers of travel books, travel guides and travel magazines. However, Russo’s inclination towards the artistic and social elements of human predicament and expression, coupled with his love of poetry, has resulted in a myriad of publications which effectively express poetic and literary curiosity through poetry’s modern-day “first cousin”: photography. I use the word “curiosity” intentionally as Russo never forces his impressions upon us as an expression of “truth”, but rather guides us through his own personal experiences and thoughts through visual exposés. Sometimes the progressive order of photographs in some of his books can seem somewhat illogical as Russo presents us with his own “connections” between impressions as he sees them as an artist – rather than grouping photographs in an order that an advertising executive or commercial travel book might choose. This is Russo’s prerogative, his perspective .. and an important aspect of his own unique poetic expression.

Some of his photography books are combinations of texts and pictures, and others are without texts. The absence of titles is a bold artistic statement in itself, relying upon the strength and the progression of photographs themselves to tell the author’s/photographer’s personal story. Personally, I prefer the books that consist of photographs alone as I do not always relate to the accompanying texts and find them sometimes to be as annoying as I find signatures on the front side of paintings (when the signatures not only do not add to the overall work of art, but actually detract from the viewing experience). But this is a question of personal taste. Having a background both within visual art and poetry, I – like Albert Russo – am capable of understanding the “poetry” in the photographic presentations without explanation or added literary decoration. I think this is true for many (if not most) persons who enjoy photography books as works of art.

Russo’s photographic essays to-date include: “A poetic biography”, “Brussels ride”, “Chinese puzzle”, “City of lovers”, “Granada”, “En / in France”, “Israel at heart”, “Italia nostra”, “Mexicana”, “New York at heart”, “Pasión de España”, “Quirk”, “Rainbow nature”, “Saint-Malo”, “Sardinia”, “Sri Lanka”, and his newest: “Body glorious” and “Norway to Spitzberg” (both released in 2007). These are almost exclusively full-colour photos .. a medium which Russo plays with combining childlike naiveté and curiosity for the unusual aspects of the “banal”, and exciting excursions into the nature and the planet’s overall cultural diversity, with a broad palette of professional techniques. Russo goes to great pains to mix traditional images with their contemporary partners and counterparts, and to play with exposure, light, filters and clarity/non-clarity in order to exaggerate aspects of the culture and to communicate his own personal experiences and sensations. I would like to see a photographic essay by Albert Russo, in which he translates his interactive communication between photographer/poet and subject to the medium of black and white photography. I am certain that Russo would find even more exciting nuances and enigmatic photographic puzzles through the usage of light, shadows, layers of greyness etc., which would even further enhance his natural highly-effective ability to penetrate beyond picture-taking .. and far, far into the inner energy forms and thoughts of his photographic subjects/objects and their surrounding environment/conditions.

Perhaps the most unusual photographic essay is his “A Poetic Biography”, published in 2006. The book is exactly what the title suggests: a collection of photographs of Russo, his family members and friends in various situations and environments, and over a period of several decades. Here Russo includes both photographs of people (colour and some black and white), photographs of letters and telefaxes, telegrams, articles on Russo as an author etc. – all without explanation or commentary. In this way, Russo uses the classic “first person” style of prose-writing to create an almost surrealistic glimpse into the inner reaches of Russo’s personality, history, personal life, ambitions and self-identity. The book leaves us with a yearning to discover that personal aspect which Russo has not commented on, but which most other artists and authors usually make no bones about proclaiming ad nauseam: namely, his dreams .. and what his life might have been like otherwise.

Another fun and beautiful photographic exposé is Russo’s latest book: “Norway to Spitzberg”. I have previously reviewed this book and commented:

