From the archives: previous essays on the haiku of Ban’ya Natsuishi.

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, Oslo, 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, Oslo, 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 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, Oslo, 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, Oslo, 2009.

 

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

Peek-a-boo!
Peek-a-boo!

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).

cocktails

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!

clouds-over-oslo-7

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.

clouds-over-oslo-6

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)