“Albert Russo’s photographic essay illustrating a cruise ship voyage with the Costa Atlantica («La città ideale») along the coast of Norway, from the city of Bergen (birthplace of composer Edvard Grieg) to the top of the globe (Spitzberg) is fascinating not only because of his realizing the full circle of «post-post-realism» in modern photography, but also because Mr. Russo transforms the tourist «photo-stalker» experience into the creation of a professional visual compendium – combining dramatic and magnificent seascapes, fjordscapes and landscapes with the intimacy of still lifes, the humanity of people at work and play and in their quiet, alone moments, as well as the extremities of fauna, and indigenous peoples and their cultural expressions and living environments. It is not difficult to understand that Mr. Russo is also an accomplished poet and a master of prose-writing. The stories he tells in this photographic essay are not a mere show of proficiency as regards each individual work of art, but rather a dance of images as vivid as an operatic performance – full of passion, drama, silences, humour and music. Mr. Russo has employed a Canon digital Ixus 55 – 5.0 megapixels camera, with 3x optical zoom. His «eye» for discerning, and his talent for capturing the «photographic moment», the mastery of light and clarity vs. slight distortion etc. is a testament to his delicious sense of artistry as well as his empathy for the experience of being human.”

Out of curiosity, I took contact with Albert Russo to ask him to comment on his love for photography. Here is his comment:

“In response to your question: I’ve always liked photography, from my adolescent years in Africa; actually I loved filming too and my 8mm or super 8mm films looked more like stills than films. People would complain telling me: “Oh God, five minutes on the same object, flower, trees, landscape, whatever, enough already!” Ever since my African days I’ve been taking photos with all kinds of cameras, from the standard Kodak box, to the famous German Minox, to the Fujica ST-605 (wonderful camera that accompanied me everywhere) – often using the Rexastar lens for close-ups) (1:3.5 – f- 135mm) alternately with the smaller but very friendly Minolta 70W Riva zoom, and now with the Canon digital Ixus 55. I have probably forgotten a few other cameras I had. Oh I used to take many colour slides in Africa (which I still have tucked away somewhere, and should think of printing the best). Poetry and photography? They are always closely related. A good picture tells a thousand things to the beholder if he/she pays attention to it, and the ‘right’ word suggests a thousand other things, that is why I never like to simply write captions under my photos. Actually now I do not wish to write anything at all, the photo must speak to you on its own.”

In conclusion, I would recommend that art photography and poetry enthusiasts take note of this talented artist. As one who has reviewed his collected poetry and read many of his novels, short stories and essays, I can attest that his literary talent complements his photographic expression. Albert Russo is artistically self-integrated in all of his creative disciplines.

Copyright 2007, Adam Donaldson Powell.

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, short novels, photography and literary criticism) in the USA, Norway and India, as well as numerous works in international literary publications on several continents. He has previously authored theatrical works performed onstage, and he has (to-date) read his poetry at venues in New York City, Oslo (Norway), Buenos Aires and Kathmandu (Nepal).

GEERT VERBEKE & JENNY OVAERE

 

ABRACADABRA: NOT JUST ‘BLACK AND WHITE’.

Review of «Abracadabra», black-white photography and haiku book by Geert Verbeke and Jenny Ovaere; self-published, printed by Ye Print Kortrijk (Flanders), published in 2008, softcover, glossy paper, 112 pages, ISBN: 9789081291828. Order the book directly from the artists (see http://www.haikugeert.net).

ABRACADABRA, true to the style of Geert Verbeke and most mature artists, poses more open questions than gives concrete answers. This collection of black-white photographs and haiku is an ambitious endeavour, challenging both the artists and the public in many ways. What would otherwise be perceived as yet another beautiful coffee table book of brilliant black-white photographs is transformed into a journey – not only to different physical destinations, but also to diverse states of mind and culture, all the while creating many levels of intellectual and artistic complexity which far surpass black-white photography in its most simplistic form as a medium in that Verbeke and Ovaere actually create “colour” in their use of the medium. This “colour” is further accentuated by the bilingual haiku that accompany each photo. I use the verb “accompany” loosely here, as the two mediums (photography and haiku) function at times both together, at times in complement with each other and at other times separately, from page to page. The discussion regarding combination of photography and text is a complicated and potentially controversial one, which I will introduce shortly.

Verbeke and Ovaere have employed Pentax IST-DS, zoom lenses 18-55, 28-80 mm, 80-320 mm and D-A Fish-eye 7-17 mm; and Pentax IST-DL, zoom lenses 28-200 mm and 18-55 mm. The photographers’ natural abilities to “see” and to “capture” images, and to find the poetry of the moment are quite remarkable. The individual photographs in this book, the reproduction of the photographs, the sequencing of the images, the quality of paper used, and the layout and format of the book all work very well together with the photographic artistry – giving the reader a sense of having been in or having observed the depicted situations himself/herself. In addition, the photographs often give the impression of expansion of format: transforming small images to the big screen in the mind’s eye – sometimes “inside looking out” and at other times “outside looking in”. This is, of course, very much the function of poetry … and perhaps even more specifically of the haiku.

These photographs function very well as a pure book of photography, and even as a private photography gallery exhibition. I have written elsewhere that I prefer photography books without captions and titles. Therefore, it is only natural that I address this question in the case of Abracadabra. As stated above, 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 of this extraordinary book of photography.

Firstly, I am rather indifferent as to whether one technically categorizes the texts as captions, loose short poetry or haiku in this particular work. I have read the haiku individually, attempting to not see the photographs … and then again together with the photographs. I personally find the combination as presented to be a bit “over the top” – often functioning as an afterthought to the photographs which is largely unnecessary and sometimes directly competitive as art forms. It is not my impression that the haiku have a complementary function in all instances, but that some cross the boundary over to becoming interpretative. In addition, I feel that many of these short poems could function quite well on their own – i.e. independently of the photographs – but perhaps not all of them. What would I have preferred? I would have preferred a version of this book where the photographs were permitted to live their own lives on each page, followed by a haiku section. This would 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. Just as one cannot really directly compare a book and a film based upon the same book, photography and poetry are quite related in functionality and expression but they both have their own distinctive voices. This discussion is (as previously said) a complicated one.

All in all, Abracadabra is a brilliant, captivating and personally transporting work aesthetically. One is easily drawn into both photos and texts. As I previously have seen in the haiku, tanka and haibun of Geert Verbeke: nothing is just ‘black and white’, and there is always in his work an invitation to discussion. Perhaps that is part of what “art” is all about …

— copyright Adam Donaldson Powell, 2008.

RENDEZVOUS:

 

Seldom does a book leave me totally speechless, and when I do have such an experience (mind you only for moments – I do love to express myself in words) it more often than not is a book of art photography or superbly-written haiku. In their latest artistic venture: «Rendezvous», Geert Verbeke and Jenny Ovaere have worked their «magic» and spun gold out of pure simplicity. I have reviewed many a haiku book, many a haiku plus illustration or haiku plus photography book, including several by Geert Verbeke, but in this instance the total symmetry of art plus literature has approached new heights in terms the «book as an artistic medium». Both because of the superb art presented and because of the superb presentation of the art. In «Rendezvous» they have found the optimal format for combining haiku and art photography, giving each its proper place in the limelight, and together forming a musical backdrop egging the book admirer to dance forwards and backwards, again and again. This is not merely a book with good art in it, the book is itself a work of art.

Geert Verbeke is renowned as a haiku artist, musician, painter and photographer, but in this work he has successfully combined all of his talents to portray the essence and spirit of Nepal, in its various spontaneous and traditional cultural perspectives. Anyone who has been in Nepal will most likely instantly be transported back to their experiences there while looking at this beautiful book. And that is what good art does: it affects and inspires the observer/recipient in a way that he/she becomes a participating creator himself/herself.

It is customary to list the cameras and objectives used by the artists, so I will do so just briefly: Geert Verbeke: Pentax IST-DS, Pentax K200 +zoom 18-5, 28-80 mm, 80-320 mm. Jenny Ovaere: Pentax IST-D-L+ 40 mm, 28-200 mm & 18-55 mm.

The «magic» created by these two artists goes far beyond their technical abilities or the photographic equipment used. The book is tastefully not numbered (as that would detract from the overall sensation of the work) so it is difficult for me to cite particular photos. All are wonderful, but in my opinion the portraits are breathtakingly exquisite and are (together) worthy of a contemporary art museum exhibition in their own right. The art photography books that I have seen by Geert Verbeke and Jenny Ovaere have all been professionally-produced, with excellent reproduction, design and binding. Here there is no exception. And like all works of genius, this work of art is presented with simplicity and modesty. This is a book to be treasured, but also to be brought out and looked at from time to time, over and over again. Namaste!

– Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, Norway, 2010.

BOWLS.

 

BOWLS: Geert Verbeke’s follow-up art photography book to “Rendezvous” is entitled “Bowls”. This small book is a pearl amongst pearls. The mastery of technical and artistic decision-making employed in exacting art and sound from these highly-meditative photos is astounding. To write any more would simply detract from the beauty of this work of art. Geert Verbeke rules!

– Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, Norway, 2010

 

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. Geert is self-taught as a photographer, and often combines art photography with his literature.

JENNY OVAERE: Born in Stasegem, Flanders (Europe). Jenny is self-taught as a photographer. An ex-teacher, she has travelled the world and worked as a professional art photographer for many years.

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, short novels, photography and literary criticism) in the USA, Norway and India, as well as numerous works in international literary publications on several continents. He has previously authored theatrical works performed onstage, and he has (to-date) read his poetry at venues in New York City, Oslo (Norway), Buenos Aires and Kathmandu (Nepal).

(All photos on this webpage courtesy of Albert Russo, Geert Verbeke and Jenny Ovaere.)

(Adam Donaldson Powell, selfie)

 

 

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

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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.

Extreme: AZSACRA ZARATHUSTRA. Essay by Adam Donaldson Powell.


azSacra and Pyantinin”, photo credit: Theatre of Cruelty.

EXTREME ART PHOTOGRAPHY FROM RUSSIA.

Review of three black-white art photography books by TheaterOfCrueltyNOH: including “Blades” (1998), “Sexus” (2000) and “Opus Transformations” (2006), published by “Magnitogorsk Press”, Russia. All three books are quality special editions. The primary forces behind these publications are: azSacra zaRathustra (esoteric philosopher, poet and extreme artist) and Jgor (Loki) PYATININ (photographer).

One cannot solely comment on the excellent photography by Jgor Pyatinin (Loki) in these books. The conceptual work and direction by azSacra zaRathustra is a crucial and integral element in the artistic expression, and the final results. azSacra zaRathustra describes himself as an “esoteric philosopher, poet and meta extreme artist, as well as a Master of Death and Emperor of Suicide”. That is a strong definition which inspires both curiosity, and a desire for critics and the public to put to the test both the degree of extremism and its artistic value beyond self-promotion. According to azSacra zaRathustra, TheaterOfCrueltyNOH is an aesthetic and philosophical synthesis of the French “Theater of Cruelty” of Antonin Artaud, medieval Japanese rituals and magic theater (NOH), and the Russian Secret Text Cinema (SacralWordcinema) of azSacra zaRathustra. TheaterOfCrueltyNOH is (according to zaRathustra) intrinsically connected with Russian Trance Cinema.

zaRathustra has briefly described his personal and artistic philosophy accordingly: “… the sensual basis of preciseness in the world. Animals, herbs, fish and birds also should have their own Gospel. In this case it is the Gospel of Birds of Prey. For example, my book “Mysterium” speaks about the clash of nature and humans, initial instincts and perpetual spirit. I am on the side of those who are doomed to die, but who still cast a challenge to the prevaricating world of suggested images. The perceived Prakriti should also conquer in the spiritual war against Purushi. The Spirit must not have an absolute right to victory! For me the pains of the broken flower and the silent shout of the crushed worm are more important than reaching Samadhi. I will always seek poetic revenge for their death.” These are strong words from zaRathustra, who also has recently published four books of poetry: “Mysterium” (2006), “The Lotuses of Evil” (2008) “America: Invasion of the Heart” (2008), and “TAO KAMPF” (2008).

Now that we have a vague idea of the philosophical sphere of azSacra zaRathustra and the TheaterOfCrueltyNOH, let us take a look at that which really matters in this context: THE ART! Does it meet the expectations presented by the artists, and how does it function artistically?

Let us review the art itself: the photographs possess an esoteric “sharpness” that is both clear and strong in presentation of image, but also soft and suggestive in technique, thus giving the public a sense of personal involvement that is visually non-abstract but experientially open-ended. Here the realm of possibility goes beyond that of fantasy. The photographic images in these books are theatrically stylized, but with an “edge” that both encaptures that which special subcultures in modern society accepted and / or embraced in the 1980s and 1990s: namely S&M sex, and surpasses it by combining the humanity of going beyond the boundaries of traditional sexual expression by way of incorporating innocence in humanity, flora, and “wild” fauna (otherwise perceived as “dangerous”). The instinct behind the photographs and in their execution is the same as the philosophical foundation expressed by azSacra zaRathustra. Samadhi and personal perception in the here and now are more important than dreams of escape – perhaps because there is no escape from ourselves, and the realities and bondages that we ourselves create.

The photographer has used a Zenza Bronica GS-1 camera with a Zenzanon-PG f = 100mm lens; and Multilight 500 PRO, 1000 PRO studio light. Most of these photographs are straight-forward black and white photos, but in “Sexus” all of the photos are given a flesh-like sepia tone … which accentuates the living quality of these erotic images. Here zaRathustra and Pyatinin (Loki) have (in my opinion) challenged the boundaries between art photography and pornography – not so much in regards to the image themes but rather by infusing the white portions of the black and white images with flesh tones and accentuating the grainy videofilm quality normally associated with this type of imagery, thus shocking us back from the potentially “artistically uptight” and distancing qualities of black and white “high art” photography of sexual acts and poses into a sort of classy and personally engaging “B-pornographic movie” from the 1970s and 1980s … yet another reminder that we humans are also predatory by nature. Here the artists play with esoteric and socio-cultural traditions, pitted against extreme sexuality. For example, “Sexus” opens with an image of a naked woman whose face and torso are covered by a simple veil, exposing solely her lower torso, thighs and vagina. And yet the focus is not her vagina, but the veil. The progression continues with the entrance of zaRathustra himself, who – over a series of photographic scenes – invokes the spirit of the wild and the predatory, in tandem with the female counterpart who instinctively plays her own role in the natural act of sexual play. Male – female, predator – receiver, occult spirit – pure and innocent … all of these elements are in play, and are further enhanced by both the photographic decisions and the image of zaRathustra with his occult and esoteric tattoos, and his bird of prey-like gaze – looking directly into both the camera lens and the face of the public, thus creating an intimacy that surpasses pornography. Ironically, many predators today (the wild fauna, at least) are “endangered species”. Can the same be said of humanoid predators? Do predators also have an innocent side, and do the “innocent” actually also play a predatory role? zaRathustra and his colleagues play with these questions all the time.

Art or pornography?

There is actually (in my opinion) little that is sexually “pornographic” about the images in “Sexus”, but the portrayal of humanity and the natural sense of humans as co-predators is rather disarming for the viewer and gives a new twist both to modern perceptions of crossing boundaries and the concept of “Art as pornography vs. Pornography as art”.

My conclusion: this is decidedly art, rather than porn. The sexual expression is merely one tool for showing an interplay between the many expressions of life and living creatures, ultimately resulting in the most esoteric and powerful usages possible of active and latent energies and the subconscious intellect: sexuality + spirit. The artistic and photographic choices in terms of poses, progression of photographic images, and scenography were sensibly employed and highly-effective in this case, as is the case of the two other black-white art photography books by these artists as well. If this work is to be regarded as extremely pornographic then I would suggest that the extremism is rather its honesty and its willingness to go beyond mere tabloidism and commercialized pornographic fantasy to a playful artistic expression.

BLADES.

“Blades” is essentially a love story in black and white, effectively presenting the love of zaRathustra for many-legged predators and creatures normally seen as dangerous. Here zaRathustra makes love to these scorpions, centipedes and spiders and unites his own predatory instincts with those of his co-actors. The title “Blades” is not coincidental or unimportant, as zaRathustra plays with the concept of dangerous … presenting the sharpness of knives and stinging appendages throughout the book. In this book there is much shadow-play, thus creating a sense of mystery and challenging the public to go into its own darkness – both individually and collectively. There are many “extreme” photos that are quite beautiful in their innocent rawness in this book, but I personally feel that the most effective photo is that of zaRathustra pressing against a wall, his face half-hidden in the shadows and with a scorpion (on his left forearm) comforting him. These photos show the soft, internal side of man the predator – exposing the vulnerability of humanity and maleness. In that sense, these photos are perhaps among the most sensual in all three art photography books. The simplicity of the photographic images is a technical illusion … this portrayal of supposed effortlessness and spontaneity has been well-planned and executed, and there have undoubtedly been many hours of photo-taking and final selection in order to achieve this degree of life/living spirituality in this sequence of photographs.

OPUS TRANSFORMATIONS.

And then there is “Opus Transformations” – which is, in my opinion, the most aesthetically-beautiful of the three art photography books reviewed here. These photos are less “grainy” than those in “Sexus” and “Blades” but here – again – the artistic decisions have been well thought through and executed. This is a very sophisticated presentation which is a further exploration of the themes of the earlier books but on a much more “refined” level. This is visible in the composition, lighting, contrasts and reproduction quality.

In reviewing these books, I have gone back and forth with wondering if the artists might experiment a little more in the direction of techniques used by Herb Ritts in his art photography book entitled “Duo”, from 1991. However, when I study “Opus Transformations” in depth I see that the artists have quite intentionally modernized the classical artistic photo-perfect technique in ways that accentuate the stark beauty of the subject matter in a new context, and which are complementary to the philosophical foundation of azSacra zaRathustra and the TheaterOfCrueltyNOH. There are all too many strong photographs here to mention in this short piece, but the cover photo (featuring a child carrying a cage with a large rodent) is quite exquisite and quietly dramatic. Another incredible photograph is a portrait of zaRathustra with a pistol in his mouth, and surrounded by two beautiful women … one whispering into his ear and the other listening and silently taking in the experience. The photograph creates a sense of both mystery and predatory predicament turned onto itself.

All in all, the art photography in these books is very active. Is it provoking? Yes, but for quite different reasons than one might think at first glance. azSacra zaRathustra, the TheaterOfCrueltyNOH and the talented photographer Jgor Pyatinin (Loki) create beautiful, active poetry in their art photography. Here there is no need to compare each photograph with a thousand words. Many of these photos go far deeper into the subconscious than even several thousand words could adequately express.

NEW! See featured extreme artist/poet/philosopher azSacra zaRathustra’s newest extreme art videos:
HERE!

— criticism by Adam Donaldson Powell ( Адам Дональдсон Поуелл ), 2008.

Adam Donaldson Powell (Norway) is a multilingual author and a literary critic, writing in English, Spanish, French and Norwegian; and a visual artist. He has published several collections of poetry, essays, novellas and short stories: in the USA, Norway and India, as well as art photography criticism and literary criticism in publications (both print and electronic) based in the Americas, Europe and Asia. He has previously authored theatrical works performed on-stage, and he has (to date) read his poetry at venues in New York City (USA), Oslo (Norway), Buenos Aires (Argentina), and Kathmandu (Nepal).

* – * – * – *

COMMENTARY: by azSacra zaRathustra, on his ‘Extreme Art’.

BODY OF POET

(“Annihilation is the invaluable sumptuousness!”
(Georges BATAILLE)

In some details is the project the critical confrontation between the forms of the traditional art, to which we all have already got accustomed? And is it a form of the extreme, for which the notion of “norm” is hostile? Practice confirms that the accent is made on the shocking discrepancy, which makes a “break” in the settled values. The imperative of the extreme art is not to trifle round with who has to evaluate it, but to cut and hitch him up from the inside and reveal the “interiors” of the common psyche and consciousness. It is a special form of torture and at best a try to put to death always “untouchables”: readers, spectators and so on. In 1969 great French theoretic and practice of “the art of body” Michael Journiac composed a special treatise, containing the following: “How to transform the body into the work of art. Conditions: 1. You should bequeath your body to Journiac. 2. You should die”. “You will die to become a masterpiece”. Since then the dead human body is not only an inert form of the substance. Tattooings, scarings, maimings are the saint signs of freedom which are realized as a new language and form its nontextual and overtotalitarian discurs. “A wound now is no more a damage of the tissue, but a new rule”. The borders of this breaching “negations” and revolutionary ideas are already gave up or left behind in history of Russia. First and foremost it touches upon the extremely discrepant art of azSacra (Master of Death). He made people speak about himself by means of “the art of body”, using photography as one of the presentation means of his own Games with the death as well as of his risky experiments on his body and reason. Identifying himself only through the spiritual rebel, azSacra maintained his art in quite different “acts of death”, which are performed before the video and photo cameras. At the moment he is the author of the most complex extreme philosophy which reveals, scares and captivates us at one time. His over..crossing the borders overgressing art combines five most nihilistic aesthetics: “how to lead philosophy with a hammer” by Nietzsche, “wish to be killed with roses” by Mishima, “to die and to become a masterpiece” by Journiac, “clearing theater of cruelty” by Antonin Artaud, and “western zen” by de Sade. Such “detonating mixture” was necessary for azSacra only to reveal and raise his own idea of “the body as the cipher of the absolute freedom”. Body is the only clear mirror. Forcing the danger and horror reveal itself in it, the creator works out his own form of the language. Negative aggression is incessantly established as the overpositive will to Nihil. It is something like Zen without zen. azSacra proposes: “Poetics is not the power of the word, but an extra strong psycho and physical development. Not the language of reason but only will, playing in the centre of the body, creates a masterpiece. We should go forward behind “Hatred to Poetry”, “Flowers of evil”, and even behind Tommazo Marinetti with his scaring “no masterpiece if no aggression”. And really instead of shy “guillotine weeds” pseudoradical performances and installations of the most actual art azSacra does the Other and the Present, which is the break of the culture by means of deadly Game in realities. His “art of aggression” turns into transgression and overgression only to break with these limits. And if in “Body mass” Journiac used his own blood to treat the spectators, azSacra does (manifests!) something more important. He burns himself cruelly, cuts, pierces himself, puts his own body to the blows of heavy chains and hammers. “When I really, practically, on all hundred percent “lead my philosophy by means of the hammer”, I inevitably come to the effect of the “final Nietzsche”. I recover his “incomplete philosophy” by means of my own body. And in this case it is better to be killed by everyone then to be publicly recognized”. It is the mission of the creator damned by the society, which is to attack the culture of prosperity, money and comfort, where everyone becomes “the body of inspection”, even being deprived of the opportunity to become a slave. Overtaking death in every second, azSacra reminds us of the Grandeur of the Order, which is Freedom when no one is free. Nothing without Nothing! There is no azSacra, only “azsacracidos” of the word and image, which illuminates the ritual of the intrusion into the powerful sphere of philosophy by means of the art “to be killed”. He is and realizes himself without the context of fear! Muscular cipher of the body, symbols of maimings and anticodes of tattoos will always challenge and dominate because only they are the basic expressive means of the genuine freedom. azSacra’s wounds are furiously and afflictedly transferred into the pure poetry of the “bloody metaphors”. Blows, cuts, piercings represent the maximally tragic objectification of “the body-in-itself”, what in the end brings not to something like a purified body-art or hedonistic body-building, but to quite the opposite: transformation of the body to the object of art through the jump into Death:

unfamiliar spring to people –
flower sketch on the opposite
side of the mirror

– by azSacra zaRathustra, Russia.

All photos courtesy of azSacra zaRathustra.

UPDATE: Dr. Santosh Kumar (India) has now released “Azsacra Zarathustra: Symbol of Nothing to Power”. Order this book from Cyberwit.net!

azSacra zaRathustra is a philosopher, an author, a visual artist and much more. In this video (“Opera of Fire”) he demonstrates the ultimate achievement for any author/artist/philosopher:

Opera of Fire

From the archives: Los Muestros – Coup de coeur de Adam Donaldson Powell.

PsychedelicAdam
Adam Donaldson Powell

COUP DE COEUR DE ADAM DONALDSON POWELL: MOSHÉ LIBA – SCRIBE OF HIS GENERATION, AND OURS (PART ONE).

COUP DE COEUR DE ADAM DONALDSON POWELL: MOSHÉ LIBA – SCRIBE OF HIS GENERATION, AND OURS (PART TWO).

COUP DE COEUR DE ADAM DONALDSON POWELL: MOSHÉ LIBA – SCRIBE OF HIS GENERATION, AND OURS (PART THREE).

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